(I made up this story yesterday over the dinner. The purpose was to give my daughters a framework to deal with the problems they were facing. Any problems.)
There were two very good friends: Amy (a girl) & Jamy (a boy). They were inseparable. Everything they did, they did it together. (btw, my younger daughter Ashita chose the names & genders.)
They were kind of special. Jamy could see what was happening. And that’s all Jamy could do: see and know what was happening. On the other hand, Amy couldn’t see anything. But Amy could decide what’s to be done. And after every action, Amy could also learn from the results and make better decisions in future.
So, Amy & Jamy would always be together. Jamy would see and tell Amy what he saw. Amy would decide an action. Jamy would see and tell the results and Amy would use this information to improve future actions.
For example, Jamy would see a sunset and describe it to Amy. Amy would automatically start appreciating its beauty and writing a poem. Or Jamy would see the food and Amy would decide whether to eat or not (based on the appetite), if yes, how to eat. Jamy would know how it tastes and based on that Amy would further decide whether to continue eating or not.
So, you see, they were inseparable. They were always together. They had to be.
Amy & Jamy had a magical flask. The water level in the flask told them how good they could do something. So, if they wanted to swim, they could look at the flask and the water level in flask would tell them how well they could swim. Or if they wanted to cycle, again, the water level in the flask would tell them how good or bad they could cycle.
Once, Amy & Jamy went deep into the mountains for a trip. In the mountains lived a monster who caught hold of them. The monster threw a challenge at them. The monster gave them one month of time. Within one month, they had to defeat the monster. If they couldn’t defeat the monster in a month, the monster would kill them and eat them up. During this month, they could fight with the monster as many times as they wished. If they tried to run away from the mountains without defeating the monster, the monster would immediately kill them and eat them up.
They had no choice now. They had to somehow defeat the monster. They looked at the flask to assess how good they were at fighting with the monster and the flask’s water level was very low. Since, they could fight with monster as many times as they wished, they decided to take a chance and have one fight right away. Well, the monster defeated them easily and punched them all over their bodies.
Defeated, hurt and tired, Amy & Jamy sat down and started wondering what to do. The water level in flask had come almost to zero. Since, they had no choice, they decided to practice fighting. The strategy was that Jamy would as usual tell Amy about the monster, Amy would decide how to fight, Jamy would tell the results and Amy would improve. And they’ll keep doing it till they’ve defeated the monster.
They’d first practice fighting alone. Then they’d fight with the monster, try their tactics on the monster, at times they’d manage a punch or two on the monster but eventually monster will beat them up. They’d learn from the fight and prepare for next fight. It went on for many days and then, the last day of the month arrived. On this day, they couldn’t afford to be defeated. They had to win over the monster or they would get killed.
They looked at the flask and the water level just about 3/4th. Which means they were much better now but not good enough. But they had no choice. Today, they had to win.
Before their fight began, Amy told Jamy to put 100% focus on seeing the monster. “You’ll not take your eyes off the monster even for a moment”, said Amy. Jamy promised and they called the monster for final fight.
As the fight proceeded, they found they were doing better today. Jamy was extra cautious in watching every move of the monster. And that helped Amy make better decisions about where to punch, when to punch and how to punch. As they were fighting better, they took a look at the flask. The flask showed them more water level but still not 100%. And guess what, this distracted Jamy. Which means Amy couldn’t take very good decisions anymore. And the monster started punching them. When beaten up, Jamy again started focusing 100% on the monster and now Amy could do better and they again started doing better. But then again, Jamy would look at the flask and get distracted. And this happened a couple of times.
Amy & Jamy felt that something was going wrong. They were actually doing well but this flask was distracting them. So, they took an extreme step. They broke the flask. No more flask, no more distractions. Once they broke the flask, they went all out and fought ferociously with the monster. Jamy would watch the monster very carefully and Amy would quickly learn from all the information Jamy gave her.
Finally, after a long fight, monster accepted defeat. It retreated and ran away. Not only Amy & Jamy were safe now, they could also freely roam around in the mountains.
So, let’s come to the essence of the story. What’s this story about? Of course, it’s allegorical but what do the characters represent?
Amy & Jamy represent the sub-conscious & conscious parts of our mind. Monster is any problem that we face. We’ll talk about the flask a little later.
Our conscious mind (i.e. Jamy) sees everything. But it can only see things. The actual skills are picked up by our sub-conscious mind (i.e. Amy). Be it cycling, swimming, programming, cooking or whatever. The conscious mind observes through the five senses. The sub-conscious mind gets trained and decides the actions. For every action, there is a result which is again observed by the conscious mind. This acts as a feedback to the sub-conscious mind.
Usually, the big problems (monsters) that we face do not require an immediate resolution. Take school homework for example. There is plenty of time for kids to learn to deal with this problem. Or cycling for that matter. They don’t have to be good at it the very first day they ride it. But gradually, they can learn to be good at it.
Dealing with monsters (or problems) requires us to pick up some skills. Skills are picked up by our sub-conscious mind by training. More the training, better the skill. But for the sub-conscious mind to pick up skills, the conscious mind has to focus on the activity. If your conscious mind is busy with the smell of food that’s cooking in the kitchen, you cannot complete the essay that you got as homework (that’s one of the examples I gave to my daughters).
So, to deal with any problem, Jamy (the conscious mind) has to completely focus on the problem. Then, Amy (the sub-conscious mind) will pick up the necessary skills and present the solution.
Now, let’s come to the flask. In our mind, we form a self-image. An image about how good or bad we are at something (compared to some other people). We place ourselves at some level and we get comfortable looking at ourselves at that level. If we do worse than that, we pull ourselves up. And surprisingly, if we do better than that, we tend to pull ourselves down. And regardless of all that, this flask is just a distraction. This flask is what every sportsperson has to deal with when he/she is at the verge of winning/losing a match. When a team needs 4 runs from the last ball, this flask is what troubles the batsman and the bowler. This flask is what makes them commit stupid mistakes.
So, this self-image needs to be abandoned. We need to know how well we are doing right now. But we don’t have to build a fixed self-image around that. We don’t have to start relating to ourselves as such.
Getting rid of this self-image, we need to let Jamy & Amy do their work. Jamy needs to focus on the problem so that Amy can crack it.