Patanjali Sutras 1:33 The mind becomes clarified by cultivating attitudes of friendliness, compassion, gladness and indifference respectively toward happiness, misery, virtue and vice (non-virtue).
The first article on patterns has taken us a long way towards understanding how the mind works with patterns and how to change them. Some of the most common and powerful patterns we have are the ones that are associated with our interactions with other people. Everything from getting angry when certain things are said to you to feeling insecure when around certain types of people are common patterns associated with interacting with others. Nearly all of our emotions, our feelings, come from the actions associated with patterns that are related to our interactions with people.
Most of us feel that the way other people make us feel is something that is completely out of our control. The problem is not that we cannot control how we feel - the real problem is that we do not understand why other people’s actions make us feel the way we do. This article will give you that understanding, and once you have this understanding, you will have the information you need to gain control of how others make you feel.
Pattern Groups and Object Hierarchies
In the first article on patterns we discussed how a pattern can be an action that is associated with a situation, such as the “pick up receiver” action associated with the situation “phone rings”. We also discussed how the mind likes to group situations together and create one action from a group of situations. We showed how this would look as follows:
I will use the term “pattern group” to describe a group of situations associated with a single action as show in the diagram above. While pattern groups greatly simplify the information your mind must manage, with thousands of pattern groups stored in your memory your mind still needs some system to organize these pattern groups. To do this your mind associates pattern groups with objects, where the objects are people, animals, or other things that create situations where you need to take some action to. The diagram below shows how this might be organized:
To begin, notice that the information is stored in a hierarchy. At the top of the hierarchy is the most general object category, in this case, “Person”. The “Person” object would contain pattern groups for very general situations that would apply to all people. In the diagram above, you have the pattern group “Situations where someone deceives you” that has associated with it the situation “Someone lies to you”. This pattern group would apply to all people.
If a situation is not in the “People” object groups the mind will than move down the hierarchy to see if the situation is in the next set of groups. If the object is both a person and a man, than it would look into the “Man” object’s group patterns. In the “Man” object category you have group objects such as “Situations where a man likes you” and “Situations where a man deceives you” associated with situations such as “Gives Attention”, “Gives Gift” etc.
If a situation is not in this group, than the mind will move down the hierarchy and look at individual objects such as “John”, “William”, etc.
If you can understand the above diagram than you will be able to have some really amazing insights into your own behavior. Let us look at what this tells us about our behavior.
How the Hierarchy Works
To begin with, all of the pattern groups that are associated with the top level object, “People”, you will associate with every single person you know. When you meet someone new, before they speak a word, before you know anything about them, you will already have thousands of actions associated with situations that can be created by this new person. These actions will have nothing to do with this new person you have just met, they are the pattern groups that you have learned throughout your life interacting with people that you have placed into your “people” object.
Not only do you have thousands of pattern groups from the “People” object that you associate with every person you know, you also have thousands of pattern groups in you “Man” and “Woman” groups that you associate with every single man or woman you know. If you are a heterosexual woman, the pattern groups in your “Man” object are based on all of the men you have know and all of the relationships you have had with men.
Just how much of your actions are based on pattern groups in the more general categories? The mind wants to work as efficiently and as quickly as possible. The further down a hierarchy the mind has dig to find the pattern associated with a situation the more time it takes to find the pattern, which is much less efficient. The brain wants efficiency, so it prefers to store pattern groups higher up in the hierarchy. We can see this in our own behavior. For example, how often have you heard a woman say “All men are jerks!” after breaking up with a man? When a cashier gives you problems how quickly do you say “Cashiers are so annoying”? This is the mind associating the situation with the object that is the highest in the hierarchy, i.e. the general object group (all men or all cashiers).
We rarely associate the situation with the individual who actually created the situation but instead associate it with the highest object that includes them. For example, in our above diagram, you can imagine that John was someone who would give compliments to get people to do things for him. Eventually, when this person realized it, their mind associated “Gives Compliment” with the “Situations where someone deceives you” pattern group in the “John” object. This is where it belongs, but unfortunately, the mind wants to put things in the object that is highest in the hierarchy. It is more likely that this pattern would end up in the “Man” object and look as follows:
This is of course exactly what we discussed in the last article, except we have added into the picture the idea of object hierarchies. Of course, if the situation was very traumatic, it is even possible that the “Gives Compliment” situation may end up all the way at the top object, the “Person” object.
What happens to a woman who has associated the “Gives Compliment” situation to the “Situations where a man deceives you” in the “Man” object? She will respond with anger and distrust when any man gives her a compliment, even if the man is honest and his compliment is sincere. Any situations that are associated with the wrong pattern groups in the “Person”, “Man”, and “Woman” objects, will result in the wrong actions for any person, man or woman who creates these situations. These actions will have absolutely nothing to do with the person who created the situation.
Because the mind likes to put pattern groups as high up in the hierarchy as possible, it becomes clear that most of your actions towards other people are based on pattern groups that belong to very general groups, such as all people or all men or all women. The pattern groups in the general object categories were created by all of the people in your life. Thus, if you respond to a situation that someone creates by using a pattern that comes from of the general object categories, your response is not based on that person but instead on the actions of all the people you have known in your life.
While a specific person might create the actual situation, the actions you take in response to the situation are mostly based on general pattern groups that have nothing to do with that person.
Stop for one moment and think about what this really means. Not only does it mean that your actions are rarely based on a particular person, but it also means that other peoples actions toward you rarely have anything to do with you.
Let us return to the diagram above where this person has placed the “Receive compliment” into the “Situations where a man deceives you” pattern group. Let us say that this diagram is for someone called Susan. Imagine that Bob, who is truthful and only gives honest compliments, gives Susan an honest compliment. Because Bob is a man and the “Receive compliment” situation is in the “Man” object category, Susan will respond with feeling deceived and angry by Bob’s compliment. The situation was created by Bob, he did give the compliment and create the “Give Compliment” situation, but Susan’s action has nothing to do with Bob. The action has to do with John who was the person who originally gave dishonest compliments to Susan to get her to do things for him and caused this situation to be placed into the wrong pattern group.
In this situation, Bob will be very confused by Susan’s reaction. Susan will be upset at Bob because it will seem that he has made her uncomfortable and angry. But, as you see, while Bob created the situation, it was the way Susan’s mind interpreted the situation that has caused the problems. Susan’s reaction really has nothing to do with Bob, any man who gives her a compliment will make result in the same action, feeling angry and deceived.
The first step in gaining control of your emotions and your actions towards others is to begin to realize that while other people might create situations that make you respond with a negative action, it is the pattern group your mind has associated with the situation that has resulted in your negative action.
This was illustrated beautifully by someone to me many years ago. He gave the following example. Imagine you have a job interview and you walk in and as soon you sit down the person interviewing you dumps a cup of coffee on your lap. What would be your reaction? Probably you would be upset, even angry. Maybe you would question yourself – “Did I do something to upset this person?” Now, imagine if you grew up in a society where people dumped coffee on your lap as soon as they met you as a way to show that they like you and that they think you are an interesting person. Now, in the identical situation, when the coffee is dumped in your lap you would probably feel happy and confident.
In both situations the coffee is dumped into your lap, but if you are brought in a society where that is considered to be rude you respond with being angry, and if you are brought up in a society where that is a compliment you would feel happy. The action you create to the situation is dependent on the pattern group that the situation is associated with, and that group depends on your experiences in your life. The situation itself does not create your action, your mind does.
It often feels like your actions are completely out of your control because you have lost awareness of why a situation is associated with a particular pattern group. Also, the common belief that the situation is what is creating your feelings and actions, and not the way your mind is programmed to respond to the situation, creates the illusion that the world is filled with situations that upset us, depress us, anger us, etc. In truth, the situations are not the problem - it is our actions that we take to respond to the situation that need to be changed.
Just as you learned the negative patterns, you can learn positive ones. You can teach yourself to respond to any situation in any way that you want. It may take time and discipline, but it always within your power once you understand that it is not the situation creating your feelings and actions, but instead how your mind has been programmed.
Scripts are also placed into hierarchies just like pattern groups. As you have gone through your life you have made thousands of generalizations about people, men and women in general. All men cheat, all women are bitchy, all people are greedy, all people are selfish, etc.
Patanjali Yoga Sutra 1:33
We can now understand one of the deeper meanings of the Sutra at the top of this article. The sutra is as follows:
Patanjali Sutras 1:33 The mind becomes clarified by cultivating attitudes of friendliness, compassion, gladness and indifference respectively toward happiness, misery, virtue and vice (non-virtue).
What happens to us when we associate ourselves with people who are not virtuous? In the example I have used Susan associated with John who used compliments to manipulate people. This resulted in Susan creating a negative pattern, i.e. getting upset when someone compliments her. Being around people who are not virtuous results in our mind creating negative patterns based on the negative situations created by the non-virtuous people. Thus, Patanjali recommends for our mind to be clarified, not to be filled with negative patterns created by associating situations with the wrong pattern groups, that we should show indifference to non-virtuous people, i.e. we should avoid them and not give them any attention.
It is interesting to realize that indifference also means that we do not attempt to correct them, to teach them virtue, we simply do not respond at all to them. The power of a person who lacks virtue is so great that trying to argue with them can have an impact on your patterns, and so they should simply be avoided.
Now, you might want to argue that if you avoid all contact with all people, than you will be safe from the non-virtuous people of the world and will be safe from forming negative patterns. But, the sutra also tells us that we need to show compassion to people who are suffering from misery. How can we do this if we do not learn from the virtuous person how to show compassion? It is by associating with people who have virtue that we develop positive patterns, such as compassion, and so when we are fortunate enough to be in the presence of a virtuous person we should be glad. We should also be glad because of the importance it is for the universe that such people exist.
Finally, creating friendships with happy people allow us to fill our mind with positive patterns that are based on positive actions. The virtuous people are few and we may be lucky if we find one who will be our teacher. The happy people are many and we can fill our life with the happy people and make them our friends and allow their actions to fill our life with examples of positive patterns.
It is also important that we do not isolate ourselves from society because without interaction we cannot learn the patterns that we need to create emotional actions based on our interactions with other people. Emotions is what make us human and are an important part of what we are, but it is through interactions with other people that we develop the ability to elicit emotions when we interact with people.
You can see now how following the advice in this sutra really does help clarify the mind, i.e. it will help you create a minimum of negative patterns.
How Do You Get Rid of the Negative Patterns and Scripts
As we said in the first article, negative patterns and scripts are erased through positive scripts. In the case of Susan who has associated the “received compliment” situation with the wrong pattern group, we could have the following positive script for when Bob gives her an honest compliment:
“Bob is complimenting me because he loves me, he is doing something nice for me, unlike John who complimented me to manipulate me”
It is important that scripts are short as possible so they are easy to remember and recite, but it is also important that the script contains the information needed to help the mind change the association between the situation and the incorrect pattern group. In this script we are trying to force the brain to put the situation down one level in the hierarchy, i.e. trying to move it from the “man” object category down to the “Bob” and “John” categories. In the “Bob” object category this situation is positive and in the “John” object category the situation will be negative.
Eventually, Susan’s mind will move the situation down into the “Bob” and “John” categories. As Susan meets more men who give her honest compliments she can use the script again to create the proper associations with these men. This would look as follows:
Susan’s mind will not like storing all this information for every man she meets. Her mind will look and begin to notice that there is a pattern, i.e. all the men except John have the “Situations where a man likes you” pattern group associated with a man giving you a compliment. The brain wants to keep things simple and so eventually it will just ignore the “Bob” situation and move the association between “Get compliment” situation and the “Situations where a man likes you” pattern group up to the “Man” object category as was shown in the original diagram. Once again, this teaches the importance of who we associate with.
If nearly all the men you associate with behave in a manner that creates an association between a situation and an action, than your mind will put that association into the “man” object category.
If nearly all the women you associate with behave in a manner that creates an association between a situation and an action, than your mind will put that association into the “woman” object category
If nearly all the people you associate with behave in a manner that creates an association between a situation and action, than your mind will put that association into the “people” object category
This brings us back to the sutra given above. You can see the power the people you associate with have on how your mind is programmed. Associate with happy and virtuous people, and your mind will begin to create positive patterns in the “person”, “man” and “woman” categories. You will begin to have scripts such as “People are good”, “It is good to have a relationship with a man/woman”, etc. Associate with non-virtuous people and you will have negative patterns in your “person”, “man” and “woman” categories and you will feel all people are bad, relationships with men/women are always terrible, etc.
It is a very good exercise to take three pieces of paper. On the top of the first piece of paper write “All People Are”, on the second piece of paper write “All Women are” and on the third piece of paper write “All Men are”. When your mind is clear just allow yourself to write down anything that comes to your mind that is associated with the titles on the top of the pages. Try not to think too much about your answers as you want the hidden subconscious scripts to come out. When you are done look at the three pieces of paper and see what you have written. Have you written mostly negative scripts? If so, this is a good indication that you need to work on changing patterns and scripts that are associated with interacting with other people.
Many people fall into a viscous cycle once they have created these negative patterns and scripts that they have associated with all men or all women. Your mind feels most at peace when the world conforms to the scripts and patterns that are in your mind. If you have general negative scripts about people, you will most comfortable with non-virtuous people who conform to those negative scripts, i.e. you will begin to seek out people who support those patterns and scripts. The more of these non-virtuous people you associate with, the more it reinforces the negative patterns as belonging to all men, women, or people. Thus, a cycle gets created. When this happens, the first step is recognizing it. The second step is to fight the negative patterns and scripts. You need to have faith in people, that there are good people in the world, and that most people are actually good.
Why Do Good People Do Negative Things Sometimes?
Finally, even good people sometimes say things that are hurtful, get angry and lose their temper and say things they don’t mean to, etc. This usually happens because of the patterns that they have. One of the most liberating ideas is the realization that people are usually not responding to you because of what you have done but because of how their brain has been programmed to respond to your actions.
As we said, it is not the situation that creates a person’s actions but what that situation is associated with in that person’s mind that creates a person’s actions. This is not saying that you don’t have any responsibility for your actions. What it is saying is that if your actions are based on love and good intention, if you actions are selfless, and you are following the Niyamas and Yamas or some other moral and ethical code, you should not blame yourself if someone responds to your actions in a negative way.
How you respond to negative situations created by others is something you also have control over. You have the power to respond with a negative action or a positive action. If someone is angry and yelling, you can respond to this situation with a negative action such as yelling back at them or a positive action such as remaining calm and not getting angry. Responding to anger with anger is a learned response – anger is not the action that you have to take. Just as you can learn to respond to a situation where someone is angry with anger, you can also learn to respond with not being angry.
What happens when you respond to a negative situation with a positive action? If the other person correctly interprets your action as being a positive one, than they will begin to take positive actions based on the positive situation you have created. It is one of the most amazing and powerful things you can experience. By responding to a person who is upset or angry with love, kindness and calmness you can often change their behavior in a matter of seconds. The combination of the positive energy that you are creating and the positive situation you are creating changes the others person’s actions.
What happens when two people who are both programmed to respond to the situation of someone being angry and yelling by taking the action to yell back and also become angry? The first person gets angry and yells, the second person responds by yelling back and angry, the first person becomes even more angry by this situation and yells louder and becomes more angry, the second person gets more angry… The situation quickly spirals out of control and within a few moment the two people are screaming at each other completely out of control.
This is a very common pattern in the interaction between two people. If one person is has programmed themselves to respond to negative situations created by others with positive actions, than the negative situation will quickly dissolve away. When two people who are both programmed to respond to negative situations created by others with a negative action, the negative situation quickly expands and enlarges and gets out of control. Again, it is not the situation that leads to the final outcome but how the people respond to the situation that creates the final outcome.
There is one slight catch in this scenario. I mentioned that the other person has to correctly interpret your action as being a positive action. Unfortunately, it is easy for someone to misinterpret your actions, especially when they are angry. Often, when you remain calm when someone is angry, that person’s patterns lead them to interpret your being calm as not caring or ignoring them. This of course gets them much angrier. It is important that the other person understands that your actions are out of love and that your intentions are good. Communication is the basis of all human relationships, and you must always find a way to communicate your intentions.
Back to Living in the Present Moment
In the article on the Present we talked about the importance of not living in the past or the future, but instead of living in the present moment. Living in the present moment allows you to connect to your soul, your higher consciousness. This is especially true when it comes to our interactions with others.
When you allow yourself to take actions towards others based on the patterns that you have learned throughout your life your actions are mostly based on what you have learned from other people, i.e. they have nothing to do with the person you are interacting with. Even the actions that you are taking that are based on situations that are actually associated with that person are all based on that person's past behavior, who they were in the past.
There is an old saying that goes as follows “The way you are at six is the way you will be at sixty”. There is some truth to that, some things do not change, but human beings are dynamic and constantly evolving. A person who understands that ideas presented in these two articles on patterns and is working to relearn new, positive patterns can change dramatically. Even someone who is not aware of these ideas and is not working towards creating change still will likely change over time. Thus, even the actions that are based on situations created by that person are based on who that person was in the past and not who they are now.
Therefore, all of your actions based on situations created in the past have nothing to do with the people you are currently interacting with.
It is a rather powerful and amazing statement. Think about it for a few moments.
How do we break this pattern of relying on patterns that do not apply to the people we are currently dealing with? The answer is actually quite simple. We must live in the present moment.
Instead of just relying on our patterns to determine our actions and emotions we need to look at the current situation. If the person is angry, instead of just responding with the an action such as anger or feelings of self doubt, respond by trying to open yourself to this person and understanding why they are angry. Are they having trouble in their life, are they having difficulties, are there problems that have nothing to do with you at all? If the problems do have to do with you, are they things that you need to work on, or are these good things that this person is incorrectly acting negatively towards? If a person creates a situation that’s leads you to feel upset, insecure, or some other negative emotion, does what you sense about that person’s intentions make sense with the emotions you are feeling? In our example with Susan, when she would start to feel upset when someone gave her a compliment, if she tried to sense that person’s intentions, would they feel like they were dishonest or honest?
We can use our patterns to guide us, but what we actually feel and the actions we take should be based on a conscious awareness of the other person, of what they are feeling, of what their patterns are, of what is going on in the moment, and than making a decision what emotions and actions are correct. This is just one more instance of creating actions based on conscious awareness instead of unconscious patterns. As we discussed earlier, when interacting with someone you should give them your undivided attention. Focus on what they are saying, on what they are not saying, on what you sense in regards to their mood and emotions. Give people your undivided attention and act based on who they are in the current moment and create actions based on the situations they are creating at the current moment.
The moment you allow yourself to interact with other people with divided attention you allow your emotions and actions to be based on patterns. Just like doing a Yoga asana where you are aware of every part of your body as you hold the posture, be aware of every aspect of the person you are interacting with at that moment. What is their mood, what is going on in their life at this moment, how are they feeling, what is the situation they are creating, etc. If you can do this, than you will truly have control over your emotions and your interactions with others.