Conversation 1: Language creates Conflict

Your Mind and You

Listen to this section as audio, or read below.


Your Mind and You – a recording of Julian McNally (6:01 min) 

Before we start on the topic I have called Language Creates Conflict, I’d like you to think of a particular barrier or obstacle you have in your life.

A person stands at the top of a hill looking over a town or city.
Photo by Christopher Sardegna on Unsplash

What I mean by a barrier or obstacle is anything that stops you achieving a goal, outcome or quality that you care about or is important to you.

Ideally, the obstacle should be something that you have struggled with repeatedly or for some time, and that you believe should be under your influence.

Good examples might be

  • I always leave assignments until the week they’re due, then afterwards I regret it because I know I could have done better with more time“,
  • I take too long to make decisions about what courses I’m going to do“,
  • I worry too much” or
  • I lack confidence in situations where I have to present my work to colleagues or teachers“.

Keep this obstacle in mind as you work through this program, because I’ll be asking you at times to reflect on it and to do exercises which hopefully will help you in dealing with it. In fact, it will be impossible for you to do some of the exercises if you haven’t identified a genuine obstacle.

Exercise 1: Noticing Your Mind

How did you choose that obstacle or barrier just now?

Did you read the list and think

Yes, decision-making, that one is definitely me“?

Did you know straight away by remembering that one thing that you so often have thought:

  • If only I could do X, or stop doing X” or
  • “I wish I was more [fill in your favourite adjective here – fit, smart, good looking, patient, confident, brave, considerate, flexible, etc.]”?

Did you go through a brief dialogue with yourself something like this:

Hmm. What’s an outcome I really care about? That’s easy; it would have to be passing that Statistics course I failed last semester. What’s the obstacle, then? Well, partly it was that that tutor was so bad at explaining things, but I can’t change him, and if I’m honest with myself I just don’t like the maths aspect of our program. I’ve never liked maths, so I don’t put in much effort. Yes, that’s the main obstacle, not trying consistently.

If you went through anything like the processes I have just described, you have been using what I am going to call your mind.

What I mean by your mind is the part of you that engages in a process of relating one phenomenon to another verbally.

For example, if you had the thought “I wish I was more confident“, you related the verbal description of one phenomenon – how confident I usually am – to another – how confident I wish I was. So you compared your ideal self – confident and capable – to your perception of yourself now, or in the past.

Exercise 2: Your Mind at Work

Now rather than ask you to accept my definition, I want you to actually experience this mind that I’m talking about. So I’m going to ask you to stop reading for a few moments and during this silence I’d like you to just listen to your mind. Set a timer on your phone for 25 seconds, and stop reading until it’s done.

[PAUSE – 25 seconds]

Okay. What did you notice? Did you have thoughts like “Listen to my mind? What does he mean?” or “Okay, but what am I supposed to be getting out of this?” or “I think I’ll just fast-forward to the next bit. This is boring.

Whatever thoughts you had, that is your mind at work – busy producing thoughts.

If you think you didn’t have thoughts during that silence, how do you know that now?

The only way to know now that you had no thoughts then would be to somehow LOOK at the past experience of silence, compare it to another experience you’ve had of having thoughts and conclude, “No thoughts that time“. However each of those three steps involve thoughts – so to know you’ve had no thoughts you have to have a thought about that! Just to reiterate the point more clearly, now try NOT thinking about the obstacle or barrier I asked you to choose earlier. Just don’t think about that barrier for 10 seconds.

[PAUSE – 10 seconds]

Could you do it? For ten whole seconds? Not once? And if you did, how did you know you did? Most people find that they have to have a thought to be able to say they didn’t have one!

Now in this conversation, and several other parts of this program, instead of just accepting the thoughts our minds offer us, we’re going to be looking at those thoughts through a particular lens or filter. And the filter I’m asking you to use is “What’s most important to me? What is effective right now?

While we’re at it, I’m going to ask you to listen to what I’m saying in a particular way. Without either blindly accepting what I say as true, or eagerly seeking to disprove it, can you just test what I say against your own experience? So not only do I not want you take the thoughts your mind gives you as the truth, I don’t want you to take the thoughts my mind gives you as the truth either.

If I suggest anything or say anything here that doesn’t correspond with your experience, just skip that part and move on to the next section. You can return to this section later – perhaps with further practise of the other exercises in this program, things will become clearer.


So far, I hope we’ve established that

  • you have a mind
  • it produces thoughts, and
  • seemingly, you can’t stop that from happening

Also remember, I’ve asked you to

  • put your trust in your experience rather than in the thoughts your mind or my mind may give you, and
  • listen to what I’m saying through the filter of “What’s important or useful to me?” or “What is effective right now?


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