Joined Up Thinking

Nick Williams
7 min readSep 18, 2023
Image — The Machine God. playgroundai.com

Out of fear we try to make everything happen the right way, but fear also ensures that this can never happen. Out of fear comes control and control falsifies everything. Control distorts reality itself.

Control can never do anything else apart from falsifying reality. That doesn’t mean that if we ever control anything we will straight away create a false or simulated reality — if I move a stone from one place in the garden to another this is control but it’s not but it is hardly sufficient to create a phoney reality!

A single thought cannot harm us but when we join all our thoughts together then we create a system that will enslave us. Similarly — then — when we join up all our acts of controlling then we create an illusory world that is made up of the thinking that informs this controlling.

Control almost always comes all joined up, however — that’s how it comes. We don’t experience ourselves to be engaging in ‘joined up controlling’ (or ‘controlling without a gap;) but actually our whole world is made up of this type of ‘total control’. If the control ever wavers then everything would start to crack up straightaway, much to our consternation. Generally speaking — as a kind of ‘psychological rule’ — this is the only way we ever get to know about the secret role of controlling and it isn’t a pleasant way to discover it. The awareness is forced upon us, so to speak, and it comes as great shock.

The world we ordinarily living is a very narrow, very limited, very incomplete kind of a world — it is the world of our ideas, the world of our thoughts. This is the world that comes into being when our thoughts are all ‘joined up together’ so as to block out everything else. This closed ring of thoughts needs to be maintained however, just as everything with boundaries needs to be maintained and so this is where the need to control on a full-time basis comes in.

Control is a deceptive kind of a thing because although we feel that we are controlling for our own sake, and that it is therefore an expression of our free well, the truth is that we are being compelled to control by our fear of what will happen if we don’t. The ring of joined-up thoughts is the real boss not us; thought is the tyrant overlord who keeps us slaving away on its behalf fulfilling its projects not ours. Everything we do for the sake of the Tyrant of Thought therefore — we have no life other than this life of slavery.

Joined-up thought and joined-up controlling go together therefore — we can’t have the one without the other. We’re trapped by our fear of what will happen if we fail to keep everything under control; nothing frightens us more than this prospect but the truth is that this is a disaster for the Tyrant of Thought not us! The so-called disaster is that the joined-up controlling will no longer be able to stay joined-up — the disaster is that gaps or breaks or cracks or discontinuities will appear, allowing the light to enter, just as Leonard Cohen says…

The catastrophe we live in fear of is the catastrophe of freedom, therefore. The scenario that terrifies us is the scenario where the tyrant loses his power over us and — as a result — we find ourselves in a world that is far stranger, and far larger, than anything we could ever have imagined. The world that has been constructed by our thoughts, on the other hand, is never going to be even a little bit strange, and it’s always going to be exactly the same size as our expectations or assumptions, and when fear is our master then this is just the way we like it.

This gives us this is a snapshot of the reversed (or ‘negative’) perspective on clinical anxiety therefore. Our normal (which is to say ‘positive’) perspective is to see the type of worries that we have in anxiety as being legitimate in the sense that they ‘make sense’ but illegitimate in the sense that they are nevertheless entirely unrealistic. Anxiety is legitimate in the sense that the sort of things that we see as problems everyone else will see as problems too — our anxious ideas are conventional in nature rather than bizarre or exotic, in other words. Another way of putting this is to say that the worries we have when we are suffering from anxiety are understood by mental healthcare workers literally, on their own terms, rather than being seen as a metaphor for something else, something which isn’t so conventional. This is ‘straight out of the textbook’ — this is ‘the Official View of anxiety’…

The negative view on anxiety, on the other hand, would be that the outcomes which we are so alarmed about are not at all what they purport to be, but are indeed metaphors for something else. It’s not hard to see how our failure (or the threat of our failure) to complete a task correctly can be a metaphor — this is a simple matter of displacement! If I am able to control in some small way (by achieving the outcome that I want to achieve) then this symbolizes my ‘ability to control’. It’s not the small thing going wrong that is the real problem, just what this denotes therefore — it denotes a ‘failure to control’ on my part and that’s what I am afraid of. The mechanism of anxiety means that I can’t consciously see this and so the anxiety registers with me in relation to the surrogate problem, not the original one; the original problem is ‘the problem of freedom’ and this is not something that can be understood conventionally (since we imagine that we are all in favour of freedom, this being a necessary illusion of the conditioned self).

The negative perspective goes against our common sense (since common sense is all about the conventional way of seeing the world) but this is of course true for all our investigations into natural world — the natural world of which we are of course a part. The deeper reality can be relied upon to confound all our expectations (and thus confuse the hell out of us!) and this is why we are — for the most part — more than happy never to venture into this domain. We like the world that we can readily understand by rule-of-thumb methods and we’re quite content (or so we believe) in sticking to the shallows (where common sense prevails) rather than taking a plunge into the deeper waters. As Joseph Campbell indicates, the Call to Adventure is something that most of us put a lot of energy into ignoring and so if we were to allow ourselves to see that the root of our anxiety is ‘the fear of entering deep water’ this perception itself would would constitute ‘deep water’ for us…

In reality, everything is ‘back to front’ (in true Alice In Wonderland fashion) to the way we think it is — we’re anxious about the threat of freedom whilst being attracted to the comfort of the ‘known situation’, even though this ‘known situation’ isn’t real, even though this ‘known situation’ is something that we have invented for ourselves out of our fear of the depths. Perversely, therefore, we are attracted to the thing that brings us misery, and averse to the thing that could help us — which is to say, freedom from our life-denying illusions. The ‘nameless catastrophe’ that we live in fear of in anxiety is therefore the best thing that could ever happen to us, but who is ever going to believe that?

From the identified viewpoint mental health — the genuine article that is, not the conditioned analogue of it — is always something to be avoided, something to be shunned, something to be denied, something to be fought against tooth and nail. The reason for this is because we believe ourselves to be this unreal construct of thought, this ‘abstract ego-identity’, and from this artificial vantage point the truth is of course something we really don’t want to know about. Essentially, we are — in the conditioned life — forever locked into the thankless (and fruitless) task of protecting an illusion.

Our anxiety exists in relation to this illusion therefore and the deep-seated fears we feel about being able to protect it (or rather about NOT being able to protect it!) and this is why we can only understand it in a ‘backwards’ kind of away. Seen in this backwards way, anxiety as a process is conceived as being wholly inimical, without any redeeming qualities at all; our only interest in anxiety is in getting shot of it, therefore. We can’t question the status quo (because we’re too invested in it) and so any disruptive influence straightaway has to be labelled as malign — this is the default response of any machine whose operation is under threat, naturally enough. It is our default reaction when we are in the unwise business of protecting and defending illusions, the ‘illusion’ in question here being the notion that the way the thinking mind says things are (or ought to be) actually means anything at all…

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