Viruses are wonderful living creatures. I know you wouldn’t expected this as a starting sentence, but this the bare truth: in terms of biological life, viruses are one of the most fascinating and powerful living beings.
Unfortunately, we, humans, seem to have a rather hard time with them. Why? Because we’re on a constant battle to take over the world. Sometimes we win, sometimes the viruses win. But if you take a closer look you’re going to discover some wonderful things about viruses, that even we, humans, can’t say we have at this moment. For instance, the ability to identify and inhabit an appropriate host or to modify some inner key characteristics in order to adapt to new conditions.
Yes, viruses are a very interesting topic but today I’m not going to talk about viruses as living creatures. Not even about computer viruses. Today I’m going to talk about mind viruses, or, more precisely, how to keep your mind clean from them.
This is the third follow-up to this article: How To Run The Best Version Of Yourself, in which I’m using a computer-human metaphor for personal development. You can find the first two articles here:
What Is A Mind Virus?
The simplest way to describe a mind virus is an addiction. A repeated action, with a consistent harming potential, most of the time performed without our will. Smoking, over drinking, or fighting are good examples of a mind virus. Mind viruses are learned behaviors which are self-propagating and slowly consuming the host. But addictions are only the most visible, and not the most dangerous mind virus.
The most dangerous viruses are those who are spreading without our knowledge and, even more, without easy to spot symptoms. I mean, smoking and over drinking are so easy to spot, they have a very clear pathology. You can’t miss them. But how can you identify a mind virus which constantly prevents you from being happy? Or a mind virus which creates limiting beliefs about money? Or a virus which constantly makes you feel powerless and defeated?
How To Identify A Mind Virus
First of all, a mind virus is something you “caught” from somebody else. Viruses are spreading from host to host. You aren’t born with them. So, the first step in identifying a repetitive behavior as a mind virus would be to identify its origin. Did we have this behavior since we were born? Or we learned it in school, or at work? Most of the time we get mind viruses from social interaction.
Second, a mind virus is able to adjust to various changes of the host. I think in technical terms this is called polymorphism, but we’re just call it adaptability. If you tried various approaches towards a specific toxic behavior, to no success, that could be a pretty good sign we’re dealing with a mind virus and not with an isolated deviation.
And third, a very common characteristic of a mind virus would be its ability to replicate itself. It will actually try to propagate itself onto other people around us. And, to some extent, we will help it big time, without knowing, of course. There will be a certain vibe of “I’m right and you’re wrong” every time we’ll be in that mind virus sequence. For instance, if our mind virus is creating limiting beliefs about money, we will reinforce these beliefs constantly while talking with others : “don’t you know money is so difficult to make?”.
Mind Virus Prevention
The easiest way to cure an illness is to prevent it. That’s equally true for mind viruses so here are some simple prevention measures which could significantly minimize the chances to be contaminated:
- chose safe surroundings. Don’t join groups which seems “infected” or which are good mediums for mind virus spreading (groups which are indiscriminately propagate all sort of ideas, theories or approaches, without backing them up with solid experience and/or arguments).
- verify your information sources are often as you can. Many mind viruses are spreading because of your ignorance or laziness. You take for granted anything you read, hear or see and the next second you realize you just caught a nasty mind virus without even knowing it.
- do your own experiments. In terms of mind viruses, experiments are like vaccines: they allow you to practice a little bit of something, just to get a glimpse of it and, if you don’t like it, you can move on. But because you took the time to try it first, now you’re immune.
Mind Virus Diagnose
Ok, but what happens if we actually caught a virus? How can we tell? How do we know we have a mind virus and not something else?
First of all, try to analyze if there’s something toxic in that specific behavior. If we’re talking about simple things like addictions (smoking, drinking or over-fighting) that’s easy. You already feel at the physical level you’re doing something wrong. But what happens when we’re dealing with a much subtle mind virus, like one who will prevent you have more money by creating limiting beliefs about wealth?
In this case, you should assess your life for longer periods of times. Let’s say you’re a person who never had too much money. You may blame this on your current environment, to the world financial crisis or to bad luck. But if you’re really analyzing what’s holding you back, and see that this lack of money somehow followed you despite the environment, world progress or good luck, you’ll most likely find that at the core of this situation is a mind virus. A toxic, acquired behavior which adjusts if you try to change and feeds itself with your own misery and sadness.
Another way to diagnose a mind virus would be to test its “host” penetration. The biggest challenge in identifying a mind virus is that we can always mistake it as a form of original thinking. No, it’s not a virus, this is how we really are. But testing this “host” penetration will help us see if what we’re thinking it’s just a borrowed pack of nonsenses which are making our life a living hell, or an internal conviction.
Just look around and try to identify the same behavior in other people. Let’s say your mind virus is about relationships. Which you consider something difficult to obtain, maintain and get satisfaction from. Try to see if there are other people having the same approach. Try to see if there are people which are treating relationships the same way you are. If there’s a mind virus involved, you will identify those people, but you will immediately spot the gap between their real potential as human beings and their toxic behavior. Sometimes it’s easy to spot the illness in somebody else before accepting that you’re having it too.
Curing A Mind Virus Disease
Ok, we failed to prevent a contamination, we correctly diagnosed that we do have a mind virus infection, now what? We have to cure it.
A mind virus illness manifests itself in the form of a constant, toxic activity. To cure the illness all we have to do is to put an end to the associated activity. Without it, the mind virus won’t get enough “food” and will eventually die.
Suppose we have a mind virus which prevents us traveling because, well, in order to travel you have to have time. Now, the associated activity of this mind virus is… yes, a job! What do we have to do in order to kill this virus? Kill the job, exactly! Once you won’t have a job anymore (attention: I didn’t say: once you don’t have money, I said once you don’t have a job, because you can make money outside of a job pretty well) the virus won’t be able to manifest, and you can safely start to travel around the world.
Now, not always the associated activity of a virus would be so easy to spot, but most of the time we will get enough hints to look in the right direction. There will be some trial and error, but if we’re really after that mind virus, we will find its associated activity.
How we stop that activity is beyond the scope of the article. Replacing an activity with another one is most of the time a question of habits and their management. If you want to know more about how to create a habit, you may want to start with this article: How To Create A Habit In 15 Days.
Mind Virus Rebounds
As in any other illness, there will be rebounds. Every now and then, our emotional body will be weakened and, since we had this sensitive terrain before, it will be easier to get the same virus again. We grew some sort of sensitivity over a specific virus.
I don’t think there’s a problem with that, as long as we’re aware. If we know we are sensitive to a certain virus, getting it again at certain time intervals won’t be a huge surprise. The good news is that we already beat it before, so every time we get a rebound we’re going to get rid of it easier and easier.
As long as we’re working on it, of course.
A Personal Example
One of the most resilient mind viruses I had was about “not being good enough”. This mind virus infection made me prove all the time that I have to deserve everything I get. Everything worth having was for me something that I had to fight for. Every time I wanted to express my individuality I had to prove something to somebody. Either by making more money than the average, either by acting riskier. Bottom line: because I was thinking I wasn’t good enough as I was, I always pushed things up trying to prove myself worthy of attention.
At first, I thought this was part of my personality. This is how I am, a bold and courageous individual. I do stuff because I can and because I’m better than others. Alas, that wasn’t true.
At some point, after a few years in which I took more and more risks just to prove myself worthy of… I don’t even remember of what, I realized there’s a pattern. Every time I was feeling insecure and alone, I was pushing it more. Every time I was in need of relaxation and acceptance I was striving more. Yes, there was a pattern.
But this pattern alone couldn’t tell me if it was a mind virus or just… well, a pattern. So, I started to identify the “host” penetration. I started to look around for people exhibiting the same behavior like me. People who were courageous, yet eager to prove themselves worthy of attention at all cost. It wasn’t long until I find them, in the same circles like me (most of them were entrepreneurs too). Seeing them from the outside made me realize instantly that this was a mind virus: it was so easy to spot the difference between what they wanted (acceptance and validation) and what they did (taking more risks).
Once I realized my company (and my whole approach as an entrepreneur) was the result of some mind virus, making me push things just to prove myself worthy of attention, I just decided to let go. I didn’t need any title (entrepreneur, business man, etc) to make me feel better. I was ok the way I was. So, I decided to sell the company I created, after 10 years of managing it.
In a few months after I sold the company, things started to improve. I realized I survived without pushing it and taking risks in exchange of attention. I realized I can be a decent person without proving my worth every day. I realized I am good enough just the way I am.
Every now and then this mind virus rebounds. It’s less than 2 years since I finished my role as an entrepreneur and I suspect there are still some uncut strings attaching me from the past. Right now, the rebounds are taking a different form: if I’m not able to finish some tasks, I feel sad.
But I’m working on it. 🙂
Running For My Life - from zero to ultramarathoner
The spooky thing about depression is that it sneaks in. There aren’t really trumpets and loud voices announcing: “Hail, hail, this is depression entering the room, all rise!” Nope. It’s slow, silent, creepy. It doesn’t even look like depression. It starts with small isolation thoughts like: “Maybe I shouldn’t get out today, I just don’t feel like going out”. And then it does the same next day. And then the day after that and so on. And then it starts to whisper louder and louder in your ears: “Why would you go outside, you loser? Didn’t have enough yet? Want more people to make fun of how much of a big, fat loser you are?”
And then you start to breath in guilt and shame, instead of air. Every breathe you take is putting more dark thoughts into your body.
Until you get stuck. You can’t move anymore. At all.
If you want to know how I got out of this space, eventually, check out my latest book on Amazon and Kindle.