THE INDEPENDENT MIND

By Gregory Mitchell

Solomon E. Asch was a world-renowned American Gestalt psychologist and pioneer in social psychology. He became famous in the 1950s, following experiments which showed that social pressure can make a person say something that is obviously incorrect. The way he did this was through an experiment in which participants were shown a card with a line on it, followed by another card with 3 lines on it labeled a, b, and c. The participants were then asked to say which line matched the line on the first card. The first in line to answer gave the a wrong answer. Shortly after, the following participants all gave the same wrong answer. Solomon Asch thought that the majority of people would not conform to something obviously wrong, but the results showed that an alarming number of participants gave the wrong answer.

Field-independence
The inner-directed person has discovered the potential within themselves to live and act not according to established norms, but based on what they discover using their own inner compass. They have their own moral code and values. They are originally influenced by parents and other authority figures, but later the source of their direction appears as an inner core of principles and character traits. The inner-directed person does not derive his sense of value or identity solely from tradition nor from conformity to peer-group fashions, but from the resources of his own nature.

Other-directed persons tend to be dependent. They may be anxious and fearful about others' approval or disapproval of themselves. They tend to be oversensitive to others' opinions and are compulsive conformists. They often are manipulating in order to please others and insure constant acceptance and approval.

Research by cognitive psychologist Herman A. Witkin reports that one aspect of cognitive style, namely field-dependence/field-independence, is affected significantly by socialization and child-rearing practices. The term 'field' relates to the external perceived world. Relatively field-dependent individuals thrive more in situations where decisions are made for them. They tend to prefer a 'spectator' approach to life with responsibility on the shoulders of others. They operate with a relatively external frame of reference, as opposed to the greater 'inner-directedness' of the field-independent individual.

Inner direction is considered a desirable trait in Mind Development. This orientation can only be achieved by an individual who is in the process of developing his own character, of becoming 'field-independent', his or her volition self-determined (based on self-knowledge) rather than the effect of manipulation or propitiation. The most original, creative and outstanding men and women are invariably of this type, and yet it is no 'elitist' type, for it is available to all human beings with the courage of their convictions. It is the way of life that takes 'Individuation' as its goal: to manifest one's highest potential. To achieve Individuation, the individual needs to become much more field-independent and inner-directed than is generally the case. There is a significant correlation between field-independence and IQ.

Field-dependents:

Conversely, field-independents: Field independence/field dependence are a semi-independent dimension to introversion/extraversion, but the separation is not complete. There is a moderate correlation between introversion and field independence, as well as between extraversion and field dependency. In my opinion the capacity to introvert is a skill dependent on a certain level of maturity - children and the immature are not good at this. The process of introversion is a skill that the child will need in order to develop greater intelligence and wisdom. Introversion reaches a maximum at about age forty, the true age of maturity. By the age of forty, most people have had twenty years of adult life, they have had the experience of marriage, children, ownership of property and forging a career, and they have become politically aware.

Introversion is the tendency to focus one's attention towards the inner, mental world, but it is only with maturity that harmony may be found. The American bias toward extraversion as a sign of maturity is a dangerous but little-discussed political phenomenon. Let us consider how dangerous this bias is. It requires that the introvert abandon her particular genius in order to join the crowd. Consider the extraverted leader who values loyalty above clear thinking; consider the dangers we are led into by a coarse, unsubtle extravert who distrusts the loner, the doubter, the thinker. Ironically, although extraverts tend to have developed outgoing social skills, people who are truly great at working social interactions such as diplomats tend to be introverts, since they have needed to look inside to develop meaningful empathy between themselves and others.

Internal motivation is an attribute of the introverted personality. An introvert spends inordinate amounts of time processing the world around him through his own emotions, thoughts, and beliefs. He frequently thinks about how his environment impacts his existence. As a result, when he is enthusiastic about a life task, he is able to discipline himself for greater periods of time for the purposes of reflection and problem solving. This process of inner reflection energizes him and propels him forward toward new ways of thinking, believing, and behaving.

In essence, an introvert is motivated by his own self-talk. Introverts work well independently, and usually prefer to work alone. Internally motivated individuals are frequently insightful and can more easily see the association between cause and effect. On the down side, an introvert is more susceptible to mood swings and depression because he spends so much time reflecting upon the significance of his life.

Introverts tend to be intrinsically motivated. Intrinsic motivation is inner-directed (field-independent) interest in a task. In studies on field dependence and field independence, it was found that field-independent individuals tend to engage in a hypothesis-testing, participant role in learning. They seemed to function on intrinsic motivation and were perceptive of the subtle and inconspicuous information relevant to the task. Intrinsic motivation, field independence, reflection, cognitive complexity, deep-level processing, and task orientation are all positive traits exhibited by introverts.

On the other hand, field dependent individuals tended to notice only the most prominent information and seemed to be motivated by extrinsic rewards. The source of motivation tends to be externally based when individuals are other directed and seek affirmation of traits, competencies, and values from external perceptions and influences. In stressful and/or threatening circumstances, field dependent individuals appeared to utilize repression and thus exhibited inferior or distorted recall.

The Illusion of Normality
Experiments were undertaken by Gestalt psychologists early last century, in which a person viewed through a mechanism of titled mirrors. At first all seemed to the person to be indeed tilted, but after a period a normalization effect took place and the mind auto-corrected the view so it seemed normal again. When exposed to the real scenario, this now seemed tilted to the person. The normalization effect represents a wearing off of the influence of the framework of the outer world. In the mirror world, the framework of the normal objective world could not be sustained, and a new framework takes its place.

The subject felt he must conform to the influence of the titled framework, even when it meant not only suppressing bodily feelings (his sense of bodily uprightness) by subsequently feeling tilted when objectively upright but denying the obvious perceptual conflict when the frame could not possibly be upright when it was not lined up with his body. This indicated not only a denial of his body as a standard of reference and an inability to relate it to what he could see in front of him, but a denial also of perceptual contradictions. These are strong illusions and indicate the potent effect of the normalization phenomena.

Those who excepted the field as upright in its tilted position insisted they were quite correct in their judgments, or that "the longer I look at it the less faith I have in my judgments." With continued conflict between visual and postural determinants, the conflict is resolved in the direction of even greater reliance upon the visual framework. Thus, when a person loses one of their main points of reference - in psychology it may be significant people, or one's job, for example - and outer cues become stronger, inner conflicting cues are ignored in determining the objective reality. In addition, as outer cues begin to saturate the person for longer periods, inner cues become less and less useful as a basis for judging reality. The surrounding field becomes increasingly accepted as normal, even though its acceptance leads to an inaccurate judgment of the world and represents a tilted and distorted view.

A field-dependent person actually has a much narrower visual field so even in everyday life he is actually blind to certain reference points that would exist on the periphery of his vision - his vision is more literal and central. Such a person when reading makes very small fixations, and cannot read more than one word either side, or one line above or below the fixation point they are looking at. They are focused on a single point without reference to the total context. Of course, there are many fields beyond the perceptual, such as cognitive fields and social fields.

By analogy we can think of many everyday life situations which provide a person with this kind of conflict, between his own inner feelings and the outside stimulation that surrounds him. It seems that although a person may at first resist the intrusions of the surrounding field which might be quite distorted, without a point of reference or with supports of the objective reality taken away, he cannot for very long maintain himself. An obvious example is the situation of sensory deprivation. The distorted world tends to right itself and be perceived as normal.

We may speculate that in social situations an individual's judgment may be rendered less useful for making a true assessment of what the objective reality is, by constantly saturating him with a bold, distorted field whilst at the same time limiting his access to independent assessment of the outer situation. Although he may at first rely on his inner standards and judge the socially induced reality to be distorted and untrue, in practice he will tend gradually to be overcome and accept the distorted reality as normal and true.

These observations derived from the perceptual laboratory may also help us to understand such phenomena as propaganda and brainwashing, and how they insidiously work their pernicious effect over a period of time, even on individuals who under optimal conditions might demonstrate good judgment.

It would also seem that this is the model used by some governments and organizations, surrounding their people with stimuli that are presented as reality, while at the same time limiting popular access to other sources of information. In the beginning the people may resist and protest and view the offered reality with suspicion, but little by little they too may succumb to the normalization effect, to accept as true, right and normal that which was previously perceived as a distortion.

Both hypnotic suggestibility and vulnerability to non-hypnotic social influence have positive and significant correlations with field dependence. Rhetoric and reality can be confused even when there is a clear and definite need to distinguish between them. A person may be immersed in a philosophy and a context which permeates by a process of osmosis until it seems normal. The context therefore has a hypnotic effect.

In contrast the effects of work with Mind Development techniques lead to greater field-independence. The student is continually encouraged to objectively reality check his internal belief system, against the context of his relationships, his hobbies, the outside world in general, his occupation, and to utilize objective tests of performance such as biofeedback, IQ and personality tests.

Unless we are dead, we are all individuals to a certain extent, but when we have achieved Individuation we are inner-directed and field-independent, so we would not be compelled to be conformist. Solomon Asch stated that most of the participants in his experiment were field-dependent and other-directed. They may of course be classed as individuals, but they were a million miles from being Individuated. They may have been free to express minor individuality within a bounded reality, but they were unable to express their individuality in an unbounded reality.

When we have achieved Individuation, we can say metaphorically, we are in the world without being of the world. There is an enormous gap between being an individual in a small way, to being a person who can write his own script.

▶︎ All courses are now free to download in PDF format ◀︎

MIND DEVELOPMENT COURSES 1-8
Study skills
Super Student - Mind Development Course 1

Many people have bad experiences at school and perhaps later in life, when attempting to study a new subject. It is easy to quickly get bogged down with new terminology, and often, new concepts and procedures seem unclear. This situation can quickly get out of hand as the student gets left behind and the subject either becomes an ongoing struggle or it is abandoned. But none of that is necessary; it is possible to succeed with the study of any subject.

With this course you will learn how to study a subject with maximum comprehension, with excellent recall, and with the ability to apply what you have learned effectively.

You will also learn how to take notes at rapid pace from books or live lectures, and how best to represent that information with key words, mind maps and flow charts that aid memory and understanding.

These abilities will be useful for your home studies, at college or work, and for your study of further Mind Development courses. You will indeed be able to succeed at studying effectively those subjects you are interested in, even those that were difficult before. The course is available freely online...

Click here to start the Super Student Course...


Perception
Super Vision - Mind Development Course 2
The first course in the Mind Development system is "Super Vision," a home-study course to improve the mind's capacity for visualization and integration between left and right brain, boosting memory, creativity, natural eyesight and drawing ability. This is a new way of seeing - and being.

The practical exercises offered in this course help to develop visual perception, which is one branch of non-verbal communication, and address the subject of breathing and relaxation. Adequate oxygenation of the brain and a relaxed state of being is necessary for further developing the mind.

The eyes and the ears are the main channels through which one gains information about the world. As with listening skills, training in visualization and looking makes you more aware. When you are more aware, the subconscious mind has less influence. This means you are more relaxed, less anxious, less easily upset, a better memorizer - and your vision is improved.

Click here to learn more about the Super Vision course


Communication
Effective Communication - Mind Development Course 3
This course teaches powerful communication skills that enable you to be more effective at work and in those situations of everyday life where better communication can make all the difference.

The Effective Communication course offers a series of practical exercises which develop the skills of communication and help the student to apply the fruits of his or her learning here and now - both to his or her personal growth and to the practical issues of personal relationships and business.

Improvement in our ability to communicate externally is reflected by a similar gain in communication between parts of the brain. The practice exercises enable development of all areas of the brain, even those which have been long under-used. They affect, particularly, the integration of the right and left hemispheres of the brain. Each hemisphere governs a different way of thinking and seeing the world. By doing the exercises thoroughly, the student can bring both halves of the brain into mutual communication, so that he or she is freer to think holistically and experience the world from an expanded point of view.

Communication is the vehicle for all further techniques, so communications skills are a vital aspect of Mind Development. The Effective Communication course includes practical exercises to enhance the person's capacity to listen attentively and comprehend. Following that, questioning skills are practiced, which have relevance to communication, memory and understanding. This will help the student to maintain control of communication in practical, social and business situations. You will also learn about practical problem solving and how to achieve your goals in life.

Click here to learn more about the Effective Communication course


Concentration
Educating the Will - Mind Development Course 4
This course teaches the skills of concentration as a means of educating the will. Often, when we put our mind on something, we think of something else and this, in turn, reminds us of something else. The mind wanders from one thing to another by associations, until the original thing is forgotten. 'Concentration' means putting all one's attention on something, and keeping it there for as long as one wishes to. So if you concentrate on a book, you are aware of the book and you are not thinking, looking or listening to anything else. If you are concentrating you are awake and aware. In much of everyday life, most people are effectively day-dreaming - at worst they are sleep-walking automatons. Their minds flip mechanically from one thing to another, never resting on anything for very long or intentionally. This process may go on for the whole of their lives and they never learn or achieve anything of consequence.

Unless we can wake ourselves up from this mechanicalness and sleep, we cannot begin work on ourselves and we cannot get things done in life. We must learn the mood of concentration - of actually BEING in the Here-and-Now, noticing and observing, and focused on our actions.

Concentration is a means to develop the will, so that life may be lived purposely and creatively, rather than as a reaction to the flow of sensations. Because you will not flit from one thing to another, like a butterfly, you will be able to choose to focus your mind on things, e.g., study or work, and will increase your skills and knowledge in these areas. Most importantly, you will be able to focus more clearly on your vision of what you want to achieve.

In short, your mental life is both intensified and broadened. The ability to concentrate is, therefore, a valuable skill which will enhance all other skills. Almost all the drills and exercises of Mind Development help develop your ability to concentrate. But are there are ways to improve your concentration directly? Yes, and this course teaches the best of them.

Click here to learn more about Concentration: Educating the Will


Reading skills
Power Reading - Mind Development Course 5
This home study course can double your reading speed and supercharge your brain's capacity to digest, remember and implement huge amounts of information... essential ingredients to success in your professional and personal life.

We all learn to read at school, after a fashion. But for most of us, this is not an optimal use of our brain power. In this course you will learn to better use the left brain's focused attention combined with the right brain's peripheral attention, in close harmony. Good communication between the brain hemispheres is a prerequisite for creative thinking and also a sense of well-being, where thoughts and feelings are integrated.

Reading may be defined as an individual's total inter-relationship with symbolic information. Reading is a communication process requiring a series of skills. As such reading is a thinking process rather than an exercise in eye movements. Effective reading requires a logical sequence of thought patterns, and these patterns require practice to set them into the mind. The methods currently used in schools do not touch on the issues of speed, comprehension and critical analysis and indeed all those skills which can be described as advanced reading techniques. In short, most of your reading problems have not been dealt with during your initial education. By using appropriate techniques, the limitations of early education can be overcome and reading ability improved by 500% or more.

The course teaches in-depth reading techniques that greatly improve literary intelligence, so that you can clearly perceive the ideas and values that the writer is expressing and relate them to those of other authors and so be better able to make objective conclusions.

Click here to learn more about the Power Reading Course


Memory skills
Creative Memory - Mind Development Course 6
In most civilized societies the development of language centers in the left hemisphere of the brain will produce dominance on that side, while spatial, visual and intuitive problem-solving skills, which are based on right-hemisphere relational processes, will be underdeveloped.

Though a highly developed memory and intuitive skills are not essential for life in modern society, they were important survival skills for primitive man who had no reference books to look up when he forgot something, no maps to guide him on long journeys, and was often in perilous situations where intuitive insight made the difference between life and death. To further evolve, we need to reclaim this heritage, which depends on the restoration and integration of our right-brain processes.

Without memory there is no knowledge, without knowledge there is no certainty and without certainty there is no will. We need a good memory to be able to orient ourselves in a rich network of all that we know and understand, to make sense of it and to move forward to attain goals that are based in reality and true to our selves.

You will learn advanced memory techniques in the Creative Memory Course that utilize the amazing powers of the right brain, which enable you to "file away" any new piece of information so that it is readily accessible for future immediate access.

As you continue to use the methods of cumulative perception taught in this course, this kind of random access memory begins to become second nature. Many memory experts call this the "soft breakthrough" because it happens almost imperceptibly at first, instead of hitting you like a mental bolt of lightning. Everything you find important is given its own unique mental file. Just like the executive whose desk has been buried in paper for years, who suddenly discovers his computer can do a much better job of storing and arranging information, a filed, organized mind suddenly begins to perform impressive recall tasks on demand.

Click here to learn more about the Creative Memory Course


Sprinting
Zen & the Art of Sprinting - Mind Development Course 7
This course by Gregory Mitchell is on the periphery of Mind Development but nonetheless illustrates how closely mind and body function in co-ordination.

Using these techniques Gregory was able to run 100 meters in a time that nearly matched the then British champion, with relatively little physical fitness preparation (60% or less compared with a typical athlete). You may not personally want to increase your sprinting speed, but the principles described here have many applications both for physical and mental development.

Click here to learn more about Zen & the Art of Sprinting


No-Mind
Zen & the Art of Calculation - Mind Development Course 8
The Goal of Zen is the state of 'No-Mind'. This is an intuitive way of dealing with the world. The aim of this course is to enable a student to turn on a particular form of 'No-Mind' consciousness that can be applied to a practical task - that of arithmetical calculation. Habitual responses are set up which are the inverse of linearity. Several parts of the calculation have to be handled simultaneously; the result will be obtained about five times as fast, so it appears to be instantaneous.

Click here to learn more about Zen & the Art of Calculation