The Will is one of the most neglected subjects in education, medicine, and psychology. Yet its importance is increasingly plain. Many illnesses, much unnecessary pain in relationships, much waste of real potential, can be seen as being brought about fundamentally by incorrect use of the will.
Like Love, the Will is in the process of evolving - mineral, vegetable, animal, and human life have within them an increasing amount of self-determination and ability to make choices consciously. It is our unique and precious gift. Humans can show many levels of the Will.
At the first "level" they may feel themselves "willed by" their physical and emotional realities. At this level they react in a similar way as does a rock or plant when subjected to external forces. They may feel as if they are "making choices" but these are often really results of conditioning earlier in life - in this sense they are still being "willed by" subpersonalities, the inner subselves, each of which evolved as our best way to meet our basic needs.
At the next "level", that of the personal self, the human being is making choices in a fully conscious way. The Will is now the instrument of the personal self, for directing attention and energy into courses of action that have been chosen with increasing levels or expansions of consciousness. This means, with increasing awareness of the Benefits of a course of action, and of the Burdens of not following that course of action, for the personal, individual, self. Our use of the Will is then related to our personal purposes. With it, we can control our goals and attitudes, and select what we draw out of our memory. This is the true area of free will - no one else can select our goals, attitudes, or what we choose to recall from memory, even if they physically are able to restrain or imprison us.
By controlling our goals, attitudes, and memory selection, we influence how our minds reason and discriminate. This in turn influences our behaviour, our energy output, our internal processes that bring about body states and feelings.
We can develop our capacity to do this with increasing levels of Wisdom, Love, and Intelligence. Assagioli, in his book, "The Act of Will", has outlined a sound approach to this task.
At the highest levels currently known to us, that of the Higher Self, the Will is used only to direct Love (or to direct Energy lovingly, if you prefer) towards our selves and all our parts, all those of whom we are aware, irrespective of their outward behaviour (with which we may not be in agreement), and towards Life ItSelf. At this level we are increasingly able to include in our perspective the good of all, and of the planet on which we live, and to direct our energies towards that. Our personal purposes begin to merge with purposes that have an increasing content of group consciousness, - family, professional and social groups, nation, international and finally planetary. It is the Will-to-good, activated independently of the behaviour of others..
We can learn to become aware of which "level" we are coming from by observing how the Will is being used in any situation, both in ourselves or others. Try saying "I hope I can get up" as you get up from a chair, and find out how your body feels as you do it. Then do the same for "I want to get up", "I'll try hard to get up", "I am choosing to get up", "I choose and will to get up" and "I won't get up!". You will learn a lot about the way you motivate yourself. Then imagine yourself getting up out of your chair to save a child or someone you love from burning. This exercise gives you some idea about the levels of energy available on the different levels of the psyche.
Because a problem is rarely solved on the level on which it arose, we can also use our Will to "lift" our consciousness to a higher level, until we reach the level at which the best solution occurs. (An analogy: The law of gravity cannot be broken, but by understanding it and using the laws governing aerodynamics and solar and interstellar space, we can fly beyond the apparent limitations imposed by gravity).
It is interesting how different languages have approached the idea of willing. In Russian, for example, the word "volya", the individual will, tended to fall out of common usage and become a literary term about 150-200 years ago. Its place was more and more taken by the word meaning "I want". It is interesting to speculate whether this set the scene for the collectivisation process, the individual will becoming submerged in the voluntary and forced cooperation with the collective will, which reached a high peak in the development of communism and the collective resistance by the Soviet peoples to Nazism.
Events have shown in recent years, however, that forcing of cooperation by a centralised totalitarian will is not as viable in the long term as a voluntarily chosen cooperation between persons who know how to make a conscious choice.
In Anglo-Saxon cultures the individual will has become very strong, to the point of sometimes displacing the service of the whole in the cult of "rugged individualism".
As East and West share their perspectives there will be a synthesis developing between these two polar positions which will enhance the life of both. Both sides have much to learn from each other.
This diagram attempts to show how the vast amount of information coming to our nervous system is filtered by a "mind-filter' or "mind-set" before being acted upon and producing chemicals, feelings, behaviours, and output, results. If you are very hungry and have a goal to eat, you are likely to "see" the foodshops and restaurants as you drive into a new town, and your car will tend to park itself as near to them as possible. On the other hand if you are very well fed and want to sleep instead of eat, you are likely to "see" the motels and guest houses. Your car will tend to park itself near one of those. Thus what you "see" is conditioned by your goal. This in turn causes your behaviour.
If you want to eat AND go to sleep (ie. have two incompatible goals held at the same time) you will have to make a value-judgment as to which is most important to you. If you do not choose which has priority for you, you may end up doing neither, but feeling paralysed with indecision, and your car may come to a stop or even have an accident if you do not look where you are going while distracted with the indecision. We apply this knowledge by recognising that we may need to SET ASIDE other less important goals while we make the time and give all our attention to doing the forgiveness processes.
You can set a goal, say, to cross the room. There is another step you can take, for you can DECIDE to cross the room joyfully or miserably. You will still get across the room (ie. successfully accomplish the goal), yet the experiences will be quite different! Many people do not take the time or trouble to CHOOSE THE ATTITUDE with which they will pursue their goals. If you have a default setting that you pursue your goals in a miserable manner, what happens? This is relevant to the forgiveness process, for many people approach it with the "I'll do it the hard way" attitude. We apply this knowledge by choosing to do the process "comfortably, compassionately, joyfully, and completely" instead.
How well you move towards your goal will be affected by what you IMAGINE also. This can be very subtle. I might want to get on well with a certain person, yet if they remind me of MEMORY TRACES of someone who treated me badly, even a long time ago, there could be subconscious forces willing me and setting a goal for to steer clear of them. As I increasingly try to avoid them, they may become increasingly suspicious of my behaviour and start to treat me in an increasingly negative manner - and this will appear to me to confirm my original suspicions...and so on. This is why it is important to imagine a positive experience while doing the forgiveness process and a positive outcome to it. It is also why it is important to not set goals while emotionally upset.
Setting a goal for yourself sets up tension in your system until that goal is accomplished or you remove it.
Having someone else set goals for you, especially without any kind of discussion with you, can be very irritating to you, no? And for them if you don't do it!
If you set a goal for another person it sets up tension in YOUR system in the same way. This tension can then only be relieved by the OTHER person fulfilling your demand that they do the goal you set for them. In this way you have given power to control and irritate your system to the other personal They have only to enter the room, you have only to think of them, and your muscles will tighten!
We rarely realise that we are setting goals for others much of our lives - these are called EXPECTATIONS. For as long as someone fulfils your expectations, you remain happy, you may even feel you have unconditional love for them! It is when someone does not fulfil our expectations that we first become aware of them or even realise that we had them.
The forgiveness process pays great attention to discovering what were all the expectations you held of another. The CONDITIONS in the mind that blocked the flow of love were the DEMANDS that the other person should fulfil your EXPECTATIONS.
"It is an illusion that developing your heart qualities means "getting out of your head". Mind and Heart go together, and are not to be seen in opposition. Love, openness, kindness and respect for others cannot be bought or produced by machines, but only generated in the mind itself..... The importance of individual responsibility is clear." (The Dalai Lama 1990)
The means whereby the human mind controls its mind-sets, - its goals and attitudes, what is selected from memory, and the images or visualisations that are held in the mind. It is concerned in choices, decisions, initiating action, eliminating what is non-essential, and fulfilling goals. You will see from the diagram that there are different levels of will.
If a subpersonality is in charge, its will will set goals related to the Basic Need which it serves. The associated attitude and imaginings will be set based upon past memory traces created at times when that need was not met. This may not serve the whole personality.
If the Personal Self Will is in charge, the choice of goal will be set with greater consciousness of what serves the whole personality best.
If the Higher Self Will is in charge, the goal set will increasingly serve not only the personality but also a group, in due course humanity as a whole.
Example: One part of me may want to smoke so I can relax in a tense situation. My personal self might, however, choose not to for the sake of MY health. The Higher Self might take a larger view and choose to take responsibility for the good quality of air, not just for myself, but for the health of the human family with whom I may be staying. This choice might also be accompanied by a flow of peace at having made the wisest choice, thus serving the subpersonality as well, from within.
To maintain right intention, right attitudes and perception, right recollection, right thought, and right inner and outer speech are functions of the will. Right actions will inevitably follow.
We can develop our will by considering benefits and burdens of different courses of action in the light of our deepest values, by assessing priorities and consequences of different actions, by affirmations and repetitions, by will-statements, by visualisation.
People do not lack will power. They do not know how to direct their will into positive actions because they have not been taught how to use their will rightly. An addict will use the will to obtain the drug of addiction and sacrifice money, job, home, health, friendships and family to get it - sacrifices that would be considered heroic if made in a noble cause.
A combination of goals, attitudes, feelings, thoughts, memories, belief-systems, "facts", ideas, symbols, images and expectations which controls what the mind perceives, and thus the output of the mind's activity.
An objective established and maintained by attitudes and the will. Right speech is needed in the correct setting of goals. If a negative goal is in place, a positive goal must be set which conflicts with it and then substitutes for it, in order for the negative one to be eliminated. Example: "I want to smoke" v. "I will to love and to take good care of my body".
Goals that are congruent on all levels (physical, emotional, mental, spiritual; subpersonality, personal self, and Higher Self) have the greatest leverage. Goals formed on the physical and emotional (go for pleasure and avoid pain) principle do carry much drive however, and to overcome these we need to go to a higher level.
Goals can arise both from our needs, our unconscious and our conscious choices, and from personal and transpersonal levels.
A filter established and sustained by the will, that modifies what the mind perceives. Attitudes help to set and modify goals. Examples: a loving, or a hostile attitude. One is much more open than the other. This in turn affects behaviour. It would be well nigh impossible to carry out a harmful goal at the same time as maintaining a loving attitude.
The inescapable tension produced by an existing and unachieved goal. The mind ceaselessly searches ways to reduce tension by bringing about the goals we set -whether they have been set consciously or unconsciously, wisely or unwisely . If it cannot reduce the tension by expression (action), it may seek to eliminate tension by inhibitory blocking - but this puts stress into the body.
Relief from tension gained by achieving a goal.
Goals set by one person for another, with an underlying demand and threat to cut off love and goodwill if the expectation is not met. The very basis for conditional love. They can be internalised (especially by children) and then become the conscious or unconscious expectations we hold of ourselves believing we have chosen them when in fact we have not . Example: "I must achieve ( = please my parents) - or I am no good".
Link here to go on to Higher Self and some thoughts on meditation
Link here to return to: Forgiveness Programme - Contents
The Need for forgiveness and the Purpose of using a Forgiveness Process
The Healing Journey
Demythologising forgiveness - truths and untruths
Getting your Forgiveness Agenda
Emotional Health - Feelings & befriending the so-called negative emotions
Levels of the Self
The Will & the Mind
Higher Self and some thoughts on Meditation
Patterns of Unconditional Love in Action - The Goodwill Patterns