The Big Question
Can We Know and Control Our Psyche? by Noah Totsline

The psyche is highly integral to who we are as individuals and how we function in the world over the course of our lives. It can be defined as the human soul, mind, spirit or inner being. But is it something we can control? Can humans truly gain complete control over our own thought processes, mental stability, motivation, and overall happiness?

Humans are creatures of meaning. In order to feel motivated we must have an end goal or purpose. If we as humans are to attempt to control our own psyches, we must try to paint the world around us with meaning.

For hundreds of years some violent urges of the human psyche have been manipulated by governments and large organizations. Some governments resorted to propaganda, and still do, for control over thousands, making people feel and act a certain way. Some corporations also try to manipulate the human mind and some attempt to do so in order to hide the truth about their practices. Politicians may attempt to rally the masses and hope to influence them with eloquent speeches of grandiose ambition, good or bad. Controlling the psyche of the masses can lead people to believe they share a common goal with a speaker. Some people may feel their own thoughts are in unison with what is spoken; others may not be swayed. Nevertheless, getting people to think or feel a certain way is accomplished by feeding humanity’s desire for meaning.

Of course controlling the psyche, by ourselves or by outside forces, does not come easily. I believe humans are highly prone to falling into a mental prison, where a person believes so much that something is true that it actually becomes so in their mind. For example, when I was younger, I kept telling myself I could never learn how to ride a dirt bike and, when I rode, I crashed over and over. A year later when I tried again, using a more positive mental attitude, I met with great success. This could be attributed to increased motor skills but I like to think it was due to retraining my mind to be more positive and resilient.

Mental prisons can also occur in broader scenarios. If people, perhaps as large groups, are led to believe they cannot get a job or become successful, it may sadly become a reality if they cannot free themselves from that mindset. For example, in the film The Matrix, people in a computer program could theoretically break the laws of physics, but did not do so because they believed they could not. Of course The Matrix was a movie and not real. But the laws we impose on our own minds can sometimes prevent us from unlocking barriers and reaching our full potential. If we can break through these purely psychological barriers, we can increase our own potential and become masters of our own psyches.

On a personal level I try to avoid the trap of falling into a mental prison by looking for a reason to feel hopeful on a daily basis. At times I lose the motivation to strive for higher grades in school because I fall into a depression and end up thinking “What’s the point?” or “Life’s too short to care about this stuff.” But when I see a real-life counter example of this, such as an adult who worked hard in school and has attained success and is happy, I get out of that rut. I look at my parents and see this on a daily basis.

I discovered another important way to break through psychological barriers is through education. I once considered myself a devout Christian because I honestly didn’t know any other path existed. I obviously knew there were other religions but never considered them genuine options. Thanks to school I learned about other religions, cultures, and ideas. This allowed me to shatter old barriers and develop critical thinking skills. It enabled me to think for myself. While I currently have no religious affiliations, I am in the process of self-discovery.

I think our psyches can only be altered and influenced when we are ready for change. Personally, I know when someone tries to tell me I need to fundamentally change my lifestyle I am offended and think “Who are they to judge me?” Experience has taught me to try and keep this initial anger at bay and attempt to genuinely listen to the advice offered. This advice, which may be as simple as trying to like yourself more, might be incredibly beneficial to your mental outlook.

It is important to be wary of exterior influences but also be open to advice which may change our outlook for the better. The answer to the question “Can humans control their own psyche?” is a resounding yes. What is crucial to understand is that the human psyche goes through an organic process and changes all the time. As we learn new ideas we gain new perspectives on the world. The key is to find meaning in our worlds and find logical reasons to change the way we feel. It is possible to be happy for no reason at all, but the best kind of satisfaction is to connect your happiness with something meaningful. But don’t become too methodical. Going along with the flow in life is half the fun and one of the keys to growth.

Noah Totsline

  1. Noah, very nicely stated.