The Physics of Inside-Out

A couple of friends and colleagues had some excellent thoughts and comments on a few of my recent posts. I want to address those over the next few days. I’m warning you, today’s post is a bit geeky, but I think many of you will find it helpful. Tomorrow’s will be more practical.

I want to clarify what inside-out means (to me) and the physics of the issue. Inside-out a term that has a certain meaning. It isn’t necessarily the best or only term, but it seems to be a term many people connect to and understand.

Inside-out means our experience of the world is created in our thoughts, and this is what we feel (emotionally). Our beliefs, moods, feelings, and other internal states determine how we interpret and experience the outside world. The inside reactions determine how the outside situations and stimuli are experienced. The flow of the experience is from inside to outside.

Inside reactions ———–Determine how we experience———–> outside events

For example, from a low mood in which we are feeling doubtful, we may believe we can’t achieve certain personal goals. In a good mood, the same goals might look highly achievable, perhaps even simple. Same goal, but our different momentary thought characteristics make us experience the goal differently.

Now, inside out is just a term to describe how the internal states create our interpretation of the outside states/situations; However, I want to be clear about the physics of this. Lights, sounds, and other signals clearly reach us from the outside-in. Light, sound, radiation, cell phone signals, radio waves, microwaves, etc., are traveling in various directions all the time. We can register some of these physical signals reliably and accurately in our awareness (using our senses, such our eyes, ears, and underlying nervous systems, including our brains), but others we are not aware of in the least (unless we have a phone or radio handy).

Sometimes, we as humans have very reliable reactions to certain stimuli, like loud, sudden noises. For most humans, under many conditions, our typical nervous system will respond with a startle reflex when loud, unexpected noises are detected. While the physics seems outside-in (noise travels from the source to our senses from outside-in), the typical startle response requires certain functioning on the part of humans who are hit by the sound waves. Just to name a few, it requires intact sensory functioning, a certain attention level (must not be prepared for the sound to occur), and even a certain lack of conditioning to loud, sudden noises. Then after a startle response occurs, there is thoughtful interpretation that depends on human thinking. This interpretation then determines the entire felt experience of the moment.

If a tree falls in the woods, it will definitely produce waves that can be interpreted as sound, but a human has to be present to actually hear it and understand it as a tree falling. The human sensory and thought system (inside) determines the personal experience (inside) of the tree falling (outside).

Humans tend to have reliable sensory systems. It is what allows us to see patterns, learn, and interact with the world in consistent ways. As a whole we respond in highly reliable and similar ways to certain stimuli; however, few, if any, stimuli produce invariant responses in 100% of humans.

Individuals also have certain relations to particular stimuli and situations, and often when we react to sensory stimuli in the same way over and over, we start to believe the stimulus makes us respond this way. However, it is rarely if ever the case that our responses can’t change. They can, and it’s often deceptively simply to get different responses out of ourselves.

One example that comes to mind is the trains that barreled through the Albion College campus when I was a student. For the first week of football camp for four years, I woke up once an hour to a train rattling down the track, blowing its whistle. After about a week, my subconscious got used to it (habituated to it), and I no longer woke up to the train. I was no longer startled awake in response to the train noise.

Don’t get hung up on the physics of it. The sound and vibrations definitely traveled toward me, from the outside-in. However, the change in my experience of the train happened internally. The internal change (getting used to the train and understanding it wasn’t threatening) determined how I experienced the outside stimulus (train noise and vibration), which didn’t change. This is why it is called inside-out.

Inside-Out Nature

We’ve been taught that the outside world has people, things, and situations (called stimuli) that make us think and feel certain ways. We’ve even been taught that certain stimuli can make us act a certain way. Certain stimuli are supposed to create certain responses from us.

While this seems accurate, the truth is, we aren’t controlled in such a way. Yes, we tend to develop consistent reactions to certain stimuli, but these are internally conditioned responses, not automatic outside-controlled reactions. Our beliefs and expectations play large roles in these responses.

What really happens is that our beliefs and momentary thoughts create our experience of the people, things, and situations of the outside world. Our feelings and actions flow from our momentary thoughts. Therefore, our feelings and actions are not a direct result of the conditions of the world. Rather, our reactions are results of our thoughts about the outside world.

The flow is from inside us to the outside world (this is where the term inside-out comes from). The outside world does not make us think, feel, or act any certain way. Our thoughts and feelings never work from the outside-in. It only seems that way sometimes. Outside-in is an illusion we believe in from time to time.

Our thought, feeling, and action responses vary from automatic to very slow, but they are always subject to change. Thus, we do not necessarily control our response, but we probably have some influence in our response, especially by influencing our beliefs, which help form our momentary thoughts (beliefs along with moods help form our response…more on mood later).

When we believe in the outside-in illusion, we close ourselves to other possibilities. We then think, feel, and act as if we are controlled by the outside world. This is part of the conditioning I mentioned earlier.

When we see the inside-out nature of our experience accurately, we gain clarity of thought and freedom from the outside world. When we gain clarity and freedom, we begin to understand that so many of our conditioned reactions are based on our false belief that we need to battle the outside world’s control over us.

As we begin to understand that we are free from the outside world’s control, we begin to open up to the possibility that we can influence and change our responses to suit our desires. In this clarity, freedom, and possibility, we begin to battle ourselves and the world less, and we begin to flow from our heart, soul, and spirit more.

It’s Only Cold on One Sideline

“It’s only cold on one sideline,” is a favorite phrase of my high school football coach, Ralph Munger, a legend in Michigan high school football. He had a great saying for every weather condition.

“It’s only hot on one sideline.”

“It’s only raining on one sideline.”

“It’s only snowing on one sideline.”

Whatever the weather forecast, Coach had a saying for it.

When coach said, “It’s only cold on one sideline,” he wanted us to understand the power of mind over matter. Many coaches have talked about the power of mind over matter. “If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter,” is a phrase often heard around football.

Mind over matter is often thought to be about the power struggle between mind and matter, but there is a more powerful reality. Mind over matter isn’t about a power struggle, it’s about a fact of life. Our minds create the matters (i.e., situations) of life from the inside-out.

Even though it seems like the outside world has a tremendous impact on our thoughts and feelings, we actually create our experience of the world from the inside (our minds, mindsets, thoughts) to the outside (people, things, and situations of the world outside each of us). Our experience of life is always created from the inside-out, never the outside-in. Believing thoughts and feelings happen from the outside-in is a common thing, but it’s an illusion.

Consider some common outside-in ideas a player might have in mind.

– A big game makes me nervous.

– Coach criticizing me is stressing me out.

– Winning a championship ring would make me happy.

A big game, criticism, a championship ring, or anything else outside oneself has no power to make anyone think or feel anything in particular.

Consider that for a moment because it is all you really need to know to gain incredible freedom in your life. Situations, people, and things have no power to influence our feelings. We create our experience of situations, people, and things from the inside-out.