Core Values: Sovereignty

Sovereignty

Sovereignty, Vitality and Passion: the three values I most aspire to. Living them out is a true challenge. They are the distillation of so many others. They require courage, discipline, forethought, self discovery, exploration, discovery, freedom, health, power, decisiveness, and many others. But it’s sovereignty that underlies the expression of all the rest. Without it, all of your vitality, all of your passion, will be directed through external forces by the will of others or culture, unexamined. Evolution demands individuals create progress, and progress is a hallmark of sovereignty. Only the free mind can innovate.

What is Sovereignty?

Most definitions of sovereignty assume it is an impossibility for the average individual.

noun, plural sov·er·eign·ties.
the quality or state of being sovereign, or of having supreme power or authority.
the status, dominion, power, or authority of a sovereign;royal rank or position; royalty.
supreme and independent power or authority in government as possessed or claimed by a state or community.

Sovereignty has historically been defined in political terms. The king, or any other monarch, is also known as a sovereign. To have sovereignty is to express the qualities we associate with supreme rulership. These definitions are supremely outdated.

When was the last time you saw the Queen of England wielding supreme authority over the British Isles?

Pretty much never. England is a modern democratic nation now and the queen is a figurehead, a relic from the days of battle between the Angles, Danes, Normans and Saxons, between the other sovereigns who built powerful global empires through conquest.

Modern Sovereignty

To be sovereign NOW means to be self determining in all aspects of your life. Is this realistic? Perhaps not, but it’s a quality to aspire to and we should seek to express it in all the areas it is available. The US constitution forbids individuals and states from the ownership of warships or the declaration of war against any other nations or territories, so you cannot legally replicate the sovereignty of good ol’ William the Conquerer or Mary, Queen of Scots. But you can develop sovereignty of mind.

Sovereignty of Mind

My first foray into sovereignty came through the realization that so many of “my” goals and aspirations were related to cultural values that had been programmed into me through advertising. They weren’t really “my” goals at all, and achieving them often left me feeling empty, while other accomplishments that I hadn’t made a conscious plan to achieve were astonishingly satisfying.

Then there were election results and my political opinions. I found myself being swayed by the opinions of my friends and the media. Every single person I have voted for, up until a certain year I will not disclose, has won their campaign. While my ego would like to think I have a knack for picking out winners, the reality I must acknowledge is that it probably means I am easily influenced by the strongest message portrayed by the media. My default is (was) to go along with the crowd.

Propaganda

It was at this point that I was also exposed the work of Edward Bernays, the developer of propaganda and public relations. He was the man who discovered that people make most of their decisions based on subconscious motivations, and are more easily influenced through their emotional drives than appeals to logic. This was the time that clothes began to be advertised for its ability to express the unique nature of the individual wearing them as opposed to practical matters of longevity, versatility, or comfort. He was also the unwitting enabler of the German propaganda campaign of WWII.

It was called Kristallnacht, Crystal Night, because it happened at night and a lot of plate glass was broken, and because the word “crystal” simultaneously distracted from, and raised a toast to, the ferociousness of the rioting—and perhaps finally also because the word echoed the title of one of Goebbels’s favorite books on propaganda technique, Edward Bernays’s Crystallizing Public Opinion.

This was when I began searching for personal tools for countering the effects of propaganda. It became a valuable journey of self discovery that continues to this day. I have catalogued many of the tools I have discovered into a program called Sovereignty of Mind that is available by application or invite.

Jordan Greenhall

While exploring the subject of sovereignty I ran across a podcast a podcast titled Sovereignty in Chaos, an interview with Jordan Greenhall by the Future Thinkers. This interview was a pivotal moment in my thinking about sovereignty. Until that time I hadn’t considered the need to square my concept of sovereignty of mind with the basic assumptions about human free will that have come out of the last four decades of neuroscience research.

Neuroscience is split right now as to whether or not humans have free will, and if we have it, to what degree we have it. If any of you are familiar with the work of Sam Harris you will know what I’m talking about. For the rest of you, here is a video on the subject.

Jordan Greenhall described sovereignty as the difference between reacting and responding. His example, at around 27 minutes in the video below, is that of a boxer in the ring. So long as the boxer can keep his cool he remains in control of his ability to consciously respond to his opponent. The moment he becomes overwhelmed he loses his ability to perceive that situation and being reacting unconsciously, his conscious ability to creatively respond disappears and he defaults to automatic behaviors that he has either used in the past or exist as genetically programmed defense strategies. In that moment of overwhelm the boxer loses sovereignty and becomes an automaton, much like Sam Harris version of man where free will is an illusion.

So What is the Deal with Free Will?

My summary of the neuroscience research on free will leads me to believe that while we have the conscious ability to influence our behavior over the long term, we don’t exercise free will in the majority of our actions, and that’s actually OK so long as we understand how we are most likely to influence those subconscious actions.

The research shows that we can use more evolved higher brain centers to stop actions initiated by lower, subconscious, automatic brain centers. This is critical for preserving any sort of free will at all.

Our higher brain centers are where we have the capacity to plan forward in time and regulate emotions and behaviors. They are often described as the most human regions of our brain. The lower brain centers are driven by emotions and act automatically without any need for conscious processing. Their is integration between these areas and the more evolved regions can influence the behavior of the more primitive regions….. if the brain perceives it is safe enough to take the time to do so.

Stress and Sovereignty

During times of stress humans decrease in their ability to make good decisions. It’s been observed over and over and over again. During WWII pilots who excelled in peacetime training often crashed their planes under the stress of combat due to mental errors. From the sovereignty perspective of Jordan Greenhall they stopped responding and started reacting, gradually losing sovereignty until their reflex actions caused them to crash.

Piloting a fighter plane while engaging with an enemy just as smart as you is extremely taxing on cognitive resources. Stress decreases our performance for these types of tasks. For simple automatic tasks, repeating an action that has been done many times before, stress can enhance our abilities. Basically, if a task requires the activity of the conscious part of the brain, stress will make us worse at it, because we are less able to access it.

Feeling in control of our situation, whether that is true or not, tends to preserve our higher brain center activity. Simply feeling confident can enhance out sovereignty in a situation by helping us keep our cool and remain consciously engaged with higher brain centers. Losing it means defaulting to primitive subconscious strategies. The subconscious strategy we use depends upon a number of factors. Prior learning is a significant factor. If it worked in the past it is likely to work again.

And so life under stress often feels like it is on repeat as we engage the world with the same strategy over and over and over.

Practicing Sovereignty

What this means is that we all lose sovereignty under times of stress, and we all have some ability to influence how we behave under that stress. We can work on remaining calm and engaged in higher brain centers so our sovereignty and concourse decision making remains active despite the stress. Or we can develop strategies and disciplines in times of relaxation that become subconscious habits and strategies that we employ in the moments we lose sovereignty.

We can do this by engaging with what I call the transformation delta.

Transformation Delta

Our perception and interpretation of the world are dependent upon our state of being from a neurological and physiological perspective. Generating the dynamic ability to transition between the various perceptual states available to us in a way that allows us to accurately perceive the world around us is crucial.

That may be a subject that requires a bit more explanation. Do you know anyone who sees the worst in every situation no matter how good it is? Or someone who sees every situation as something amazing? We call the first person a cynic and the second naive. Both are people stuck in perspectives that don’t accurately match the world around them.

How hard must it be for someone stuck in a posture that is congruent with seeing the world as a scary and dangerous place to step into the same level of sovereignty as someone with a calm and confident posture congruent with seeing the world as something manageable?

How can someone whose nerve system is primed to default to using more primitive brain regions at the slightest hint of stress retain sovereignty to the same degree as someone who has trained in dominance of the highest brain centers available?

There are characteristic postures and tension patterns that indicate someone may be operating from a place of lower sovereignty. The diagram below is one I developed based upon research and my practice experience that helps give me a window into how someone might be experiencing diminished sovereignty in life as a result of spinal dysfunction.

The Diagram

It’s About Training

Having the discipline to train the capacity for sovereignty into the mind during low stress moments is critical. When stress arrives without any training on your part to deal with it, you’re stuck depending on luck to deal with it well. Perhaps someone with more resourcefulness will come along and help you out, sharing resources and helming you regain sovereignty. It’s a very natural human calling to step in during moments like this to help or heal. But that’s not something that can always be counted on.

Ultimately you are responsible for your own sovereignty. Whether you objectively have free will or not is irrelevant. If you are going to succeed in life at a high level, to express other values such as vitality and passion, you are going to have to develop sovereignty. Even if you are a hardcore Sam Harris fan, you can consider reading to this point in this article the stroke of luck that nudges you back towards sovereignty if you’ve lost it.

Action Steps

Anything that can step you into higher level neural strategies can help you build sovereignty. This means engaging in activities that enhance the tone of the social division of the vagus system for one, and those things that build resources for another.

Three strategies for enhancing sovereignty 

  • Chiropractic Adjustments
  • Meditation
  • Yoga

Strategies for building resources

  • Reading print books – especially literature
  • Engaging with the Trivium and Quadrivium of Classical Education – Grammar, Logic and Rhetoric – Arithmetic, Geometry, Music and Astronomy
  • Generating a strong discipline of physical exercise including strength, endurance and posture work
  • Learning about the art of influence, propaganda, sales, and public relations for the purpose of examining their influence on your life.

Resources

Free Will and Neuroscience: From Explaining Freedom Away to New Ways of Operationalizing and Measuring It

Stress signalling pathways that impair prefrontal cortex structure and function

Main Photo by Valario Davis on Unsplash: I am seen as the threat, the enemy, a monster, a nigga, an animal, a heathen…whataver it is you see I won’t let it affect me. I know who I am!

 

 

thewildchiro

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