Importance of Exercising Intention’s Mental Muscles


Section Headings

The Possibility of Shaping our Behavior

Understanding Mental Muscles via Intention Model & Nei-yeh

Mental Muscles: A feature of Life’s Experiential Realm

Logical Symmetries between Physical & Mental Muscles

Muscle Logic ≠ Atom Logic

Differences between Physical & Mental Muscles

Exercising Mental Muscles on Neural Metastructures (Nemes)

Exercising Mental Muscles increases Intentional Behavior


According to our model, humans can shape their behavior via Intention. Intention has two components – non-action and directed action. We liken Intention’s tools to mental muscles due to multiple logical symmetries with physical muscles. For instance, both types of muscles grow stronger with exercise and atrophy if they are not employed regularly. When strong, our mental muscles can restrict outdated behavioral patterns and create more appropriate ones. Just like physical exercise, this intentional shaping process requires regular repetitions as behavior patterns manifest physically as neural meta-structures (Nemes). Perhaps of equal importance, regular exercise of our mental muscles increases our propensity for intentional behavior. Rather than being victims of our behavioral momentum, we can take better control of our thoughts and actions. With strong mental muscles, we have a better chance of fulfilling potentials.

The Possibility of Shaping our Behavior

Book Theme: We have Ability to choose between Alternatives

One of the over-riding themes of this work is that we have the ability, albeit limited, to shape and control our behavior. We can restrict, guide or even change our ’natural’ behavioral momentum. On the most basic level, we can choose between alternatives, i.e. competing data streams. We can decide where to focus and when to sustain Attention. For instance, I can choose to sustain my gaze upon a beautiful woman (my natural inclination) or I can choose to avert my gaze and instead focus my Attention upon my wife and what she is saying.

Focus is upon Controllable Behavior, although most Stimulus-Response

To conserve energy, most of these transactions occur relatively automatically, as a type of stimulus-response. This article only addresses those behaviors that we can control. How do we exert control?

Physical World: Complementary Muscle Groups

In the material world, we employ our physical muscles. We choose when to move our arm and then fingers to grasp an apple and then bring it to our mouth for consumption. To achieve this simple task, many different types of complementary muscle groups are engaged – one to restrict motion and the other to direct motion.

Mental World: Complementary Mental Muscles

We suggest that we also have a complementary set of mental muscles that serve a similar function. We can employ them to both shape or limit behavior, both physical and mental.

Muscles: an excellent metaphor for understanding Mental Muscles

Mental muscles? We find that physical muscles are an excellent conceptual metaphor for understanding the particular mental function that we are describing. Physical and mental ‘muscles’ have enough logical symmetries to justify the comparison. However because they operate in different realms of existence, i.e. Material and Immaterial, the two types of ‘muscles’ also have significant differences.

One Purpose of Mental Muscles: restrict outdated Nemes & create new Nemes

While physical muscles can only move the material world, mental muscles can both restrict and guide our Body and Mind. One of the most important functions concerns neural meta-structures (Nemes). We can employ our mental muscles to both restrict the operation of outdated (negative) Nemes and encourage the operation of more appropritate (positive) Nemes. By intentionally reinforcing beneficial Nemes, we can make relatively permanent and positive changes in our behavioral propensities. Rather than reactive to our tendencies, both innate and culturally induced, we can assume better control over our actions.

This article tackles each of these topics in more depth.

Understanding Mental Muscles: Intention Model & Nei-yeh

Why? Mental Muscles: a good way of understanding Choice and Intention

Why introduce the notion of mental muscles? I have and continue to have an ubiquitous experience that defies a physical explanation – Intentional Choice. Regularly throughout every day, it seems that I make choices between alternatives, as do all life forms. These decisions are meant to maximize my existence. Because of its regularity and importance, the process of decision-making is incredibly significant to everyone. We have found that the concept of mental muscles provides an excellent abstraction for understanding intentional behavior.

Materialists: Choice is an Illusion. We prefer engineer’s approach, what works

Even though choice is highly significant, neural scientists remain mute on this important topic. Despite millions of brain scans, physical scientists have yet to find any direct evidence for decision-making. Because of the lack of empirical support on the atomic and even subatomic levels, many extreme materialists have come to believe that choice is but an illusion. Due to their impotency in this regard, material scientists have failed to address the nuances of Intentional behavior. Rather than entering into a philosophical debate over its very existence, we prefer the engineers’ approach. Rather than being paralyzed by logical impossibilities, they ask what works?

Model, Behavioral Studies & Nei–yeh to understand Mental Muscles

To better understand the subtleties of Intention’s mental muscles, we take a multi-pronged approach. We employ the implications of my Intention model in combination with the Nei-yeh, an ancient Chinese self-cultivation manual that specializes in intentional behavior. Behavioral studies further refine our understanding.

Parallels between Model & NY, an Integrated Behavioral Technology,

I noticed immediate parallels between my model and the Nei-yeh. Compiled or written about 300 BCE (at a similar time to the Tao te Ching), the Nei-yeh elucidates an integrated behavioral technology that I find both illuminating and useful for navigating the many twists and turns of fate. It provides an excellent guide to Intention.

Mental Muscles enable us to manipulate Reality = Te & Yi from Nei-yeh

According to our model, mental muscles act as Intention’s tools. They enable us to manipulate reality for our advantage. Because of this important talent, they are a key feature of our model. To simplify and elucidate this discussion, we employ the Chinese terms, te and yi, as the names for the complementary mental ‘muscle group’ that we are highlighting. The Nei-yeh provides many insights into the nature of te and yi.

Nei-yeh: Descriptive rather than Metaphorical

An especially striking feature of this unique and influential work is that it is descriptive rather than metaphorical. Instead of symbolic words, such as Heaven or metal, referencing an abstraction, the terms stand for themselves. For instance, the words ‘te’ and ‘yi’ have distinct meanings that are independent of the physical world.

Employ NY Terms, Te & Yi, as 2 components of Intention

Their definitions are deliberately vague in order to encompass a larger territory. In this article, I am using the terms te and yi in a specific way that resonated with my own understanding. I employ the two terms to indicate the two components of Intention.

Te/Yi = Self-restraint & Guiding

In this article, we take the Chinese term ‘te’ to represent Intention’s first component, i.e. self-restraint, and ‘yi’ to represent the second, i.e. direction. As will be seen, the two always work as a team, a couple. Due to this tandem operation, we consider them to be a complementary mental muscle group.

Mental Muscles: A feature of Life’s Experiential Realm

Mental Muscle?

Mental Muscle? What does it mean to be a mental muscle?

Muscle Head?

Muscle head is a term that is bandied about to imply stupidity, the implication being that muscles have replaced the neural networks of the brain. In this case, muscle is employed as a superficial literary metaphor. Is the relationship between mental and physical muscles of a similar caliber? Or do they have a deeper connection?

Cognitive Abilities?

A physical muscle does physical work. Does a mental muscle perform mental work? What does this mental work consist of? Could it be simply solving problems? Does mental muscle refer to cognitive abilities, perhaps critical thinking skills?

Shaping Behavior? If so, Violates Materialist Paradigm

Or could the work of our mental muscles consist of shaping or guiding our behavior? If so, this type of mental muscle violates the current scientific/materialist paradigm. The general consensus in the cognitive science community is that the material world, specifically our biology, determines behavior. Under this paradigm, mental activity is a subset of biological activity. Or more generally, Life is a subset of Matter.

Mental Muscles part of New Paradigm: Life = Matter x Experience

The paradigm that includes mental muscles is radically different. Instead of being a mere subset of Matter, Life has both an Experiential and Material component. The two occupy intersecting and interacting planes of reality. In mathematical terms, the experiential realm is orthogonal to the material realm. Life exists at the intersection of the 2 realms. (As the diagram indicates, Pulses of Information generate the Experiential component.)

Mental Muscles guide behavior in Experiential Realm

Our ability to shape behavior is a significant feature of Life's experiential realm. Just as we employ physical muscles to move our body, we employ mental muscles to guide our behavior. Rather than automatically responding to stimuli, we monitor and then adjust. This monitor-adjust process is based upon our relationship with Information. Further the manner in which we digest Information determines the form of our Experience. This paradigm underlies the implicit logic of this article.

Sleepiness Article: Mental Energy to focus Attention

We have referred to mental muscles in other articles. In the Sleepiness article, we developed the notion that we employ a mental muscle to focus Attention. More specifically: in order to sharpen our focus, we expend mental energy to lower D, the Decay Factor of the Living Algorithm (LA), Life's Information Interface.

Day of Paying Attention exhausts Focus Muscle

After a full day of expending mental energy to 'pay' attention, the 'focus' muscle becomes exhausted. It has no more mental energy to lower the Decay Factor. D begins rising into the unfocused range, until it becomes so general that we don't even have the mental energy to maintain consciousness any more and go to sleep.

NY articles: Likened te and yi to mental muscles. Also feature of Posner’s Attention Model

In a series of articles on the Nei-yeh, an ancient Chinese self-cultivation manual, we likened te and yi (two of its primary word-concepts) to mental muscles associated with self-restraint and intention. We further developed the notion that these 2 mental muscles are an integral part of the Executive function in Posner's universally accepted Attention model. According to our current model, we engage these muscles to consciously adjust to our environment – either refraining from or directing action. Either way, te and yi act to shape the propensities of our behavioral momentum.

Mental Muscles: Literary or Conceptual Metaphor?

When employed in these capacities, is the term ‘mental muscle’, a mere literary metaphor with only superficial similarities to ‘real’ physical muscles? Or do physical muscles provide an effective conceptual metaphor for mental muscles, in that they share a similar implicit logic. In other words, do they belong to isomorphic systems with a high degree of logical symmetry? Is the inferential structure between the two types of muscles close enough to justify the designation ‘mental muscle’?

Physical Muscles to understand Mental Muscles?

Physical muscles have an implicit logic, i.e. their inferential structure. Could this logic be helpful in understanding the mental activity of te and yi? Could the characteristics of physical muscles also apply to mental muscles? To answer these questions, let us explore the muscle metaphor in some detail.

Logical Symmetries between Physical & Mental Muscles

1) Both Muscles employed to manipulate the Environment.

We recognize that physical muscles obviously possess a material essence that mental muscles don’t seem to possess. However they are both employed as part of a systemic process. Just as we employ physical muscles to manipulate our material environment, we employ mental muscles to manipulate our cognitive environment. Physical and mental muscles certainly share this feature in common. Could the logic behind these 2 manipulating processes have a similar inferential structure?

2) Exercise strengthens Both Muscles

Let’s examine some other characteristics of muscles. The more physical muscles are exercised the stronger they become. For instance, the more we jog the stronger our leg muscles become. In similar fashion, the Nei-yeh’s 2nd verse suggests that ‘developing te’ is essential if we want to ‘hold onto and not lose ch’i’. Just as we develop our physical muscles through regular exercise, might we also strengthen te via regular exercise? In affirmation of this notion, subsequent verses in the Nei-yeh certainly suggest that regularly exercising te is an essential feature of self-cultivation. It seems that exercising strengthens both physical and mental muscles. They become stronger with use – a second commonality.

3) Both Muscles atrophy with lack of exercise

Conversely, if physical muscles are not exercised, they atrophy. The inferential structure of this physical logic seems to also apply to our mental muscles. Later verses in the Nei-yeh stress the importance of regularly exercising both te and yi if we want to gain the full benefit of our practices. Plus regularly exercising te develops our inner power, while starting and stopping compromises our vitality. 

Parents attempt to develop Child’s self-restraint muscle

Contemporary science provides validating evidence for this theory. Multiple experiments have shown, what everyone has suspected, children have the ability, although limited, to learn self-restraint. In service of this implicit belief, every responsible parent regularly says ‘no’ to the fulfillment of childish whims, whether the candy at the checkout line or the desire to stay home from school. This restrictive parental behavior presumably develops the child’s ability for self-control. ‘Spoiled’ is the pejorative adjective that is reserved for children who have not developed their te (self-restraint muscle).

4) Both Muscles in a dynamic, not static, state.

It seems that muscles, whether physical or mental, are in a dynamic, not static, state. They are constantly changing. Generally speaking, muscles gain strength with use and lose strength when inactive. This condition is in contrast with atoms, which remain in a relatively static state.

5) Muscle Strength determines Work Capacity

A muscle’s capacity for work is directly proportional to its strength.

Strength Up: Work Capacity Up

Strength up: Work capacity up. Strength down: Work capacity down.

Children that have developed Self-Restraint Muscle have better lives

Could this feature of physical muscle logic also apply to mental muscles? Again scientific experimentation validates this perspective. Those children that develop the ability to defer gratification (te) tend to have better lives because they can better manage their finances, emotions and relationships. This is presumably because they have developed their restraint muscle. A strong restraint muscle (te) has the ability to both resist temptation and moderate excess – stop and reside in perfection, rather rushing right past.

Difficult to reassert control after a lifetime of neglect

Living experience also affirms this commonalty between physical and mental muscles. Some people are able to coast through the early part of their lives without much self-restraint – minimal exercise, over-consumption of food and alcohol, and over-spending finances. To avert an inevitable personal crisis from occurring, a doctor, financial adviser, counselor or friend might recommend exerting some self-control. Even if the crisis reaches epic proportions, these same individuals seem to have lost the ability to gain control of their desires. Their te muscle seems to have atrophied and has no capacity to do work.

6) Muscles become exhausted & require down time for rejuvenation

The logic of physical muscles has yet another feature that seems to apply to mental muscles. Physical muscles get exhausted and must be rested to replenish their strength. For instance, weightlifters are counseled to practice different muscle groups every other day to give their muscle groups time to repair.

Experiments: self-control muscle can become exhausted

Although the Nei-yeh doesn’t express any opinion on this topic, scientific research provides some affirming evidence. Te is certainly linked with the ability to defer gratification. Experimentation has suggested that deferring gratification in one situation weakens our capacity for deferring gratification in a subsequent situation.

Examples: Consequences of exhausted te: Yo-yo Dieting & Work/Intoxication

As an anecdotal example, after the restaurant rush when restraint is essential, many waiters and cooks have a hard time controlling their alcohol consumption. Yo-yo dieting provides us with another common example. After perhaps excessive restraint is employed to lose weight, dieters seem to lose any ability to defer gratification and regain all the weight they lost and more. Both examples are easily explained if we view te, i.e. deferred gratification, as a mental muscle that has been over-exercised, i.e. exhausted.

7) Downtime rejuvenates Exhausted Muscles, physical & mental

Muscles aren’t used up, merely exhausted. Rest or downtime naturally rejuvenates physical muscles. The same seems to hold true of mental muscles. Refraining from exercising the specific muscle for sufficient duration seems to provide the muscle time to replenish its strength, biological or cognitive.

8) Complementary Muscles

Physical and mental muscles seem to have another characteristic in common. Physical muscles tend to be associated with a complementary muscle. Complementary muscles serve a multiple functions, for example alternation and restraint. Muscle alternation serves to refine our movements, while the restraint serves to prevent over-extension and injury. While exercising our biceps, the complementary triceps are also engaged to prevent the over-extension that injures ligaments and tendons. Both muscles are engaged to varying degrees in moving the arm.

Nei-yeh discussion: Te & Yi act in tandem

In our discussion of the Nei-yeh, we have suggested that te and yi could be likened to complementary mental muscles. From Verse 2, the two muscles are engaged to attract ch’i. Other verses imply that te and yi are employed to both restrain and guide the innate tendencies of hsin, our emotional heart-mind. Yi, mind intent, guides our attention to breath regulation, body alignment, and mental tranquility, while te, self control, keeps attention on track – prevents it from wandering off. Te also restrains yi from fueling mental disturbance and the fulfillment of our sensual cravings, while yi guides te into these constructive processes.

Yin-yang symbol to represent Te-Yi Interaction

Because of the mutual feedback and interlocking nature of these complementary muscles, we have chosen to represent their interaction with the yin-yang symbol. This symbol indicates a dynamic and interactive process rather than a static and independent state.

Complementary muscles to achieve Balance

It seems that there are both physical and mental complementary muscles. These complementary muscles act together for both refinement and restraint. In brief, the dual interaction acts to balance whatever work is done.

Shared Implicit Logic justifies Mental Muscle Designation

Reviewing the commonalties between physical and mental muscles: Both manipulate their environment. Both get stronger with use and weaker from lack of use. Muscle strength corresponds with work capacity. Muscles become exhausted and require rest or downtime for rejuvenation. Finally there are both complementary physical and mental muscles that act to balance each other.

Physical & Mental Muscles: Common inferential structure

It seems that the metaphorical relationship between physical and mental muscles is much more than literary. The many commonalities between the two types of muscles suggest that muscles, whether physical or mental, share the same implicit logic. Their metaphorical relationship is based upon a common inferential structure.

Justification for Mental Muscles

This shared internal logic justifies the mental muscle designation. 

Muscle Logic ≠ Atom Logic

Article: Humans have both physical & mental muscles

This article has developed the notion that humans have both physical and mental muscles. The processes of both types of muscles seem to share a similar implicit logic – inferential structure. We’ve noted 8 distinct characteristics that these processes have in common:

List of 8 Similarities between Physical & Mental Muscles

1) Muscles employed to manipulate the environment.

2) Muscles in a dynamic state (unlike atoms)

3) Become stronger with exercise.

4) Become weaker with no exercise.

5) Strength determines Work Capacity

6) Become exhausted (no matter how strong) (unlike machines)

7) Downtime replenishes strength.

8) Complementary muscles for refinement, restraint  & balance

Muscles: Monitor-Adjust vs. Atoms: Action-Reaction

These shared characteristics indicate that muscles have some distinct and significant differences from the mechanistic world of atoms. On the most basic level, humans regularly employ muscles in the monitor-adjust process to deliberately manipulate the environment. In contrast, the automatic processes of action-reaction rule the behavior of the exclusively material world composed of atoms and such.

Muscles (Monitor-Adjust) ≠ Atoms (Action-Reaction)

Muscles: Exercise important, Energy Depletion & Rejuvenation vs. Atoms: Not

Further, atoms, the building blocks of the material world, exist in a more or less permanent state on our planet. They become neither stronger nor weaker. Nor do they become exhausted or require downtime to replenish their strength.

Muscles (Dynamic State) ≠ Atoms (Permanent State)

Atom Logic ≠ Muscle Logic

We mention these differences to exhibit that atoms and muscles do not share the same logical structure. Due to this low degree of symmetry, they are not isomorphic systems.

Atom Logic ≠ Muscle Logic

Although qualitatively different, Physical Muscles & Atoms obey same physical laws

Even though the qualitative nature of muscles and atoms is quite different, physical muscles are composed of atoms. Their Physics is identical. While materially the same, the processes are different.

Differences between Physical & Mental Muscles

Mental & Physical Muscles operate in different Realms

We have employed the implicit logic of physical muscles as a conceptual metaphor to better understand the components of Intentional behavior. Due to the many logical symmetries, we have referred to Intention’s tools as mental muscles. Because of their metaphorical relationship, the two types of muscles, physical and mental, also have some distinct differences. This is because the two types of muscles exist and operate in two different realms.

2 Realms: Life = Matter x Experience = Molecular Interactions x Information Digestion = Action/Reaction x Monitor/Adjust

Two Realms? According to our current model, Life operates at the intersection of 2 orthogonal/perpendicular planes – one material, the other experiential – the first based in atomic interactions, the second based in information digestion. Automatic action-reaction rules the material realm, while deliberate monitor-adjust rules the experiential realm.

Section intent: Examine Differences between Muscles in the 2 realms

The intent of this section is to examine the differences between physical and mental muscles in Life’s two realms.

Diff#1: Physical Muscles à Body: Mental Muscles à Body & Mind

1) Physical muscles operate exclusively on the material world. Physical muscles move our body to manipulate the environment. Mental muscles operate at the intersection of the physical and experiential worlds. We can employ mental muscles to shape both our physical behavior and our thoughts. In contrast, physical muscles cannot deliberately influence thoughts.

Diff#2: Mental Muscles Intention: Physical Muscles none

2) Intention separates the two types of muscles. Mental muscles can restrict and direct our physical muscles, but not vice versa. As they operate relatively automatically in most cases, the innate nature of physical muscles does not include Intention. Intention with its mental muscles is an exclusive property of Life’s Experiential Realm. It is only from this realm that we can seize control of our lives. 

Diff#3 Strength: Physical Muscles à Muscle Mass: Mental Muscles à P(B)

3) Both types of muscles are in the dynamic state. They both get stronger from use and weaker from inactivity. Strength is directly proportional to their work capacity. However strength in physical and mental muscles is entirely different.

Use of Mental Muscle correlated with Propensity of Use

Generally speaking, physical strength is based upon muscle mass, i.e. pure matter. Mental strength, according to our current model, is based in behavioral propensities. Every time that we employ a mental muscle, it increases the propensity that we will use it again and vice versa. The more frequently a mental muscle is employed, the higher the behavioral propensity that it will be used.

Example: Event (Self Restraint Eating) increases Future Propensity of Eating Restraint & General use of Te

This process applies to both the mental muscle and the behavior. For instance, if we apply discipline when eating, it strengthens both our mental self-restraint muscle (te) and our eating behavior. In other words, the propensity of employing self-restraint in both eating and general activities grows. Vice versa, if we don’t exercise te (the self-restraint muscle), the likelihood of employing it in the future falls with respect to eating and in general. For this reason, it behooves us to regularly employ te (self-control) on most forms of activity.

Diff#4: Exhaustion/Downtime: Physical Rest vs. Info Digestion

4) Both types of muscles become exhausted from use and need downtime to replenish their strength. Both the exhaustion and the function of the downtime are of an entirely different nature. Again this difference is because they operate to different realms of existence.

Physical Muscles rejuvenated by bodily rest

Physical muscles require rest to replenish the bio-chemicals that have been expended through use. Riding a bicycle depletes the bio-chemicals associated with this form of exercise. The bodily networks secrete other biological juices that our cognitive centers translate as leg exhaustion. Inactivity or rest provides the body with time to restore the bio-chemicals that have been depleted through cycling. A physical problem requires a physical solution.

Mental Muscles in Life’s Experiential Plane: Different reason for rest

Mental muscles belong to Life’s experiential plane. They also require downtime to replenish their strength, but for an entirely different reason.

Mental Muscles: Focus & Sustain Attention to generate Experiences (Info Pulse)

Mental muscles are employed in at least two capacities. They both focus and sustain Attention on significant data streams. Sustained Attention generates Experience. Experiences consist of Pulses of Information. Life monitors and adjusts to these Pulses of Information – these Experiences.

Undigested Info accompanies Each Experience

Most of the Data Stream’s content is digested. However, undigested Information accompanies each Pulse. The mind requires downtime to digest this undigested Information. Because wake time consists of an uninterrupted series of Pulses of varying lengths, the mind requires downtime to integrate the undigested Information.

Mind requires Downtime of Sleep to Digest backlog of undigested Info

 The most common downtime is referred to as Sleep. In similar fashion, the stomach cannot digest food as rapidly as it is consumed and requires downtime to finish the digestion process. In both cases, the mind and the stomach are not resting, but are instead busily working to integrate the backlog of food in one case and information in the other case.

If not, Trajectories of Undigested Info diminishes Cognitive Skills

If the information is not completely digested, the trajectories of the undigested Information interfere with our capacity for Attention. This diminished capacity results in diminished cognitive skills. To maximize our cognitive skills and attention capacity, we must tare our system of these extraneous thoughts through the mental downtime known as Sleep.

Internal Summary: Physical muscles rest; Mental Muscles complete digestion process

In summary, physical muscles generally become stationary to refresh Body after physically exhausting activity, e.g. a long bike ride. In contrast, mental muscles require downtime in order to digest leftover (un-integrated) information. Perhaps more correctly, this downtime (frequently Sleep) utilizes the residual (potential) mental energy that is leftover from the day, i.e. waking hours (not asleep).

Summary other differences: Effect, Intention & Strength

Recall the other differences. 1) While physical muscles can only affect the Material Realm, mental muscles can direct/restrict both physical muscles and the thoughts of Life’s Experiential Realm. Due to this central position, mental muscles can affect both realms. 2) Intention employs mental muscles to manipulate Reality; Physical muscles don’t have Intention. 3) Strength for physical muscles refers to muscle mass, while strength for mental muscles refers to the propensity of behavior P(B) associated with the use of these muscles, i.e. te and yi (restraint and intention). This propensity is related to the frequency that they have been exercised.


Let us now show a concrete example of the importance of employing the complementary mental muscle group, te/yi to restrain and direct our behavior. 

Exercising Mental Muscles on Neural Metastructures (Nemes)

Humans develop Behavior Patterns to deal with repetitive circumstances

Every human develops a set of behavior patterns to deal with repetitive circumstances. Certain people might respond with anger in a certain type of situation, while others might respond by retreating. When these behaviors meet with success, however that is defined personally, they are repeated. Gradually with enough repetitions, these behavior patterns become habitual.

Habit Patterns generate Nemes

These habitual behavior patterns generate a material substrate that scientists call a neural meta-structure, Neme for short. Rather than a single linear strand, Nemes are a set of behaviors that have proven successful under a general set of conditions. Because of their physicality, it could be said that Nemes are hard-wired. This hard-wiring is generally not from genetics but instead from behavioral repetitions arising after birth.

Repetitions strengthen neural pathways, which raises P(B)

Humans develop Nemes to deal with Life’s circumstances. Once in place, they are reinforced with use. With each repetition, the neural pathways become stronger. Significance? The propensity of engaging in the repeated behavior rises under similar circumstances. Behavioral propensities rise with use.

Positive: ‘successful’ behavior patterns repeated automatically

The positive: Nemes are the physical representation of personally defined successful behavior patterns. Nemes operate relatively mechanistically after they are established. Events or circumstances trigger virtually automatic behavior. Rather than constantly reinventing the wheel (the appropriate behavior), environmental stimuli trigger the Nemes’ presumably successful and automatic response.

Nemes: stimulus-response centers established to save energy and time

Our mind consists of countless Nemes, i.e. cognitive centers that initiate automatic behavior (a type of stimulus-response). A lifetime of experience has generated these Nemes to minimize the expenditure of mental energy and save response time. Rather than making a conscious decision for every action we take, we simply engage in the tried and true, i.e. behaviors that have proven successful in the past. In similar fashion, walking and biking, once learned, are hardwired physical skills that don’t require relearning every time we set out.

Negative: Outdated Nemes produce counterproductive behavior

The negative: Nemes take over one’s life. Instead of monitoring and then adjusting consciously and/or deliberately to a dynamic environment, Nemes enable us to respond automatically. These preprogrammed Nemes can generate counterproductive behavior – sometimes over and over. We call these outdated Nemes.

Profusion of undesirable consequences indicates Neme is outdated and should be replaced

A profusion of undesirable consequences indicates that a particular Neme is outdated and needs to be modified or replaced. What was once a successful behavior pattern has become unsuccessful due to changing circumstances. For instance, behavior patterns established in childhood are frequently not appropriate as an adult.

We can employ te/yi synergy to replace outdated Nemes

Modifying and/or replacing a Neme takes mental muscle power. This is when the te/yi synergy enters the picture. The te/yi synergy can guide and shape our behavioral and thought patterns. We can and must engage the te/yi synergy to replace the destructive stimulus-response of outdated Nemes with constructive stimulus-response mechanisms of a new Neme.

Without Intention, outdated Nemes reinforce themselves

Rather than subconscious and temporary, the process of constructing a new Neme must be deliberate and sustained. Why? Nemes are associated with a certain propensity of behavior P(B). Engaging in this behavior increases the propensity of its occurrence. To save energy, Nemes, even if they are outdated, reinforce themselves by repeating the same response over and over and over again.

Intention’s te/yi synergy can change Nemes P(B)

It takes Intention to establish new behavioral propensities. Intention’s te/yi synergy can change the propensities associated with the Neme. Only with concentrated and regular application of this form of mental energy on our thoughts and behavior can we generate better Nemes, i.e. cognitive behavioral centers that enable us to better fulfill our potentials.

Changing P(B) requires repetition of Deliberate Intervention: Not just one time

By paying close attention, we can employ te to restrict negative (unsuccessful) behavior and yi to engage in positive (successful) behavior. Due to the persistence of behavioral propensities and the physicality of Nemes, this deliberate intervention is not a one-time event. Rather, constant vigilance is required to alter a habit pattern that has been formed over many years, frequently from early childhood.

Changing Nemes P(B) requires mental energy – can be exhausting

Changing our propensity of behavior requires an expenditure of mental energy. The automatic response of Nemes requires much less mental energy. Consequently, this process can be exhausting, just like learning a new talent.

After Many Repetitions, P(B) of Outdated Neme falls; P(B) of New Neme rises

However, the effort is worthwhile. After enough limiting (te/self-restraint) and redirecting (yi), the propensities associated with the outdated Neme fall away and the propensities associated with the new Neme rise. Eventually, the new positive Neme becomes the default network. At this point, we have established a network of behavioral propensities that make it easier to fulfill our potentials.

Vigilance required to prevent reemergence of Outdated Nemes

Beware: the outdated neural network still exists, albeit in limited form. As such, inappropriate behavior can still arise inadvertently. Vigilance combined with conscious effort is required to prevent the reemergence of the once successful, but now outdated Neme.

Exercising Mental Muscles increases Intentional Behavior

Intention’s 2 tools (te/yi synergy): non-action & directed action

Let us summarize some key points. Intention has two primary tools with which to manipulate the environment for the organism’s advantage, i.e. the so-called te/yi synergy. The Chinese term ‘te’ signifies our deliberate capacity for self-restraint (non-action), while ‘yi’ signifies our ability to direct action.

Importance: Death without Mental Muscles (te/yi synergy)

Due to multiple logical symmetries with physical muscles, we have likened Intention’s tools to complementary mental muscles. Intention’s mental muscles (the te/yi synergy) allow us to control, albeit in limited fashion, both physical muscles and thought. As they enable us to exert a modicum of control over our existence, both physical and mental, our mental muscles are incredibly important. I think it is safe to say that without them, we could not survive very long. We would be like the proverbial chicken without a head – still able to run around, but without any conscious control.

Significance of mental exercise

Like physical muscles, mental muscles must be exercised regularly else they atrophy. Significance?

Weak Mental Muscles: Behavioral Momentum takes over -> Doom

When the te/yi synergy is weak from lack of exercise, behavioral momentum takes over. Our actions are increasingly guided by unrestrained impulses that gradually turn into habit patterns. Without vigilance and guidance, our life gradually veers off course. This imbalance frequently leads to disastrous circumstances – potential doom.

Mental Muscles can take charge of Behavioral Momentum

Rather than being victimized by antiquated behavioral patterns, which may have successful at some time in the past, for instance childhood, it is possible, important and always time to take charge and assert control over our habits, both mental and physical. In such a way, we can reduce the propensity for engaging in old ineffectual and perhaps even destructive habit patterns over and over and over again. The only way we can take charge is by exercising our mental muscles.

Strong Mental Muscles: Guide Behavioral Momentum to Balance (Homeostasis)

Strong mental muscles enable us to guide behavioral momentum rather than being overwhelmed over dominated by it. Regular exercise of our mental muscles (self-restraint combined with positive direction) enables us to maintain balance. This personal homeostasis applies to all aspects of being, e.g. physical, mental, spiritual and emotional. Balanced, we are able to better avoid the potential pitfalls of excess.

Mental Muscles Exercise: Increase Propensity for Intentional Behavior

How are they to be exercised? Via constant vigilance to our actions, we can employ Intention’s muscles to both restrict (te) negative behavior and engage (yi) in positive behavior. With regular exercise, our mental muscles become stronger. Strong mental muscles indicate a higher propensity for intentional behavior. When strong, we can use the te/yi synergy to replace negative with positive behavior patterns. In such a way, we are better able to fulfill our innate nature.

Strong Mental Muscles: Avoid victimization & Achieve Potentials

As exhibited, the development of strong mental muscles through regular exercise is incredibly important as it fulfills several functions. It increases our potential for restricted outdated behavior patterns (Nemes) and establishing more appropriate patterns. By pursuing such a method, we are better able to avoid victimization and achieve our potentials.


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