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It’s All in Your Mind: A Systematic Path to Transform Behavior and Culture Habits

Written by: Barry Borgerson, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


When the need arises to penetrate new forms of problem solving, we must try to find some visualization mechanisms to help us work our way through uncharted mental territory. In my first Brainz Magazine article, Our Mysterious Problem-Solving Deficiencies, I mentioned the ancient parable of the blind men and the elephapnt as a way to gain insight that we may be missing the big picture of our current problem-solving deficiencies. Here is a 19th-century poem that cleverly leads us through that parable.

The Blind Men and Elephant Poem by John Godfrey Saxe (1872)

Since we currently have many types of inadequately solved problems, we would do well to try to discover if we are addressing different parts of a greater “deficiencies elephant” that we have somehow been missing. Or, using the identification I employed in my first Brainz article, how can we figure out what the Class II elephant actually looks like?

We need to start by examining how people currently go about understanding the various parts of this problem-solving elephant.

A major characteristic of the large class of problems that we do not solve well enough is that they all relate to human activities. Therefore, we need to find a way to understand and manage many types of our activities better than we have been doing. The first step is to identify how we try to identify the underlying sources of human activities. Most current efforts focus on how the human brain operates, as illustrated in the following image.

The Brain-Centric View of Human Activities

You’re Out of Your Mind: Many articles and books that say they address the mind actually focus on the brain instead because that is where our current problem-solving processes work so effectively. To transcend this confusion, we need to make an explicit distinction between the mind and the brain.

The Brain Has Its Place: The tangible human brain consists of 1.4kg (3 pounds) of convoluted gray and white matter that exists in the physical world and therefore lends itself well to scientific investigations. Scientists continue to do a wonderful job of penetrating the brain’s enormous complexities to solve many important problems.

Discovering the Mind

This Is a No-Brainer: In order to solve the large class of mysterious human-activities problems, we must stop conflating the mind and the brain. If we model it effectively, the intangible human mind is not nearly as complex as the brain. It has escaped comprehensive understanding because it has many properties that are not naturally accessible to us and some that create illusions (and even delusions!), which often deceive us. We can experience these illusive mental activities as profoundly real even when they do not correspond with anything outside of our mind and when they do not align with our success and well-being needs. The belief in the QAnon conspiracy theory is a grave example of the former and the wild popularity of the “sustainable success” books is an example of the latter.

Use Your Mind for a Change: Many investigators have made progress in modeling the human mind. However, it is so elusive (inaccessible) and illusive (self-deceiving) that previous theories have not modeled the intricacies of our mental activities sufficiently to allow us to construct robust processes that empower conquering most of our debilitating human-activities problem-solving deficiencies. That is, we need to use our mind more effectively to understand and change enigmatic parts of our mind.

Because the human mind is a unique non-material entity in nature, we need a unique theory and a new problem-solving foundation (paradigm, worldview) to understand it that includes specialized processes to manage it.

Mind Over Matter: The components of our model are not such enormously complex material brain mechanisms as neurons, neurotransmitters, the amygdala, limbic structures, or the prefrontal cortex and their intricate interconnections and interactions. Instead, we focus on non-material human mental factors such as hopes, fears, certainties, intentions, beliefs, feelings, cultures, skills, goals, procrastination, and habits, which are much easier to grasp than their brain underpinnings.

You’ve Lost Your Mind: Many characteristics of our mind don’t incarnate from one specific part of the brain but instead derive their actions from distributed brain mechanisms. That includes those actions associated with most success-producing human activities. Therefore, we do not have a serviceable mapping between many important mental activities and their brain correlates. Other parts of our mind are elusive and illusive, so in important senses, you’ve lost your mind – at least crucial parts of it.

Mapping the Mind: On his March 15, 2015 CNN GPS program, Fareed Zakaria featured a segment, Five Moonshots for the 21st Century, which included mapping the human brain. Many scientists are working effectively on creating such a comprehensive map. To solve our many success-destroying human-activities problems, we must create a different moonshot with much wider consequences. We need to create a related but fundamentally distinct map of the human mind. And, we must make that moonshot in the third decade of the 21st century because our problem-solving deficiencies are causing increasing dysfunctions and failures in many crucial areas of our lives. These include business with the human ramifications of the rising Fourth Industrial Revolution and spectacularly in our Western political systems, both of which are gravely impacted by the rippling effects of the global coronavirus pandemic.

Mind Your Mind: That is, pay attention to how your mind actually operates. How much direct control do you think you have over your mental activities?

If You Don’t Mind! Most people don’t pay explicit attention to their mind – they don’t mind! When people have occasion to think about their mind, most primarily see it as uniform. I had my informal uniform-mind model destabilized when I was a boy of about 11. I was attending a Saturday matinee at the theater in downtown Alameda California, which was only a five-block walk from where I lived. As was usual in those days, a double feature was playing and as I returned to the seating area from buying snacks, the customary newsreel was playing between the two movies. The commentator was discussing physicist Niels Bohr who made significant contributions regarding the atom for which he won the Nobel Prize in 1922. The narrator was lamenting the fact that Bohr never produced any breakthroughs in his later life comparable to the ones he made earlier. The statement the commentator made next created cognitive dissonance for me because he generalized that after a major discovery, most scientists never have comparable future breakthroughs. That made no sense to me. How could it be possible that as you acquire new knowledge and gain more experience that you become less creative? It forced me to make explicit my implicit assumption that our mind is uniform, in which case the phenomena described by the commentator would not occur. I suddenly realized to my dismay that either the commentator was wrong or I had a defective model of the mind.

Do You Mind? Was the newsreel commentator right or was my uniform-mind assumption correct? We need to start mapping the human mind by identifying how most people view their mind, at least implicitly. Most people seem to believe, as I previously did, that they have very high control over their mind because it consists mainly of thinking, intentions, and explicit knowledge.

The Single-Mode View of the Human Mind

I use situational light bulbs to represent this thinking mode of our mind.

Automatic Mental Activities: With a little reflection, most people will realize that some of their actions take place automatically, such as their sports and musical skills. Therefore, the mind must contain some vague functions that are different from the thinking, intentions, and explicit knowledge components of which we are so familiar and that we know how to use very effectively to create our successes.

The Thinking-Plus-Some-Skills View of the Mind

In the above diagram, I introduced a second visualization mechanism to empower you to gain additional insight into the nature of our automatic activities – using situational robots because our unintentional activities operate like internal robots.

Robots Within: If they reflect a bit longer, most people will admit that sometimes they exhibit actions that are not consistent with their intentions such as procrastinating or displaying anger. To overcome the many debilitating human-activities problems we have not been solving adequately, we need to dig deeper into this automatically executing part of our mind.

Grasping at Parts of the Mental Elephant. Instead of the poem, we can use an illustration of the blind people and the elephant parable to make the point about missing the big picture. Maybe that is what is happening to us now in trying to solve specific human-activities problems when we are missing the overarching view of what is going on in our mind.

Each Was Partly in the Right, and All Were in the Wrong!

In the above diagram, I use blind light bulbs to represent our thinking mode, which is where our explicit understanding lies.

Dual Mental Modes: The first major change we must make to our mental model is to recognize that we all operate in two powerful but distinct modes. Our thinking mode is very natural to us, is the center of our attention, easily improves through education, and was the primary basis of most of our past successes. The other mode has been unfamiliar, resists easy improvements, takes place mostly outside of our explicit awareness, and, when we conquer this automatic mode, will provide the basis of our next wave of successes in conjunction with our already-potent thinking abilities.

We Have Two Robust Mental Modes

Two Selfs: Since we operate in two distinct modes, a thinking mode and an automatic mode, we can usefully assume that we have two “selfs” – a thinking-self and an auto-self.

Our Two Selfs

Auto-Self Emancipation: The Science/Enlightenment Revolution emancipated our thinking-self, created the Modern West, and gave us over two centuries of amazing successes. Our challenge now is to find a pragmatic way to emancipate our auto-self to create another long period of even greater and more-consistent successes.

A No-Class Solution: We can now put an end to speaking indirectly of Class I and Class II problems in these articles. We can now talk directly about problems that we can solve effectively using our thinking-self and those that require transforming the auto-self of ourselves, other individuals, and groups – including businesses.

Here are some seemingly independent human activities that we have not understood and managed adequately:

  • Paradigms

  • Culture Changes

  • Behavior Transformations

  • Tacit Knowledge – as opposed to explicit knowledge

  • “Heart” – as in hearts and minds

  • “Art” of Leadership – as opposed to management “science”

Robot-Like Activities: How can we account for the above mysterious activities and many more that are automatic, unintentional, not solvable by our potent thinking abilities, and not based on explicit knowledge – that seem to be robot-like?

Can’t Make Heads or Tails of Our Mysterious “Elephant in the Room”?

The Auto-Self Elephant: We have not been able to make heads or tails of our mysterious “human-activities elephant” because it is the previously mysterious auto-self. People have been examining parts of this “auto-self elephant.” However, “each was partly in the right and all are were in the wrong” when it came to understanding the big picture.

What Does 2Selfs Theory Bring to Mind? There is an auto-self elephant in our success room, and it’s high time we acknowledge that it is there and learn to understand and manage it because it’s stomping on our aspirations and it’s not going away. The above insights into the auto-self are but six of many ways careful observers have noticed that we have some mysterious activities that we struggle to understand and manage. We need to recognize explicitly that we operate in two distinct modes that sometimes cooperate and other times compete. Our goal must be to create a generalized, pragmatic theory that allows us to understand and manage both of our selfs across a broad set of human-activities problems we have not been solving adequately. 2Selfs Theory now satisfies that need.

2Selfs Theory provides an orderly, systematic model of the mind that empowers us to solve many types of currently mysterious problems associated with human activities.

The currency for success for the thinking-self is knowledge within one’s professional domain – the path to success is intentions and learning.

The currency for success for the auto-self is alignment with success needs – the path to success is transforming.

Success previously focused on becoming knowledgeable. Now we must add to that becoming transformable for repeated successes.

The first level of creating a robust model of our auto-self is to recognize four different types that operate in distinct ways.

The 4 Auto-Self Types

All four types of auto-self activities play important roles in our lives including in business. However, this series of articles for Brainz Magazine focuses on auto-contexts (the perceptual “lenses” through which we view the world) and auto-behaviors (our habits) because those two types are causing our systemic failures. They also provide the opportunity, once we conquer them, to create successes and well-being beyond what we ever achieved. In future articles, I will dig deeper into auto-contexts and auto-behaviors as a necessary way to solve many types of problems and how conquering them should launch a new era of greater prosperity and reestablish the viability of representative governments.

When trying to understand the dual nature of the human mind and in particular our hyper elusive and chronically illusive auto-contexts, we can employ a third powerful visualization mechanism that goes way back to the ancient Greek philosopher Plato. In his Allegory of the Cave (The Republic), Plato described a scene where prisoners in a cave were looking at shadows on a wall. The shadows were of objects and people from outside the cave. The cave dwellers could hear the people outside the cave by their sounds bouncing off the cave wall. The cave dwellers were constrained so they could not turn around and see the actual people or objects. Their perceived reality consisted of the shadows. Plato pointed out that they lived in a constrained mental world of seeing only the shadows that create fuzzy images of real objects. He proposed that if they were freed and went outside the cave, they would not recognize the three-dimensional objects they then saw and would probably struggle valiantly to deny the actual reality they just encountered for the first time. We now understand that is due to the potent certainty illusion, a specific artifact of auto-contexts, which you will learn about below

We cannot have a successful future if we continue to see only the shadows of our auto-self and attempt to manage its many manifestations through fuzzy access.

2Selfs Theory is not very complicated compared to many topics you already studied and understand. The problem is that it exposes enigmatic parts of your mind. We have not penetrated this part of the mind adequately in the past because most of its activities take place outside of our awareness and its mechanisms often deceive us. To understand it well, we need to identify and model a few auto-self properties. As we do that, we will benefit from having navigation tools.

Navigating the Path to Greater Successes and Well-Being

Exploring new mental territory necessarily requires introducing some new concepts and therefore adding to our vocabulary. Readers of my previous writings have reported that they sometimes got lost in navigating through the unfamiliar terrain with new-concept boulders and many signs in the form of new vocabulary terms. In order to make the path easier as you work your way through understanding and managing our previously mysterious but crucially important auto-self, I provide here four navigation landmarks. I will use these repeatedly below and throughout my remaining Brainz Magazine articles to keep you oriented on your path to a more successful future.

4 Major 2Selfs Theory Navigation Landmarks

  • Certainty Illusions

  • Comfort Imperative

  • Abilities Mismatch

  • Transformable

Certainty Illusions

Certainty illusions create the major force that drives the mysterious, often-deceptive activities of auto-contexts. Certainty illusions often provide a necessary anchor to frame our thoughts including for science paradigms, problem-solving worldviews, and business cultures. However, they also cause us to experience that we have access to reality, the way things really are, or the “truth” independent of correspondence with the world outside of this automatic mode of our mind.

A massive problem with certainty illusions is their tenacity and opacity because they stay rigid even when the environment changes, and we don’t normally notice when that happens. This illusive certainty also blocks our attempts to reconstruct auto-contexts when they are ill formed or when the rapidly changing social environments renders previously aligned auto-contexts obsolete. Big lies in politics are examples of the former and business-culture reconstructions are examples of the latter.

You will learn in my future Brainz Magazine articles how certainty illusions impact our lives in many highly impactful ways that most people do not currently recognize. We will use “certainty illusion” generically to mean that auto-contexts create a certainty within us that is independent of correspondence with anything outside of our mind. We will also use certainty illusion more specifically to refer to an auto-context-based certainty for which we have not, cannot, or do not verify currently corresponds with the world outside of our mind. We will use certainty delusion to refer to an internal certainty that we have verified or could verify does not correspond to realities outside of our mind.

The Comfort Imperative

The Comfort Imperative is the major driving force that controls auto-behaviors.

The Comfort Imperative moves us toward pleasure and relentlessly drives us away from discomfort. It blocks needed actions including discomfort-inducing auto-behavior and auto-context transformations. It is also the underlying reason why seduction traps in the form of simplistic solutions are so effective when people experience discomfort. Unfortunately, simplistic solutions relieve the immediate discomfort associated with needing a solution without producing the solution needed. Additionally, the Comfort Imperative is the underlying reason why self-help programs rarely produce the desired results because auto-behavior reconstructions create discomfort over an extended period.

Abilities Mismatch

The Abilities Mismatch manifests the conflict between our prowess at thinking-self problem-solving and our current anemic auto-self problem-solving capabilities.

The Abilities Mismatch is the fundamental situation causing our systemic decline, which reveals that we have now developed technologies and products (using our amazing thinking-self capabilities) that have passed the threshold where they have overwhelmed our ability to manage their human-activities (auto-self) ramifications.

The Abilities Mismatch is not a fundamental part of human nature. However, because of it, we have now reached the point in the course of human events where it has become necessary to take decisive actions to secure our successes, prosperity, and the pursuit of happiness.

Or, said slightly differently: The Abilities Mismatch has escalated to the point where it has precipitated a major tipping point of our journey in the maturation of the human species.

Why has the Abilities Mismatch become so devastating? Technologies are driving so many disruptions in the business environment that the need for culture changes becomes ever-increasing, and we have not had systematic processes to accomplish that. In politics, communications technologies make disseminating disinformation and Big Lies so easy that too many voters are vulnerable to having certainty delusions constructed into their auto-contexts, which overwhelms their ability to make rational choices including ones that impact their own successes and well-being.

We have successfully worked our way through a series of technologies in the Modern West, so why do I claim we have now hit a major inflection point that requires a rare type of discontinuous response to recover and then exceed our previous greatness? Technologies of the first two industrial revolutions were steam and then electricity, and those industrial revolutions created changes slowly enough that our predecessors could work through the changes wrought to human activities to sustain progress.

All of that changed with the Third Industrial Revolution because the underlying technology was semiconductors that had the unprecedented property of increasing performance while decreasing costs year after year and decade after decade. That, when coupled with highly sophisticated software, led to explosive improvements in computer and communications technologies. These technological events have created capabilities and rates of change that our auto-self, and particularly our auto-contexts, can no longer accommodate with the implicit understanding and indirect management we have been attempting to use. As if that’s not bad enough, we are now teetering on the precipice of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which will only make matters worse.

And that is just for business. The ease with which charlatans and conspiracy promulgators can use modern communications technologies to spew disinformation and Big Lies has incapacitated citizens and therefore voters to avoid the construction of certainty delusions into their auto-contexts. Think about the “Stop the Steal” insurrection at the US Capitol on January 6, 2021.


We must focus on one crucial new capability. We need to become transformable.

The success focus for the Modern West was widespread learning, which continuously improves our thinking-self capabilities.

The next focus must add the success factor of widespread transforming, which will periodically improve our auto-self alignment with success and well-being needs.

You will learn more about transformability in the auto-contexts and auto-behaviors sections below and throughout the rest of my Brainz articles as I discuss practical applications.

The mind contains these hidden, illusive auto-context “lenses” through which we interpret the world. In subsequent articles, you will learn about the decisive roles auto-contexts play in so many aspects of our lives and how to manage them to our enormous benefits. This section provides an overview of the nature and importance of auto-contexts.

Auto-contexts (that sometimes appear as paradigms, mindsets, worldviews, and colloquially the “box”) act as automatic contextual frameworks. They create hidden perceptual lenses that enable and disable our constructive thinking. Auto-contexts play the decisive role in creating discontinuous innovations and incorporating them into an organization’s culture. They have also caused innovation deathtraps because we had not created and propagated a process for managing them systematically.

Previously, we had barely scratched the surface of the role auto-contexts play in our current demise and the promise that understanding and managing them will provide to empower us to reestablish and then exceed the previous greatness of the West. Conquering auto-contexts is extremely important because they create problem-solving foundations for professions, countries, and the whole West. They are the basis of cultures, including in business. Auto-contexts are also the key to constructing much greater personal responsibilities for citizens of the West. Additionally, they contain the enduring values of individuals and whole societies.

We will not have a positive future unless we conquer the auto-self. The most important type of auto-self activity we must now conquer is the auto-context. And, the property of auto-contexts that currently causes the most devastating damage to our successes and well-being is the certainty illusion. You can’t escape your prison if you don’t know you are in it, and auto-contexts have now pushed us into a mental (and success) prison that is destroying our future due to the Abilities Mismatch. Fortunately, we now have the opportunity not just to overcome the negative effects of auto-contexts but also to use them to create a greater future than we ever experienced.

Here is a fair challenge some people have given me. “If auto-contexts are so important, why haven’t we robustly modeled them by now so we can overcome their negative consequences and take advantage of the enormous opportunities you claim conquering them can offer us?”

The reasons why we have previously failed to understand and transform auto-contexts effectively include the following:

  • Elusive: Even more than for auto-behaviors, auto-contexts frequently elude our detection – they impact us in overwhelming ways that we don’t explicitly recognize.

  • Illusive: Auto-contexts frequently deceive us – they create powerful experiential certainties that often do not correspond with anything outside of our mind – the often frustrating certainty illusions and the normally devastating certainty delusions!

  • Conflating Brain and Mind: We can model auto-contexts effectively at the mind level, but they are distributed in the brain, which makes modeling them there impractical if not impossible.

  • Mind Phobia: People have been reluctant to focus on the many nuances of this aspect of our mind. We sometimes don’t like what we see when we look there including obsolete cultures, inadequate problem-solving worldviews, and inaccurate self-images. Exposing the contents of our auto-contexts often leads to cognitive dissonance.

  • Using Science for the Mind: Science is the right process for understanding the material brain. We need a different process to understand the non-material mind because many of its activities are not available to third-party observations, as science requires (actually auto-contexts are normally not accessible even to first-person observations!).

  • Lack of a General Mind-Centric Theory: We have been missing a model of the mental elephant and trying to understand problem-solving mysteries by grasping for parts and looking at shadows. We have needed the moonshot that maps the elusive and illusive aspects of the human mind – 2Selfs Theory now provides that map.

To revisit the elephant allegory, we could imagine another elephant for auto-contexts where investigators have been grabbing hold of many different parts including:

If we were to try to assemble the auto-context elephant from the above partial views that insightful investigators have created, it would look very strange indeed with this many different parts.

An important take away from the above list is we have widespread (albeit partial and shadowy) awareness of the existence and importance of the automatic mode of our mind and in this case of auto-contexts. We have so many views because we have failed to identify, understand, and manage the generalized auto-context mechanism that underlies all of the specific views.

Our problem-solving job gets much easier once we understand all of these widely recognized issues as specific instances of a type of mental activity we can model for understanding and management, which 2Selfs Theory now provides. In particular, we can now systematically manage cultures and problem-solving worldviews in business. Also, this opens the possibility to overcome the technology-enabled political disinformation that is constructing dysfunctional beliefs and attitudes in so many voters.

Because certainty illusions impact our lives in so many ways including in business, politics, our values, our attitudes, and problem-solving foundations, you will see them occur throughout my Brainz Magazine articles as massive, currently unrecognized barriers to our future successes and well-being. You also learn how managing them will be a, and perhaps the, major process for securing a better future.

Auto-behaviors produce our behavior habits and do so without thinking-self intentions and often against explicit intentions. While our thinking-self creates our success goals, auto-behaviors play the key role in executing our success agenda. Due to one of the many quirks of human nature (in this case, the Comfort Imperative), auto-behaviors make people vulnerable to seduction traps (simplistic solutions) when they experience discomfort, a condition that is now widespread and a major cause of our current social-systems dysfunctions, particularly with our political meltdowns, but also in business.

A Powerful Insight into Our Auto-Self: "Who’s in Charge Here?"

Here is a personal story of gaining insight into my automatic mode of behavior. Perhaps this will help you recognize similar internal encounters in your experiences. When I was a young driver, I developed a bad habit that when people cut me off in traffic, I would become enraged, scream at them, and attempt to retaliate by cutting them off as soon as I could. When I was about 20, I grew increasingly concerned about my uncontrollable anger and my unsafe retaliatory driving. One day it could either get me an expensive ticket or cause an accident.

Eventually, I firmly decided I would no longer react that way when someone drove rudely. When the next driver cut me off, how do you think I reacted?... I retaliated! After I recovered from losing control, I was flabbergasted and I was painfully disappointed that I had not done better. This experience drove me into reality vertigo that forced me to ask myself, "Who's in charge here?"

I had created a clear intention to behave differently, yet something "inside me" that I didn’t understand compelled me to behave badly, as if my intention did not matter. I refused to accept my inability to stop my road rage. I resolved that, no matter what, I would not attempt to reciprocate when the next impolite driver aggressively squeezed his or her car between mine and the one in front of me.

Since I commuted in city traffic during rush hour, I did not have to wait long for an opportunity to test my resolve. Happily, the next time a driver cut me off I did not make aggressive gestures or retaliate.

However, what happened internally astonished me. An almost overwhelming impulse to strike back surged through me. I still felt the driver had trespassed on my rightful territory, and I needed to teach him a lesson. That was the first time I experienced so vividly a struggle between my intentions and my automatic thoughts and actions. It felt like a bewildering internal war over control of my behavior.

This traumatic internal conflict launched an epiphany for me. I suddenly realized I had two distinct aspects of myself competing for control of my thoughts and actions, and "I" didn't have a clue how to determine which competitor won.

I learned another valuable lesson during the following months. I continued my determination to avoid retaliatory driving behavior. My internal struggle persisted as my compulsion relentlessly challenged my intention, but I persevered. Happily, after a while the urge to seek revenge started to recede.

After a few months, it became comfortable to avoid agitation and to resist retaliation. I overcame my need to strike back by telling myself stories, which was fortuitous because I was decades away from understanding the automatic, uncontrollable mode and its properties (which 2Selfs Theory now reveals as an attitude buried in an auto-context).

I told myself that I was not responsible for reforming rude drivers and that my emotional health, my safety, and the safety of other drivers were more important than avenging someone else's inconsiderate behavior.

Finally, avoiding retaliation became easy for me. In my current terminology, I transformed myself – I became different by reprogramming my auto-self (i.e., my auto-behavior and the auto-context that contributed to it). My new automatic behavior was consistent with my intentions. I no longer had to focus my attention on the problem, and avoiding retaliation no longer required the greatest willpower I could muster.

This was a rare case of transforming myself, which we usually fail to accomplish due to the unfair fight between intentions and the Comfort Imperative causing us to terminate our transformation attempts. Recognizing the internal struggle I went through to transform away from my road rage provides a vivid example of why we need systematic auto-behavior transformation processes, both directly and indirectly through auto-context reconstructions, which 2Selfs Theory now provides.

Auto-skills enact rapid actions without thinking-self direction or attention. Auto-skills act in sports, musical performances, and nonverbal (evocative) communications. Auto-skills also provide crucial parts of language processing and perform complex image processing of the shape, location, and motion of objects. At work, auto-skills play a key leadership role in motivating others through effective interpersonal communications and public speaking.

Many coaches are expert at creating high-level auto-skills in sports, music, public speaking, and interpersonal communications. This is the most familiar type of auto-self activity because we already recognize many of its occurrences simply as skills.

Auto-Expertise detects patterns and relationships in familiar, complex situations and presents “intuitive” results to the thinking-self, which proudly proclaims the results without having a clue about how the auto-self created them – also known as intuition, gut feeling, hunch, and rule of thumb. In his book, Winning, when legendary former GE CEO Jack Welch speaks of making “gut” decisions, he refers to making decisions through non-analytic means. He writes, “Much has been written about the mystery of gut, but it's really just pattern recognition, isn't it?” This ability to recognize patterns rapidly is the result of this unnoticed emergence of auto-expertise.

Currently, auto-expertise occurs through recurring experiences with a similar type of process. It is a very valuable auto-self capability especially for leaders. A great topic for research would be how to construct this capability explicitly for specific domains, but that is outside of the scope of this series of articles for Brainz Magazine.

Transformations – A New Fork State of Mind

When we study and gain new knowledge or acquire normal problem-solving improvement processes, we learn to do better. When we undergo an auto-context or auto-behavior reconstruction, we become different. The state of your mind is not incrementally better; it becomes discontinuously different. So, how can we go about creating this new fork in our state of mind?

We don’t know how, but we do know that the tangible brain incarnates the intangible mind. We know that because if something alters the brain directly in significant ways, it changes the mind. Brain injuries or a brain tumor can alter the mind. Therapeutic drugs can relieve some problems at the mental level. Psychoactive drugs, including alcohol, directly affects the brain and we know that alters the mind.

Sarah is an MD with a family medical practice. One of her patients, Oscar, reported suffering from excessive anxiety and occasionally experiencing anxiety attacks. Sarah prescribed sertraline (Zoloft) for Oscar and started him on a very low dosage. Over the next few months, she gradually increased Oscar’s dosage until he started feeling much better. Sertraline works by increasing levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that affects mood (but sometimes also appetite, sleep, memory, and sexual desire). Although Oscar did experience some annoying side effects, the relief to his mood swings was worth it to him, so he continued using sertraline. This is clearly a brain-level intervention that affected Oscar’s mind.

However, the change mechanism also works in the other direction. Think of PTSD – if someone encounters a serious trauma that doesn’t include a brain injury, it can still have a visible permanent or at least long-lasting effect on the brain, which in turn creates mental problems. Psychotherapy is designed as an intervention at the mind level that then alters the brain, which in turn produces the desired result at the mind level. Also, transformation coaches can alter auto-behaviors and auto-contexts, which create changes in the brain that then manifest themselves in desired results to the mind. Think also about the phenomena we know as cult conversions and political brain washing.

Clarence is a clinical psychotherapist with a Ph.D. in psychology. When Maria came to see Clarence because she was experiencing some panic attacks, he accepted her as a patient and they agreed to start an extended period of psychotherapy. Clarence was not a psychiatrist with an MD degree, so his interventions were strictly at the mind level – he used cognitive behavioral therapy. Over a period of several months, Maria gradually started feeling much better. They continued for a few more months until they both felt comfortable Maria’s mood swings were under control. This was clearly an intervention to the mind that produced some desired, but unrecognized, effects to the brain, which in turn created the desired mind-level reduction in mood swings.

So we know we can change the brain/mind system through interventions to the brain or to the mind. Our challenge is to determine for any given benefit we want to achieve, at which level should we apply the intervention? For mental disturbances, sometimes interventions occur at the brain level as with Sarah and Oscar, sometimes at the mind level as with Clarence and Maria, and sometimes at both as with many psychiatrists. However, we have a large class of problems not related to mental disturbances for which we need to make interventions including the so-called “soft success factors” such as leadership development, behavior transformations, and culture changes in business. These require interventions at the mind level. That’s also true for mentally inoculating voters so they can resist the virus of political manipulations in the form of disinformation and Big Lies propaganda.

This Will Toggle Your Mind! With this model, which 2Selfs Theory uses, we apply transformation processes at the mind level and achieve desired results at the mind level without any regard to the brain. By the way, that is also the model used by most psychotherapy practices of psychologists. Psychiatrists on the other hand do pay attention to the brain because they are also medical doctors who can prescribe drugs that operate directly on the brain. It may boggle your mind that with 2Selfs Theory you now have the ability to toggle your mind and the minds of those who you count on for your successes without any regard for the brain’s role in the process.

Levers We Can Grasp: We need levers we can both grasp (as in understand) and grasp (as in get hold of) if we are to manage human activities successfully. In terms of the brain/mind distinction, our performance-improvement techniques are not such brain-related interventions as psychoactive drugs, brain surgery, or transcranial magnetic stimulation. Instead, 2Selfs Theory employs mind-focused processes such as becoming self-aware, committing to goals, declaring intentions, inducing positive and negative feelings, and revealing the hidden contents of auto-contexts. In business, this enables improving leadership capabilities, transforming errant behaviors, and changing obsolete or dysfunctional cultures. For the large class of inadequately solved problems, these are much easier to grasp (understand and get practical hold of so we can manage them) than their brain underpinnings.

You Need to Change Your Mind: Part of the elegance and simplicity of 2Selfs Theory derives from not depending on (increasingly effective and concomitantly ever more complex) theories regarding neural correlates of mental states. We can operate at the mind level without understanding or even caring how the brain creates these mental functions or how the mind-level transformations change the brain structures to create the human-activities changes we desire. So if you are struggling a bit to deal with modest complications associated with 2Selfs Theory, count your lucky stars that you don’t have to deal with the amazing complexity of the human brain in trying to align auto-self characteristics with realities in the outside world and more specifically with success and well-being needs.

Systematic, repeated future successes will belong to those leaders, businesses, voters, and citizens who make the effort to become transformable. That is, to those who engage in activities to transform their own auto-contexts and auto-behaviors as their environment inevitably changes and who become competent at guiding those around them to transform as such needs relentlessly occur.

The Abilities Mismatch has generated an environment with the technologies we have created through our outstanding thinking-self capabilities that we can no longer accommodate through our thinking-self-centric problem-solving capabilities. As a result, we cannot have a reliable, successful future without creating and widely propagating transformability. That is our current equivalent to the fact that we would not have had the successes we achieved in the Modern West if we had not created and propagated widespread education.

You might argue that many people will continue to be successful even if they don’t become transformable. That is true just like it was true that many individuals and companies prospered during the coronavirus pandemic. However, I don’t think we will look back on that pandemic as a great success and well-being era for the West and indeed for the whole world. We need a system that can create and propagate long-term prosperity and widespread well-being.

Establishing a Path to Greater Successes and Well-Being

You saw in my first Brainz Magazine article, Our Mysterious Problem-Solving Deficiencies, how we have a large class of problems associated with human activities that we are mysteriously getting increasingly worse at solving. In this article, you gained several perspectives on how to overcome those mysteries and solve the problems.

We can now set the stage for the rest of my Brainz Magazine articles.

Answering Two Previous Questions

We now know the answer to my earlier question of whether the newsreel commentator or I was right many years ago. He was! My implicit uniform-mode model of the mind was incorrect. We can now see the reason why. Once we gain a success including with a science theory or a business practice, repeated benefits associated with that success automatically and imperceptibly migrates to an auto-context, which creates a certainty illusion that the current path is not just a way but the only way to solve the problem.

We now know the answer to my youthful question, “Who’s in charge here?” Clearly, my auto-self, not my thinking-self, was in charge of my road rage including both an auto-context-based attitude and aggressive auto-behaviors. My thinking-self eventually took control when I clumsily and painfully worked my way through auto-self transformations so that my auto-self activities aligned with my intentions. With 2Selfs Theory, we can now accomplish such transformations more methodically.

Achieving Greater Control of Our Future

I once slogged my way through a Great Courses program on freewill and determinism. The instructor assumed that either freewill or determinism prevails. He then proceeded through laborious contortions laying out the arguments on each side of this perennial philosophical debate. With 2Selfs Theory, it now becomes apparent that the question itself is ill formed. If we form it differently by asking can we enact our intentions, the answer is obviously yes. You do it every day at work and elsewhere using your well-honed thinking-self capabilities and your hard-won knowledge. However, you also know from your experiences in life and from the list of human-activities problems we are not solving well that sometimes our auto-self takes over and we seem to have no control at all. So the real answer is sometimes we can enact our intentions and sometimes we can’t. However, we now understand that the situation is much better because we have acquired the ability to transform those auto-self characteristics that don’t align with our intentions and therefore with our success and well-being needs.

Many philosophers seem content endlessly re-litigating their freewill/determinism exclusive dichotomy. However, business people, voters, and citizens have more-pragmatic concerns they need to address regarding the capabilities of our mind. These include making timely culture changes, resisting ubiquitous technology-enhanced disinformation, avoiding drug addictions, reducing prisoner recidivism, and establishing and maintaining positive shared values. We know we can execute immediate actions consistent with our intentions much of the time. Now we know that using 2Selfs Theory we can arrange to transform ourselves so we can become able to take many other types of actions consistent with our intentions – we can become transformable. We can also reliably coach others to transform their habits and organizations to change cultures. We also now realize we do can all of that through interventions to the mind without regard to the brain. We must now head that direction.

2Selfs Theory provides the mental key to unlock the reprograming of counterproductive and sometimes dysfunctional and pernicious auto-self robots.

Understanding and Solving Previously Mysterious Problems

Here are some of the important issues you will see new forms of solutions for in my upcoming Brainz Magazine articles.

  • Incorporate the onslaught of technologies into business cultures at the increasing rate they occur by overcoming certainty illusions to become competent at systematically and quickly reconstructing auto-contexts.

  • Transform errant habits of business leaders by counteracting the Comfort Imperative to reconstruct their auto-behaviors so they can operate at peak performance to compete effectively in the global economy.

  • Recognize and avoid discomfort-enabled simplistic solutions that satisfy the desire for successes without producing the successes desired through counteracting the effects of the Comfort Imperative.

  • Reverse the increasing dysfunction in representative forms of government by empowering voters to distinguish between valid information and disinformation including Big Lies. We must do that before propaganda inculcates certainty delusions into the auto-contexts of victims, as is tragically happening too often now.

  • Avoid tragic drug addictions by constructing recreational drug phobias into the auto-contexts of students.

  • Rehabilitate prisoners so they can return to society with low chances of recidivism by reconstructing their dysfunctional auto-contexts and auto-behaviors.

  • Establish and maintain positive shared values through explicit and systematic auto-context constructions.

  • Create a win/win process for college tuition rebates based on the need for organizations to train and retain transformable leaders and individual contributors.

My April Brainz Magazine article, Paradigms Lost – and Resurrected: A Systematic Path to Transform Culture and Worldview Habits, will delve into the practical ramifications of auto-contexts and how conquering them can create a better personal, career, company, and political future among many other benefits.

Connect with me on LinkedIn and visit my website for more information!


Barry Borgerson, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Dr. Barry Borgerson graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with a Ph.D. in computer science and one of his minors in the management of human resources. Barry co-led a multi-year DARPA-funded research project at the University and then went on to a highly successful career in the computer industry starting as a lead computer architect and progressing through successive promotions to increasingly responsible leadership positions in technical management up to executive-level general management. When he took over a business that was failing and initiated actions to change some dysfunctional behaviors and the outdated culture of that business, he encountered so much counterproductive resistance that he started a long-term study into why very smart, highly educated, and extremely experienced people frequently cannot enact externally obvious changes they need to make to succeed.

That study led him to discover that the underlying cause of so many dysfunctional activities and the tenacious, normally uncontrollable, resistance to deep changes reside in enigmatic automatic human activities that business leaders normally do not notice, cannot change on their own if others point out their dysfunctions, and often deny they even exist. Barry then developed 2Selfs Theory, a comprehensive, business-friendly, generalized theory of the mind that models the sometimes cooperation but often competition between our explicit problem-solving abilities (using our “thinking self”) and our previously mysterious involuntary activities (driven by our “automatic self”) and provides systematic, reliable processes to align our elusive automatic actions with our explicit intentions and needed success priorities. Dr. Borgerson has repeatedly verified the effectiveness of the pragmatic 2Selfs Theory by applying it in many venues including through transformation coaching to reconstruct counterproductive behavior habits of business leaders and to change obsolete or dysfunctional company cultures, where the transformation processes worked immediately and repeatedly as the theory predicted.



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