Horse and Rider
adapted from an original essay by Dr. Maxie Maultsby
Right after people get started in re-training their emotions, they want to know:
"How long will I have to practice?" The most accurate, honest answer is: 'you'll have to practice as long as it takes for you to get the result you want.'
At first, most people think I'm just trying to be funny when I tell them that. To get them to see that I'm sincere and that it's really helpful to keep that answer in mind, I give them this advice. Think of the thinking part of your brain (your neocortex) as being a rider; and think of the feeling part of your brain (your limbic system) as being a horse.
When you start emotional re-education, your neocortex is like a rider who has ridden his horse up and down the same straight road to work for ten years.
Until now, he could trust the hose to take him to and from work with little or no direct control But recently the rider moved to another part of town. Instead of a straight road to work, he now has to make one right turn on the way out and a left turn on the way back.
From the very first day after the move, the rider (the neocortex) remembers and makes the correct turns without mistakes. But the horse (the limbic system) doesn't. Instead, it has a strong urge to go straight down the road, just as it has for the past ten years. The horse will require time and lots of practice in being guided around the correct turns, before it learns to make them without being directed.
How long will it take before the horse learns to make the correct turns automatically? No one can say beforehand. Every horse differs in its ability to learn. Every rider differs in ability and willingness to teach his horse. The rider who gives his horse the most practice will teach his horse to make the correct turns without direction in the shortest time possible.
The same logic applies to people who are giving themselves a rational emotional re-education. Those who consistently practice the rational self-counseling method of emotional re-education will emotionally re-educate themselves in the shortest time possible. But it will still take as long as it takes.
So if you are persistent in doing what you know is the rational thing to do, even if it doesn't feel right because of old habits (cognitive dissonance, right?), it will eventually become automatic and feel right.