Firewalls of the Mind

There are a lot of complaints about firewalls – especially in the corporate and government spheres and in fact the term “firewall” has become a byword for restricted access to outside websites.

But firewalls DO serve a purpose. A firewall is dedicated software running on a computer that inspects network traffic passing through it and allows or denies passage of said traffic based on a set of pre-programmed rules. They are necessary to prevent unauthorized Internet users from accessing private networks which are connected to the Internet.  They are also used to keep unauthorized information from leaving the protected system thus protecting the company’s assets.

While firewalls may be a necessary part of the internet world – necessary in that they allow corporate entities and government agencies do their work without undue worry as to their information being compromised, there is another aspect of the concept of a ‘firewall’ that most people don’t consider, and that is how the idea of a “firewall” carries over to the mind.

Humans are complex creatures with dozens of interconnecting systems that keep us working and functioning properly, but perhaps the most complex of our systems is that of our brains.  Consider this; the average human is bombarded with over 10 million bits of information a second through the eyes alone!

Not all of the information that our senses pick up makes it into our consciousness.  Our brains filter out an incredible amount of information every second, enabling us to function on this physical reality without being overwhelmed by physical stimuli. But we’re not content to leave it at that. As humans we also put up mental and psychological firewalls to further inhibit the flow of information, but in addition to the mental and psychological firewalls we put up ourselves, we also have to deal with those that have been put up for us, many times without our knowledge or conscious consent.

From a very very young age we are programmed by our families, religions, schools, governments and societies that certain things are “okay” and other things “aren’t” that certain behaviors are appropriate, and others aren’t. This programming becomes our own personal firewalls even though we may not have consciously chosen them, and they are ingrained so deeply in our psyche that 10, 20, 30 years later we’ll still automatically “screen out” anything that conflicts with them – sometimes without even wondering WHY.

And if, by some chance, we do actually manage to consider an idea “outside” of our programming, we get the mental equivalent of a security pop up window…”An Unauthorized Program is requesting access – do you want to allow it?”

Now it may be logical to install security software on a computer system – or even on a child’s mental system so that they are not overwhelmed by extemporaneous input from outside or from untrustworthy sources, but when is it time to stop using the “recommended security settings” and begin using the “custom security settings” where we decided for ourselves which sites or information is safe to peruse?

Those same people and institutions that installed the firewalls to begin with always recommend against using the custom security settings, especially if they go against their own interpretation of the system’s operating parameters.  Why?  Well, have you ever heard of a system administrator?

A system administrator has the authority to change things in the computer.  They are employed to maintain and operate the computer system or network and it is up to them to make sure that the network of computers they maintain continue to run smoothly and continue to operate according to the parameters set down by the SOP of the company or organization.

Well, just as many individuals work computers are tied to one system administrator (who has the authority to decide what is allowed into the system or not) so too do many institutions (such as societies, religions and the like) act as system administrators for those who subscribe to them.

Granted it is simpler to allow a system administrator to control your computer for you; that way you do not have to worry about what information is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ but simply follow the guidelines set down by that system, but does that make your mind yours, or is it the organization’s?

So here is the question that you need to ask yourself; Are you more comfortable allowing someone or something else to decide the parameters of your operating system, or are you going to choose to use the custom settings and decide your system’s operating parameters for yourself?

If you choose to work with custom settings it is not as easy as just flipping a switch, for at every turn you are going to be confronted with the old firewalls and security settings that were set up for you or that you allowed to be installed.  This can be time consuming and sometimes disturbing as it goes against everything that you’ve been programmed to believe, but only once you have disassembled those firewalls will you understand the true scope and power of your system.


©Stephanie S. Henry 2012

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