By Tor Hersoug

No event has been more predicted than September 11th 2001. So claims Peter Schwartz a well-known futurist and the author of the book Inevitable Surprises. The whole world was shocked by this act of terrorism, and most people found what happened unthinkable. Nevertheless, the event was actually predicted. In his book, Schwartz says, “The act of terrorism which took place that day was probably one of the most predicted events in history. Over the last twenty years, half a dozen respected commissions have stated that an event similar to this one would occur. Most of them pointed to the World Trade Centre (partly because it had already been attacked once), mentioned the use of aircraft as weapons, or referred specifically to Osama bin Laden. No one knew when the event would take place – it could have happened next week or in two years – but the details were predicted.” Schwartz’s views were largely corroborated by the 9-11 Commission report last summer.

Can be predicted

After the end of the Cold War, the American president and Congress established a commission headed by Gary Hart and Warren Rudman which was to advise the authorities on the formation of a new fundamental strategy on national security. Schwartz headed the scenario team of the Hart-Rudman commission. In its report, which was published in 2000, the scenario team warned that acts of terrorism represented the largest threat against the USA. One of the scenarios even suggested that terrorists would destroy the World Trade Centre by crashing aircraft into it. However, the authorities did not regard this threat as credible until it was too late. According to Schwartz, great surprises – events that diverge from what we are accustomed to on a political, economical and social level – will always occur, and completely alter the rules of the game. However, they can to a large extent be foreseen. The forces working behind the surprises can be observed. We have only to become aware of them and to connect them together. Sooner or later, these forces will bring about large events or upheavals.

Who will become an alcoholic?

Schwartz observes this on a societal level, however his point of view can be applied at an individual level. Facing a group of twenty year-olds – people on the threshold of their adult life – we know that a certain percentage of them will become alcoholics before age 35, some will pursue a criminal career, others will become drug addicts, and some will receive disability benefits because of mental illness before age 40. Who falls into which group is not mere chance. The course is already marked out. If you consider in detail those people who become addicted to drugs, receive disability benefits or spend time in prison, you will find that their fate was already marked out at the age of twenty.

Freedom of choice?

At the age of twenty, these people had not planned for or wanted these things to happen to them. At age twenty, most people feel that they are in control of their own lives, and that they have the freedom to choose what they will do and when they will do it. It is not until later, perhaps much later, that they are able to see how they have been caught in a pattern of inappropriate behaviour leading to bad decisions, and how difficult it is to break loose from this pattern.

Are we therefore the prisoners of our destiny? Is our future preordained, even though we feel free to choose our own path when we are young? It is not quite that simple.

Resilient children

Statistics show that children of smoking parents are more likely to smoke when they are adults compared to children of non-smoking parents. People who grew up in families with a high consumption of alcohol have a tendency to drink more alcohol than the average adult. Children who grew up with a violent father, alcoholic parents or other burdens are more prone to pursue criminal careers compared to children who grew up in safe and more stable family relations.

However, children with a difficult childhood are not all destined to fail in life. Some belong to the group of so-called ‘resilient children’. They are characterised by their ability to master life despite their difficult childhood experiences. Consciously or unconsciously, they have chosen to follow ideals and values other than the ones that dominated their childhood, and have arranged their lives accordingly.

Personality change

At age twenty, we have established our personality structure. This structure will have a strong impact on our future. It determines whether we tend to do foolhardy things, whether we take chances that eventually turn out badly, whether we become intoxicated, brag, strive or in other ways compensate for an underlying low self-image. The structure of our personality also governs our ability to handle difficult emotions. It determines whether we prefer to accept challenges, or avoid them and thus limit our self-expression. These psychological structures channel our driving powers and govern our lives. Although we may be familiar with the personality structure of a certain individual, we are not able to predict the future details of this person’s life. Life is influenced by a number of unexpected coincidences. However, the possible directions our lives can take are largely predetermined.

There are few things which can alter the structure of an adult personality. Powerful life-experiences may affect a person to the extent that the self-image is altered. Acem Meditation also presents a possibility to change the structure of personality, albeit in a gentle and quiet manner. We do not become someone else, but even small changes in the structure of our personalities can represent important changes with a considerable impact on the course of our lives.

Inner freedom

It may sound trivial, but repeating the meditation sound with a free mental attitude can bring about a sufficient amount of inner freedom in order for these structures to loosen up just a little. Through regular meditation over time our psychological tendencies begin to influence our meditation performance. For instance, a sense of restlessness and need for things constantly to happen can lead us to repeat the meditation sound with a reduced degree of free mental attitude. In order to protect ourselves against a feeling of inferiority, we unconsciously reduce our free mental attitude. Ambivalence and lack of commitment can promote a need to distance ourselves from the repetition of the meditation sound. When we become aware of these psychological tendencies, we have the opportunity to repeat the meditation sound with a larger degree of free mental attitude.

Another direction

We do not have to understand how we are influenced by different psychological traits. We have only to recognise when the repetition of the meditation sound is characterised by a reduced degree of free mental attitude, and try to perform the technique with a larger degree of free mental attitude. This is a gradual process that can last a lifetime. When we manage to expand a sense of free mental attitude in areas of our personality formerly governed by limiting forces, we obtain a sense of inner freedom. We become less constrained by our psychological patterns. We manage to direct our driving forces in a slightly different direction.

A new future

In this sense, we are able to give we are able to give ourselves a new future. It will not be completely different from the future we would otherwise have had. We have already made some choices in life, and the consequences of those choices cannot be eliminated: how far we have come in life does play a role. We are equipped with the same abilities and tendencies as before, and our psychological structure is still present to a large degree.

However, you may deal with intimacy in a different manner and as a consequence your relationship with your partner may become more constructive. Some people manage to open up to others and speak about the difficult themes in their lives. Hence, psychological pressure is reduced, enabling them to deal more appropriately with these difficult themes. Some can achieve a stronger sense of what they really want and obtain a more satisfying situation at work. Some find increased pleasure in areas of their lives formerly overshadowed by frustration and defeat. Some people manage to change a development that was going in the wrong direction.

Some things can change

Human psychology is so complex that, even when we manage to change some aspects of our lives, there is still plenty left to work on: there is no point in searching for perfection. Although we are far from perfect, positive changes in life are important, both to ourselves and to the people around us. Even if you manage to make only a small change in the direction of your driving forces, your life in years to come will be different as a result.

From Acem International Newsletter No. 2 2004