Thinking about thinking

Who resides in the deeper receses of our minds?

Who do you talk to in the deep recesses of your mind?

When you think, who do you think to? Who is reviewing the processing of ideas that goes on in your mind?

Some people hear voices inside their head. They hear a cocophony of sounds, as though there were a crowd of onlookers keen to add a little to their daily review of the world. Some do not talk to or hear themselves in that way at all. They don’t have an inner voice at all. If you are one of those people, how do you know when you are making a decision and when you are simply reacting? If you simply react or ‘act on instinct’, how much of what transpires next is based on your decision-making and how much is simply a reflection of your upbringing, your societally conditioned reflex or your immediate reaction of doing what is expected of you?

Do you have two little characters, one perched on each shoulder, who provide ‘good person/bad person’ feedback on how you are going?

What about thinking about thinking? Have you ever been thinking through something, only to find that you are simultaneously studying your own thoughts and actions and reactions to the situation?

What happens in the darker, deeper recesses of your mind?

We already know that the mind is greater than the mouth – that you are capable to thinking in levels that are many layers deep, and that this can be simultaneous with actions. It is clear that there are body instructions built-in to our psyche (lovely word that – ‘psyche’ – it sounds good, it looks good and when you push it out of your mouth you cannot help but focus your mind. Try saying it 10 times at 10 different speeds) that are preprogrammed, automatic and appear to be devoid of any conscious decision process. They may be essential to our survival in a chaotic and dangerous world but should we have control of them? In other words, should the ‘You’ that you internally talk to be maintaining more control over those reactions?

Actions and reactions are different, just as there are different kinds of reactions. Your hand will automatically move away from a hot surface as your subconscious self protects itself, and its vehicle for existence in the physical world. When approaching another person who is walking towards you, it is likely that you will move to the left or right depending on your interpretation of the eye movements of that person as they navigate the footpath. These reactions are in-built. They are part of what you are.

Some would argue that you are simply a pawn in the great chess game of competing power plays. Whether it be an unavoidable and hegemonic Marxist class struggle (with all of its associated martyr and victim mentalities) or a Wittgenstein misappropriation of language, there is a very high level of possibility that you are acting as if you were little more than a vessel channelling greater powers. If so, you must resist this. Absolutely, and with total conviction. There is no room in your world for aquiescing to the dictates of societal power structures.

There is an individual resting peacefully under those deeply quilted layers of comfortable conformity, and that individual has a voice. The question is whether you will listen to that voice or if you will see it as socially inappropriate, as a perverted extension of some uncontrolled component of your inner self that cannot be assuaged without shock therapy (another magnificent word – ‘assuaged’ – it’s on a plane with ‘clitoris’, the one word that rolls off the tongue so incredibly satisfyingly).

And so we swing on the roundabout until we return to the ideas of inner voices. Is it common to talk to your inner self? Apparently, more than 8 million people (no, wait – 10 million… how’s that for a runaway success?) have read the book ‘Eat, Love, Pray’, written by a self-absorbed, yet incredibly lucid New York Times writer.

Peel aside the layers inside of layers that envelop any story about a professional writer, paid by cheque-in-advance to spend a year discovering themselves, and you will find a brilliant yet clever exposé of the inner self. Take this comment on the vagaries of self-talk, from p187 of the 2010 edition…
“So I’ve started being vigilant about watching my thoughts all day, and monitoring them. I repeat this vow about 700 times a day: “I will not harbour unhealthy thoughts anymore.” Every time a diminishing thought arises, I repeat the vow. I will not harbour unhealthy thoughts anymore. The first time I heard myself say this, my inner ear perked up at the word “harbor,” which is a noun as well as a verb. A harbor, of course, is a place of refuge, a port of entry. I pictured the harbour of my mind – a little beat up, perhaps, a little storm-worn, but well situated and with a nice depth. The harbor of my mind is an open bay, the only access to the island of my Self (which is a young and volcanic island, yes, but fertile and promising). This island has been through some wars, it is true, but it is now committed to peace, under a new leader (me) who has instituted new policies to protect the place. And now – let the word go out across the seven seas – there are much, much stricter laws on the books about who may enter this harbor.
You may not come here anymore with your hard and abusive thoughts, with your plague ships of thoughts, with your slave ships of thoughts, with your warships of thoughts – all these will be turned away. Likewise, any thoughts that are filled with angry or starving exiles, with malcontents and pamphleteers, mutineers and violent assassins, desperate prostitutes, pimps and seditious stowaways – you may not come here anymore, either. Cannabilistic thoughts, for obvious reasons, will no longer be received. Even missionaries will be screened carefully, for sincerity. This is a peaceful harbor, the entryway to a fine and proud island that is only now beginning to cultivate tranquillity. If you can abide by these new laws, my dear thoughts, then you are welcome in my mind – otherwise, I shall turn you all back toward the sea from whence you came.
That is my mission, and it will never end.”
And so we have one person’s very public sharing of their talking to their inner self. You may have noticed the last sentence isn’t actually a true statement. Elizabeth Gilbert is setting rules for thoughts to gain access to her inner self. Does this mean she perceives a Gatekeeper, perched on the edge of the bridge to her inner self? Who is this Gatekeeper that stands beside the bridge, asking questions and checking the credentials of that teeming horde of thoughts waiting so impatiently to cross? If that Gatekeeper is you, then who do the thoughts belong to? Are we now dealing with three separate entities, competing for the role of “me”? Do we have a Thought Generator Self, a Gatekeeper Self and a Self-Self?

Who do you talk to in the deep recesses of your mind?

 A visit to a local bookstore will uncover the inevitable “Self-Help” section, full of motivational and directive material that promises 7 Steps to a Healthy Mind or 6 Ways to Think Better Thoughts, or How to Improve Your Thinking Processes in 9 Weeks. Go online (with a tip ‘o the hat and a wink on how silly that statement is in the context of where you and i are currently) and you will find all manner of clever, inspiring, spiritual, godly and ungodly material of this ilk.  All good stuff, to be sure. It is a good thing to try to improve the mind. However, how about spending just a little more time with yourself, and quietly pondering You.

The History that is not written in the pages of history books is the history of the individual human being and their search for themselves. Yes, there are historical records of people searching – and a despairingly small number actually succeeding (on the assumption that the various Saviours, Gurus, Prophets, Gods and Deities did succeed)… but what history does not record is the continual failure of the species as a whole to be aware of the Self. This would suggest that such a task is definitely a personal one, and based on the publicly available data on success rates, a rather unfruitful one. At least, if we consider the goal to be important. But is it really important? Does it matter if you stumble upon the great answer to Life, The Universe and Everything? Again, assuming that were you to find your Self then you join that very short red carpet VIP list and are elevated to a greater-than-thou status. Whether you believe in a VIP list or not, perhaps the benefit is really to be had mostly in the search itself? And if that is the case, do you need a Guru?

Do you need a Guru? Let’s use that term as a catch-all for another person who is to guide you through this search process. That person will be immediately granted a 1st Level VIP ticket, under the terms of which you will bow to their greater knowledge, and their guidance that they can assist you on your search. So now you have a Guru, a Thought Generator, A Gatekeeper and a Self-Self. It really is getting crowded in here. How about just watching and thinking and being aware of what you do, what you think, and maybe why you might be doing this, and following that process for the rest of your life? In other words, you don’t stow away a months worth of packed lunches and climb up a pole to sit in silent isolation for 30 days, or spend thousands of dollars to travel the world to a place where others know best. How about devoting a small part of the rest of your life to simply working on your own self-awareness? How about thinking about why you are thinking what you are thinking? You can always search, and spend money to do so or to pay others to help you to do so but even when you take that pathway, it is the things that you do that are important to living your life day-to-day. Billions of people have processed inumerable thoughts over millenia, yet it is what is physically done by you and i and them that constitutes the world in which we live. So, before taking another person’s pathway, ask yourself what you are wanting to gain, and on the assumption that you gain that “thing”, what will you do then? Physically, in the waking world.

Of course, it is entirely possible that too much self-talk and self-analysing could lead you down a pathway you really don’t want to tread. One that leads to a loss of contact with the real world or a lack of understanding of your role in the world (if you can’t giggle at the use of the term “role” in the context of all this then you clearly need a cup of your favourite sherbet right now). If you follow your own thoughts too much then it is highly likely that your views will narrow too far, and you will allow poor or faulty logic to lead you astray. You may find yourself embroiled in a bomb plot with a group of devoted, inspired, and fanatical anarchists – or Muslim radicals – or Jewish martyrs – of American patriots – or some other such grouping of similarly blinkered minds.

So we have a Guru/don’t have a Guru, we have/ have not discovered our higher Self-Self, we believe in a form of Theism/ don’t believe… In all of these cases we will still exist in a physical world, with our particular bodies directing components of our lives, society and the need to integrate with other human beings claiming another chunk of our living time, and are left with a miniscule component that is the true “us” or “me” or “i”.

Who is it that you talk to in the deep recesses of your mind?


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