Sunday, 8 May 2011

Things "you" can not do. No.1 Stop and start thought

Looking at the process of mental causation, one of the areas you should investigate in your endeavours - Gh0$T 2014

First of all how do you actually go about the procedure of starting thinking?
I'm deadly serious, how do you start a chain of thought? This is something that you have very likely never bothered to consider before. In order to control thought, there must be some way in which you interact with thought. How exactly do you do it? Experience tells us that thoughts just happen, they naturally occur. What is it that enables us to start and stop thoughts, when they just arise from moment to moment? In other words, there seems to be no quantifiable set procedure, or way in which we can start our thoughts.

Our internal dialogue seems to be a constant flowing stream where new ideas or patterns appear and from these thoughts, new patterns are formed and often there is thought about thought. We could sit there all day lost in thought, it is self sustaining. Really it is just an ever changing flux, thoughts just seem to come and go and there is no real procedure involved in starting thinking. As I write this, the thought arises about what to write about and then I begin writing it. The thoughts that occur are mostly relevant to what I am writing, how to word it and so forth. In other words, attention is honed in on the task at hand. Occasionally, it wanders on to other topics and there are distractions that do occur but for the most part, my attention is focussed on this task.

Now we all know about our attention drifting. I am sure that you can remember a time when you have walked or driven home and got so lost in a day dream, that you actually forget about what you are doing and suddenly, the realisation occurs that you are walking or driving and you had better concentrate on where you are going! This, or something in a similar capacity has happened to everyone at some point in their lives. Our awareness is dominated by whatever is important, in the moment. This can even be to the point where we switch off from an important task and focus on the thoughts themselves. There is some degree of the body being on “autopilot” being involved here.

To say our attention can wander would be an understatement

When we think about ending thoughts, is there a procedure that we can use? We have all had the experience of not being able to stop thinking about someone or something in the past. Even when we decide that we should stop thinking about something, we know it is impossible to get it out of our heads, such is the anticipation, suspense, or drama, be this positive or negative. If it is some basic task, such as making a cup of tea, we know that there is no effort in stopping thinking about such a menial task, once completed.

Of course it carries no real significance in life and we often take something basic like this for granted. However, it is worth noting that in either case, there is no stop message that is being triggered. Either the thought is no longer of significance because the need has been met or, if the need has not been met, then the brain keeps it in awareness. This would make sense, as we are drawn towards goals as such. A goal seeking machine would be required to keep a goal in awareness in order to motivate itself. We may get distracted temporarily but sure enough, the thought will pop up again. Sometimes these thoughts can even be about something that is not relevant to making our lives better and is not a goal, but is something that impacted us be it a new film, the mortified faces of those affected by a natural disaster on the television or something totally random, like a picture of a gerbil riding a miniature unicycle.

Either way, there is no stop/ start mechanism for the whole equation. This is probably what makes us so different from animals, the fact that we have thoughts that are not entirely orientated towards survival. Whilst quite a few animals may have basic social cognitions in some part, it would appear that they do not have the capacity for mulling over thoughts about thoughts in the same way that we do.

So, to stop and start thought seems to be a little beyond our capabilities for the most part. It would probably be best to say that thought doesn't really stop or start, it just continues in a endless stream. It subsides at times and we can even try and focus on the present moment to shut thought out for a while but eventually, thought appears again. We can observe in reality that we can not definitively turn on and turn off our stream of internal dialogue at will, there is no control over that aspect of thinking. If you are responsible for thinking, then how can this be?

Could it be that there is no thinker and the idea of “you” is only illusory?

You don't exist, really there is no you it is an illusion

Test it out and see if it is really true in real life


Adrian said...

Thanks this was helpful.
The inability to 'create' thoughts is a solid reminder of no self, but this can be forgotten so easily when it is believed 'you' are conjuring up the thought.

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