THINKING ABOUT THINKING
“Every mind lives in a world of its own perceptions. Its perceptions may be erroneous but they nevertheless constitute the reality for the mind that gives form to them. No other life than the life we lead in our own mind is possible.”
Thinking underpins everything that that exists in our world. If you could not think your life would have little meaning. All activities in the whole world -- everything that we see around us and everything we experience -- is the expression and embodiment of thought. Personal relationships, the social order, automobiles, sciences, medicines, electronic devices, skyscrapers, cities, ships and bridges; everything is the manifestation of the embodiment of the cooperative thinking of human beings. Without thought none of these things could have appeared on earth. On the other side of the coin, because of thinking wars are fought and the collective material creations are destroyed and demolished. Because thinking is so fundamental to who we are, we take our ability to think for granted and seldom if ever think about thinking. Instead of being taken for granted thinking is an ability of the mind that needs to be examined and understood. Unless you understand thinking, you cannot really understand anything.
Human beings have been created with minds that far exceed the minds of animals in ability to think. But it is something of a tragedy that they do not know that their mind is a creative instrument; how it works or how to make the best use of it. Instead, like animals they focus on the external world or their body sensations and like an animal mindlessly allow their brains to react and run their lives instinctively and automatically. Animals’ limited ability to think is a protection for them. Although they cannot, through cumulative cooperative and creative thought, rise above the limitations of their environment to improve their life situation; neither can they generate confusion, suffering and destruction for themselves like human beings can do. It is the infinite range of the creative possibilities of human thinking that has both blessed and cursed the human race. We can understand the biblical statement; “In the beginning was the word,” to refer to man’s ability to think as the foundation of creation. Words are the way that God allows man to break His grand infinity into little pieces and manipulate those pieces as he wishes. Words are the vehicle by which man uses his mind to create finite forms within the realm of the infinite.
THE FOUNDATION OF THINKING
“Give me a child before the age of seven and I will show you the man.” Aristotle
The creation of a human being does not end when a child is born. The human brain is designed so that its earliest experiences combine body learning and language to form the foundation for his whole life. The brain receives various sensory inputs and automatically organizes and stores it within different sections of the cortex. Then it learns to associate a word with that input. Words are verbal symbols for sensory objects and experiences. Words are verbal symbols that your brain formulates against the data of sensory input. Both the organization of data in the mind and words are giant steps removed from the sensory objects and experiences themselves. We think by manipulating words in our mind and forget they are only symbols far removed from the actual experience. Through the manipulation of words the brain creates a conceptual model and understanding of yourself in the world; then figuratively speaking, you move into the model. You actually believe thoughts and words are your real identity -- who you really are –- when in fact it is you in relationship with the brain’s automatic functions and activity that made it all up.
For a child, learning a language is not merely a matter of imitating sounds with his mouth, tongue and vocal cords; it is a holistic life-informing interaction of the brain and body with the environment. The brain of a child adapts completely and unquestioningly to the elements in its environment. Psychologists have recognized how profoundly early experience shapes us. They have even identified enduring personality types that are based on the child’s earliest life experiences. For example; a schizoid’s personality is characterized by lack of interest in social or intimate relationships. He has difficulty expressing his emotions and has a preference for solitary life. This orientation to the world is believed to be due to the early trauma of separation during the birthing process or the awareness of the body alone in space, or lack of emotional bonding with the primary care giver. Memory of the trauma is not accessible to consciousness because it is the foundational experience upon which the schizoid individual predicates all his thinking and feeling.
Another personality type, the psychopathic personality, is also believed to be due to the child’s response to the early parental environment. During his early childhood the psychopath was an object for the fulfillment of his parent’s needs; not recognized as a person with his own needs. Again, this foundational experience is not accessible to consciousness, but in response to it the psychopath develops a personality that manipulates others in order to be recognized, supported and encouraged. He seduces, manipulates, controls and lies to get what he wants. He has no idea why he behaves as he does.
A third personality type, the masochist, as a child experienced love and acceptance only when he was “good.” The mother was over-controlling and dominating, even to the extent of controlling his eating and excretory functions. The child was made to feel guilty for any self-assertion or attempts to declare his freedom from her control. He adapted to this environment by becoming obedient, deferent and polite. The experience of being over-controlled remains unconscious but forms the foundation of his personality and his orientation to the world – obedient, deferent and polite.
BEYOND THE LIMITS OF FOUNDATIONAL EXPERIENCE
As a child we automatically absorb ideas and beliefs from our surroundings, and these become the foundation for everything we think and do for the rest of our lives. When you awaken to this fact, it is shocking to recognize how profoundly true it is. The personality you guarded so well all your life is but a product of your reaction to early circumstances beyond your control. But as you awaken to who you really are, you discover there is something that exists in the human mind that can take you beyond the limitations of your foundational learning. The human being can learn to observe its own thinking and behaving, question the beliefs that underlie it, and chose to re-program the brain. The human mind is, with practice, able to learn to recognize what it mis-learned during its foundational experiences and consciously choose to reprogram its thinking; to change it in relation to the world. That idea is the essence of this book. You can consciously choose to reprogram your thinking, even the programming of earliest learning, even the foundation of all your present thinking.
The present book is about your subjective experience of how your brain works. It is not about the contents of thinking; there are hundreds of books written about that. Neither is it about neurology or psychology. It is about your own subjective experience of how your brain is automatically processing your experience and automatically creating your reality. This book is about learning to recognize the mistakes your brain makes while it functions automatically; it is about learning to recognize and control what your brain is doing instead of you merely going along for the ride believing that what your brain does automatically is who you are.
About the Author
Bonnie Nack Ed.D. worked as a psychologist in a community mental health center for twenty five years. During that time she worked with patients and developed programs and services for them and the community. She has studied A Course in Miracles for twenty years and written many articles for "Miracle Magazine," and two books; "Unlocking the Secret of Miracles," and "Becoming a Miracle Worker."