Our Mental House Part 2: Thought Dynamics - The Practical Side
We all struggle to a certain extent with life issues and growing past them can be a huge challenge. We see or notice a problem and then set to work on resolving it, to grow past it. For instance, we all have experiences where we react with anger or with feelings of hurt. The only way we can truly get past these reactions is by resolving that within us that led to their creation.
We have all tried to let go of such feelings, only to find they stay with us or manifest in some other form in our lives. We are not conscious of how this happens but it does. We then find that, down the road, we encounter a new situation and they resurface once more. To us it can seem like we are fighting an endless battle against an unknown and mysterious foe. We struggle to find a way to resolve them or let them go fully. The answer to this is not to keep hammering at the same walls, it starts with understanding how we built the walls in the first place.
For most, the mind appears too complex to decipher, and while it is complex it is actually the web of thoughts that collective form our minds that is complex and not the way mind itself works. So, when we struggle with issues and cannot resolve whatever leads us to our reactions, we often choose to try to think our way through the issue(s) or we try to manipulate the situation or simply avoid the conditions and/or circumstances that we believe lead to it. This rarely yields results for any more than a short period, if at all, and we then find that we have the same reaction to a different set of circumstances. This leads to frustration and not only more of the same reaction, it can also lead to new challenges. As a result, we struggle and wonder what we can do to get past them.
The answer lies not in trying harder to do what has not worked, it is found by understanding what I covered in part 1 of this series, in grasping how the mind develops as we go through life. Hence, instead of trying to resolve issues by working with the complex aspect of our mind we make better and faster progress by taking advantage of knowing how the mind works.
Each day we feed our minds with experiences, new things to grasp, understand and deal with and our minds are rarely still. As we act and react our mind changes. How much it changes depends on the experience itself. Even a small barely noticeable experience can have an enormous impact on our mind because most of what our mind does is not at the conscious level. We may not even notice it right away, if at all as we are not aware of what it is doing on our behalf. An example might help.
When I was in my teens, my mother used to make macaroons for my dad. She made them by hand and they were delicious. One time, when she made a batch, she explicitly told us we were not to eat them until my dad had his fill after he got home from work. I knew this and though I wanted to eat a few of them, I was already in some hot water for something I had done. As a result, I only took a couple and then gave the tray a shake so that it still appeared full then proceeded on with my day. My brother, on the other hand, helped himself to most of what was on the tray.
Dad was due to arrive home and my mother went to get the tray to bring out to him and found that they were almost all gone. She was, to say the least, not pleased. She called my brother and I into the kitchen and berated us for eating all of the cookies. I knew that I only had a couple and that my brother had eaten the bulk of them. I suspected she would not believe I had only eaten a couple and doubted my brother would admit to having eaten most of them.
To defend myself from this potential accusation and problem, I made up a lie. I told her that while I did eat a couple, I did not really like coconut and so I would not have eat more than I stated. Problem was I actually loved coconut and her macaroons. She did not really buy that because I had eaten them in the past, and my brother was not about to admit he ate most of them as he too wanted to avoid trouble. The problem was I did not think that far ahead.
A few days later, she made another batch, in part to test my claims that I did not really like coconut. I said I did not want any because I do not like coconut, as I did not want her to find out I was lying about not liking coconut, as it would mean that I was equally to blame for eating them.
My mother had a way of knowing when we were lying therefore I had to, in my own mind, make the statement true to be convincing. I never thought of it as anything but a way to avoid getting in trouble for something I really did not do, that being I did not eat more than a couple of them. She made more than one batch over the next couple of weeks and I tried to have one when they offered. The odd thing was when I had one, doing so when no one was around, I found I did not like it. It struck me as weird because I really had loved coconut. It puzzled me that my love for them could change so quickly and I could only assume that the cause was somehow in having lied about it. I did not understand how it happened but in the absence of any other change, I knew it had to be the reason.
In our home, knowledge, facts and reason were the basis of all thought. This came from my father, who was neither religious nor spiritual. He believed in what he could prove and validate and any other form of thinking was for those of weak minds. He put down dogmatic thinking at every turn and so my thinking processes began to follow that same path. The problem was I also had gifts that I could not explain. I had to keep to myself for trying to discuss them with my father led to his getting quite angry. For better or worse, I could not deny what I knew any more than I could the experiences I had. As my teen years went on my experiences drew me onto a different path.
My path of spiritual development was just beginning around that time, and this event stuck with me. I wondered how what appeared to be one simple thought could lead to such a dramatic change in such a short period. I did not figure it out then, though as I learned I began to get a sense of what was going on. I realized that the mind is not a rigid thing that we add onto due to what we experience, it is fluid and flexible and “what was” changes as we experience.
I intended to find out how this happens and to do so I needed to delve deeper into it. Over time, what I read, meditated on and contemplated led me to a deeper understanding of what had happened. I realized that the mind integrates new experiences and in doing so what was can take on a completely different form.
How this happens is that unlike the physical plane, thoughts form structures that are not “solid” in the same sense that a physical object is. In chemistry, we have the periodic table of elements. These are the basic building blocks of physical matter. You cannot break elements down into another element; they are unique “things”. Further, once combined into a form they act as a unit and the individual elements that make up that form no longer act independently. This is not the case with thoughts.
An atomic thought (1) is the only form of thought that cannot be “subdivided” into separate thoughts. In addition, simple, composite and conceptual thoughts are all combinations of atomic thoughts and while they form part of new thought structures they retain their ability to act independently. I can move my finger separately, yet do the same action as part of another motion such as grasping. The thought that enables one to move their finger does not become part of the thought that enables us to grasp in the same was as say hydrogen and oxygen combine to form water. This is because the mind creates thoughts that associate other thoughts into new thought structures; it does not incorporate them as part of it. This means the mind is free to create different, even conflicting thoughts with the same “pieces”. This is a critical concept to grasp, as this is how we end up with conflicting beliefs and ideas.
Our conscious mind tends to sees things as discrete or separate things. We can tell one car from another. The mind itself is not restricted in this fashion. We can, for example believe that God and man are separate (God created man in his image) and at the same time that all creation is one and we are part of God and not separate. This creates a conflict that most times causes no problems; however, if one tries to follow the idea and develop a deeper understanding of the nature of what we are they will find this creates an internal conflict. We cannot be separate from God and yet part of God at the same time.
This is why it is a challenge to resolve our personal issues. Our issues are comprised of a number of thoughts that form other thoughts. Let us say we have a thought that something is “wrong”. This thought will be part of many other composite thought structures. Hence, if we work on one issue, that is one of these composite thought structures, the thought that is wrong has not been dealt with; further, all the other thought structures that have incorporated it will still be “flawed”. This is what I was referring to in the essay “The Webs We Weave” (1) when I stated the following:
Figuratively speaking, the first step we take, in order to be free of the web, is to let it go. The second step is to balance out or eliminate the original thought(s) otherwise it can resurface. There are many ways to do this; their success rate often depends on whether the temperament of the person is in alignment with the technique than the technique itself.
Continuing with the example, doing step one means neutralizing, letting go of or releasing the web that connects the thoughts; however, in order to do this we must first find the web or the action-reaction set. This may sound hard, but it really does not have to be. Sometimes it is easy because the issue is highly polarized or it is a minor issue. This means it is not highly connected to many other A-R sets. In these cases, we can almost hear ourselves saying what we are reacting to or we know the “cause” of our discomfort, fear or other lower emotional reaction. This is our access to the web, access that allows us to view the A-R set. We can also get at the root thought as well.
In the above, the “root thought” would be the thought that is “wrong”. Such thoughts form as the result of superficial observation and the conclusions we draw from it or erroneous reasoning (such as we did not know better at the time). They will not just go away on their own; however, this can happen when we have an epiphany as this is a tranformation of an atomic thought or root construct. The only other way to deal with them is to find them and either change or eliminate them.
This is very hard to do when our minds have many poorly programmed thoughts and our webs of thoughts have incorporated them. The challenge is in finding them, and we do this by observation and contemplation or meditation on our reactions to experiences, as I have mentioned on numerous occasions.
The mind creates these composite thoughts when it reacts to experiences. We react to every experience or stimulus we have, moment by moment. Our reaction depends on our minds, the thoughts we have, and the emotions these thoughts trigger. I touched on this when explaining how our mind integrates experiences to create new thoughts as shown in Figure 5 in the first part of this series, and in the essay The Nature of Thoughts Parts 3 and 4 (3). In that essay, I included the following:
A young child is feeling lonely, perhaps unloved. The child over hears a parent saying “we never wanted a child when we did...”. The parent may have even stated that they were not prepared financially for it, but love their child none the less. However, the child hears the words when they are feeling lonely and the combination creates a thought form such as “my parents do not want me, they do not love me”. The interpretation is false; however, it is as real a thought to the child as any other they may have. If reinforced it will become part of the rational minds programming and will continue despite it being false.
In the above example, the integration of the child’s experiences leads to a new thought that is “false”, one that will be incorporated into many thoughts over the years. If the child had been slightly more trusting, or feeling less hurt at the time the new though created by integration would be much different as will their future.
Remember, the basis of our emotional reactions is our thoughts, not the other way around. While thoughts and emotions consist of energy of different planes, a thought evokes a response on the lower emotional plane related to the type of thought and our emotional bodies makeup. In addition, though it is hard to discern because we have so many thoughts going on at both the conscious and non-conscious level, whenever you have the same thought, it will evoke the same emotions.
Every thought is simply a vibration, and has its own characteristics. However, the vast majority of our thoughts are composite thoughts; therefore, they have some of the same characteristics as many other thoughts we have. As a result, they become associated with each other and form a number of webs.
For instance, let us consider a simple thought with three attributes, colour, shape and texture. This thought then resonates with other thoughts that share any commonalities with it. In this case, the factors are the three I mentioned as well as any combination of them. By that I mean objects that share the same colour and shape, colour and texture, shape and texture and, of course, any that share all three.
For the most part this happens non-consciously, though we also do this when we think about things. Have you ever tried to remember something you have forgotten? The harder you try to remember the more elusive it can become. This is because we are consciously trying to find that particular thought in our mind and thereby are directing our minds to look at only certain thoughts and try to force the thought to come forward. If what we are looking for is not in that set of thoughts, we cannot find it. However, if we let our minds relax, take a few moments away from it or sleep on it we do remember. This is because we let go of the forcing we were attempting and allow commonality to activate the thought resulting in it coming to our conscious attention.
The more we use a particular thought the stronger it becomes, in a manner of speaking it forms a “rut in space” that our mind becomes accustomed to using. It is more vibrant that other thoughts. This also occurs when there are strong emotions associated with a thought. This is also why reviewing material soon after you learn it for the first time improves retention. Continuing to activate the thought helps built the rut I referred to making it easier to recall. This is why cramming for exams is rarely successful; as this is generally insufficient to reactivate the thought enough to be easily recalled when you actually write the exam.
Of course, the number of other thoughts we have at the time can also influence how much energy we put into it, which affects how strong and vibrant it is. Another example would be the way they suggest one should approach a test, that being do what you know first and skip the ones about which you are unsure. The reason for this is when we start answering questions we are bringing those thoughts to the fore, which in turn activates them. Because of the commonalities between these thoughts and other ones on the same subject, we active thoughts related to the questions we could not answer the first time through. There is also the calming of the mind and emotions as well as a boost in confidence that occurs when we know the answer to a question.
We can apply these same principles to our personal growth. When we are trying to figure out what the issue is, that being what gave rise to our anger or hurt, for example, we can use the energy of our reaction to find the thoughts that gave rise to it. Granted, one must learn to still their minds and calm their emotions to find the thought, which is often like locating the proverbial needle in a haystack. This is why meditative techniques can be very helpful.
The bottom line, as they say, is that our mind is merely energy in various relationships. The energy of it is our thoughts.. These energies form linkages with each other that result in webs of thoughts, ideas, concepts and beliefs and so forth. Being more mindful of your reactions and thoughts about them will help you to start to add less poor programming into your mind. This will also help you to build more confidence and improve the state of your emotional body. Less junk means less junk to deal with.
Remember, the non-conscious mind takes its cue from our conscious choices, as stated in The Tarot by Robert Foster Case (1947, Macoy Publishing Company):
“...sub-consciousness repeats and elaborates the mistaken results of faulty, superficial, self-conscious observation. Being at all times uncritically amenable to suggestion, and at the same time the channel of telepathic communication, sub-consciousness is the source of most of the foolish notions which cause our maladjustments.”
End of Part 2
==> Continue to Part 3: The Consequences of How We Think
© 2012 Allan Beveridge
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