Improve your mind. What do I mean by this? How can you improve your mind? What do I even mean by the word “mind” These are just some of the questions I hope to try and answer in this post.
I will start with the last question. There is a lot of discussion out there about what the mind actually is. On one hand there are those out there that simply say that your mind is your brain and it is where all of our memories lie and all of our reactions in life are based on knowledge. A definition I found for the brain was this:
It is three pounds of “convoluted mass of gray and white matter” in our heads “serving to control and coordinate mental and physical actions.”
Very clinical isn’t it? We can see this by studying children and then watching them develop. A good example is when babies are studied in regards to fear. Babies seem to be completely fearless and one of the tests scientists have used is called the visual cliff. In the image below you can see the test. Babies are places on the chequered section and then the mother calls the baby to them. Very small babies will happily crawl over to their parents regardless of what they see. Older children, sometimes only a few months older will stop when they reach the edge of the “cliff”. They will see the hole and will be scared they will fall. What stops them, is it fear of falling or lack of trust in the adult calling them? It could be based on their knowledge of falling ( either themselves or seeing others). Is is just that the child has now developed depth perception and can now see that there is a difference where it couldn’t before? This one has been investigated and been shown that the child experiences fear when it sees the “cliff”. It has been shown that they experience all the physical symptoms of increased heart rate, wider pupils quicker breaths and so on. It could be confidence in trusting the adult which is based on a different fear (once again based on experience of themselves or others) If this is the case, is there a way for the adult to change the child’s “mind” and get them to cross the gap?
So I’m sure most of us have heard the phrase “change your mind”. I’ve just used it. What do we mean? If all of our reactions are based purely on knowledge how can we change our mind. Scientifically we would have to prove that our knowledge was faulty by testing to gain results that supported our new hypothesis, in the above case that would involved carefully testing each part of the gap to see if it was safe then moving forward on the safe bits. This is quite complex thinking and so I’m sure the babies wouldn’t even try it. However I am sure that I have seen children change their mind without experiment. I’ve seen children jump off high walls in to their parent’s arms when they were scared to move. This , to me, demonstrates that this is now based on knowledge but on trust and belief. So what has changed now?
The second definition of the word “mind” is harder to find. Dr Seigel in his book “Mindsight” that:
Each of us has a unique mind: unique thoughts, feelings, perceptions, memories, beliefs, and attitudes
So now we have a definition that states that the “mind” includes the work of the brain, others see the mind as a whole separate thing that works with the brain to become “us” and is our thoughts, feelings, perceptions beliefs, our consciousness and maybe even our soul. I will leave you to learn more about this and decide for yourselves which side of the fence your on. Some of the people with this idea that the brain and mind are the same thing includes all those people who look at the work of the conscious and subconscious. The idea about consciousness, to me, looks like an argument that satisfies the quote above. It suggests that there may be times when you need to make decisions in your life and you are unsure about what to do. It is when you can argue with reasons for or against ideas until you are blue in the face and write out charts and Mindmaps and all sorts of different scientific reasoning and then decide to “go with your gut”. There are times when you just feel whether something is good or bad that seemingly has nothing to do with what your brain is telling you. You can read lots of books about conscious and subconscious and I will go in to a few more things about these in other parts of this blog. I see the conscious mind as the thoughts we have in our heads all the time like our short-term memory. All the things we deal with and have to think about now. Our subconscious includes all the stuff we don’t need to deal with right this second. We don’t need to remember what we were doing when we five when trying to remember someone’s phone number or our passwords. We sing along to songs we haven’t heard in years but if we only hear some of a song we now and it stops it can take us a long time to remember the rest of it. It also includes the automatic things we do such as breathing and our heart beating. ( these are not learned but I believe they are in our “limbic” brain which deals with our survival). We also know that there are some things we do which are learned that become automatic. We struggle to walk and then we just do it or we learn a language or learn to drive. Initially these are really hard to do and can take months or even years to get right but then they become natural and we don’t have to think about them anymore. There are those out there that would argue that there are three types of consciousness, conscious, subconscious and unconscious but I will go in to these in another post. There are some others that say our thoughts are divided between the left and right side of our brains and our mind links the two and this will be another post.
Where do our emotions come from? We can analyse that it is chemical responses to physical stimuli but, if this was true what makes babies laugh when they haven’t learnt what is “funny” yet?
The most obvious thing about our minds and our lives is that in order to change our lives for the better we need to change our mind about the life we are in now and move on to a better life. How we do that will be in the rest of this series.
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