Posts Tagged: self-observation

Sep 16

The Thinking We Think Without Thinking

We keep secrets from ourselves; we hide them in the back of our minds. That’s where we rationalize wrongdoing. Some of our thinking happens well underneath of our usual, narrow focus of awareness. It isn’t exactly “the subconscious”. That’s deeper… We rationalize, make excuses for what what we do out in the world, in these secret places of the mind. Rarely do we think the words in the forefront of our minds: “I can be selfish here because…”. We don’t think it out in any conscious way. We don’t hear those words in our minds–unless someone challenges us. Then perhaps we have to dig for it, and we might spew it out aloud. “Because…because of what they said that time…” We don’t usually rationalize our selfishness consciously, but the rationalization goes on, worked out in a gibbering inner dialectic, an inner dialogue somewhere in the murkiest associative-linkage of our minds.

Selfishness, greed, malice, predation, neglect of children or neglect of parents…we do “think” the rationalization through without realizing we’ve thought it through. But our “thinking” is carried out in the bent definitions making up our own little fallacies. “I deserve this despite what my conscience is trying to tell me because he said…” …”I haven’t gotten what I wanted so many times, I may as well just…” And it goes on and on, a mumbling rationalizer hidden inside us, endlessly muttering, hunched back there in the shadows.

We don’t know we’re doing it. But we do. It can be seen–the whole mechanism of the mind can be seen. If we follow the associations, the linkage of mechanical self-justifying thinking back, link by link, , and keep looking, the linkage enters dark rooms suddenly lit by the painful bravery of honest seeing, and we’re surprised at what we find there. “So THAT is why I did it?” It takes time to learn, to effect. Persistence.

… In Eastern meditation it’s sometimes called “seeing your mind”. Normally it seems as impossible as seeing one’s own face without a mirror. But we can see the hidden parts of our own minds. There are ways. Some call it self-observation. The method is ancient, is found in esoteric schools of many traditions. It can be learned through deep cognitive therapy, too, I suspect. It’s what Socrates spoke of in Phaedrus…

Nov 14


My little half-Dachsund dog Daisy–made me think of Fred Astaire. This is because her claws are overdue for clipping and when she ambles along on the hardwood floor I hear a distinct pattern, TICKeta TICKeta ticketa TOCK, TICKeta TICKeta ticketa TOCK… sounding just like a tap dance pattern. So I’m bemusedly listening to my dog, and this tap dance association brings an image of Fred Astaire to my mind. I flickeringly see him dancing. This leads to an image of Ginger Rogers, which associates its way through my mind to another cinematic memory of Glinda, which leads to the Wizard of Oz and suddenly I hear the song Ding Dong the Witch is Dead in my mind. Because I’m trained to keep some attention separated out to watch my mind I see visual images that go with each link of associations–I glimpse Fred Astaire, visually, and eventually see happy Oz residents singing gleefully about the witch, all in a moment or two.

Patterns of free association are of interest to me. They’re not so free, really. You could, in fact, break down an essay by, say, Emerson into deliberate linkages of associations; it’s a verbal sculpture made of associations, leading to an overall shape. Is everything just associative? Do the linkages constitute largely meaningless concatenation that, via an Emerson, might be ordered to reflect subjective human reality? Are they too another indicator of reductionistic hopeless randomness?

Or do they, broadly viewed, signify the unity of things, and the ongoing musical soloing of events playing out?