Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Thoughts on thoughts

I normally think and discuss with friends, or acquaintances, or anyone who will listen/speak. But owing to a bit of staying at home for the last few days, all ideas I get are forgotten before I get the chance to discuss them. This means no great discussions, and no additional ideas. Additional ideas are the ones I thrive on. Might as well call them derived or (mentally) copy-pasted ones :-)

Watching a few other bloggers, I decided to start writing a diary thingy. I got the content for my last post (movies and all) from around 2 days of diary entries on movies and video games. This post comes from a few more days of thought. I don't know how accurate it will feel, because it hasn't been tested with discussions, so to speak.

By the way, word for the day: maybe.

What exactly are thoughts?

Nothing in and of themselves. Thoughts are simply signals from the brain, to some body organ(s) or (for the purposes of this post) to itself.

Let us say there are two kinds of thoughts: voluntary and involuntary. Feeling hungry is involuntary, but actually getting up and cooking something requires voluntary thought. It is borderline voluntary, but it is voluntary in my opinion.

We human beings have been blessed with the ability to let our brains communicate with themselves. This means that instead of just eating, sleeping, excreting and otherwise surviving, we think about ourselves and our surroundings, both physical and in time.

That is not to say that it is only humans who think. Dogs and cats too feel things like affection and anger, but I do not think that they can think at our level.

Thoughts and our quality of life

How we evaluate the quality, or level of our lives depends on the kinds of thoughts that we have. Two people in the same situation might think drastically different things about themselves. A bank robber now in prison might think of his bad luck. Another bank robber in prison might consider himself lucky because at least he is alive. Not the best example, but hopefully good enough.

I had problems thinking about this before, but then I thought about so many people in rather developed countries who still face depression. They do not have any scarcity, but still feel unfulfilled.

How highly we think of ourselves and our situations depends on who or what we compare ourselves with. As a not-even-amateur actor, I can compare myself with a friend who simply cannot lie, or with the Amitabh Bacchan. In which case do you think I will be happier?

I am not forcing everyone to just stop thinking about improving and all, but that you will face disappointment if you want everything to be perfect. Especially when perfection means different things for different people. And no matter what we do, our lives are a work in progress all the time. 

The biggest curse

As I maybe mentioned before, we humans are thinking beings. As such, what we think matters a lot to us. So, the biggest curse anyone can have in this world is not being able to think what they want.

Looks like a silly statement, but it is true. We like to think of good things. We like to feel good. But a lot of times, reality tries to convince us otherwise. Maybe this is why ageing hurts. At 23, I definitely want to be a child. Or at least a teenager anyway :-)

When a poor, malnourished child is hungry, it hurts him/her because he/she would rather be playing or doing something else at least. When a handicapped person feels bad for not being able to play some sport, it is because they want to feel the rush and enjoyment of playing, not the helplessness of their condition.

Maybe this is why choice, or the what-if nature of our minds boggles us. Also, maybe this is why many doctors who deal with problems of the mind would rather have their patients stay as they are. 

The good part about the curse

I don't know what you think about it, but the best thing about being emotionally fucked up is knowing that someday you will be able to laugh at it. We all have had the time in our childhoods when we were sick, and thought we were gonna die. This has to happen because our minds can only see so far, like you can only see a few tens of metres ahead with the help of your car headlights at night. The silly part is, at times of crisis, it is foggy so your visibility gets greatly reduced.

Everyone has only one brain, and it has limited capacity, so it can only process so much information. When a lot of that information is emotional or otherwise disappointment, it becomes really hard to focus on the good parts or at least trying to improve the situation. Maybe this is why emotions like love and anger are said to make us weak, or at least distracted.

Needless to say, having a clear mind is one of the best feelings in the world. Thinking that one has everything and needs nothing more, at least in the current moment is a state of mind that we should get more and more into. The question is, how? The answer eludes us. Too damn bad.


The need for constant (positive) reinforcement

Since we live in the real worldTM, it is obvious we come across more bad than good, or at least more superficial/needless than useful. And since our minds are nothing but reflections of what we see and feel, it is obvious that we tend to focus more on the bad than the good.

Instead of keeping up with this vicious cycle, I think it is better to constantly remind ourselves about the good in our lives. No matter what it is. The local team winning a game, a friend's phone call after a few months, or the neighbor who always smiles. 

In addition, it is also great to visualize things from a positive perspective. Thankfully, this is a situation in which the Anna Karenina principle is useful. You can fuck up a presentation or meeting in infinite ways, but the way to get it right, at least while visualizing is to believe in yourself and think that you are going to do it with confidence and grace, or whatever it is that these silly MBA-types do.

Maybe this is why sportspersons and performing artists and military people practice so much. After doing something over and over and over and over again, it kind of becomes second nature, that is, implied reinforcement in the belief that you are going to pull it off no matter what.

Not only ourselves, but we need and get reinforcement from others too. In fact, I will go as far as saying that positive reinforcement and the need for it is what makes us social beings. In most of the world's cultures, young people are supposed to seek blessings from elders. In a way, this is just a way of letting the elder and more experienced person reinforcing in you the fact that what you are doing is right in their opinion.


Another kind of reinforcement

I read somewhere about it being customary in the British army to tell new recruits to keep a watch on their seniors, and select one senior without telling anyone who that is. Then, whenever in a real time situation involving a decision and clueless-ness at the same time, the new recruit has to think what his/her favorite senior would do and the end result is more likely to be better.

Maybe this is why young people are encouraged to pick role models, and perspective role models, like movie stars and sportspersons are encouraged to keep their shit together. My personal opinion is kind of different, because I do not have a role model as such, and I think most people don't. Also, maybe this is why we believe in God. God is a kind of inbuilt good/bad filter for out thoughts and actions. I am not a non-believer, but I think this is the relevance of God in our lives. 

This kind of thinking, that is, thinking what someone else would do in certain situations can save your life, and more importantly, save your mind. I can't give any examples right now, but suffice it to say that whenever faced with an unknown situation, the best thing shy of being able to ask someone for help/guidance is thinking what they would do if they were in our place.


Spread it all around

The thing about all good things is that they normally increase when spread. This positive reinforcement crap is no different. Just like commenting on other people's blogs and then watching new, mostly encouraging comments on yours.

So, next time you get the chance, make sure you compliment your family members, neighbors, coworkers, the next person in the train. Ok, maybe not the next person in the train.

One more thing I would add is that you crying over your situation only makes you look silly. People are not interested in some idiot who just laments about life. One way around it is to focus only on the good parts, but another, way better way is to have a laugh at your situation. Have you read Jon Varga's blog? Or John Gray's blog? A few days back, Gray made his scerlosis problem seem funny. So funny that I initially thought it was a kind of joke. If you cannot do that, then at least try looking and narrating it from a third person perspective.


Taking the edge off

What is it that makes us feel pressure whenever we start something? Most would call it a fear of failure. What is this fear thingy? It is nothing but our insecurity regarding losing something that we have. That something is normally our self-esteem or pride (or the fear of letting someone down), and sometimes something physical like money or some bonus or a raise. Mostly, these two things are linked because, for example, people realize their self worth only in proportion to their performance at a silly office.

Assuming that you have nothing to lose really takes the edge off. Or, in most real situations, thinking what is the worst that can happen, can work wonders too. Our fears are mostly amplified versions of the worst of the results of the permutations-and-combinations games that our brains play. Thankfully, around 99.999999% of people reading this are not bomb squad specialists :-)

The best part of having a nothing-to-lose mentality is that it makes you less vulnerable to your self-imposed limitations.


Sayonara

This is all for today. Hope it was worth the read.

Do you have any thoughts on thoughts?

25 comments:

  1. Yeah thought can sure bring about lots of thoughts haha but sometimes we do over think things way to much some times not enough. As you say our thoughts define us, if they were taken away not sure what would happen at ones bay.

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    1. Yes, striking a balance between under and over-thinking is important.

      I am not saying about simply taking our thoughts away, I am talking about just modifying them a bit. Not at an acute angle, but enough to deviate them from their target: stress and mental agony. Also, since it is in our nature to think, methinks it is better to replace thoughts with other thoughts rather than letting our silly brains do it for us.

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  2. You've given us a LOT to think about! I know I often think too much but I've been trying to do more than think more. Life often forces that issue by itself too.

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    1. Hopefully it is not too much to think about. Wishing you the best of thoughts :-)

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  3. Thoughts define us and make us different.
    Agree with the Anna Karenina principle. Concentrating on positive things brings happiness and hope. Instead of seeing the bad things or criticizing the negatives of a person, concentrate on the good versions. It can do wonders.
    Personally I also don't have a role model. But sum up all those qualities I love from people I see around and try to adapt them to an extent.

    Great post! :)

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    1. In addition to what you said, I might add that instead of lamenting about bad things about people or situations, it is better to take a bad quality or situation and think along the lines of How can I improve this?

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  4. I think they occur due to some chemical reaction in our brain....bole to dimaag me kuch chemical locha :D

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    1. Hello Ankit. You are the third Ankit to come and participate on my blog. Good for me :-)

      The chemical locha thing has to be serious. That is why medications for depression, anxiety etc. exist.

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    2. Ankit is a very common name but its interesting to see that people with common name are showing up at your space :)

      Let's see how many Ankit shows up here.

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  5. we humans are thinking beings. As such, what we think matters a lot to us. So, the biggest curse anyone can have in this world is not being able to think what they want.

    Not silly dude.. fact of life I guess.. :)

    And the line what is the worst that can happen or How hard can something be? Some thoughts they are.. :P

    And boy! It takes a lot of courage to write about these topics.. Good post.. If I think about the thoughts in my head, I'll end up doing nothing or make a fool of myself.. :D

    Keep writing :)

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    1. Thanks for the kind words.

      In my case, it did not take courage, but a small diary to keep noting the points once every few days. I am happy and kind of surprised that this post was liked by at least some people :-)

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  6. A very intriguing post. I find it so interesting that nothing else in this universe thinks the way a human does. It is both fascinating and kind of frightening. It certainly makes you feel alone in the universe.

    As for me, I have to take a step back sometimes because I tend to overthink things. Sometimes you have to just be, you know?

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    1. Even if only humans can think, each of us thinks differently, so yes, your thought of each of us being alone in this whole wide universe is correct.

      A view from the outside is very important, no doubt. The earlier we sit back and look from a different perspective, the better. Something most of us need to learn, including me :-)

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  7. Have you read anything by Eckhart Tolle? He has a lot to say about thinking and how destructive it can be. I agree with Samantha's comment (above) about just being. ~

    "No mind, no worries." ~ Lao-tzu

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    1. This comment is the first time I heard about Tolle. I might get the chance to read his work later. The 'No mind, no worries' quote sums everything up.

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  8. I love you say that there are voluntary and involuntary thoughts...many people do not make that distinction. Yes, we control our thoughts to a certain extent...but not always. It's finding out how to approach the unwanted thoughts that's the trick.

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    1. The distinction is pretty much everything I have for now.

      Unfortunately, I am failing to control my involuntary thoughts for the most part. I have to *avoid* a few thought topics to avoid some thoughts. And the voluntary thoughts are more of carvings for different things. I need to get my act together.

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  9. Some sort of alternative thought process that is. And a lot of it.

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    1. Let us hope it is not too much :-)

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  10. A too long thought would be apt for this post. But it was worth the read in the end. My thoughts are simple one-liners- i am hungry, i need to eat. I am sleepy, I need to sleep. This programme is idiotic, change to the next channel ;)

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    1. I am glad to know that you liked it inspite of it being long. One-line thoughts are something I would love to have. My thoughts mostly are one liners followed by paragraphs of pro-and-con discussions in the head :-)

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    2. hehehe...! Just like you ! BTW I might speak here for all, we all would like to see pictures of your journal or just an exact post of a diary entry that you might've written! It would be fun to know what goes around in the mind of (overly stressing) KK!!!

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  11. Those are a whole lot of ideas in one blog entry...... Bugger
    I. Will have. To give it a huge think

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    1. Let us hope you don't end up thinking too much, a lot of people would prefer you taking care of the birds and dogs and blogging about it than almost everything else.

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  12. You know what I usually start with a one liner and end up writing pages together, just to accomodate all my thoughts. :-). And I liked what you said about thinking. Yes thinking is good, but going a bit overboard would spoil the moment. We should know when we should stop being obsessively bothered about something and let it rest in our mind.

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