A thorough look into our thought processes may reveal some hidden surprises.
The ability to quickly and correctly remember information we’ve learned is a different skill from that which uses reason and logic to make rational conclusions. However, what they both have in common is the capacity to think. From the first day of school, many encourage us to sharpen and maximize our brain power, knowing it will serve us well as we continue throughout life. Whether it’s recalling facts on a history test or calculating a string of algebraic equations, most people work hard to be perceived as smart. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be intelligent. The perception alone often adds to one’s credibility and is advantageous in many circumstances.
My five previous posts have all been centered around the thinking process and more specifically, continually questioning the substance, intent, and viability of those procedures and methods developed during our lifetime. Uncovering the errors and misconceptions of those processes can ultimately become gigantic moments of learning and self-development.
There are countless examples of how centuries-old scientific facts were proven incorrect. Some of these ancient and prehistoric truths are still debated today. Similarly, there have been many people whom history has highly praised yet further research has discovered some horrible attitudes and convictions about human rights and dignity. This is not a declaration nor admonition of anyone being wrong, it is simply pointing out that ideas, beliefs, and even facts, can and have changed.
One of the most frequent phrases repeated to my clients is: “Always ask questions. Answers may change but if the question is never asked, there’s no need to seek the answers.” Personally, I feel better when I’ve had a “transformative thinking” moment than when I spout some highly-regarded philosophical thought I’ve treasured for years.
The key is to constantly reexamine our thought processes. Be open to the possibility that change may be needed.
Conviction and certainty in our own beliefs is something we all seek. It provides a sense of comfort and consistency in what has made us who we’ve truly become. However, it may also create a propensity to seek out others with likeminded ideals; leading to groupthink, exclusion and the feeling that everyone else disagreeing is completely wrong. Conversely, there are those who claim to be openminded yet may frequently dismiss points of view from those they perceive as narrowminded; which in and of itself, seems narrowminded. The key is to constantly reexamine our thought processes. Be open to the possibility that change may be needed. There isn’t anyone alive who hasn’t had his or her mind changed about something. And merely asking a question does not demand the answer must change. Sometimes reevaluating our truths enhances our resolve and offers additional insights into why we believe the way we do.
In today’s world rife with division, blame, and animosity, now more than ever it’s important to repeatedly and relentlessly analyze our thinking processes. Are there any selfish motives behind our exclusionary wants? Do our efforts promoting goodwill mask self-aggrandizing intentions? They may or may not; but without asking the question, we may be refusing or denying the truth. Sometimes when we take an honest and sincere look at our own thinking processes, we may be surprised at what’s been hiding.
One way to leave this with an example is:
Honorable men use to own slaves!!!!
Thanks again, MicheleElys.
John this is a great discussion. How we validate our beliefs is an ongoing process. When change happens if we are not open to questions of ‘why’, we can become locked into a belief which may not be aligned with our values. How I evaluate the status quo can be different when I start thinking of ‘how’ a decision will impact on what I value. I value personal safety but I am against everyone owing a gun; I am in favor of global gun control. The information and knowledge gained through questioning has certainly helped with my present thinking!
Thank you Donna. I really appreciate your comments.
Thank you for proposing this topic. For me it is a fascinating question to try to study and understand the “behind the scenes” of decision-making processes.
The truth, I think, is that there is no clear boundary that separates reason from emotion. In reality, these are two dimensions of the human being that always act together. Emotions give rise to certain thoughts, and thoughts, in turn, give rise to certain emotions. All emotions are, in a sense, “think”. When they are less rational, they will be more confusing and unpredictable. When they are more rational emotions, instead, they allow us to experience reality in a more profound and balanced way. The emotion that is not mediated by reason can lead us to see reality in a distorted way.
However, emotions do not have to be “uprooted” nor denied or undervalued. We will have reached a point of equilibrium when we will be able to pay attention to what we feel, not to defend ourselves from emotions, but to channel them so that they are favorable to us.
Great post, John! “Conviction and certainty in our own beliefs is something we all seek. It provides a sense of comfort and consistency in what has made us who we’ve truly become. However, it may also create a propensity to seek out others with likeminded ideals; leading to groupthink, exclusion and the feeling that everyone else disagreeing is completely wrong.”
That’s actually not our fault. Neuroscience shows that the brain likes to be right and we look for evidence to prove that which we believe to be true. In addition to your example of groupthink, it’s also classic confirmation bias and we do it all the time without even knowing it. Thanks for another piece that reminds us of the value of challenging our own thoughts once in awhile.
Melissa if I may disagree with your analogy about the brain and it “Liking to be right” The brain has no emotional desire either way. it is our behavior and our human need for reassurance that often strays from common sense into the need to be right.
This is a confabulation of too many mildly interested in the falsehood of neurosciences, verses true studies of human behavior. We humans like, all to often to reassured of false pretenses, the brain is indifferent. There is a difference from beliefs and science, and all too often humans look for the commonality that what they believe is backed up in science, not true. it is only a moment in our random chaos that there might be a similarity, then many jump on the bandwagon and make such statements, “neuroscience has proved this or that” when in fact, there is no such action from neuroscience.
Interesting, MicheleElys. I think distinctions are important. It is quite helpful to realize it is an emotional need rather than the way our brains our wired.
If there is one thing I do believe, it’s that you CAN teach an old dog new tricks.
Respectfully, I’m going to push back on your response a little. While I agree that the “brain has no emotional desire one way or another” we do have scientific evidence to as to how it responds to a wide range of stimuli. In addition to all of the unconscious processes that influence feelings, emotions, judgements, etc. we do know that the brain releases stress hormones when we make mistakes.
For example, we know that in situations of high stress, fear or distrust, the hormone and neurotransmitter cortisol floods the brain. Executive functions that help us with advanced thought processes like strategy, trust building, and compassion shut down. When we try to defend our actions or choices and start to feel ourselves losing ground, the fear/threat center is engaged.
Conversely, when we defend a position or choice and win, the brain floods with different hormones: adrenaline and dopamine, which makes us feel good – sometimes even dominant. So the next time we’re in a tense situation, we fight again. We get addicted to being right.
I appreciate your position that there are many “confabulations of false neuroscience,” but this one is proven science. The brain does want to be right. Otherwise, embracing mistakes and developing a growth mindset would come naturally to all of us and that simply isn’t the case.
What an important topic that lives close to my heart and mind, John. I notice that a holistic transformation can take place within individuals-mind, heart, body, and soul. When the being, the very essence of a person shifts holistically-in a gradual process of examining limiting beliefs-and shedding those limiting beliefs-thoughts that you think over and over again that are not actually true, resolving physical and emotional shocks to the nervous system, altering the body towards health/vibrancy, cultivating the silent witness of awakened consciousness-that part of us that watches our thoughts, body sensations, feelings- then there can be this expanded transformation of Being alive-with love, compassion, and peace at our very core. The internal “war” in one’s mind comes to a close as the heart and body lead the way. So much of what gets created in the mind is to protect us or distract us from the pain that remains unresolved in our hearts from sometimes ancestral patterns of violence. Yes, ask many questions as the mind will begin to get confused, then confusion breaks open the door to deeper truths, realizations, awakenings, and hopefully the liberation of one’s soul and being. Thank you so much for shining the light on this topic. I appreciate your thinking, the examination of our thinking processes.
Thank you Laura. Your comments have given me much to ponder as well. I like how you’ve taken a deeper look into what I’ve said.