A great magic trick accomplished by your robot-mind is what I call “thinking you are thinking”.
You see, our brain has a bias to maintain an even keel and conserve energy. That means that our brains tend to resist actually thinking (taking data, transforming and testing it) by attempting to run its favored habits and rules of thumb (heuristics) when dealing with things, rather than what it perceives as the laborious, energy-expending process of figuring out what needs to happen and applying potentially new procedures when it has something “that will do”.
For example, at the first sign of difficulty, when we need to make a decision, the brain will attempt to force fit whatever is in front of us, into its preferred habitual procedure.
It doesn’t matter if the shoe-horning doesn’t actually work; we will make up a rationale that makes what we do consistent with our desires for no effort (defending the suffering anyone?).
Let me give you an example:
There’s only one right way to order from a menu in a restaurant. Well, there’s MY way and then… the wrong ways. Sometimes, it is fun to ask people to explain their “correct way” of ordering, along with the activities within the process.
Some people already know what types of food they will be eating BEFORE they enter the restaurant. They have pre-decided what kinds of food they will eat. Amazing!
They don’t even know what’s on the menu but they have already decided. Some people open the menu and start at the top of menu and read each item.
Others go to a particular course of the meal first (desserts, anyone?). Some people, when they read the words of what the restaurant calls each dish, they visualize what it will look like (without having seen how the restaurant makes and presents the dish!) – AMAZING!
I knew a highly-skilled interior designer whose arrangement design decision process went like this: Look at the whole room and move the largest piece of furniture around until it was in a perfect position for function, IN RELATION TO THE ROOM ITSELF.
Then take the second largest piece of furniture and place it for function in relation to the largest piece, and then the room. The process carries on in exactly the same way – “looping” through the same type of comparison across the decreasing scale of objects in the room.
With a limited number of objects (25-50), she could whip a room into beautiful shape in less than hour – it really was something to watch, and her decisions were creative and made rooms work in a way rarely seen.
I went to a Chinese restaurant with her. You know, hundreds of items, in over a dozen categories. And how do you think she tried to decide?
Start at the top of the menu, take the first item from the soup section, and combine it in her mind with the first item of the ‘rolls’ section, then the second item, etc. – same one by one comparison as the design decision but the scale and number of items had changed massively, which meant… no decision for a long, long time.
After 15 minutes she was no closer to choosing and looking a bit worn out by it. I said, “Oh look, did you see this SET MENU? It all looks greeeaaaat, and you don’t have to choose.”
We chose the set menu. I asked her about deciding on the menu and she said “I always have a problem in restaurants – so many different things to compare and choose at one time…” you see, in her work the choice for comparison is size, and the choices are linear.
In a restaurant she saw it as a multifactorial equation, complex and difficult BUT her brain tried to run the same process on it. It looked like a conscious process but the robot was just running off its program.
There are so many parts of our lives where we “think we are thinking” but actually no such thing is happening. Any time our emotional buttons are pushed by life or others, it’s a good bet you slide into thinking you are thinking.
When you KNOW that you are correct, and others are wrong; you can pretty sure you are in the grips of pseudo-consciousness, thinking you are thinking.
Any time you find yourself automatically defending the suffering; you can bet that whatever goes around in your head, or comes out of your mouth as “rationale” or “argument” is thinking you are thinking.
It’s a subtle thing as it is part of the robot habit-body’s way of keeping you from HAVING to think (it’s an odd form of false protection) – and its ways make up the body of what rationalists call “logical fallacies” (as if evolution can get it wrong!).
They are NOT fallacies – they are FEATURES of the human-in-life. We turn the notion of fallacies upside-down and look at how they FUNCTION in humans for their survival value, We ask WHAT ARE THESE GOOD FOR? HOW DO THEY HELP?
The rationalists are like religious zealots who do not understand that just because one doesn’t like something, and wants everyone to think and act differently; that a) one is right, and b) one HAS the right to say what another should do.
Thinking we are thinking is one of the best windows we have into generating sufficient awareness to change. We don’t throw away advantages because someone else doesn’t like them. We use them.
How is this so? Thinking we are thinking relies on giving in to/going along with/obeying whatever explanatory nonsense happens to going through one’s mind.
With a bit of effort; you make self-challenging your own reality-making a simple habit. Instead of “Thinking I am thinking”, it becomes “testing whether I am thinking or just going with the flow of whatever weird garbage I’ve habituated to and prefer to use for my narrative making.”
At first, it’s just plain annoying. Let’s say that someone has offended you or let you down. You would prefer to banish them to the deepest and coldest levels of hell forever.
As soon as you think you know what’s actually going on in their dark and nasty hearts (without actually being them); you ask “how I do I know what’s REALLY going on?” and notice whether it is a tale worthy of spy novel, or merely a self-righteous rant, or “I don’t really know but I FEEL bad”.
By inserting a searching question right there in the beginning of a bad process; there is the chance to change its direction. Use your questions to direct you to freedom, and the future rather being merely “right”.
Our robot is biased to self-validate – whatever the stance is – the core fixations – being right, never being to blame, someone else is always to blame, I’m the victim, nobody takes me seriously, nobody loves me, it’s a vicious world, how can anyone expect me to…, etc., etc.
Thinking we are thinking often kicks in when we feel threatened… but the defense is purely “click-whirr”.
This one is part “catching yourself in the act”, and then choosing to do something else but also intentionally practicing the fine art of SELF-INTERRUPTION (“oh, I’m so sorry, I do beg your pardon.”) like so: Don’t wait for others to “call B.S.” on you. Call B.S. on yourself! “Have you listened to yourself lately?” is sometimes used as a kind of insult. To be successful and prosperous, we do listen to ourselves, and we call B.S. first.
Rather than splitting your personality for this exercise, you can just continue talking to yourself as you do (have you ever considered that when having a conversation there is usually one person speaking, while another person listens, and then they alternate functions … how does that work inside your head?
Do you usually pretend to be the speaker, or do you pretend to be the one listening?)
- Choose your favorite grumble (muttering dark mutterings in the darkness) – about someone else, a family member or co-worker, your employer, the economy, the government, “Them”, God, etc.
This has to be something specific AND at a time when you are thinking you are thinking – perhaps you…uhm… listen to Talk Radio arguments and “Yeah!” and “What kind of a moron are you?” along to the speakers…perfect.
or driving in your car talking to yourself about… whatever…
or when you are out “shopping” (auto-pilot)
It’s got to be when you think you are aware and conscious, making decisions, but it’s just that it’s the same damned thoughts and the exact same decisions as you always make.
- Ask yourself in an assertive but apologetic way (half American and half British):
“I’m sorry, but is all of this… really necessary?”
“How do you know that this necessary… or true?”
“What would be an even better way of using my time than doing things this way?”
if you suddenly feel a tinge of shame or relief and have awakened beyond the robot, grin and make an even better choice and get on with it.
- If you feel argumentative, sullen or grumpy, carry on with a version of this next set of questions, appropriately adjusted for your content:
“What specifically do I want these idiots/morons/demons/ good’for’nothing/low-lifes/me, etc. to do differently?”
In other words imagine how they or you SHOULD be behaving.
“And what would have to happen in order for them to actually do that?”
“And what makes them NOT doing that (thus continuing doing what they are doing now);
The CORRECT and MOST APPROPRIATE thing for them to do?”
You see those questions ARE a form of thinking. They force you to go beyond whatever the pattern was before. There are dozens of ways to gently interrupt a flow of robot faux-thinking and guide yourself into “in your trousers 100%; awake, relaxed and alert”.
But first, you have to get used interrupting yourself… without de-railing the whole show…