Friday, 1 February 2008

How I understand the mind

part 1. Conciousness and unconciousness

What is conciousness? There are several theories about it but I like to think of it as a snapshot of what we experience now. All the information we get from our senses gets combined in the brain at a certain time and place and gives us a snapshot from our environment.

So that's how we experience the world? No the concious part is only the tip of the iceberg. How we experience it and how we react to it is for the biggest part unconcious.

For example for a lot of actions and things we rely on our long term memory. We have our automatic pilot on when we are walking, writing, biking etc. We don't do these things conciously. Most of the time we are not aware that we are doing these things, otherwise our working memory would collapse from the amount of information.

We only put in our working memory things we attend to. Now put 10 people on the same spot and ask them what they see or experience. They each will give you probably a different story. They each take in different details.

What we attend to can be driven by our instinct. When we are hungry we see food everywhere.

What we attend to depends on past experiences which determine our preferences. If we are asked to focus on a crowd, KB will pick up the rugby player and I will spot the Dutch people.

What we attend to depends also on if we have seen it before. If we have seen a street lots of times, our brain says; seen that ,done that and pays no attention to it. So we remember the street the same as last time. Again we use our long time memory to fill in the details

If we are in a new situation or learn something new, we concentrate. The dopamine level in our brain goes up which is necessary for learning and we take in lots of details. We are very concious.

Emotion is also a factor as to how we experience the world. How? Say in the past we walked on a bridge and somebody scared us terribly. The brain takes in fear associated with bridge. Over the years the person forgets about the experience and it becomes unconcious. The emotion remains accessable though. So what can happens is that when the person walks on a bridge he can become highly anxious. The brain still associates fear with a bridge but the concious mind doesn't know why.

When we say we have a good fibe or a bad fibe about something or someone than the reason is probably somewhere in the unconcious.

The best start we can give our children therefore I think is giving them lots of positive ecxperiences or good fibes for later.

What do you think?


  1. When you say automatic pilot, I began to wonder can that be sub conscience acting here..
    Emotions can be a great teacher, and associator.. everything we remember or not remember has emotions attached to it, for some more than others.. and our mind along with memory acts in a certain way :)

  2. I like that idea of yours that consciousness is our experience of now.

    Much of the rest of what you wrote is about perspective: everyone has a different way of seeing and experiencing life's events based on prior experience and the emotional links created in those moments.

    That seems to be how people understand the working of the mind these days and it makes sense to me.

  3. Marja,
    I agree giving are children good vibes from the begining is very important. As adults many times, we pass our fears on to our children. There is a book, which the name I forget, that talks about our concisinous being that of the ant riding on the back on an elephant which represents our sub-concious.
    When the ant wants to go north, it can, however the truth is the sub-concious which is the elephant will determine the true direction we go.

  4. Yes Rambler subconcious is good as well. Concious simply means awareness. Unconcious is being unaware of someting.
    In the case of sensing danger emotions can be quite handy. If it is attached to something irrational like being anxious when you walk on a bridge than it is not good

  5. Yes Brad science only knows a little part yet but what we know makes sense and is already quite helpful.

    Exactly Mark we pass on many fears and not only that when we are angry at a child because he or she didn't complete a task correctly he or she is less likely to do it better the next time because of the negative emotions we pass on.
    Stress decreases dopamine.

    That story of the ant is excellent I wish I could read that book.

  6. Hi Marja, you asked how I got to Holland. I went with a high school friend because her grandmom lived there. She went once a year and in my senior yr, she invited me to go with her. We were in a little town just outside Amsterdam but I don't remember the name of it. We took the plane and were there for two weeks.
    I've heard that ant story and it's definitely a good one!

  7. Mark thanks I googled it and found it The ant and the elephant by vince Poscente

  8. Thank you so much for your comment on my blog. the blog about the concious/subconcious parts of our nature was so interesting. The doors in our brains hide wondrous things both good and bad. All that is part of our experience is hidden there. When we forget some past experience, if we say "I will remember" the door will open, and probably in the middle of the night!


  9. Very interesting theories Marja.
    Thanks for sharing.
    I am extremely good at sensing danger around me, in a concious sort of way, I just can feel the negative vibes of danger.
    Does that make any sense to you?

  10. I love the pic and this article. You are quite correct...even here, my eyes went straight to my name and rugby player, hehe

  11. Very interesting post Marja.

  12. Hello, Marja.
    Excellent postin. Very nice.
    thank you.
    Have a good day

  13. What an interesting article. Most of what I read here was in fact common sense - things we already know but never really think about or consider. This is therefore an extremely thought provoking piece that causes us to stop and think for a moment.

  14. Welcome b The mind is truly fascinating and the biggest wonder in the world. I think you are right about the middle of the night

    Yes little wing I pick them up straight away as well. That can be an advantage but is also stressful

    KB keep on focussing than

    Steve Meggie and David thank you very much

    Thanks Keith That's what it is all about , becoming aware of things

  15. I agree, one hundred understand and describe it so well.

  16. I went back to this post because of this quote that I read today:

    "The real world is beyond our thoughts and ideas; we see it through the net of our desires, divided into pleasure and pain, right and wrong, inner and outer. To see the universe as it is, you must step beyond the net. It is not hard to do, for the net is full of holes." -- Jack Kornfield


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