I’m no genius nor an expert but I’m fascinated by how my mind operates psychologically. By extension, why does everyone seem to be in constant conflict whether that’s inwardly or outwardly to others.
Have you ever wondered how our thoughts shape the way we live our lives, think in a certain way or patterns, and interact with others? I do.
My fascination with how our mind works started when I entered university. Being an introvert, the thought of not being able to handle small talks and creating meaningful relationships bugs me in my younger days.
This spark led me down a never-ending path in hope of understanding human nature and myself spanning years across.
How Do Thoughts Shape Our Worldview
As an individual, we experience the world around us through our 5 senses which are sight, smell, touch, taste, and hearing. Then, store some of them as memories. Thoughts are a response to the memories we hold and it’s always of the past.
Whenever we recall a remembrance from our large storage of memories, we mold them in the present by editing, evaluating, erasing, and adding bits and pieces to it. Altering it to a narrative we like to see ourselves as and not what happened.
In doing so, we’re unbeknownst projecting our past into the future and strengthening the past itself. Always looking forward to the future or being stuck in the past. Leaving very little headspace to truly enjoy life in the present.
What Are “Thoughts” Anyway?
Thoughts consist of ideas, concepts, theories, notions, opinions, biases, prejudices, beliefs, conclusions, knowledge, memories, and symbols. Anything that resembles an abstraction that the mind has cleverly conceived.
You see, the word “tree” is not the tree itself but a word we communicate with others to describe the idea of a tree that has a large trunk and branches with green leaves. Thus, the word “tree” is a useful abstraction we as a species created to represent something real in the physical world.
I think examples would help much better.
- Ideas: A prized ideal or belief we hold.
- Democracy, Capitalism, Communism, Justice, Law, Religion, 4-hour workweek, Work-life balance, FIRE movement, minimalism, Stoicism, becoming a billionaire, etc.
- Concepts: An abstract idea or generalization.
- Business, Contract, Family, Talent, Software, Truth, Work, Society, Productivity, Human rights, etc.
- Opinions: A foregone conclusion that we use to tell ourselves.
- I’m right and you are wrong.
- I’m better at this or that.
- I’m perfect!
- Prejudices: A pre-made conclusion not based on reason or experience.
- A darker skin person is less trustworthy than a brighter skin person.
- A feminine-looking guy could mean he’s a closet homosexual.
- Biases: An inclination to someone or something that’s caused by our values, memory, and personal attributes. They are mental shortcuts we use every day.
- Cognitive biases: Confirmation bias, Halo effect, Anchoring bias, Dunning-Kruger effect, etc.
- Knowledge: An ever-evolving field as we find out more about ourselves and the universe. These are what we learn in school, from parents, or at work. It’s useful to solve problems or in understanding our environment.
- English, Maths, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Psychology, etc
- Memories: Past experiences and events from our lives.
- stored remembrance of the past attached with strong emotions like happiness, sadness, sorrow, and missed opportunity.
- Symbols: A shorthand abstraction to represent something.
- Owning a few sports cars and living in a mansion symbolizes wealth.
- Being a CEO of a large corporation symbolizes power, fame, and wealth.
- Having lots of YouTuber subscribers, TikTok followers, and Instagram followers symbolizes fame and money.
- Wearing a robe and carrying a Christian cross symbolizes faith and belief.
- In the recent Ukraine-Russia war, the letter Z becomes an everything meme symbol for people supporting the war. (I don’t support any war or conflict but just pointing out how symbols are used to represent something)
- The blooming of the sakura flower symbolizes the beginning season of spring.
Like a game of “this means that and that mean that one over there” it continues as we further divided into multiple categories. Sometimes, we do get lost in it, and when do. We become confused about what is true and false.
If we do become confused, we could become susceptible to flawed logic, funny reasoning, or believing something outrageous.
And if we’re able to see things clearly enough, we could witness people performing Olympic-level mental gymnastics 🤣 that would rival any gold medalist.
Thought Colours Our Reality
As we experience life, we collect more experiences and memories like a tape recorder keep on recording. When we recall these memories, thoughts arise to judge. Then, opinions, biases, prejudices, and conclusions are formed.
Our thoughts processes had been molded by our education systems, inherited from our parents as we observe them since childhood, through interacting with others like friends and wider society. We learned a great deal about what behavior is acceptable, what to think about, how to act, how best to judge, and what value is cherished.
All these in turn become our reality in the world.
Forming Mental Images
We tend to form powerful images from thoughts as a result of one’s education, culture, training, tradition, relationship, tendency, acquired, and inherited characteristics.
Ever have the thought of an idealized girlfriend or boyfriend? We often force crazy altered attributes (supermodel appearance and well-endowed body parts) we see on TV, in magazines, and on social media onto a real person without knowing we have formed a distorted image in our head.
The idealized job, career, work, or labor that we are always being asked and need to prepare an answer for. Forcing us to identify ourselves toward a path that is profitable within society. Thus, forming images of what success looks like.
You can start asking questions about identity, friends, family, religion, spirituality, money, finance, debt, politic, etc.
Like A Lens Looking Outward
These mental images act like a lens we use to look outward into the world by applying a handy invisible layer of abstraction to what is physically real. Helping us to navigate and understand the world but at the same time, we can also be misled by it if not careful enough.
The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to foolRichard Feynman
So, try not to be fooled by thoughts because we can easily fool ourselves when we get the fact wrong or are confused. Drinking our own Kool-Aid and thinking we are right while we might have completely missed the point entirely.
A Hidden Force Directing Our Action
These images become the hidden forces behind our every decision which could translate into concrete actions as we look outward (finding a picture-perfect significant other or getting a dream job working in Google HQ). Oftentimes, we indulge and entertain them until they are shattered.
When an image meets reality, it often breaks apart because the immediate reality does not conform to our carefully crafted mental image of what should be. This often brings internal strife, conflict, anxiety, and sorrow within.
The truth is we often ignore the “what is” and only look forward to the “what should be”. When the two things come together. The image breaks. A better way to solve this is to start with the “what is” and then work from there.
We are always forming these images unknowingly or knowingly. I’m sure you have some. I know I do as I become more aware of them.
Thought Will Naturally Arises by Itself
Our mind is a thought-generating machine and will keep churning out endlessly until we go to sleep. It’s always scanning for potential dangers whether it’s physical or imagined. It’s scanning widely looking for recurring patterns and confirming with memories.
Learn to recognize what thoughts are cunningly and quietly dominating or which are sneakingly or which are being covertly avoided. Observe the thought that is manifesting without judgment nor conclusion.
You might be able to come to the truth of the matter.
Being Hooked On Thoughts
I believe, we must be aware of what thoughts we are hung up on because everyone nowadays is hooked on some ideals, problems, frustrations, emotions, conflicts, and the list goes on. If we are not careful they can manifest outwardly into concrete reality which could be either good or bad depending on one’s value.
Being unaware and giving little to no attention to our thoughts, they may naturally become the foundation that guides every facet of our life while we call it fate, luck, or force of habits.
Watch Out For Pesky Weeds
It’s not healthy to give unwanted or intrusive thoughts living rent-free in our mental space. Nowadays, we’re being constantly bombarded 24/7 from the Internet with what to believe, who to trust, what to buy, and what we should do through News outlets, YouYube, TikTok, Instagram, etc.
Letting an unwanted thought fester and grow is easy but taking it out when it has taken root. That’s hard work there, buddy. So, it is best to pluck out unwanted weeds before the root reaches the core.
A confused mind breeds more confusion while a clear mind allows one’s ability to see things clearly. To achieve this, we must first find the truth of the matter we are interested in.
Awareness precedes control. If we are not aware of an emotion, fact, or thoughts. Then, we’ll have a hard time understanding what is going through our minds and taking proper measures when necessary.
This entry is part of a series of 13 Lessons I Learned About Myself and Probably Useful to You as Well. Visit the link for other related posts.