Monday, April 23, 2012


(I am not expert at cognitive science or psychology. The following are merely my convictions on whatever little education, reading and experience I have had. If I am wrong at any point, feel free to disagree. )

One of the biggest blunders people make is to go tell the chronic worrier to stop worrying. Eh, I appreciate your good intentions and all that but if he could stop worrying, err..he would have stopped worrying right? I don't think anyone took a penance to remain miserable. I mean, do these well-wishers really think it is that easy or are they simply resorting to the easiest means to fulfill an obligation? A chronic worrier cannot just stop worrying. If it was that easy, he would have done it eons ago. Right? A depressed man cannot 'just cheer up'. An obsessive compulsive thinker cannot just let go. 

The pattern is not one that exists only for what we deem dark traits. The same goes for virtues too. A sensitive man cannot simply, overnight, harden up. Perhaps this is exactly why I am always a tad skeptical about inspiration/ motivation speeches. They are great. I mean, they definitely make you feel good and all that. But they can never be creators - they merely serve as catalysts. So, if you are already half-way into planning or doing something, they make you feel good about it and hence reinforce that behavior. 

If all of us could discipline our brains to manage time, socialize better, destroy procrastination over simply a few minutes of high adrenalin boost of an amazing orator, then life would have been way simpler. However, what we fail to realize is we ARE our brain. It is not a device in the living room of the head that can be controlled with a remote because it is the device and it is the remote. 

Couldn't get more confusing, eh?

I am still nowhere close to being adept at putting forth complex things in a light interesting manner but I will leave those of you who have survived till this part with this thought experiment - Think about this - Is it ever possible to entertain two thoughts SIMULTANEOUSLY? I mean think two things at the same time; Remember, I am not even talking of an interval of a minute or two seconds. At one single instantaneous flash, can you ever have two thoughts?

I hope this puts a lot of things in perspective. Cheers!


harishsram said...

i cant see the connection between the last para & the rest of the post. Are you saying that when a person is in some turmoil it takes great willpower to come out of it & think from a 3rd person's perspective & solve the issue so that he can go back to his & be normal?

Sinduja said...

Hmmm... okay, think of it this way:

There is a train of thoughts. A train. Instead of compartments, there is a chain of thoughts, passing at a high speed. At each moment, we take on the nature of the act and become it.

Thought 1: "I am such a failure. I suck" - Person is depressed.

Thought 2: "Okay, enough of this mess. I going to cheer up" - Person gets up and decides to do something

T3: "Why did I end up so bad?" - person goes back to the gloomy mood.

I am just saying, it is hardly possible to have any control over this train because the control too is a thought and there is no way to determine what thought is going to come next. It is akin to the Heisenberg Uncertainty principle.

There is an electron in a box. It is moving at a very high velocity. Heisenberg says it is impossible to EVER know the exact position of the electron in the box AND its velocity at the same moment simultaneously. If you open the box, the very act of opening the box will alter its velocity.

Btw, here is an article I came across while trying to browse for a better explanation to your question. It is NOT connected to what I have tried to convey but nevertheless, I think it was a rare find. Pretty heavy challenging material in there. I don't know if I can understand it in its entirely but I know you will:

Sinduja said...

At each moment, we take on the nature of the THOUGHT* and become it.

Damn, so many spell errors these days

Anonymous said...

Accurate observations and logical deductions.

A few minutes of a motivational speech, could at least make one feel good temporarily, even probably the chronic worrier.

It is the device and the remote. :) Interesting and valid perspective.

Trying to map this.

Hmm... the conscious mind could be the remote (improperly functioning remote at that) and the unconscious mind could be an autonomous device (which only sometimes heeds the commands given by the remote).

Will revisit this again.


CHIBI said...

you maybe right about not being able to control our brains.. but isn't the brain like a old tv without a remote, one which you had to go to the device, change buttons manually. we can change/control only when we do the work of getting up from our couch, go near tv and change it ourselves, every time.! I guess most of them do not take the time to do that work, instead search for the remote that's not there.

Can two thoughts be entertained simultaneously ? would Epiphany be considered to have two thoughts entertained at same time? because, you think of something else,and find answer for another thought at the exact same time.!

R-A-J said...

Seriously, didn't u write 'Inception' or was it really only him????


harishsram said...

@chibi epiphany cldnt b classified as parallel processin IMO. lets say our knowledge is like a sudoku. while u r concentratin on solvin one block, ur eyes find out an answer in another by chance. while doin so now, u dont concentrate on both blocks, but oly d new one. even though u cant precisely term it as chain of events since they r all disjointed, they still occur 1 after d other.

Arumugam said...

This is a very profound post Sinduja,one of the most profound of yours,though at first reading I almost missed the import.Careless me.

You are not the train.You are the track.The train comes and goes, that's its job.The track remains.'Think' about it.

You have laid out perfectly the fundamental human error we are cursed with.The error that turns reality into a nightmare for verbal creatures like humans.Just like breathing happens,digestion happens,thinking 'happens'.

Many Hindu scriptures touch on this 'error' in a very interesting way.Do explore some of them for the answers you seek as it is a very personal journey for all.What works for one may not work for the other.

Multibillion dollar books like 'The power of positive thinking' and 'You can win' etc etc are the biggest hoaxes perpetuated on humanity.If only it were that easy as you say.

A psychiatrist friend told me once,for treating disorders like panic disorder,the surest way to 'increase' panic is to try 'avoiding' panicky thoughts.Ironical isn't it:-)The human mind is a funny machine

Sinduja said...

@V: The conscious/ sub-conscious is a popular paradigm, no doubt. But the remote-device logic I mentioned in terms of only the conscious. For one thing, I don't really know what happens in the sub-conscious. I think it only takes a bit of careful monitoring of the thought to notice this. Could be scary at times too! :)

Sinduja said...

@Chibi: " we can change/control only when we do the work of getting up from our couch, go near tv and change it ourselves" - yes, but isn't that prompt to get up a thought by itself? When do we get it and will we get it? Isn't that pure chance?

Epiphany! - Thank you for that wonderful term that I had a chance to read about today. How can epiphany be two thoughts at the same time? I side with Harish on this. It is still one after the other, though quickly.

Sinduja said...

@RAJ - Lol, trust Raj to lighten the room of a serious discussion. Yeah,yeah, I accept you were serious. :)

Ummm... Inception. Okay, unfortunately for you, you have just triggered me to think of that film now. And it is...damn, I am really thinking now. :D

Sinduja said...

@Harish: You got it buddy! :)

@Arumugam: Are we the track? Will that analogy fit? There is no track without the train. Take the train away and there is nothingness. Blank. Non-existence. Or is that true existence?

Have you tried meditation? I miserably fail at it every time. So many thoughts. It is like peak hour traffic jam. And then, i try to silence it. But that 'try' is also a thought. If anyone is successful, I want to ask, what happens? What is it to be TRULY without thoughts?

"Just like breathing happens,digestion happens,thinking 'happens'. " - Perfectly put!

Books like 'The power of positive thinking' - I do not know if we can call them a hoax. IMO, there are perhaps scientific principles of cause and effect, that really work. "If you think positive, you will be successful" - maybe that is true. And a few individuals have been lucky to have such 'thoughts happen to them'. My point is, they are sharing their experience and just by reading this, I cannot have the thought happen to me. It is more complex than that.

The human mind is indeed a funny machine. You almost missed this post - not that it is great - but then you 'got' the thought to come back here. But what if you had not got it? You wouldn't have noticed that you hadn't got it. Lol. See ?

ganeshputtu said...

Uh too many i was thinking almost the same thing and then i happen to read this...deja vu or what? Btw there is a term for holding two thoughts at the same time- its called Schizoprenia...if you had seen the movie Anniyan you would get what i am trying to say....and why stop at two thoughts why not go for more? the human brain has billions of processors right?

Sinduja said...

@Ganesh: Ganesh, I don't think Schizoprenia is thinking two things at the same time. Is it? I thought it was a system of delusions or hallucinations. I mean, I get what you are saying. There is a lot of incoherence in thought - thoughts are of two kinds but is it at the same time, was the question here. Maybe I need to read more on this - i am not too sure about abnormal cognition.

harishsram said...

@sinduja maybe the right word is occulempy :-D because whn i was asked 2 meditate in yoga classes durin my school days they said count nos r concentrate on breathin patterns to clear d mind. a better info on proper way of meditation wld help here :-)

Anonymous said...

Even at the conscious level it is possible to 'have' more than one thing in the mind at the same time, though the nature of the thing would be different.
One could perceive, both, a feeling and a thought at the same time. For example you could feel happy and also think of something at the same time; similarly one could feel sad and think of of a thought.

Technically it should be possible to have more than one thought in one's mind, as the mind is a multiprocessing unit.


Sinduja said...

@Harish: Perhaps instead of multiple weak 'emotion - eliciting' thoughts in quick succession, they make one long consistent thought take over by these techniques, which itself can be greatly calming.

@V: Wow V, interesting. This is so complicated right? Thinking about the nature of the mind with the mind. A feeling and thought might both co-exist at the same time, even if they are of different kinds - BUT i still think that we can concentrate or realize just one of them at the same time. Hmmm...

The Fool said...

So true. Fully agree with you. Most of us know what needs to be done. But the issue is how.

Peerless said...

Mind boggling analysis. Its the thing which is controlling and being controlled. And brain is a serial machine:)! - So true. Well organised post to provoke more hypotheses.

I give mine below,
Brain is an emotional machine and thoughts are just ways to express it. Emotions can drive thoughts but the inverse is not always true. And that could be the reason why a simple self-advise "Be cheerful!" doesn't work. But when we experience "cheer" in one of the slots, the brain gets a feel of it and starts giving more slots for it.

If you have to control the brain, you got to recreate the feeling and not just the thought. There is a saying that people may forget what you said to them but they wont forget how you made them feel.

Sinduja said...

@TF: :) Exactly!


"Brain is an emotional machine and thoughts are just ways to express it. " - Hmmm, but at every point in time, are we having some emotion or the other? Because thoughts are there ALL the time.

"Emotions can drive thoughts but the inverse is not always true." - Hmmmm, that is again not true thought what you have said holds true most of the time and is a very good point. For e.g, in many meditation techniques, they hold visualization exercises (thought) to induce joy (emotion)

We are creatures of feeling and emotion and it is very difficult to have thought over-take emotion. But as we slowly learn to do that, we evolve and progress. Thank you for the brilliant comment, you have made things simpler now.