A weird model

A while ago Tiny Buddha site had an article by Lisa Esile. I often like Tiny Buddha articles but not those of this sort: “7 Secrets Your Mind Doesn’t Want You to Know”. My reaction is to wonder what is the ‘you’ that does not include ‘your mind’. There is the type of dualism that we have been encountering for many years, since Descartes’ time, and then there is this other new kind of dualism. A ‘you’ have can know things but is not ‘your mind’ seems a crazy idea. What exactly is this ‘you’ thinking with?

The article starts with, “Our mind is inherently scared. That’s its job, to be cautious; to keep us alive, to have us cross roads safely, and not get eaten by a lion. But left unchecked, it can become paralyzed with fear and meaner than a cornered crocodile.” Who says that we are likely to be paralysed with fear or mean? What sort of mind is being envisaged here? So we are careful and do not endanger our lives but that does not make us paralysed or mean. The idea is that a power struggle between ourselves and our minds is going on, with ourselves having the better judgement. Apparently judgement is some magical gift that does not require a mind to produce it. “We feel anxious, fearful, sad, or resentful when we give our mind too much power, when we follow all of its dopey ideas against our better judgment.”

There is a hint to what she means by mind. “Your mind is smart. Not wise smart, but computer smart.

Your mind isn’t into all that woolly intuition jazz. It wants facts. It likes making calculations. Running the odds.” Perhaps she is calling ‘mind’ the conscious mind and ‘you’ the unconscious mind, although this is not a very accurate description of type 2 thought. I have a big problem with her idea in that I do not see two minds any more than I see a separate mind and you. I see one mind and it is aware of only part of its functioning through consciousness. And … it is that consciousness that gives us the concept of ‘self’.

Esile goes on to describe the various fights between two sets of ideas, one ascribed to ‘mind’ and the other to ‘self’. It is almost impossible to imagine having the disagreements described. They may be descriptions that ring true to others. But I cannot shake the idea that divided our sense of self into different compartments is not helpful; having those compartments oppose one another is positively unhealthy. We have a brain and it functions as a whole not as separate parts – one of its functions is ‘mind’ or thought/memory/action/awareness/volition/emotion – ‘mind’ includes the creation of a world and ourselves in that world and a partial awareness of this creation that we experience as consciousness – so we are self-aware of a model of the world and a model of ourselves. There is absolutely no reason or advantage in modelling ourselves as two entities, ‘mind’ and ‘self’, that carry on a power struggle. Rather than struggle and fight, we can learn to think and act in ways that satisfy us and add to our confidence and happiness. We don’t do this be giving ourselves orders but by asking ourselves ‘how’, ‘why’, ‘which way’ questions.

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