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What are Thoughts?

Jumping the Groove, Part II: Dopamine and Beliefs

Beliefs serve decision-making under conditions of uncertainty. Without uncertainty, we just act. I don't "believe" the ground will stop my foot when I walk....That's just the neural prediction and reward-seeking machinery running smoothly. It's when the machinery gets stuck that the brain shifts into belief mode to help break the logjam.

What are We Thinking About?

When we're talking to ourselves (silently or aloud), we're engaging in a goal-directed behavior, such as trying to strengthen our resolve (yes, I can!) or remember something (broccoli). We’re still riding on a wave of feeling, because goals can't gain traction without emotion. 

Unwanted Thoughts and What to Do with Them

Sometimes uncomfortable thoughts and feelings take us down a path to nowhere and sometimes they lead to new insights or solutions to vexing problems. We might want to follow their lead for awhile and see where they are taking us.  If we cut them off (“gently redirect” – same dif) the moment we notice them, we might miss out on a valuable learning experience. 

The Sound of One Thought Clapping

The inner audience may nod in agreement, clap with enthusiasm, talk back to the stage, or perhaps engage in a distancing maneuver. The difference is between a receptive, engaged audience and an audience that observes without commitment to the narrative.

Thoughts as After-Thoughts

Thoughts are remnants of automatic brain processes that have temporarily captured our attention.  If we are aware of a thought, we have recreated it.

Thoughts as Dry Runs

"Our conscious experience is assembled on the fly, as our brains respond to constantly changing inputs, calculate potential courses of action, and execute responses." Michael S. Gazzaniga

Acceptance: Letting In, Letting Be, and Letting Go

So it’s okay for thoughts, feelings, and sensations to make an appearance – to show up at the door - but it’s actually not okay to let them in. It’s about “letting go”, not “letting in”. Acknowledge and move on.

Exploration: Generate and Test

Thoughts are inchoate until expressed in the head or the world. Expression generates thoughts from patterns of spreading activation.

Not Reflecting

The idea of reflection is Cartesian to its core: a stand-alone consciousness, calmly observing the parade of thoughts and feelings, assuming a higher vantage point, drawing lessons and extracting principles: a wise Self.

Labeling as a Shortcut to Habituation

The urge to label hovers before the stream of consciousness, ready to take the wind out of its sails. Of course, the weather's always changing and the wind often comes out of nowhere.

Mindfulness, Hypocrisy and Delusion

...if the point is to be non-judgmental, non-reactive, and simply aware in the moment, focused on your breath, then interrupted thoughts or feelings may just be a casualty of the practice...

The Whole Truth or Maybe a Piece of It say that thoughts and feelings do not reflect reality or the truth is too broad.  I’d rather say thoughts and feelings shouldn’t be considered the last word, or the whole story –  they may have a basis in truth but dwelling on some truths can prevent us from seeing other truths.

Thinking: Part of the Brain's Tracking System

...if the brain and its tracking systems didn’t do a reasonable job of approximating reality, I wouldn’t be able to write this sentence because Homo sapiens wouldn’t even exist. An animal has to be tuned into the world in order to survive that world.

Chattering Minds can’t get people to stay on the path without frequent reminders of the suffering and darkness that would befall them should they lose their way.

Counting Thoughts, Part II

The problem with sentences is that we rarely know what they mean without knowing what came before and what came after. Not to mention all the background information. Plus all the non-sentence-like stuff going on. Bigger worlds and smaller worlds. All are being spoken to. Or “thought” to.  

Counting Thoughts, Part I

In none of these articles were there specific references or links to academic papers. Rather, the authors use markers of scientific authority to present their claims as “facts”.

What is a thought?

So a thought can be a process, the outcome of a process, capacity, inchoate intention, opinion, state of beholding, state of awareness, tentative belief, or an act of contemplation. Is there a common theme to these definitions?

To think and to wonder

To think is to follow a scent, focused and determined. To think is to pursue. To wonder is to become a vessel. To wonder is to be filled.

Thoughts as Doors, Opening and Closing

A thought is not an inert object. A thought is a living thing: it is both propelled and goal-directed. Thoughts bring into being the unanticipated. Thoughts activate neural connections and open up worlds. Reducing thoughts to objects takes the life out of them – stops them in their tracks, unable to continue on their path...