Sunday, July 01, 2018

My Mind Is Still Thinking about the Mind-Brain Dichotomy

One more thought about the interaction between our minds and our brains. I have been arguing that the two are separate entities, although I have stated that the mind depends on the brain to do its work, just as a driver depends on a car to take it places.

So as an elaboration, the brain often suggests ideas to the mind, sometimes obtrusively. For example, a man may be thinking about the sales strategy for a new product, when suddenly and unexpectedly, he will be confronted by a sexual thought. This, I opine, is the work of the libidinous brain, pushing an idea into the mind's consciousness. The mind and its owner (the sales strategist) then are free to decide whether to ignore (or suppress) the idea or to entertain and elaborate on it. Either way, while the mind is connected to the brain, the mind is not the same.

Another example of the obtruding brain is the "tape" too many people allow to keep playing in their minds, presented by the brain, that says, "You're no good; you're a loser. Father was right: you will never amount to anything." In such cases, it can be very difficult for people (who are their minds) to suppress or ignore those thoughts. They might even play the tape and believe it. Sometimes the tape results from a diseased brain whose chemistry has gone wrong; other times it could be a spiritual issue. In the latter case, remember that you are a child of God, created in  his image; and if your brain tells you otherwise, it's lying to you.

We all can use our minds to choose what to think about. We can, so to speak, command our brains to recall and dwell on a memory, to produce or replay a fantasy, or to engage in a thought experiment, where we trace forward the logical consequences of some decision or action. Of course, we enlist our brains to help us because our brain meat is our random access memory, and a better brain yields a better memory and faster recall. There are folks with photographic memories, who seem to be able to remember everything. Or on a more common level, many teachers can remember all their students' names by the end of the first class. That's something I never could do in all my years of teaching. Even by the end of the semester, I often didn't know the names of everyone in the class.

At the other end of using our brains for storing memory are the sufferers of Alzheimer's. Their brains are so deteriorated that many lose the ability to remember where they are, who their family members are, when they ate last, and so on. Their car has crashed, and they can't get anywhere. But they are not their brains.

Our minds should use our brains  to learn skills, moral values, good  habits, and useful knowledge. Even if our brains don't like it. Habitual goodness will bring your brain into line. Show your brain who is master. Tell it what you want it to do, how it can help you. And if it lies to you, ("You need to wash your hands again and count the tiles on the ceiling again,") just tell it to shut up.

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