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Who’s steering the boat. Navigating in the Stream of Consciousness.

You may have seen recently there are more articles appearing about “how the brain works” in the scientific sections of the papers.  One of the reasons is that they have more sophisticated ways to measure what’s going on in the brain.

They can stick you in one of those big clinical NMR machines that measure the blood flow in different parts of the brain while the (hopefully not claustrophobic) subject does cross words or thinks of naked people.

I like this new development.  Fewer mice have to die.

No matter how sophisticated the machines they build to measure and calibrate whats going on in our bodies and our brains, the model will never be the thought.  Dissecting a brain will never teach you what orange smells like or what a blue sky looks like.

William James coined the term “[link:Stream of Consciousness]” in his famous paper of the same name to describe the continuous flow of sense impressions, conscious and unconscious memories and imaginings, thoughts and associations that constitutes “I am” and “You are”.

The fundamental fact that we could be certain of was that “thought happens”.

So what does one drop, one cupful of consciousness contain? When does a thought begin and where does it end?

Although Williams James started off well the science of introspection went down another track and got lost.  Freud, Jung and their followers went looking into the content of thought and thereby missed a trick.

Richard Bandler and John Grinder’s contribution to, lets call it, the science of introspection, was the simple recognition that whether we are outside responding to the world or inside thinking of the past or future we are using the same senses and the same maps to do so.  Thoughts are made up of things you can see, hear, smell, taste and feel.  (Recent research confirms that the same parts of the brain are used in both case.  Well what do you know. )

It turns out that if you take that idea as a simple map and go looking and listening to other people and getting a sense of how they behave while they’re thinking you’ll notice some patterns.

There are two important and useful consequences.

  • People give clues all the time in their verbal and non verbal behaviour as to how they are thinking- that is, the structure of their thoughts.
  • Understanding how someone is thinking gives you more choices about how to respond effectively.

If they don’t see what you mean then you help them get a clear picture.

Maybe they need to hear a sound argument,

or get in touch with how they feel about it first.

While you’re thinking of how that could be useful
to you remember: William James started by introspecting on his own stream of consciousness.  Your thoughts and sensations also have pattern and structure.

I remember reading something in “[link:Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and It’s Attainment]” by [link:Rudolph Steiner]. (I Know, I’ve read a lot of crazy books. :-)

“If the attention be frequently fixed on the phenomena of growing, blooming and flourishing, a feeling remotely allied to the sensation of a sunrise will ensue, while the phenomena of fading and decaying will produce an experience comparable, in the same way, to the slow rising of the moon on the horizon. “

I remember thinking,
whether or not this is true, what would it be like to have the sensitivity to tell the difference?

I’ll leave you to get closer to that. Go in, or out, and do some research.  It could be fun.

Remember.  No mice have to die. :-)

Till next time


“All distinctions human beings are able to make concerning our environment and our behavior can be usefully represented through the visual, auditory, kinesthetic, olfactory, and gustatory senses.”

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