Wray Herbert is a journalist who has written about science and psychology for the past 25 years. He recently wrote in Salon a report about neurophysiology and the ability to “out smart our own brains.” (See the following link: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/wray-herbert/temptation-in-the-neurons_b_6861836.html) Of course he does not believe that we can actually “out-smart” our own brain but with willingness to learn from modern neurophysiology we can learn that our thought patterns are often driven by something other than we are conscious. With this gift of meta-cognition we can self-monitor on occasion and identify maladaptive patterns of thinking and behaving. In my clinical practice I would often use cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) strategies, one of which was to help clients identify these “mal-adaptive thought patterns” which CBT calls, “stinkin’ thinkin’”
Recently Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas raised my ire with his letter to Iran that signed also by 47 other senators. This action reveals a rigid certainty in their heart which allowed him them to jeopardize complex negotiations between President Obama and other world leaders with Iran over nuclear disarmament. If Cotton and his colleagues could have employed the Shakespearean “pauser reason” they could have been more judicious in pursuing their goals. Having spent most of my life in Arkansas and being a “good ole boy” myself, Mr. Cotton is really “grinding my gears.” or, as I like to put it, has my “panties in a wad.”
My emotional reaction has reminded me that I’ve spent most of my life as an ideologue myself and that the first half of this self-imposed prison sentence found me very rigid. Though now I have changed, there is always a residual presence of the ideologue, which I call, “literallew,” that I have never exorcised and never will completely. For example, I often find myself taking my own “pet thoughts” too seriously and at times find myself using them as a hammer. Eckhart Tolle’s teachings tell us that “thought” is what confines us to the space-time continuum, living our life in the past or in the future but not in the Present moment. And, there is only the Present moment. The past and future are only fancies many of which are not realistic and sometimes delusional. And Tolle certainly realizes that we cannot do without “thinking” but insists that if we acknowledge other dimensions of our reality then our “thinking” can be less rigid and less self-centered.
“Pet ideas” are so easy to take so seriously because they often embody and perpetuate a view of the world with which we are comfortable. If we are too fond of these “pets” we will be unable to compromise with diverse points of view; for, allowing these “pets” to be questioned will tap a fear our ego has of losing control. But slavery to these “pet ideas” is always just slavery to our ego and the ego never likes to consider the possibility that it is not in control. To a person in such bondage, the consideration of neurophysiology (and the unconscious) on his thinking is just not permitted.
Decades ago I read a relevant observation somewhere, “Our thinking is the belated rationalization of conclusions to which we’ve already been led by our desires.”