Three Illusions of the Mind
Our minds are fascinating things, allowing us to perform all sorts of everyday amazing feats of deduction and interpretation, but they are also the source of the most puzzling, infuriating and unhelpful thoughts. For this reason, it is very hard to understand your mind just using your mind. Here are three illusions your mind creates, all of which challenge how reality seems to us.
1 – Our mind is a movie screen
The first illusion is that “our consciousness comes together at some location within our heads where the totality of experience is presented to us on a screen” (Cozolino, 2002 p.157), whereas in reality, neuroscience confirms that “there is no single area of the brain capable of performing this function” (Cozolino). In other words, what we experience as our consciousness is really a hodge-podge of different parts of our brain working in different ways, responding to different stimuli and strongly influenced by our past, our feelings and our unconscious.
2 – Our thoughts come first
The second illusion is that our thoughts come first, and that they create or cause our emotions and actions. In practice it is a lot more complicated than that, but a more usual chain of events is that you feel something, then this feeling triggers thoughts in your mind. The feeling part of your brain is much more connected to your body and your sensations than your neocortex, the ‘thinking’ part of your brain. You feel first, then you think in reaction to the feeling.
3 – It's all under our control
The third illusion is that the processes of our mind – and by extension, our feelings – are under our control. In reality, random factors and our uncontrollable feelings exert much more influence on us than we are usually aware of, causing us to overestimate our abilities, but also our responsibility for what happens to us. In reality, the amount of control we have over ourselves is more limited than we think. By the time something becomes conscious to us, it has already been processed on an unconscious level, perhaps by a number of neural networks.
Working to understand
As a psychotherapist, I work with you to help you understand what influence your feelings and your unconscious has on the way that you operate. We take time to explore and try to understand what is really happening for you, and the influence that the past has on how your life is lived in the present. It is a process that takes time, but is potentially ultimately rewarding.
(Cozolino, L. (2002) ‘The Neuroscience of Psychotherapy – Building and Rebuilding the Human Brain’ W.W. Norton, New York)
– Tim Hill
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