THE DUALITIES OF LIFE. BLOG #9.

THE DUALITY OF CONSCIOUS AND SUBCONSCIOUS MIND. PART ONE.

This blog brings to an end the series of blogs the dualities of life. When I began this series, I didn’t have a set plan for it. Each blog arose organically from the previous blog. However, when I look back, I think it befitting that it should end with the duality of conscious and subconscious mind because it is the primary duality underneath all the dualities discussed so far. Upon little reflection, I also realised that this sequence of dualities and its climax too were decided by my own subconscious mind. Thus, while my conscious mind composed each of these blogs, my subconscious mind was feeding it the necessary material. Therefore, when the time to end the series arose, my subconscious mind pushed itself into the forefront, jostling around to be noticed. It is as if, like a pampered but long neglected child, my subconscious mind has forcefully taken a centre stage in demanding an exclusive attention. Being a novelist who depends on the subconscious mind to weave the stories, I have decided to submit myself to its dictat .

Flippancy apart, I sincerely believe that the fact that we have two compartments of our mind defines the essence of human life. Had Nature made the human mind that was completely unified and integrated, we would have been reduced to to exceptional machines. However, Nature, in its wisdom, has made the human mind with partly unified but partly independent compartments. As a result, we, as a species, are governed by this dichotomy of conscious and subconscious ways of thinking. The key point is that these two compartments think differently and more importantly, divergently. It is this divergence that results in all types of dualities discussed earlier in this series of blogs. In this blog , I would discuss the science and the psychology of the conscious and subconscious mind.

As far as science is concerned, there is no explanation of why do these different compartments of our mind have evolved in our brains. In fact, the theory of evolution is silent on the relationship between mind and brain. Therefore, it has much less to say on the division of mind into conscious and subconscious modules. However, there is an indirect explanation for different functioning of our conscious and subconscious mind. During the course of evolution, particularly from monkeys to men, there is a direct evidence of increase in the size of brain vis a vis the size of body. In parallel to this, there are enough indications that animals in each lineage developed more and more cognitive functions. Thus, there is a simple correlation between the brain size and the cognitive capacity. However, this correlation stops when we compare monkeys with men. Human beings have far larger brain than the one required for our body size. Perhaps, it is this spare cognitive capacity that must made evolution of subconscious mind possible. There is an another hint why this is true. Most of the cognitive functions have evolved in the context of the environment. Therefore, these functions are in sync with the environment. However, this is not true for the cognitive functions present in the subconscious mind. Therefore, it is reasonable to think that the subconscious didn’t evolve in response to the demands of the environment. In that case, it is more probable that our subconscious mind must have evolved because of the spare capacity of our larger brain. This makes sense because our subconscious mind doesn’t focus on the world outside but on the conscious mind itself. In fact, our subconscious mind sees the world only through our conscious mind. In terms of modern day jargon, it is tempting to think of our subconscious mind works as backup for our conscious mind.

However, this is not true because while every single details that our conscious mind registers, it’s subconscious counterpart is present, the context and interpretation of each of these details is different in both these locations. Thus, if you happen to like a particular song, it is registered in the conscious mind in the form of its tune, its lyrics etc. On the other hand, the same song is registered in the subconscious mind by its mood, the occasion when you last heard it etc. Thus, when you hear that song again, there are conflicting recollections in your mind, some from your conscious mind and some from your subconscious mind. The key point is that these recollections are not in harmony and you experience a melangĂ© of feelings. Therefore, the true understanding of the need for the existence of these two compartment must come from psychology and not from biology.

In the second part of this blog, I would discuss the psychological perspective of the need for the separation of conscious and subconscious mind.

VAACHAKMITRA.

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THE DUALITIES OF LIFE. BLOG #8.

THE DUALITY OF CONVICTION AND DOUBT.

I have been discussing various contradictory thoughts that govern our behaviour. The irony lies in the fact that these contradictory thoughts influence our thinking at the same time. More importantly, we are not even aware of their simultaneous existence in our own psyche and their influence. Therefore, we behave in a self contradictory manner without being aware of it. Since these types of dualities govern our entire lives, it is necessary to deconstruct and understand their origins. This series of blogs on the dualities of life revolves around this deconstruction of our internal inconsistencies. In this blog, I would discuss another such duality of conviction and doubt.

On the face of it, the notions of conviction and doubt appear to be mutually exclusive. One can either be convinced about something or be doubtful about it. Therefore, one can not be convinced as well as doubtful about any given belief. Therefore, it seems unlikely that conviction and doubt can both influence our belief. However, upon little reflection, it would be apparent that we are absolutely convinced about only few of our beliefs. Similarly, there only few beliefs which we absolutely reject. In fact, our minds take an ambivalent attitude towards most of the beliefs that we come across. It requires only few incidents in our lives for us to change our attitude from total conviction to total rejection or vice versa. In fact, it is intuitively clear that the state of total conviction and total rejection are only two hypothetical extreme positions. We rarely, if ever, take these positions. Normally, we have an ambivalent attitudes towards most of our beliefs. We tend to believe in whole lot of beliefs (even if they are self contradictory ), but only provisionally. We always entertain certain doubts about these beliefs. The only difference is that our doubts are normally hidden from our conscious minds.

Therefore, it would be correct to say that even when we assert our conviction about a certain belief, at a subconscious level, we do carry some doubts about it. It is as if we believe and disbelieve ideas at the same time. Therefore, others, people who are close enough to observe us, find our behaviour not just inconsistent, but also self contradictory. However, since we harbour both these attitudes of belief and doubt in our minds, we fail to see these inconsistencies and self contradictions. Therefore, it is necessary to understand why do we end up believing and disbelieving any idea at the same time. This is necessary because it would help us to reduce these inner contradictions.

The origin of this duality lies in the fact that our minds are trained to process any such belief only after assuming it to be true. In other words, our minds begin by asking that what if a given statement were to be true ? It temporarily assumes that the given statement is true. Having done that, our mind tries to work out various possible scenarios that would arise if the given statement were to be true. Then, our mind seeks empirical evidence for these scenarios. Depending on such empirical verification, our mind would manifest conviction or doubt. There is one important consequence of this mechanism. Our mind tends to believe in any statement, unless disproved otherwise. In other words, our minds assigns a positive truth value to every statement it comes across by default. It is only when the empirical verification suggests otherwise, that our mind starts disbelieving that statement.

Readers might object to such a picture of how our mind works. Obviously, what is written above runs against our day to day experience. The reason for this is very simple. What I have outlined above is how a young child would behave. However, as one grows up, we accumulate large number of such statements which are empirically verified. Therefore, as adults, we use this stored memory of these verified statements to compare with any new statement that we come across. Therefore, we, as grown ups are not as gullible as we were as children.

The key fact, the one that is often overlooked, is that our adult mind still works the same way as it does for children. Therefore, it still assigns a positive truth value to every new statement it comes across by default. Of course, in the case of grown ups like us, the verification (or falsification )comes quickly. However, it happens only when we consciously examine these statements. Till such time, in our subconscious mind, the statement is taken to be true because that is how our subconscious mind works. Therefore, we end up in believing and disbelieving at the same time. The fault lies in the fact that our conscious mind and our subconscious mind works at cross purpose with one another. Therefore, we always remain ambivalent about the whole lot of beliefs.

The real tragedy of this duality is that we, without being aware of it, try to accommodate these two mutually exclusive positions by finding out a halfway solution. Our conscious mind and our subconscious mind are connected somewhere in our ego. It is this agency of ego that tries create a compromise. Since the ego is governed by emotions and not by logic, the solutions brought about by ego are emotionally coloured and logically ambivalent. This is what creates angst. Therefore, we are condemned to live with the duality of conviction and doubt. It need not be taken as a pessimistic view of life. This is because, this duality has a redeeming feature. It allows each one of us to find a way of reconciling our own inner contradictions. The very ego that causes these contradictions is capable of rising above the duality of conviction and doubt by taking a view from a higher dimension. When this happens, we can resolve this duality. Thus, our ego is the cause as well as the solution of this duality. We have freedom to rise above to this duality and sadly, we also have freedom to be governed by this duality. I have found this freedom while writing novels. I can only hope that reading this blog would prompt you to seek that freedom.

In my next blog, I would discuss the duality of conscious and subconscious mind. That would bring to an end this series of blogs. After that, I would discuss my next, as yet unfinished novel.

VAACHAKMITRA.