Saturday, April 16, 2011

Who's In Charge?

The elephant in the room, as far as all the new neuroscience is concerned, is that our conscious mind is not fully in charge of our behavior. Here's a paragraph from an article looking at how this new information might change our thinking about legal issues. 

The first lesson we learn from studying our own circuitry is shocking: most of what we do and think and feel is not under our conscious control. The vast jungles of neurons operate their own programs. The conscious you – the I that flickers to life when you wake up in the morning – is the smallest bit of what’s transpiring in your brain. Although we are dependent on the functioning of the brain for our inner lives, it runs its own show. Your consciousness is like a tiny stowaway on a transatlantic steamship, taking credit for the journey without acknowledging the massive engineering underfoot.

Freud and Jung may have gotten various details wrong, but they were on the right track with their basic notion that the conscious mind is just one of many players creating our personalities and driving our behavior.

The Buddhist idea of "mind training" is also built in part on the idea that getting our conscious mind more in control of the situation is a tough thing to do, and that having a concept of what you're trying to do and how to go about it can be very helpful.

The previous post on the potentiating nature of dopamine, which can be released during music making, suggests it can be helpful in reinforcing positive aspects of the mind outside direct consciousness while quelling some of the negative stuff rattling around up there.

On a much more specific level, it seems to me that when we're helping someone make music, being open to non-verbal ways of transmitting information is the way to go, because we're probably already doing that whether we're aware of it or not.

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