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Do we need to reduce conscious thought?

Sitting here thinking, I realized a lot of problems are caused by overthinking, overanalyzing, and not letting ideas die.

I also came to the realization that happiness can be achieved much easier if a person allows their subconscious take over for a bit, and abandon rational, and serious thoughts at least for a little bit.

So I am wondering what are your opinions of conscious versus unconscious thoughts and the importance of both.

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    Jul 30 2013: Do we need to reduce conscious thought?

    No. Under no circumstances.
    Quite the opposite. We should stimluate more conscious thought about the self and others around the self to make sure that the increasingly unhappy consumer population stops drowning in their system-induced sub/unconscious love of self-indulgence and superficiality, caused partly by subliminal messages from the media, partly by intellectual laziness.

    Inspire more conscious thought about the world we live in, us in it, and where this is going.

    There's nothing wrong about having serious, rational thoughts. There's no need to abandon them consciously.

    The sub/unconscious ones will be there anyway.
    • Jul 31 2013: Interesting thought. But I hold the opposit stance. To be happier we need less conscious thought so that we become more self aware and self confident consumerism relies upon the conscious thinking about how to fit in how to ahow status. Abandoning that to become fully self enlightened by virtue of less conscious thinking about your station or relationships in life would br ideal.
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        Jul 31 2013: Thanks for replying but I don't think self-enlightenment, as you put it, can come without reflection.

        Reducing conscious thought and deactivating the majestic frontal lobe that we humans possess and use may throw you back to the monkey brain and possibly - to overcrammed shopping malls or other places where you can consume and indulge the subconscious. That's self-confident consumerism, maybe, but there are other things to strive for and be interested in life.

        I dare to stay by what I wrote.

        Less conscious thinking is not a virtue.
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          Jul 31 2013: Yeah, the self-confident consumerism is an odd phrase to me, but it conjures up an image of shopping centers and store aisles and restaurants, etc. all crowded with humans that are perpetually smiling with glazed-over eyes and acting like stimulus-response machines more than in Homo sapiens sapiens, the thinking ape.
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        Jul 31 2013: Scott, I don't think its neurologically possible to have "less conscious thought so that we become more self aware" because self-awareness is a contemplative state of non-judgmental awareness of one's self. It is the sort of conscious thought we should pursue more often. The opposite of conscious thought is mindlessness, where one is no longer self-aware or conscious of what one is doing. You see where I'm coming from?

        Your last line sounds more appropriate: "Abandoning that to become fully self enlightened by virtue of less conscious thinking about your station or relationships in life would br ideal."

        It reminds me of on the precepts written by Miyamoto Musashii in the 'Dokkodo' a week prior to his death: " Consider yourself lightly and the world deeply." This statement balances out the "less conscious thinking about your station or relationships" as you put it or "consider yourself lightly" with more conscious thought that is centered on the world, to be deeply aware of the world around you.
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        Jul 31 2013: "To be happier we need less conscious thought"

        that is god damn true. but you can increase happiness even further using heroin. heroin is the best approach in happiness increasing by a country mile.

        however, one might consider other POVs, like long term happiness, purpose, morals, empathy and such things. and if we do, heroin as well as abandoning consciousness should be considered harmful, in the same way.
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    Jul 19 2013: Hi Scott,
    How did you come to the realization that happiness can be achieved much easier if a person allows their subconscious to take over and abandon rational thoughts? We have rational, logical thoughts for a reason....why abandon them? I don't see any reason to evaluate this question based on "conscious versus unconscious" information.
    We have both, and finding the balance of how and why we use both seems more logical and realistic.

    I suggest that what you refer to as overthinking and overanalyzing, is often, repetition of the same information over and over again, and as Ken insightfully writes on this comment thread..."may have little reflection on reality".

    A lot of the overthinking and overanalyzing people sometimes engage in, is information from the past, or projections of the future. Regurgitating the past doesn't serve any useful purpose, and we can certainly make plans for the future, based on our hopes and dreams, but focusing on the past or future, often gets in the way of fully experiencing the present moment.

    We can evaluate past experiences and apply our learning to the present. We can plan and dream for the future, and we can be fully engaged in the present moment, listening to our conscious thoughts, unconscious thoughts, (which can become more conscious when we are aware), intuition, instinct, rational and logical thinking.

    As multi sensory, multi dimensional, intelligent, human beings, whose brains are growing in size with evolution, there is no reason to limit our thoughts. We certainly can reduce or limit those thoughts which do not serve any useful purpose, and that is a choice.
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    Jul 19 2013: We certainly do over think things. That's especially true when we're on a task that has serious repercussions for our future if we fail. Our brains get caught in a (fear of failure loop), which increases anxiety, which increases the likelihood of failure even more, which of course becomes actual failure many times. There are many talks on the issue. Sadly I can't remember the name of the best one to recommend because I'm thinking to hard about it, See what I mean? When your head is spinning, trying to recall some information, it may be time to put down the pencil, or laptop, and vegetate for a moment, a day, a year sometimes. The problem obviously is how to achieve recall ,and get the answerers we seek without constantly retreating to confusion, deadlock, which can put us out of the running for an exam, a job, a success. The only real answer is forming habits, self discipline. The old standby for athletes , scholars, soldiers, you name it: drill, train, practice , practice, practice. If you're preparing for an exam, and you wait till the last minute, your dead before you start. If you sit around pigging out on Ben and Jerry's, pizza, and beer, before the Decathlon, you're probably not going to perform well, Any soldier that puts on a uniform, and shows up at the battlefield without intensive training is not likely to survive long. It's all about developing good habits, and disciplined behavior that reduces confusion. Great example of confusion thinking would be the (lost car keys syndrome). Instead of scurrying around freaking out, just ( stop ) close your eyes, take a deep breath, or ten. Then think carefully about the (exact last time you saw them),works every time.
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    Jul 19 2013: the problem is too much emotion and too few conscious thought, not the other way around.

    overthinking means you try to approach the problem consciously, but you lack the necessary toolset. the correct reaction is to get help or acquire the necessary toolset.
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    Jul 16 2013: If you are asking whether it is useful to give yourself a break from deliberately thinking on a problem- by "sleeping on it" or taking a walk or whatever, it is a useful strategy. Getting enough sleep is also a good strategy.

    Most of our thinking is unconscious, whether we prefer it or not. Our unconscious often makes decisions without or before we are aware of those decisions.

    I regret I cannot steer you to a particular TED talk on this point, but perhaps others can direct you to one. Any neuroscience text would address the experimental evidence in this area. One that I know does is Eric Kandel's Principles of Neural Science, the most widely used medical school neuroscience text in the United States..
    • Jul 16 2013: I'd agree with you Fritzie,

      but lets not forget that many a dire situation (eg nukes), have come about due to lack of thinking with respect to - where this idea ends up.
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        Jul 16 2013: I understand this. I do not agree with those who argue that we make better decisions on all things by "intuition" rather than conscious thought. It is a common romantic notion.
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          Jul 31 2013: “Over time, the skill can change the heuristic. As Herbert Simon, one of the founders of what we now call the field of judgment and decision making, puts it, ‘Intuition is nothing more and nothing less than recognition.’” --'Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes' by Maria Konnikova
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        Jul 31 2013: Daniel, one might also say that intuition encompasses learning and accumulated biases.
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    Jul 15 2013: Scott i got this off this sites forums. If your interested, i was just reading it and "Pop" For some reason your idea surfaced, I don't know why, i don't see the connection but i like what you state.


    Curse of knowledge

    Human beings are on semi auto pilot most of the time so when we are in the 'flow' of telling our story we often forget to steer ourselves so that the audience 'gets it' ....a top ranking stand up comic has learned to set the the pace and the level of detail just right. Once the audience is with you then you can take them on a journey.

    Rowan Atkinson - Invisible Drum Kit

    Likewise 'the audience' is all to quick to jump to their own conclusions and venture of on their own journey of discovery...that story they tell themselves may have little reflection on reality or the story they where being told.
    Posted 9 hours ago #]
  • Aug 13 2013: Deeper understanding and intelligence arises naturally from a quiet mind. The mind is either the master or the servant. It is never both.
  • Aug 1 2013: Even when I am meditating I have conscious thought. Over thinking and over analysis is actually bad thinking driven by fear, insecurity, and a lack of self confidence. I assume not letting ideas die, you mean letting go of a bad idea and not changing course. That is driven by the same three elements
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    Jul 31 2013: I agree that there are a lot of problems caused by overthinking, overanalyzing, and not letting ideas die. I prefer the term for that as 'analysis paralysis.' The solution, however, is not to reduce conscious thought, but to increase it.

    “Whenever our thoughts are suspended between specific, discrete, goal-oriented activities, the brain reverts to a so-called baseline, ‘resting’ state—but don’t let the word fool you, because the brain isn’t at rest at all. Instead, it experiences tonic activity in what’s now known as the DMN, the default mode network: the posterior cingulated cortex, the adjacent precuneus, and the medial prefrontal cortex. This baseline activation suggests that the brain is constantly gathering information from both the external and our internal states, and what’s more, that it is monitoring that information for signs of something that is worth its attention. And while such a state of readiness could be useful from an evolutionary standpoint, allowing us to detect potential predators, to think abstractly and make future plans, it also signifies something else: our minds are made to wander. That is their resting state. Anything more requires an act of conscious will.” --'Mastermind' by Maria Konnikova

    More conscious will allows one to reduce the static of overthinking, overanalyzing, and not letting ideas die, be using awareness to condition the mind to focus only on what is necessary, to develop to the intuition to decide what information matters and what information does not:

    “Choosing wisely means being selective. It means not only looking but looking properly, looking with real thought. It means looking with the full knowledge that what you note—and how you note it—will form the basis of any future deductions you might take. It’s about seeing the full picture, noting the details that matter, and understanding how to contextualize those details within a broader framework of thought.”

    Read 'real thought' as 'more conscious will.'
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    Jul 19 2013: .

    "Subconscious thought" is our instincts in action.
    Instincts are our ancestors' successful experiences.

    Today's "conscious thoughts" mostly are application of our instincts in wrong conditions.
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      Jul 31 2013: Much of the time today our conscious thoughts are the application of our instincts, not always in the wrong conditions, but sometimes so. Have you considered how often our instincts are operating correctly in the right conditions though? I think this happens a lot, maybe most of the time, and we simply don't give ourselves (particularly our instincts) enough credit. We rely on our instincts to reduce the enormous flow of information that bombards us, both our senses and our cognition, at every moment of the day and make most of the decisions for us so that we can actually do things without being paralyzed by indecision.
  • Jul 19 2013: Best advice I can give is writing your ideas down. I personally love psychology and I think of theories all the time. If I don't write them in my psychology notes my mind will feel like the idea is going to die so I fixate on it, make it bigger and better. When I write it down I stop fixating on the thought. I also think it depends on your environment.

    When I'm alone I like to think rationally. When I'm with people who are happy, like friends, I'm more subconscious. When I see someone having anxiety for just about anything, I usually try to step in their shoes and see the root of these feelings. Thats me personally. It can also be your "autopilot". This happens (to me and a few friends at least) when your life and environment are too habitual. Think of when you go out of country or vacation. You're most likely not on autopilot. (autopilot as in this thinking). Alot of things are subconscious due to their heirarchy of needing to be addressed. Example: the environment + percieving what you're already highly familiar with. or a gut feeling that is fenced off with defense mechanisms.

    Long story short, I believe change stops this.
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    Jul 17 2013: I abandoned rational, serious thought back in the 60's for almost a year. My unconscious thought got me six free-loading roommates in my two-room San Francisco area apartment. That's all I remember. Hope it helps.
  • Jul 16 2013: Well, a lot more problems result in people abandoning rationale, choosing to ignore science and its findings which results in them continuing to destroy the environment through use of fossil fuels and pollute that environment further by dumping plastic in the world's oceans. Furthermore, the abandonment of rationale in favor of subconscious prejudices end up making people persecute and withhold the rights of women and gays. You're lucky enough to live in Canada, a rationale country, but if you spent a month living in the hell-hole of the US of A, where I'm from, with Republicans ignoring facts about the world and about the human body (specifically the female human body), you would learn to appreciate rationality a whole lot more, like how a wealthy person starts to appreciate his wealth to a much greater degree after a trip to a war-torn, poverty-stricken part of Africa. We literally have politicians who believe the Earth was created 6,000 years ago and that evolution is a myth, that's how bad it is.
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      Jul 31 2013: Rajiv, we agree! "Choice of attention--to pay attention to this and ignore that--is to the inner life what choice of action is to the outer. In both cases man is responsible for his choice and must accept the consequences. As Ortega y Gasset said: 'Tell me to what you pay attention, and I will tell you who you are.'"--W.H. Auden
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        Aug 2 2013: 'Tell me to what you pay attention, and I will tell you who you are.'"--W.H. Auden

        I've just paid attention to your comment. That probably makes me a... commenter :)
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    Jul 16 2013: "Do we need to reduce conscious thought?"