We live in a confused society that has mistaken feeling for thinking. This state of being is not only excused, it’s encouraged. It is beneficial for the merchant to encourage our thinking through emotion-based advertising–caring parents buy brand A breakfast cereal. The politician encourages exclusivity and patriotism to persuade you to vote for her. Emotions, while often useful, tend to short-circuit our thinking. Even if we’ve given careful, rational thought towards a decision, we often surrender to the emotional appeal.
During quiet times of the day, it helps to calmly reflect about one’s mode of thinking. We might name it a “feedback loop”, whereas we think about our speech and actions and how we can improve them in a non-regretful nor boastful manner. The idea is to become more objective about our subjective lives. To think in this way, opens the mind to new frontiers and possibilities. This happens in part because we let go of the emotional attachment to our past thoughts and actions.
Because the emotional aspect is ever-present, adding rational thought to the mix is an exercise in mind-expansion. We never have to worry about losing the emotional, subjective aspect of our minds, it’s always there; filtering what and how we choose to think about. Taking the time to understand how our individual mental sorting process happens in our head is quite personal. What do we like? What do we dislike? How do these preferences influence the amount of time we spend thinking about them? How does the emotional aspect affect our opinions about them? Are we flexible in these opinions; or stubborn?
Our social aspect urges us to chose particular in-groups to join and to belong. We usually make those choices based on emotional preferences and rarely by rational consideration. A common example is political affiliation. We believe people are either liberal or conservative with slight variations of the two categories. When we chose to be one or the other, spokespersons and commentators from that affiliation encourage our fealty towards the group.
We are told what opinions we should hold and how we should think and feel. We owe our loyalty to like-minded members of that group because of our emotional attachment. True, independent thought is discouraged because it threatens the group’s cohesion. In a sense, staunch believers of the group’s dogma stop thinking.
Various modes of thinking occur within and outside the bounds of the various types of thinking. They include but are not limited to: abstract thinking, analytical thinking, concrete thinking, convergent thinking, critical thinking, creative thinking, and divergent thinking. During times of self-reflection we can ask ourselves how we view ourselves in logical, abstract, or emotional ways. How have your modes of thinking influenced the type of person you are and what kind of person you envision you will become?
To think is an enormous topic. Perhaps this little article will stimulate your thoughtful moments today. What modes of thought and branches of thinking have I not mentioned?
The Blue Jay of Happiness ponders a thought from theologian and writer, C. S. Lewis. “If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth, only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair.”