BECAUSE A SIMPLE QUESTION LIKE: “HOW DOES THE HUMAN MIND WORK?” MAY HOLD THE KEY TO YOUR HAPPINESS.
We are usually at the service of the mind and not the other way around. This generates us an enormous suffering in our daily life. To change this dynamic, and thus free ourselves from self-inflicted suffering, we must be able to answer the question: how does the human mind work? Understanding how the human mind works is a necessary step to get rid of suffering and thus achieve happiness.
How does the human mind work?
- 1) Blinking thoughts:
Just as our eyes blink without our control, the mind works similarly. The human mind constantly throws out thoughts without us being able to stop them or do anything about them. About 80% of our thoughts are of this type (thoughts independent of us), while the rest are thoughts that we consciously create.
To see it more clearly we can use the following examples:
It’s very common for us to wake up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. When we go back to bed, likely, a thought will just pop up in our minds, without us wanting it. Besides, it’s also quite probable that such a thought is a worry or some kind of unnecessary thought if all we want is to go back to sleep. These are what I call blinking thoughts.
On the contrary, we have those thoughts that we consciously use. For example, to write this article I’m using my mind and consciously bringing up thoughts that will help me do that.
Realizing this function of the mind is very important, as we constantly engage these blinking thoughts and we start an inner conversation. And so we can spend hours and hours “inwardly talking” about unimportant things that lead nowhere and create stress and suffering.
- 2) The mind sees everything crooked:
If you look at your internal dialogue, whatever the topic, it is very difficult for the mind to label something as simply right. If you notice, the mind is always judging and classifying things. Everything is simply wrong or at least can be improved, it’s never enough and therefore the human mind never rests.
To better understand this, I like to use the following simile:
Surely at school they taught you the pencil and water glass experiment. The teacher showed you a pencil, completely straight, and when the teacher put it inside the glass of water it seemed as if the pencil was making itself look crooked. The pencil was never crooked, it was only an optical illusion.
The same thing happens when we see life through the eyes of our mind. No matter what it is. As long as we see it through the eyes of the human mind, the mind will make it seem crooked even though it isn’t (just like the pencil).
Identifying this characteristic of the mind will help us see that the mind is not good for everything. Just as the hands as part of us have a limited set of capabilities, so does the mind. We must not see our lives through the eyes of the mind!
- 3) Human mind works on contrast:
Another aspect of how does the human mind work? Is that the mind sees everything as a duality: black/white; beautiful/ugly; high/low; etc.
When we see life through the eyes of the heart these theoretical opposites don’t exist. They are simply different rhythms of the same energy. For example, heat and cold are different rhythms of the energy we know as temperature.
Human mind always works on the contrast.
On the contrary, the mind always understands the “two sides of the same coin” as very different and opposed to each other. It will also define one of the sides as negative while the other will be defined as positive. Most probably it will also focus its attention on what it understands as negative, forgetting what it understands as positive.
To get a better grasp of this, I like to use the example of health and illness. When we are healthy, we are not constantly thinking and feeling grateful for the good health we enjoy. Actually, we forget about health entirely! The exact opposite happens when we are sick. The moment sickness comes into our life, our mind will constantly remind us that we don’t want to feel like this. At this time, health will come back to our memory and our mind will remind us how much we miss it.
- 4) Belief systems:
The things we do. Do we do them? Or are they automatic responses that escape our will and control?
At birth, we begin to acquire so-called belief systems, which are determined by where we are born, by the education we receive from our family, from our friends, from school, from the books we read, from television, etc. These belief systems are like computer programs that are installed in our minds without us even realizing it.
For this reason, and in response to the questions that I pose, I can say that most of the actions that we take in our lives are not conscious actions but on the contrary are automatic responses that we carry out based on the belief systems that we have installed in our minds.
Once, the Dalai Lama was giving a lecture in New York. A man in the audience asked him the following question: – If you see that someone is about to jump off a bridge, to take his own life, what would you do about it? – The Dalai Lama did not answer. Silence was his answer. After a few minutes without a reply, the man again turned to him and said, – Don’t you know what to say? – To which the Dalai Lama replied, – Exactly, I don’t know what to say. That has not happened yet, so when I get to that moment I will know exactly what to do. –
With this anecdote from the Dalai Lama, I am trying to make you see that a regular guy would have answered what he thinks he would have done in that situation. And also that the answer would have been based on the belief system he has in his mind. But the truth is that we still don’t know what will happen or what we will do when a future situation becomes a present situation. We will only know when the situation reaches the present moment.
- 5) The “about”:
When we use the eyes of the human mind to see or understand life, what we think we’re seeing or understanding, is not what it is. In other words we are thinking “about” what life is, but we are not seeing it as how it is. So we are creating a barrier between us and life.
For instance, look at what happens in your mind when you meet new people. A thousand thoughts about what that person is like will quickly come into your mind. A person who, by the way, you don’t even who yet. Mentally, you will judge that person for the way they are dressed, their hairstyle, whether or not they are shaven, the color of their skin, etc. In a few seconds you will have made a mental picture of what that person is without even knowing it! You will make all these judgments based on the belief systems you have at that point in your life.
By understanding how the human mind works, we will be able to tell when this is happening to us. Then, we will be able to be aware of this way of functioning of the mind, which is preventing us from really seeing the person (or whatever it is) in front of us, and so we can change it simply by silencing our inner mental dialogue. Then we will begin to see life and not think “about” it!
- 6) Time:
As the last feature to answer: how does the human mind work? I have to talk about Time: the Past and the Future, never the Present moment. The mind loves to remember the past and think about the future, which by the way has never existed.
When the mind thinks about the past, it does so selectively and interpretively. That is to say, the human mind likes to select what is interested in remembering. Moreover, what the mind is interested in remembering, is at the same time interpreted in its way, because it doesn’t remember how it exactly happened. This is common when talking to friends, we remember anecdotes from the past. You may remember stories that your friends don’t. And it is also very possible that stories that several friends remember aren’t remembered in the same way.
The truth is that the past doesn’t exist. The past only existed when it was the present moment, and it’s already part of who you are as a person today. You don’t need to remember it! Besides, it’s very common to think about the things we did in the past and regret them. All the things we did in the past are like “bricks” that have built the “house” that you are today. Therefore, let’s not regret our past actions!
As for the concept of the future. This is so much fun! The past at least existed, but the future has never existed. It’s just a mental fiction! But we love to think about it.
How many things do we say we’ll do tomorrow that we’re not doing today?
The future acts like a drug, which “helps” us to postpone things we don’t dare to do now. And the answer, why we don’t dare to do them right now, is because we are probably afraid. The future is a drug that hides fear, and that is why we love it. because it evades us from reality (from fear) -When will we do what our heart tells us to do?- -When I retire, when I have a partner, when I have a better job, etc.- It is important that we recognize this fear and not deny it. It is important to accept this fear so that little by little it will disappear.
As a conclusion to this article in which I try to answer how does the human mind work? I would like to emphasize that by understanding how the human mind works we can take action when this is happening to us. As I have indicated, the mind is not good for seeing life. So replacing this inner dialogue with silence would be a good way to start. It’s time for us to stop being in the service of the mind! It’s time for us to set the mind at our service!
DESIGNED BY: ALBERTO GONZÁLEZ