Once, in “Creative power of our thoughts“, I wrote about the power and significance of what “thinks itself in our heads.” I deliberately use this phrase – and not, for example, “what we think in our heads,” because for most of us, the thinking process usually (or for most of the time) occurs unconsciously, and we have absolutely no control over it. We operate based on an internal autopilot, which I wrote more about in “Why do I think what I think? Why do I do what I do?”. Today, in reference to those earlier texts, I will discuss a bit about the origin of thoughts themselves.
Fascinating paths of thought
Have you ever wondered, dear reader, where the thoughts in your head come from? Why are some of them a quiet, subtle whisper, while others are a loud scream, urging us to act, or on the contrary, to refrain from acting, even though just a moment ago we really wanted to do something? Some of them are like lightning, fleeting and intense, accompanied by strong but short-lived emotions. Others, on the other hand, are much more subtle, muted, but still persistently manifesting somewhere in the background.
When you look at them, the paths of our thoughts are really fascinating! For example, a single, seemingly insignificant sensory stimulus can trigger a rich mosaic of memories and emotions, leading us through a complex network of thoughts and feelings. Take a simple example: entering the kitchen, you smell the scent of freshly ground coffee, which immediately transports you in thought to the place where the coffee tasted the best to you, a small cafe in Rome, where you made a short stop while touring this beautiful city. The memory of Rome quickly connects with another, about exotic sellers of various kinds of souvenirs, who, around every Roman monument, as soon as they realize you are from Poland, start encouraging you to buy shouting in Polish: “cheaper than from Biedronka.” This thought, in turn, pulls you out of the blissful climate of the Eternal City and shifts your attention to the contents of your refrigerator – the question arises in your head: do I perhaps need to make some additional purchases?………
Where do thoughts come from?
The paths of our thoughts can surprise and fascinate us, provided, of course, that we are aware of them and are able to OBSERVE them, which usually happens very rarely. No less fascinating is the search for answers to the question posed in the title about the origin of (our?) thoughts. At first glance, it seems simple: our thoughts are the product of brain activity. Only, that doesn’t tell us much in practice. The generality of the answer stems from the fact that we don’t fully understand where our thoughts come from. There are many theories on this subject, looking at the thinking process from different perspectives. However, it is helpful that they have several common elements worth pausing on:
- Most theories emphasize the central role of the brain in generating thoughts. Whether thinking is seen as the result of information processing or neuronal interactions, the brain is the foundation on which these processes are based.
- One of the most basic common assumptions is that thoughts arise from neuronal activity. Although theories may differ on how exactly neuronal processes translate into thinking, there is agreement that interactions between neurons and their networks are fundamental to thought generation.
- It is quite commonly accepted that thoughts are a derivative of the emergent properties of our brain, which is capable of creating qualitatively new forms – thoughts – as a result of interactions between simpler elements (these simpler elements are neurons, which by themselves are not capable of thinking).
- Most theories recognize a significant influence on what “we think” of WHAT WE HAVE EXPERIENCED IN THE PAST, thus our INDIVIDUAL interactions with the world in which we live. This refers both to our sensory experiences, as well as the INFLUENCE OF EDUCATION, MEDIA, AND CULTURE.
- Many theories take into account the plasticity of the brain, that is, its CAPACITY TO CHANGE and adapt in response to experiences. This element is key to understanding how thoughts generated in our heads CAN EVOLVE over time, based on our (new) interactions and experiences, and also – which is still quite rarely practiced – CONSCIOUS SHAPING OF BELIEFS, which then influence what “we think”
Time for an evolutionary breakthrough
As it stands today, we do not have – at least from the scientific community – a definitive answer to the question of where thoughts come from. And science is only a segment of our inquiries on this topic. Philosophy goes even further, asking questions about the nature of consciousness and the essence of thought. Do thoughts exist independently of us, or are they a reflection of the physical world? Another interesting question from the same realm concerns the source of moments of unique inspiration (insight), commonly attributed to the creators of great scientific discoveries or works of art?
This long list of uncertainties should not lead us to the conclusion that “thoughts are what they are, and it’s not worth pondering over them.” On the contrary! In my opinion, one of the most important evolutionary breakthroughs we can make is when we move away from operating on an “internal autopilot”, most of the time generating thoughts in a way that is unconscious to us, built on “stories from the past”.
Such a mode of (unconscious) functioning leads to the fact that, in a social dimension, the events of human civilization here on Earth are, in their own way, a constant repetition of the same patterns, which invariably include phases of increasing chaos and aggression. Indeed, isn’t what is currently happening – whether in our country or in the world – something that is densely covered in the pages of history books?
A breakthrough in the approach to the thinking process – and thereby the way we perceive the world and people – is, in my opinion, necessary for the reconstruction of the world’s socio-economic system. It’s high time to turn off the autopilot and AWAKEN THE TRUE, CONSCIOUS PILOT in each of us. This, in my opinion, is the only way to avoid – as humanity – a repetition of what we have already experienced many times in the past.
The image accompanying the text was generated by AI (DALL-E)