Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The Structure of Your Mind

Ever since you were born, you were in a non-stop phase of constructing your mind.  As with any building, there are different components to its construction.  The components for the base of your mind are: 1) biology; 2) biography; 3) society.  With these added, you get a total that is greater than the sum of the parts: your mind.  Your mind is complex and constantly changing.  The earliest influence is our genetic predisposition, which interacts with our biology and that interacts with society.  As we continue, we shall see that there is a commingling of deterministic and free will aspects of our lives.  

After conception and our genetic predisposition, the primary contributor is biology.  This is the initial blueprint of the structure that your mind will be based upon.  It will also be one of the key contributors to further development throughout your life.  It will be the basis for neural and overall physical development.  If there are problems at this level (genetic, disease or accident), then future development of all kinds will be impaired if not impossible.  For example, if there are not a sufficient number or type of cones in the eye, one will be colorblind to some extent and won’t be able to know what ‘red’ is as compared to other colors.   Equally, if born deaf one won’t be able to hear voices and music, or speak phonetically articulately.  Finally, if born without the sensation of touch, one won’t be able to tell what ‘hot’ is as compared to cold.  Biological abilities and limitations will affect future cognitive development.

The next level for contributing to our mind structure is biography.  Biography is our experience and the processing of life events, including how we (if we) reflect upon those events.  It is from this base that we see individual units as distinct from others and begin to conceptualize based upon that distinction.  This is done in two phases; recognition of individual units and grouping into an individual concept.  For example we see six identical units, we say we have six apples, but as there are other small, round sweet fruits we come up with the concept of apple as contrasted to the concept of orange; as they both share some characteristics while not other characteristics with each other and other types, we combine or exclude them from the greater category of fruit.  This is a pre-social acceptance of a term, for what may be ‘hraguhd’ to the toddler who doesn’t have language, will be changed to black in English-speaking societies, negro in Spanish-speaking societies, and so on.

Our experience of apples and oranges can be extended into ripeness, whether over or under, or even rotten.  We contrast each type of fruit so we don’t treat one different ones such as a banana to be as long-lasting as a walnut.  Similarly, this same process of experience, we come to make friends, have food preferences, as well as music and all other appetitive preferences.

The final level for contributing factors to our mind’s construction is society.  Whether formally or informally, expectations and rules of how to act ‘legally and ethically’ as well as general behavior are defined and enforced by society.  This includes everything from gods to worship or deny, gender norms, roles of the citizens and the State, professional roles and all else where individuals in society interact.  This is a two-way street for it guides us toward what is acceptable and what is not acceptable.  This begins as small as one’s family in childhood to as large as one’s country or religion.

These three levels interact to construct the base structure of your mind.  When we combine the three levels, we can see the interaction.  We are born with predispositions that direct us toward a preference for some things over others, such as authoritarianism/libertarianism, toward drinking alcohol or not, sexual preference and so on.  From our experiences, we develop a penchant for specific parts of those broader preferences, such as when do we care to dictate or live free, or if we will pursue hetero-, homo- or bi-sexual interests.  Society influences in whether those authoritative/libertarian acts are acceptably exercised: are you exhibiting authoritative acts by being a bully and a brute, or by being a coach and a guide; are you being libertarian by ignoring speed limits, or by ignoring property rights and stealing?

However, an empty building does not make a home.  All buildings are more than just the physical structure.  The biology states there will be specific rooms.  Your biography states what kind of material the rooms will be built from and how big those rooms need to be.  Lastly, social influences will state what should be placed inside those rooms.  To visualize, we can picture an artist; that artist was born with genetic predispositions such as a higher sensitivity toward picking out details for art, say colors.  These predispositions and potentials are then utilized in biography where enacting with the environment, the artist will come to prefer certain colors, textures and the like.  Lastly, society will press upon the artist what subjects are appropriate or inappropriate to treat in artistic expression.  The artistic room will be built of a better material, be larger and decorated more than other rooms; the artist who prefers to use white marble in smooth sculptures has his mind’s home.

There is a final point to consider.  As mentioned earlier, the mind is more than the sum of its parts.  It is the self-directed aspect that is consciousness that completes the mind.  As you grow, you fill the floors of your mind’s structure.  

Being that at our base we are animals, that is we have bodies, the body has its requirements for our mind to function.  If we are starved, we are not as likely to be able to focus and ponder the nature of the universe or understand the text on a page as well as if our hunger was sated.  The ground floor is where the body gets its base necessities taken care of: resources in and waste out, as in loading and unloading gates.  Base bodily functions of all sorts begin here.

The next level up is the security center, where our sense of safety can emerge.  It is the base from where our ‘guards’ reside, our walls and barriers are constructed for when they need to be deployed.  Our bodies and minds are vulnerable to threats, and it is to this level that handles those threats, whether it may be a threat to employment, home, yourself or loved ones, it is handled by the security level.

The next level up is where our taking in and putting back out into society is based.  Consider this equally the main living area where you get ready to go out into the world, interact with friends and family you invited to interact with you.  This is where the general, pleasing aspects of life are shared.
The next level up is a more personal place.  Those who you allow to enter here are more important to you.  It is the difference between an acquaintance, a family member and your beloved; the acquaintance may not be invited at all, while the family member may get to visit this area at times, but your beloved and those you hold dearest visit the most.  This is where you want and feel your best self with esteem gained from those you esteem.  Want to be the best lover, partner, brother, sister, or whatever else and feel the appreciation of your being your best at what you do – it is at this level that it is done.

The first four levels are each dependent upon someone or something external.  The final level is the highest level.  Unfortunately, not all create this level.  This is where you are truly you.  This level is not based upon relationships – it is not tied to another.  You may want to be the best lover from the level below, but when you are not actually being the lover and are on your own – who is that?  Disagree with what society prescribes, it is here you emerge above the role handed down.  This is the level of self-actualization, your highest achievement for this level will enable you to be better for the lower levels by advancing to your greatest potential.  This highest level is where the total being more than the sum of the parts.  

That these are in ascending levels does not mean that the prior level has to be fully sated before the next can be attained.  You can – and generally do – have varying levels filled at any given time.  However, achieving the higher levels enables the lower levels to be endured when having moments of trouble.  For example, parents who will forego sating their own hunger to feed their children.

A final point to consider.  From the moment we are born change is constant, and we are continually assuaged by external and internal factors – how society presses upon us, how our own biology presses upon us and how we integrate everything to then return it back into our world.  Our experiences and our thoughts may change us, and from that we act in ways that can change our environment that in turn acts upon us once again.  It is a combination of genetic predisposition from conception, environmental factors and biology, to social factors and finally self-direction and actualization – that is if you reach the highest points.  This is your mind’s structure, everso briefly summarized.   
[Psych 101 level intro]