The Human Mind – Part I – Overview

The Human Mind(Part I – An overview of how it all works at a practical level)

Reading Time: 10-15 minutes depending on your reading speed

Benefit of Consumption: Get an overall understanding of how your mind actually works practically, making it much easier for you to begin operating closer to your true potential and thus become whoever you want to be.

Who formed your personality? And are you happy with it as it is? Could you be more optimistic? Less shy? More courageous? More attractive to the opposite sex? More capable in any specific skill or field you have an interest in? Be more inspired in general about every day of your life? Be able to smile and be genuinely happy even when some slight misfortune comes your way? Be able to communicate your true feelings in an approachable and easygoing manner? Be able to start up an interesting conversation with even a stranger at a moment’s notice?

The fact is that all of the above questions remain just theories and daydreams until we actually understand how to manage our own brain in a way that is practically applicable and yields measurable results that will keep us motivated to continue the process of managing it.

This vast topic has many interesting avenues of thought, many of which could fill volumes in their own right. So as to avoid many of these time-wasting distractions which may be entertaining in the short run, but of little practical use for your life, I will be describing a limited (but very useful) model of the human mind-brain. Using this model, will make it very much easier to change your own brain in ways that are concrete, practical and above all that give you more freedom to be your true, inspired self.

It is after all necessary to understand what we are actually dealing with in a way that will allow us to personally grasp the basic concepts so as to make practical use of them before we can wax philosophical about all sorts of untested theories. Understanding these basic and applicable concepts is in any case certainly no less interesting, but has the added advantage of being extremely practically useful instead of merely entertaining from a theoretical point of view.

For the purposes of this article then, please keep in mind that:

  1. The model is not meant to be complete, just useful from a practical point of view.
  2. None of the concepts are to be taken on faith alone, ultimately, the test of a model is how useful it is in being applied to real life. I have used this model many times, firstly on myself, then on many different people and have had remarkable success with this approach, so I know it works in the real world. As you may not have the benefit of this experience yet, I respectfully ask that whilst reading this model you keep an open mind. You can always change your mind afterwards, but before you can honestly say that something is not true you do need to test it at least a few times.
  3. The purpose of this model is to give you as much as possible, real access to the patterns of ingrained behaviour you may not even realise are not your own, but have in fact been implanted throughout your life often in very haphazard ways, so that you may change them and replace them with healthier, more bug-free patterns of your own choosing that inspire, serve you and give you more freedom instead of keep you trapped, force you to behave in ways that are not ultimately useful or good for you and waste your time and opportunities to be your true, authentic, good self.

Without further introduction then, here is my model of the human mind-brain:[1]

What we come in withWhat we should strive for

What we have in the first diagram is essentially what we all come into the world with. A blank slate. This however does not last long. The latest advances in neuroscience have shown that the brain of babies remains its most plastic and malleable for the first two years, with some critical points during which a child learns massive amounts of information before becoming less plastic. To some extent this process of progressive loss of plasticity occurs throughout life, though it doesn’t have to. The same advances in neuroscience also demonstrate that the brain retains its plasticity even into advanced age and is essentially governed by a use-it-or-lose-it mechanism, just like the rest of our bodies.[2]

Similarly, just like people in their late seventies can suddenly begin to take up weightlifting with impressive results if they train correctly, the human mind responds with amazing capacity to heal and better itself if correct methods of training are used. In terms of the brain, those methods primarily consist of de-training old patterns and re-installing new ones. These are not just thought forms, but have actual, corresponding neuronal maps which for the first time in known human history are being measured and discovered in the lab.

The second diagram is a condition I believe we should be striving for. It may not yet be strictly possible at this point in human evolution, however, the latest studies of persons whom have trained themselves over periods of years have produced some extremely surprising and interesting results.[3] We now know, with scientific proof, that even supposedly instinctual reflexes can be controlled consciously by persons whom have made long efforts to become capable of controlling even autonomous functions like heart rate, reflex responses and so on. This condition, which in my opinion and experience is already partially achievable for us, would be one where you are conscious of a lot more of your environment at any given time yet retain the ability to relegate unimportant information to autonomous functions, however also retain the ability to be more globally conscious generally of everything both inside and outside of your body and mind.

Response-ability in this state is increased by degrees of magnitudes rather than percentage points. Persons whose neurology has been trained to respond this way in certain fields seem to have truly superhuman capacities in their field. I have observed and experienced this primarily in the area of martial arts and have indeed worked with individuals for whom a physical confrontation, even against extremely highly trained martial artists would pose little challenge due to the fact that their neurology has been trained to respond to actively objective data rather than instinctual (in some cases even inborn) reactions.[4]

What we have

In the third diagram above however, we see what we actually have. And to some extent we all have this even if we are Tibetan monks trained in the discipline of meditation since childhood, or Russian special forces personnel trained to de-program our instinctual reactive reflexes in order to replace those responses with more efficient and accurate versions for the purposes of increasing our survival ability in extreme circumstances.

As you will notice, the third diagram is considerably more complex, or “busy”. Let’s look at all its components in turn:

General Overview

Depending on what you are trying to measure and which books you read on the topic there have been various attempts to measure the various proportions of the conscious against the subconscious and unconscious components. Various methods have been employed none of them with very great success. Overall however, and for the purposes of this article, the classical divisions of the conscious mind being about 10% of the total, the subconscious being 60% and the unconscious being 30% are roughly accurate and generally usable. Although I have done work that suggests that our conscious behaviour is actually less than 5% most of the time although we have potentially access to something like 20-25% of it during moments of highly inspired flow.[5]

Conscious Mind

Classically thought to comprise between 2% and 10% of our brain’s capacity to process data in this mode. Some studies of behavioural psychology (most notably schools of NLP – Neuro-Linguistic Programming) quote a range of between 5 and 9 chunks of data (per second) being the limit for most people, though a “chunk” is not very clearly defined and can be composed of several bits of simpler information. By comparison, the subconscious/unconscious components have been measured in differing ways (and with somewhat questionable methodology) and have yielded results that vary from a range of about 2.3 million bits of data to a staggering 400 billion (per second). Regardless of the methods used it is however clear that the processing capacity of what can be referred to as the autonomous brain is vastly superior to the one we consider to be under our precise and direct influence.

The Critical Faculty

This “barrier” between the conscious and subconscious is not completely permeable and “leakage” between the two parts of the brain can be more or less pronounced depending on mental health, behavioural imprint patterns due to parenting, socialisation and cultural or traditional upbringing. The critical faculty is what separates the conscious, from the subconscious and allows us to make rational everyday choices, such as getting dressed before leaving the home for work, considering a situation rationally and logically before responding and generally behaving like a “normal” and “sane” member of society. By contrast, our subconscious mind can best be described perhaps by the condition we have during dreams. Here it is possible for an emotion like fear to give rise to imaginary monsters, elation to allow us to fly like a superhero among the clouds, and symbolism to play out in strange ways so that we may very well leave our home without clothes, pull on the steering wheel of our car to turn it into a plane, or even appear without seeming rhyme or reason in the Himalayan mountains next to a docile white tiger.

Generally, if the critical faculty is very “solid” a person tends to be less aware of their subconscious motives and needs and will be more rigid in their outer or social interactions. By contrast, someone with a very permeable and “thin” critical faculty and a subconscious filled with many imprints may be socially disruptive in the extreme, difficult to have a normal interaction with, prone to outbursts or sudden disinterest and will have trouble concentrating on anything for any length of time as well as be very strongly swayed by any emotions which may fleetingly pass through their system. Lastly, a “thin” or more permeable critical faculty in a person whom has a relatively healthy subconscious free of too many erroneous imprints is essentially what we generally refer to as a genius.[6]

A certain ideal “balance” of both extremes seems to be the most beneficial for what passes as a healthy mental attitude in our modern world. Being able to have some access to the unconscious in order to release accumulated tensions or dissolve unnecessary imprints of which the person may be somewhat aware of, makes a person able to handle higher levels of disorder and stress, thus making him more flexible and adaptable to changing conditions, increasing their efficiency and survivability at a socio-economic level. Correspondingly, the ability to become focussed and one-directional for extended periods of time in a very narrow field is the hallmark of the “professional person” in the modern world. Long hours of strenuous conscious effort at artificial, unnatural tasks being required in order for “success” to be attributable to the person.

As most readers will know, alcohol seems to have a “thinning” effect on the critical faculty, which explains why more socially repressed cultures such as the Nordic Europeans (British, German, Scandinavians etc) have a tendency to more readily accept relatively regular and prevalent drunkenness as socially acceptable. This is because, despite all the imprints which we form throughout our lives, some part of our mind-brain realises that we really would be very much better off without so many imprints of little or even negative use and recognises that letting these imprints or “bubbles” pop out into the conscious mind so we can dispel them once and for all is really not such a bad idea. Unfortunately doing so through drink almost never actually releases the imprints and in fact allows them to continue existing in their original form (sometimes in fact stronger than before) since their “outing” was not strictly speaking done consciously. The particular imprint does its thing while the conscious brain is stunned by drink or drugs and once the owner is eventually sobered up he will continue on very much as before. But with the added problem of a hangover and a new addiction to temporary “release” of his devils (imprints) through the artifice of drink and/or drugs.

The Subconscious

This forms our largest area of the brain-mind in adulthood and classical psychology for the most part remains confined to the endless game of trying to dissolve “bad” imprints and possibly create “good” ones in order to instil “mental health” in the “patient” who generally has to be patient because the process can take years and has only sporadic success. Nevertheless a good psychologist can indeed help someone although the mechanisms that allow this change to take place are actually seldom understood at a neurological level even by professional psychologists as we are only now able to measure some of these changes in any truly scientific capacity as opposed to anecdotal or subjective methods which may be indeed effective for a particular client but are non-reproducible for others.

Generally the subconscious is considered to “think” symbolically, with little or no language, tends to be dominated by emotions, symbols, images and “feelings” (more on this later). Our dreams are often thought to originate mainly from here and they sometimes can provide answers or resolutions to issues we have been dealing with in waking life if we are able to correctly recall and interpret the symbology of the dreams.

It tends to be the repository of most of the imprints we form after we gain language. In order to better understand this area we actually need to grasp the concepts of imprints, the “barrier” of repression and the unconscious to a better degree, at which point, this area of the mind suddenly becomes far less mysterious. See these concepts below and you will notice a deeper understanding of this area when you return to it without further explanations from me.

The Unconscious, the “Repression” or Language Barrier, and Imprints

If you refer once more to diagram 1 at the beginning of this article you will see that as newborn babies we come into the world as clear, blank slates. Obviating some physiological problem in the structure of the brain, we come into the world potentially perfect and with unmeasurably vast potential capabilities, the limits of which we are honestly unable to define to a finite degree with any kind of true scientific precision beyond rather crude physiological limits. Certainly our mental capacities (and many more physical ones than you suspect unless you take the time to actively research the topic in depth) always seems to be more than what our measuring ability is until we refine it by several degrees of magnitude; at which point, historically so far anyway, we generally find the human potential stretches beyond what we are able to measure in at least certain individuals and sometimes even in most individuals depending on what is being measured and how.

Being as we are born potentially perfect in a clearly imperfect world, our brain-mind immediately begins to asses the situation and begins to form patterns of behaviour that will increase our ability to survive this imperfect world. The prime directive of our central nervous system (ruled by the brain-mind) is to keep us first of all alive and secondly healthy. Survival however always takes immediate precedence, and it does so right from the start, even before we have any kind of communicating ability or any kind of language.

Essentially this means that even before a baby has developed the most rudimentary form of language, they have already begun to form global patterns of behaviour to increase their survival abilities.[7]

Progressively the infant learns what will get it the attention of the primary care-giver and these baseline imprints become more solidified. These patterns of behaviour that form prior to a formalised language structure are relatively pervasive and become large filters for how we perceive important relationships throughout most of our lives.

If these baseline imprints are relatively healthy then we are more likely to have relatively healthy primary relationships later in life. The more extreme or unhealthy these original patterns of behaviour are, the more likely that we will have problematic relationships in our adult lives.

Of course, these baseline imprints can and are “coloured”, or mutated either for better or for worse by later imprints, including ones we develop later on after we have learnt formalised language structures, however generally speaking the pattern tends to be one where the original baseline imprints tend to influence the ones most likely to form above them (in the subconscious part of the brain-mind).

This is natural because if as an example we firstly form a pattern of behaviour that has the rule:

“In order to survive (get attention/get fed/have whatever is threatening me looked after) we must scream as loud and uninterruptedly as possible for as long as possible”

We are more likely in early childhood to throw long, loud temper tantrums in order to get our way. If this behaviour pattern is rewarded or allowed to persist, we are most likely to receive attention/care/increased survival potential from those persons whom perhaps have a survival rule that reads something like:

“In order to survive I must appease the angry/loud/aggressive caregiver”

Which in this case above explains why so many abusive relationships are recurring for both the abuser and the abused, even when the specific persons involved change and new relationships are formed. The tendency is for the baseline imprints to dictate the kind of partner (unconsciously identified with the original caregiver) that will be sought (unconsciously).

Over time these baseline patterns of behaviour tend to get reinforced unless a significantly traumatic event that has a neurological amperage (or for want of a better term “power level”) that is at least equal to and usually considerably higher than the amperage which first formed the original baseline pattern. This is mostly unlikely to happen for a number of reasons.

Firstly if you have ever seen a baby that is upset about something you will notice that it’s whole neurology is involved at massive levels of distress. A baby does not quietly inform its parents it is hungry and fears death. It cannot do so. It has no language or even concept of language, only an overwhelming sensation of discomfort and imminent fatal danger. It cries. And how it cries. It’s whole little body is involved in screaming as loud as possible, involving every little muscle, nerve and sinew.

Secondly, this pattern is generally formed over weeks and months, if not years, of consistently repeating the behaviour (or a slight variant of it) up until the time it learns to speak. The neurological pathways for it then, are well trodden and the neurological connections made, strong and lasting.

A single traumatic event would have to be of a significantly higher “power level” to disrupt the normal “train of thought” that runs in the by now well-worn “tracks” of the original baseline imprint.

Thirdly, even if this did occur, the original imprint is not likely to have completely dissipated and unless a new, more rewarding and more successful pattern of behaviour is almost immediately discovered, and consistently repeated intensely and for some adequate time, the likelihood is that the old pattern, though possibly muted would be the easiest one to fall back into.

Fourthly, because the baseline patterns of behaviour are imprinted before language, the individual even in adulthood has no conscious way of being able to describe them to himself. Even if through therapy or prolonged introspection he were to intellectually understand what these baseline patterns were, the only way for him to access them would be to re-experience them at the same level of intensity and sense of helplessness during which they were formed. A frightening prospect for anyone.

Fifthly, these patterns, erroneous though they may be later in life, were formed because the brain-mind believed them to be essential to survival. And in fairness, often, at the time of formation at least, they truly were. Unfortunately even after conditions change and a better pattern of behaviour would be more suitable, the individual is left with the original pattern. Any attempt to delve into it, change it or dissolve it will inevitably result in sensations of extreme fear/dread, because neurologically the brain-mind would interpret the dissolution of such an essential and baseline pattern as quite probably resulting in the death of the individual.

A Slight Review of the Subconscious

Now that we have more clearly defined the unconscious as well as what imprints are, let’s take another look at the subconscious.

It should be relatively clear by now that the imprints in our subconscious are for the most part probably not the primal or baseline ones and that whilst becoming aware of them and dissolving them can certainly improve our lives the process would most likely be somewhat haphazard at best and offer only mixed results or sometimes only temporary ones. Which I think sums up most of what psychologists tend to do and have been doing since old Sigmund invented the practice.

In fact, in many cases, perhaps even most of them, the imprints found in the subconscious tend to be simply extensions of broader and even more pervasive imprints found in the unconscious part of the brain-mind, buried below a further barrier, commonly referred to as one of repression, but now more accurately defined as one of language.

For real change to take place we probably need to access the baseline imprints found in our unconscious and this takes a whole different level of depth and effort. Nevertheless, the situation is far from hopeless.

Merely understanding these issues as presented in this article already gives you an advantage over more than 99% of the world’s population as far as mental health goes and taking true, practical control of your brain-mind so as to become what Maslow defined as the self-actualised person you inherently have inside you, buried under the various imprints.

In the next article in this series we will begin to look at how to begin to really dissolve the baseline imprints for the individual, which is the first step towards true personal freedom and power.

[1] If you decide to use this model in your work or writings, and wish to use the body of this article, please give credit for its source. A simple mention of my name, original authorship of these concepts and a link to my site or this article prominently displayed will suffice if you are using it for non-commercial purposes. For commercial purposes keep in mind all of my site’s content is copyrighted to me and just contact me and ask what terms I am willing to make with you if any. I have used many and varied sources in my journey, and continue to do so. I always give credit for an idea or concept or body of work that has been useful for me and I would appreciate the same courtesy. I may be somewhat susceptible to this because I have been subjected to direct and intentional plagiarism before and it is irritating when someone takes your work to pass off as his own. It is also unethical and I loathe the practice of it.

[2] For an impressive overview read The Brain that Changes Itself by Norman Doidge

[3] Llamas tested in the lab. See Destructive Emotions by Daniel Goleman

[4] I have trained with several of these people and therefore speak from personal experience. Amongst them I would include Vladimir Vasiliev, Mikhail Ryabko, Konstantin Komarov, Uldis Veismanis, Sergey Ozherelyev and Vadim Dobrin. It is no coincidence that they are all Systema practitioners, a martial art that has had the benefit of extensive research by the Soviet military over many years with almost unlimited funds and personnel at their disposal.

[5] See this diagram and watch this talk on TED to see that the diagram was arrived at via a process of an extremely large set of data points over a number of decades.

[6] The fact that most “geniuses” tend to be specialised in certain fields of endeavour goes to show to a certain extent just how pervasive imprints are throughout the subconscious of even these people. A person free of most imprints in their subconscious is more likely to be very capable in multiple fields of endeavour, with a rapid capacity for learning new skills quickly.

[7] Interested persons can look up studies on attachment theory. To some extent, these studies, which have  now been carried out over periods of decades with a generally sound methodology and large amounts of data (which tends to iron out non-typical information “spikes”) are the only real valuable work done towards trying to understand the mental/neurological situation of physical abusers in adulthood. Specifically interesting was the study done trying to infer if male spouses that were physically abusive to their female counterparts fit a certain pattern of attachment behaviour in infancy. Though non-rigid, a pattern does seem to reliably exist and I have found it personally useful in the understanding and cure of abusers from their pattern of behaviour. On which by the way almost no work has been reliably done, as most work tends to focus on the victims of the abusers rather than understanding how to fix the abuser, even when these same persons truly wish to be cured. I note here that this refers specifically to physical abuse of a non-sexual nature mostly between adults, and not sexual abuse involving children. I highly recommend the articles and work of Daniel Jay Sonkin Ph.D. in this field; in particular his papers: Domestic Violence and Attachment Theory: Clinical Applications to Treatment with perpetrators (2006) and Treating Assaultive Men from an Attachment Perspective (Daniel Sonkin and Don Dutton – 2003)

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