Kelly's Theory of Thinking and the Human Mind
The mind of each person is a vast inner realm of patterns that coalesce into a life, a mind, a sense of living continuity—you and your "youniverse" of being. In my own unfolding conception of the human mind—the whole mind-body-heart-soul system of being—I attempt to seek a blend of concepts which are scientifically valid and supported by the evidence, and concepts which are clinically and transformationally practical for helping my clients make the changes of their dreams. The former keeps my conceptions of human thinking rooted in the real world of evidence, and the latter enables me to always have an eye to discover conceptions of thinking that will lead to the capacity of my clients to change.
In this article, I will lay out a number if ideas, which, when combined, form a scientifically valid AND practical way of viewing the inner world of the mind, of emotions, and of what makes us human, with an eye for what activates the amazing ability of people who seem stuck, to make important and even profound changes. These ideas include the variety of forms of consciousness; the nature of the panoramic scene; the creation of a verbal, categorical world that corresponds with elements of scenes; the process of blending concepts; metaphoric patterns in thinking; the formation of a self; and the larger narrative or life story in which that self lives.
I begin with a quotation by the father of modern psychology, William James from his book Varieties of the Religious Experiences:
". . . our normal waking consciousness, rational consciousness as we call it, is but one special type of consciousness, whilst all about it, parted from it by the filmiest of screens, there lie potential forms of consciousness entirely different. We may go through life without suspecting their existence; but apply the requisite stimulus, and at a touch they are there in all their completeness, definite types of mentality which probably somewhere have their field of application and adaptation. No account of the universe in its totality can be final which leaves these other forms of consciousness quite disregarded. How to regard them is the question, for they are so discontinuous with ordinary consciousness. Yet they may determine attitudes though they cannot furnish formulas, and open a region though they fail to give a map. At any rate, they forbid a premature closing of our accounts with reality."
James refers to a variety of entirely different forms of consciousness as distinct from what we consider our normal waking consciousness.
This variety of states of consciousness is the genius of the human mind. This is our leap ahead of our primate cousins. This makes us human, is the origin of science, art, religion and technology. And for the purposes of change, the variety of states of consciousness is paramount for guiding us on the journey to solve a problem, achieve a goal, and design a new life.
There are particular states of mind for healing old wounds; for planning a new career; for generating new behavior in a situation with a child, a spouse, a friend, a co-worker, or a customer. There are states of mind for generating and maintaining enthusiasm; for making ethnical, morally sound decisions; and for cooling down a hot temper. And much, much more. States of consciousness for the vast variety of problems we face individually, interpersonally, organizationally, as a society and as a species.
To develop a theory of human thinking, including emotional feeling, we need to take account of the variety of states of consciousness such as these to which I've eluded, even as we use consciousness to describe and understand itself.
Consciousness, of the human variety, is unique among living species on the only known planet with life—Earth. No other species can do what you are doing in this instant: reading.
Understanding Human Consciousness
The paradox of understanding consciousness is this: we have to use consciousness to understand itself.
The problem is this: if consciousness was simple enough for us to understand it fully, we'd be too stupid to do so. If we were smart enough to understand consciousness, consciousness would be too complex to be fully understood.
So where do we begin?
That-Which-Is-Obvious is where we must start to comprehend the experience of human consciousness. In the recent Sherlock Holmes film, Holmes observes that "There's nothing more elusive than an obvious fact."
What are the elusive and obvious facts we need to reflect on in order to understand human thinking? Next are some obvious facts for beginning this inquiry.
The Scene—A Phenomena Provided by Consciousness
When we look out on a room, we see, not only the object, or person of our focus, but also, we see that object or person in the context of the entire scene of the room. The images and sounds form a coherent scene with three dimensions of space and one dimension of time; we experience ourself as an observer and actor; we see objects as discreet; foreground as distinct from background; actions of objects and individuals as distinct from the objects and individuals; and what we notice and what is important in the scene depends on what we value in the moment. Thus, if we are looking for our keys in the our own living room; or if we are at a friend's home, in the living room, and greeting a dear friend we haven't seen in a long time; or if we are an interior designer sizing up a client's living room for redesign—what we see corresponds to what feels important to the viewer—you, me or someone else. And what feels important depends on the mental plan of the observer.
This all may seem totally obvious. It is.
When we close our eyes and listen to a room or any other scene, the same thing happens. We construct, from the sounds in the room, and from visual memories or visual constructions, a concept of the space and time in which we are an observer and participant.
As mammals, like all of the other 4000-plus mammal species on our planet, we have the same basic brain equipment to construct a concept of a scene, one that changes in real time.
This ever-present existence of scenes we see, hear and feel is no surprise. In fact, it is commonplace. You gaze upon a room, or a landscape. The scene is there. You close your eyes and listen to the sounds and the scene reappears as a heard and seen mental landscape. In dreams we reconstruct entire scenes on the stage of our imagination—our mindscape brings forth a world.
Very young children are not normally able to articulate their beginning experiences in learning to hear and produce speech. But we are lucky for the abilities of a certain little six-year old girl to do just that—Helen Keller.
Helen Keller's awakening to language and thoughts, from her Autobiography "The Story of My Life."
Here is a link to the full text of the book: http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/2397
She was born on June 24, 1880. In February, 1882 at about age 20 months, she lost her sight and hearing due to an illness. Her language skills initially diminished during first five years immersed in darkness and silence. But with Anne Sullivan, her teacher, she awakened to speech (necessarily written) on April 5th, 1887, about 10 weeks from her seventh birthday.
Here is Helen Keller's own account of this momentous, great moment in her life:
"One day, while I was playing with my new doll, Miss Sullivan put my big rag doll into my lap also, spelled "d-o-l-l" and tried to make me understand that "d-o-l-l" applied to both. Earlier in the day we had had a tussle over the words "m-u-g" and "w-a-t-e-r." Miss Sullivan had tried to impress it upon me that "m-u-g" is mug and that "w-a-t-e-r" is water, but I persisted in confounding the two. In despair she had dropped the subject for the time, only to renew it at the first opportunity. I became impatient at her repeated attempts and, seizing the new doll, I dashed it upon the floor. I was keenly delighted when I felt the fragments of the broken doll at my feet. Neither sorrow nor regret followed my passionate outburst. I had not loved the doll. In the still, dark world in which I lived there was no strong sentiment or tenderness. I felt my teacher sweep the fragments to one side of the hearth, and I had a sense of satisfaction that the cause of my discomfort was removed. She brought me my hat, and I knew I was going out into the warm sunshine. This thought, if a wordless sensation may be called a thought, made me hop and skip with pleasure.
"We walked down the path to the well-house, attracted by the fragrance of the honeysuckle with which it was covered. Some one was drawing water and my teacher placed my hand under the spout. As the cool stream gushed over one hand she spelled into the other the word water, first slowly, then rapidly. I stood still, my whole attention fixed upon the motions of her fingers. Suddenly I felt a misty consciousness as of something forgotten—a thrill of returning thought; and somehow the mystery of language was revealed to me. I knew then that "w-a-t-e-r" meant the wonderful cool something that was flowing over my hand. That living word awakened my soul, gave it light, hope, joy, set it free! There were barriers still, it is true, but barriers that could in time be swept away.
"I left the well-house eager to learn. Everything had a name, and each name gave birth to a new thought. As we returned to the house every object which I touched seemed to quiver with life. That was because I saw everything with the strange, new sight that had come to me. On entering the door I remembered the doll I had broken. I felt my way to the hearth and picked up the pieces. I tried vainly to put them together. Then my eyes filled with tears; for I realized what I had done, and for the first time I felt repentance and sorrow.
"I learned a great many new words that day. I do not remember what they all were; but I do know that mother, father, sister, teacher were among them--words that were to make the world blossom for me, "like Aaron's rod, with flowers." It would have been difficult to find a happier child than I was as I lay in my crib at the close of that eventful day and lived over the joys it had brought me, and for the first time longed for a new day to come." Here is Anne Sullivan's summary account of the same event of Helen's awakening into language and human consciousness:
"One day I took her to the cistern. As the water gushed from the pump I spelled "w-a-t-e-r." Instantly she tapped my hand for a repetition, and then made the word herself with a radiant face. Just then the nurse came into the cistern-house bringing her little sister. I put Helen's hand on the baby and formed the letters "b-a-b-y," which she repeated without help and with the light of a new intelligence in her face.
"On our way back to the house everything she touched had to be named for her, and repetition was seldom necessary. Neither the length of the word nor the combination of letters seems to make any difference to the child. Indeed, she remembers HELIOTROPE and CHRYSANTHEMUM more readily than she does shorter names. At the end of August she knew 625 words."
When Helen Keller lost both her sight and her hearing as a toddler, she still constructed a scene, with feelings of touch, and a mental concept of space and time.
What Helen Keller's experience and her recounting of it reveals about the human mind is this: . . .
Conceptual Blending: The Thinking Pattern that Makes Human Thinking Unique Bandwidth
Not only does conceptual blending make it possible for us to pair language with real-time and remembered sensory scenes, but also to blend such multiple scenes and their corresponding language patterns into an entire life story with one main character—the self. Yours and mine.
The Crystalization of a Self
I suspect all mammals construct a scene, unlike members of non-mammal species like, say, a frog. A frog's eye (a famous paper determined) shows the frog's brain something much more limited than the scene we mammals experience—only small, nearby, moving, fly-like objects. Frogs don't focus on the pond, the trees, or the sky. And some non-human mammals even recognize themselves in the scenes they construct, such as bonobo and common chimpanzees, and orangutans. But our closest primate relatives cannot create language, art, science, religion, tools-to-make-tools, and large-scale cultural evolution, among other uniquely human capacities dependent on human consciousness.
So what makes our consciousness human?
It starts with (but is not limited to) the ever-present scene, one with objects and actions, space and time, individuals and relationships, and emotions—which assign value. But we humans add much more . . . including the sense of self as an observer—an individual living a life story in the scene.
You and I have been constructing scenes and bringing forth a world since shortly after we were born. Over time a baby begins to identify not only objects, individuals, actions, and concepts like space and time, but also babies soon learn to be aware of one's self as a participant-observer in the scene. This self-awareness reaches a critical phase with our "first memory."
My first memory was an outdoor scene with me in a basket of some kind looking out on my mother and others picking apples from a series of trees a distance away. The experience was one of feeling and knowing: "I see them and I know I am seeing."
Perhaps your first memory is also a scene of some kind. Recall it . . . Or if you don't remember a "first memory," then recall an early one. Notice the aspects of it that matter: awareness of yourself as the person having the memory, combined with what you are observing and experiencing. This is a key phase of the crystalizing of the human self into an enduring aspect of every human mind.
How does that happen?
Speech is part of the answer.
[I'm not finished with this, and so will be adding to it soon . . . ]