Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Emotion of Thought

Today's post has been supplemented with an update post! Simply scroll down, or click here to see it.

This post was supposed to start out with a quote from Buddha, but unfortunately I could not find the primary source for the quote. Nevertheless, here it is:
“All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think, we become.”
Guatama Buddha (probably)
This quote is spot on, whether the Buddha said it or not. I remember one of my professors asking "if our thoughts are just brain chemistry, then shouldn't we be able to alter our brain chemistry with our thoughts"? Anybody who has been depressed knows how depression can turn into a reciprocal loop which feeds on itself. On the other hand thinking happy thoughts, or smiling really does make you feel better.

What we think is proportionate to how we feel. One of the first things you learn in rhetoric class are the logical fallacies of argument. If one doesn't know any better, they could trap themselves in one of these. For example, have you every asked, or told yourself something along the lines of: "Why am I so fat?", "I'm so stupid." "How come everybody thinks I'm a jerk?" ? These are all loaded questions (or statements). They are a logical fallacy Fox News often uses, here are some examples:

Understanding and knowing these fallacies is the first step you can take to protect yourself from predatory propaganda, or more importantly, from yourself!

As humans, we are victims to more than just false logic, we are also victims to our emotions. Sometimes people will decide on a whim that they are going to do something all of a sudden like quit smoking, or lose a bunch of weight. Most of the time, they are not successful. In fact I had a friend who upon announcing that he was going to quit smoking, ended up smoking more then ever. Why? The need to avoid pain is biological. It is a survival mechanism that has been programed deep into our ancient brains. Those of us who could not feel pain were genetically pruned because they couldn't tell when they needed to get away from whatever was affecting them adversely.

For this reason, pain is stronger than pleasure. If we tell ourselves things that are going to hurt, things like "I'm too fat", then we're begging the question, convincing ourselves of a logical fallacy. If we want to change this, then we have to change the experiences we link pain and pleasure with. By associated more pleasure than pain with something, it is easier to accomplish that thing. The classes I do well in, I do well in because I enjoy those courses. When I have a class I don't find interest in or find boring, I focus on why I am taking that class, and how the good grade at the end of the semester will feel to me, and what those grade will do for me later on.

We can control the biochemistry of our brains.
When we think of experiences, the thought of the experience affects us whether it really happened or not. Think of a time a good friend or family member went behind your back. Or when you thought somebody was doing something adverse to you, and then that wasn't the case. How did you feel after being wrong? What state of mind does that put you in? Alternatively, when you think of things that are going really well for you right now, or what are you proud of? How does that make you feel?

Thinking is reality. Our brains do not know the difference between what we lucidly imagine, and what's reality. Neurons start firing when we think of something, and along with all that brain potential comes the emotions tied with those memories. It is what makes us human. Buddhists really are not far off when they try to end suffering through meditation.


  1. thats really interesting, gotta keep it straight

  2. Great read. Neuroscientist Dr. David Eagleman has some fascinating research on how most of what makes us "us" is devices in our brain which we have no control over. You should look him up if you're interested.

  3. propaganda sucks, this is a great post. people need to know the truth about media!!

  4. I hate that some people do not understand that a lot of Fox news is propaganda and not actual news.