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THE RELATIONSHIP OF WHAT WE THINK AND HOW WE THINK

Is the content of an idea fixed or does it change during the process by which it is heard and thought about? If so are there as many versions of one idea as there are brains processing it?

We might put a lot of effort into the content of what we think. We might learn, study, memorise to try and get that content ‘right’. We might like to assume that the content is correct, a kind of universal truth. Perhaps, our world feels safer, more orderly and understandable, if there are universal principles that just need to be understood and believed, to unlock the secrets to life?

At the same time there is the process of how we think. Could different languages shape the way we think? If we think in language, do our personal choice of words change our thinking? What happens if we think in images? How much influence does our upbringing have on creating habitual patterns of thought? To what extent does the culture we grow up in create a particular way of perceiving our world? Is the research suggesting men and women think differently, valid? Can our minds mature to think in new ways? Did Jung contribute to possible ways of thinking with his four functions of sensing, intuiting, thinking and feeling?

If there is a possibility that each of us thinks in our own sweet way, does it mean that there are as many different version of an idea, as there are brains to process that idea?

So, whilst we like to think of ideas being static and the same all over the world, perhaps they are being re-interpreted, adjusted and subtly altered by each mind they pass through.

If we can embrace this possibility, would it make it easier to accept different versions of an idea we are particularly fond of? Can we connect to others more easily if we have an appreciation that their beautiful mind may process thoughts differently? To what extent can we learn from the way other people think?

This leads to the possibility that we might be able to train ourselves to think differently. So that rather than just having one way of thinking we develop our minds to think in several different ways. It is tempting to find another way of doing something, decide it is better and change, leaving our old ways behind. The bigger challenge is, could we retain several choices in how we think, accepting that thinking differently will change the conclusions we arrive at when processing an idea? Think of it like a computer that is able to change software to come up with alternative processing and potentially different conclusions.

Speaking different languages would help, just as living in different cultures provides diversity. Exploring how others think may open up new possibilities in us. Perhaps just accepting it is possible to think differently and having the intention to explore an idea differently would be a starting point. Is it possible that out of this we can develop a more flexible mind that can adjust to better understand the way other minds process information? Would we see more possibilities in life with our flexible minds? Could we create a bigger range of possible solutions with our flexible creativity?

I like to suspend judgement of any idea. Rather than decide if it is a good idea or not, I spend some time just understanding it. I can take it apart, de-construct it and put it together. I can play with it and use it in different ways. I can describe its qualities, rather than like or dislike them. Then my challenge is to process the idea differently. What happens if I believe it for a while? How does my relationship with the idea change if I judge it? How do I feel living with a particular idea?

By thinking differently our world appears different, we become different, and life changes.

Copyright Simon Brown, London, 2011