Unraveling Reality – The Mind {16}

The Mind

“Something which I thought I was seeing with my eyes is in fact grasped solely by the faculty of judgment which is in my mind.” ~ French philosopher René Descartes

The mind is an intangible instrument which constantly creates the impression of us having a window onto the world, and into oneself.

“Mind and consciousness are not things, but processes.” ~ Fritjof Capra & Italian chemist Pier Luigi Luisi

Dreams illustrate that the mind is a fabricator rather than a straightforward presenter of Nature. While awake, what phenomenally appears before us is a phantasmagoric multimedia display, imaginatively sewn from disparate sensations into a consistent story. The persistence of an illusion does not make it real any more than the repetition of a lie makes it true.

Conscious & Subconscious

“Most of your experiences are unconscious. The conscious ones are very few. You are unaware of the fact because to you only the conscious ones count.” ~ Nisargadatta Maharaj

Trickles of thought make their way to conscious attention, the mind having them rise from the vast deep sea of mentation: the subconscious. The subconscious is the engine of cognition. Conscious thought is the fruit from subconscious roots.

“The way we conceive our world is what constructs our conscious experience.” ~ English philosopher Andy Clark

“The energy of the mind is the essence of life.” ~ Aristotle

Of Two Minds

Only a small fraction of our thoughts are willfully formed and pursued. This intended mentation issues from willmind.

In contrast, unbidden thoughts regularly rise to attention, indicating that the mind is largely managed by an agency independent of volition. This is nattermind, which is often a nuisance, as it readily distracts with fantasies, doubt, and distress: a deceiver by its nagging worries and schemes.

Nattermind makes the average mind wander away at least a 1/3rd of the day. The frequent distraction often lowers mood.

“Although the room seems quiet, it is full of disruptions – ones that come from within. Noisy trains of thought are hard to ignore.” ~ Indian economist Sendhil Mullainathan & American behavioral scientist Eldar Shafir

Nattermind’s incessancy is troubling for 95% of the population. Most people are discomforted in sitting idle, letting their own minds prey upon them.

We lack a comfort in just being alone with our thoughts. We’re constantly looking to the external world for some sort of entertainment. ~ American psychologist Malia Mason

Nattermind and willmind point out the manifold nature of the mind as receiver, deceiver, and deliverer. The mind is the energetic engine of life: the interpreter of inputs and the fabricator of the world; the constructor of concepts, beliefs, hopes, and fears; and the tool of all crafts.

Nattermind is not just a nuisance. This cognitive busybody is essential in acting as the gatekeeper of what comes to mind: determining which subconscious stream should surface to awareness.

In the ocean of mentation, nattermind manages the flow of currents. Willmind is but a small craft of volition sailing on the boundless subconscious sea.

In sum: nattermind is, by and large, the mind. Willmind is but a narrow peephole into a labyrinth.


“These are people who are on the extreme end of human experience, who are part of a continuum and not a separate category.” ~ American psychiatrist William Carpenter

Schizophrenia is a severe illness characterized by mistaking nattermind’s fictions for actuality and acting out on them. Common symptoms include confusion, false beliefs, hearing voices (that others do not), reduced sociality and diminished emotional expression.

“Schizophrenia is a modern development. Early hominids did not have this disorder.” ~ American psychiatrist John Krystal

Schizophrenia typically comes on gradually, beginning in young adulthood, and becomes a chronic condition, albeit with acute episodes. Schizophrenics often grapple with other mental health problems.

(Prior to schizophrenia ever manifesting, children who later suffer the affliction often exhibit flatter emotional states – less joy or distress – and fewer coordinated movements. These early signs may show in children as young as 5 years.)

Notwithstanding vast environmental and socioeconomic differences among societies, ~1% of the world’s population suffer schizophrenia, all around the world.

The root of schizophrenia remains unclear to researchers, as the disorder seems to reflect both heritable inclinations and environmental factors. Despite extensive study, geneticists have been unable to zero in on causality, finding individual genes only modestly correlated to the disorder.

“Schizophrenia is so highly, radically polygenic that there may well be nothing to find, just a general, unspecifiable genetic background.” ~ American geneticist Eric Turkheimer

(Polygenic means that a plethora of genes are involved.)

Environmental stressors seem to play a decisive hand in schizophrenia developing. Risk factors range from urban living or being an immigrant to experiencing abuses that include poverty, emotional torment, and sexual predation.

“Rates of schizophrenia are influenced by social or cultural context.” ~ Swedish psychologist Elizabeth Cantor-Graae

“We need a stronger focus on changing the environment so we can prevent schizophrenia. We need to give children better childhoods and better chances to avoid extreme stress.” ~ Norwegian psychologist Roar Fosse

Though ever-present to those who suffer from schizophrenia, the malady has no physical cause, and no chemical cure – a stressed and frenzied nattermind has rudely seized control.


“The good life is a process, not a state of being.” ~ American psychologist Carl Rogers

It is well-known that psychological weal correlates with physical health. Aristotle distinguished 2 kinds of well-being: hedonia and eudaimonia (from daimon: true nature). Whereas hedonic pleasure produces moments of happiness, eudaimonia satisfies.

Hedonic and eudaimonic well-being were originally distinguished to resolve basic and ancient philosophical questions regarding the best way for humans to live. ~ American psychologist Kimberly Coffey et al

Aristotle deemed happiness a vulgar idea, stressing that not all desires are worth pursuing – some may yield pleasure, but not produce wellness. Aristotle considered eudaimonia true happiness: finding meaning and purpose beyond self-gratification. Discussion of the links between character and eudaimonia was one of the central concerns of ancient philosophical thought on ethics.

“Although hedonic and eudaimonic well-being are conceptually distinct, they are empirically correlated and can reciprocally influence each other.” ~ American social psychologist Barbara Fredrickson et al

Both hedonia and eudaimonia make one feel good, but their import is distinct. Whereas eudaimonia is correlated with physical health, hedonic pleasure is not. The physical impact of hedonia and eudaimonia carry all the way into one’s genes, where hedonic happiness registers negatively: much different than eudaimonic satisfaction.

“An adverse molecular physiology of hedonic well-being appears not to register at the level of experienced affect. This dissociation of molecular well-being from affective well-being implies the potential for an objective approach to moral philosophy rooted in the utility of health and the basic biology of human nature.” ~ American immunologist Steven Cole et al

Aristotle was right about well-being involving positive engagement with the world, not self-centered pleasure.