What Do You Think?
by Bill Marvin, The Restaurant Doctor™
Fish don't understand water. It is such an all-encompassing part of their environment that they are not consciously aware of it. As water is to fish, so is thought to people. Thinking is such a constant that few people are aware of much more than the content of their thoughts (what they think).
The key, though, lies in understanding how you think. You are always thinking but there are two distinctly different modes of thought.
Computer mode thinking
One way of thinking is when you are tapped into your memory, your past experiences, everything you already know. It is the sum and substance of everything that has ever happened to you and what you have made up to explain it. It is all old stuff. I call it computer mode thinking since it is similar to working with what has been programmed into a computer database.
When you are thinking in the computer mode, you actively search the database (memory) for information. It is a bearing-down type of activity. You take your thoughts very seriously. Because your thoughts come from a defined source, there's a "been there, done that" familiarity.
Computer mode thinking has an important place in our lives. It is invaluable for repetitive situations where all the variables are known. If you did not have a memory, you would have to re-learn how to drive a car every day. You would not remember where you live, the name of your mate . . . or how to operate a computer!
However, computer thinking is not of much help when faced with situations where all the variables are not known. Dealing with new situations using computer mode thinking causes you to interpret new events based on what you know from old events. It can keep you stuck in the past, repeating old patterns, making the same mistakes over again.
Receiver mode thinking
There is another mode of thought called reflective thinking or receiver mode thinking. I call it receiver mode thinking because, unlike the computer mode where you actively go searching for answers in the mental database, receiver mode thinking is about the answers coming to you.
This is the most appropriate way to think when faced with situations where all the variables are not known. Receiver mode thinking is like standing beside a flowing river watching ideas float by on the current. You notice what goes by with interest, perhaps even curiosity, but you don't become attached to what you see.
We have probably all experienced receiver mode thinking. For example, have you ever had an important problem that you were working on? You strain your brain, thinking about what to do. You make lists of pros and cons. You might become tense and irritable, your brow furrows, you have trouble sleeping and still there is no answer. Then suddenly you have a insight, a real "whack in the head" experience, a blinding flash of the obvious when the perfect answer appears to you as if by magic! Has that ever happened to you? Sure, it has!
Would I be safe to guess that the insight did not come while you were working on the problem? It may have come when you were just dropping off to sleep or just waking up. Perhaps in the shower, playing with the kids or puttering in the garden. It might have appeared when you were on the golf course or just relaxing. In short, it came when your mind was quiet.
Receiver mode thinking is that quiet-minded thought. When your mind quiets down, you are automatically in touch with a flow of deeper wisdom. It is where insights are found. Some might call it women's intuition or a strong hunch but it is quietly watching ideas float by on the current of your thinking and just recognizing the ones that apply to the situation at hand.
Being in receiver mode when dealing with another person is like being "dumb as dirt." You have no pre-conceived ideas about who they are, no judgements or assumptions about them and you do not automatically assume you know what they mean by what they say.
You operate from a state of mild puzzlement. It is a lot like Peter Falk's character in the TV series "Columbo." You tend to ask more insightful questions (note the article on coaching skills in this issue), great questions that just naturally occur to you in the moment. You will be awash in fresh ideas. Life is more spontaneous, fresh and exciting. Sound like more fun?
Please understand that these two modes of thinking aren't mutually exclusive. You do not have to forget everything you ever knew. When your mind is clear you have instant access to anything stored in the computer. If something in past experience is relevant, it will occur to you at just the right moment. You never lose what you know, but you don't clutter your mind at the outset with items from memory that don't apply to the situation that is immediately at hand.
I said earlier in this issue that a problem is only a situation where the solution has not yet occurred to you and that a condition is a situation that cannot be changed. How can you tell the difference? When in doubt, all you have to do is just clear your mind, tap into receiver mode thinking and let the answer become apparent to you.
By definition, mental health (healthy psychological functioning) is the appropriate use of both computer mode and receiver mode thinking. There is an appropriate use for each. So mental health really starts with understanding the role of thought.
This is, of necessity, the tip of the iceberg - a brief essay on a topic that deserves more attention. You will be hearing other applications of these ideas in the months ahead because the implications are so powerful.
However, if it has started to make you aware of how you think, if it helps you to recognize conditioned thinking when it appears at an inappropriate time, if it gives you a deeper respect for the insights that come from a quiet mind, then we have done some good.
If you start to become aware of your own thoughts - and recognize that you are the one doing the thinking - your life, both personal and professional, will improve measurably.
for further information, contact:
Bill Marvin, The Restaurant Doctor
PO Box 280
Gig Harbor, WA 98335
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