Conscious Thought vs Less Conscious Behaviors

Do your thoughts cause your behavior? That might sound like a silly question at first. Of course, you feel thirsty, you know that taking a drink will quench your thirst, so you move your arm to pick up your glass and drink some water. It’s obvious that your conscious thoughts about being thirsty and knowing that water will make you feel better caused that action, right?

In fact, evidence from cognitive neuroscience suggests that conscious thought may not be as much of a driver of behavior as we expect. Many of our actions are ‘decided on’ unconsciously.

Do thoughts cause behavior?

The question of what causes behaviors has been debated in philosophical circles for thousands of years. The problem is this: if you believe the body to be a purely physical thing, as most philosophers these days do, then it’s hard to explain how this physical body could be controlled by a mind. How do thoughts (a mental thing) cause actions (a physical thing)? In all the rest of the world as we know it, there is no other example of a mental thing causing a physical thing.

The solution that some have come to is that conscious thoughts don’t actually cause behaviors – the thoughts merely run alongside the behaviors, and we think that the thoughts cause the behavior because they happen at the same time. This view, called epiphenomenalism, sounds bizarre but is one of the few ways to make sense of the relationship between mental and physical: conscious thoughts are just a kind of window dressing for behaviors that are actually caused by physical things like the environment.

Push the button
If this sounds like unfounded philosophical pondering, then you’ll be glad to hear that more recently cognitive scientists have performed experiments to investigate the brain’s role in causing behaviors. A famous experiment by neuroscientist Benjamin Libet used EEG (a kind of brain scan) to measure the moment at which people decide to take an action. The participants were hooked up to the EEG machine and then asked to push a button at any time they wanted to in the next 10 seconds, and to look at a clock and take note of the exact moment at which they decided to act.

The strange thing was that a distinctive pattern of brain activation was found before the participants reported deciding to push the button. It seemed that there was a decision making process going on in the brain which took place a full half a second before the conscious decision to act was made. This is pretty solid evidence that behaviors are caused, at least to some extent, by unconscious brain processes rather than by conscious thoughts.

Is that my hand?
That’s pretty strange, for sure – the idea that decisions are being made by you before you’re actually consciously aware that you have made a decision. But still, regardless of the time differences involved, you still feel like you make a decision and then take an action. You’d know if a behavior happened without you deciding to do it, right? If you thought one thing and your body did another thing, you’d definitely notice – wouldn’t you?

According to experimental research, maybe not. There’s a group of experiments called false feedback tasks, in which participants perform a simple action such as drawing a straight vertical line. The trick is that the experiment is set up so that the participants don’t actually see their own hand performing the task. Back in the 1960s, this was achieved by getting participants to put their hand in a box and using a system of mirrors so that when they looked down, they actually saw the experimenter’s hand instead of their own. Nowadays similar effects are achieved using computerized feedback. Using this system, experimenters give the participants false visual feedback. So, for example, instead of seeing their own hand drawing a straight vertical line (which is what their hand was actually doing), the participant sees a hand that looks like their own drawing a line at an angle.

The really strange part is that a large majority of participants still think that the hand that they see is actually their own hand. Even when the action that they intended to take (draw a straight line) was actually followed by a different action (draw a crooked line), participants still felt as if they were in control of their actions and that they had decided to draw a crooked line instead. This means that people perceive themselves as consciously controlling their hand even when it was actually controlled by a computer or by the experimenter, and they believe their decisions to be controlling the hand even when they are not.

Why does this matter?
As you can see, the degree to which your conscious thoughts control your behaviors is actually not as clear as you might think. In terms of both deciding to take an action before it happens, and making an assessment that we chose to perform an action after it happens, we are remarkably influenced by non-conscious factors. We assume that we have consciously decided to take a certain action when we observe ourselves performing that action, when in fact many of our behaviors are not consciously driven.

All this information from philosophy and neuroscience might be interesting to ponder over, but does it actually matter to our everyday lives? Arguably it does, especially when we think about behavior change. If you’re trying to turn over a new leaf, such as by giving up smoking, becoming more organized, or working on a project every day, then you need to think about factors other than your conscious thoughts that might affect your behavior. Things like the environment you are in and your bodily state (whether you’re hungry, stressed, well rested, and so on) can have a large impact on your behaviors even if you are not consciously aware of them. We’ll get into this topic in more depth in the next blog post, so check back soon! www.discoveryourself.com

Adapting and Connecting, Inside and Out

layers

As Shrek once said, ‘Ogres have layers!’ Exasperated, Shrek was trying to convey to Donkey how complicated it could be and feel as his behavior didn’t reflect what was going on inside of him. Ogres and humans might not have too much in common, but we certainly can relate to Shrek’s ordeal when it comes to our layers.

Carl Jung clarified his concept of the conscious and subconscious minds in his psychoanalytical research. He pioneered explanations of what happens in our ‘light’ sides, or the things in our brains that we can think about and analyze, and what happens in the ‘darkness’ of our subconscious minds. These two layers revealed more about humanity’s layers than was previously known and helped created the field of personality studies as we know them today.

Balancing behavior

The idea of the four color personalities is used to help us figure out where our personal strengths lie. This idea of ourselves comes from a combination of our unconscious and conscious thoughts about who we are and what we do with that information. Other people can’t always know what’s going on in our heads, which is why our external behavior is such a huge marker to others to display information about our personalities. When we act contradictory to our internal selves, discontent and confusion can result.

Our adaptable outer shell of behavior is just the outermost layer of what makes us who we are. Underneath is a complicated, wonderful bunch of layers that encompass our intellectual, emotional, and spiritual selves. Each of these layers works in different ways to instruct and inform our outermost behaviors, thoughts, and opinions.

When working with people of different personality types, our various layers can sometimes clash. Adapting to cooperate and work with people with every personality strength can be a challenge, which is where some outer behavior change can positively alter a situation.

Adapting and connecting

Adapting doesn’t mean conforming; rather, adapting to another person’s personality type can simply mean shifting your focus to them in a way that enhances communication and connection. For instance, when dealing with someone who is a Fiery Red personality, talking to them directly and energetically will capture and keep their attention. Interacting with an Earth Green energy can mean slowing down and paying attention to the nuance of a conversation while someone with a Sunshine Yellow personality will appreciate openness and optimism. Paying attention to detail and giving deeper thought to a project or topic can make a Cool Blue energy relax into an engaging conversation.

By paying attention to the personality traits of those around us, we can begin to shape our external behaviors to adapt better and communicate. This, in turn, transforms our inner layers, right down to our sense of self!

Jung opened up an entirely new world with his discoveries, and discoveries into the psychology of personality and the self are still being made today. Insights Discovery is based squarely on Jung’s theories, and as such is an invaluable tool in helping people understand themselves and others. Schedule me, Scott Schwefel, as your keynote speaker, and I will come to your group and address the differences in personalities in a truthful, fun, and easy-to-understand way. Follow me on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter to share my blogs with the color energies you work with!

Internal Compass Directs Personal Behavior

compass

Carl Jung’s idea of psychic totality looks something like a compass- each direction points to an unconscious or conscious set of functions that influence a person’s external behaviors. These internal compass points are constantly at play directing a person through life, but certain directions of this internal compass pull individuals in different directions. Everyone feels one or two psychic functions stronger than the others, but each one has a consistent influence on a person’s character.

Thinking, intuition, feeling, and sensing are the four cardinal directions that make up Jung’s psychic totality. Thinking and feeling are opposites, while sensation and intuition are opposites on the other end of the compass.

Following the cardinal directions

Many people go through life never wondering why they are the way they are while others take a more active role in understanding why they think and behave the way they do. Using these four psychic factors, it is often fairly easy to determine where your personality strengths lie, as the opposite directions on the compass points are mutually exclusive. According to Jung a person can be either relying on their thinking factor or their feeling factor at any given time; over time a person can grow to depend on one of these over the other for the majority of situations they come across.

The same goes for sensing and intuition, which Jung categorized as irrational functions. These factors work with information that is perceptual instead of rational, like thinking or feeling. However, everyone depends on one of these factors over the other when perceiving the world around them.

The process of thinking, or adjusting to the world by way of mental cognition and making logical inferences, is solidly in the thinking hemisphere of Jung’s psychic function. Sensing and intuition live in the place between consciousness and unconsciousness, able to be used by both. Feeling is solidly placed in the unconscious part of our brain.

Unique psychologies

Jung used the four psychic functions to explain why the people around us have such unique personalities. Everyone blends how they are pulled by the four directions into their psychologies to create the vibrant world of characters we live in. The primary and auxiliary functions, or those functions that work on the conscious and unconscious minds, work in complimentary and opposing ways in each individual’s psychology.

Jung opened up an entirely new world with his discoveries, and discoveries into the psychology of personality and the self are still being made today. Insights Discovery is based squarely on Jung’s theories, and as such is an invaluable tool in helping people understand themselves and others.  If you would like further help in identifying yourself or others as part of the four color personalities, schedule me, Scott Schwefel, as your keynote speaker. I will come to your group and address the differences in personalities in a truthful, fun, and easy-to-understand way. Follow me on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter to share my blogs with the color energies you work with!

Jung’s Creation of the Self

jung

What do you think of when you think of yourself? Some people envision their physical selves, or how they think they appear to those around them. Other people envision what they are or what they do:  they are husbands, daughters, teachers, students. Our sense of self is rooted far deeper than what we appear to be on the outside; far from just being what we look like or what we do, our sense of self runs far deeper than our conscious minds sometimes recognize.

Carl Jung was one of the first to delve into the mysteries of humanity’s subconscious mind, working to discover what we are beneath the surface. His work as a psychoanalyst and later as an analytical psychologist allowed him to take what he observed of human behavior and character and infer greater statements about his ideas of self from there.

The unconscious mind and the self

Jung postulated that the conscious mind was only a part of a greater system that created a person’s internal sense of who they are. The subconscious beliefs, attitudes and perceptions that are contained within every person’s brain influence and affect how a person thinks about themselves, their prominent personality characteristics, and how they behave.

For Carl Jung, the unconscious mind holds power over the psyche, or self. The unconscious mind interacts with the conscious mind in such a way that awareness of a unique sense of self is created in each person. The conscious and unconscious minds still have their own aspects of independence from one another, but interact in such a way that one affects the other equally. The subconscious can’t be made known without the conscious, and the conscious would be very shallow if it weren’t for the insights of the deeper subconscious.

Jung’s idea of the unconscious personal mind was that it held four categories which governed the personality of an individual. These four categories included a mix of perception, judging, sensing, intuition, thinking, and feeling. He then categorized these subconscious categories into introverts and extroverts, a conscious way of labeling people who acted in a certain way.

Developing a sense of self

Jung’s observations of the subconscious and conscious have greatly affected the world of psychology and people’s understanding of personality.  The four personality types he identified have been changed into other forms to better explain the intricacies of personality, much like the four color personalities.

Using colors allows people to visualize their strongest characteristics using words and a visual image. The vast majority of people aren’t just one personality type, but rather are a mix of the common personality types. Each subconscious personality type acts on the conscious to greater or lesser degrees, which explains the differences in people’s personalities and behaviors that result from those types.

Jung opened up an entirely new world with his discoveries, and discoveries into the psychology of personality and the self are still being made today. Insights Discovery is based squarely on Jung’s theories, and as such, is an invaluable tool in helping people understand themselves and others.  If you would like further help in identifying yourself or others as part of the four color personalities , schedule me, Scott Schwefel, as your keynote speaker. I will come to your group and address the differences in personalities in a truthful, fun, and easy-to-understand way. Follow me on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter to share my blogs with the color energies you work with!