Some of you may remember my bath time experiment of trying to observe myself deciding to get out of the bath – and the fact that I found it impossible to do so. In fact, once I began to notice this, it became apparent that I am unable to observe myself making any decision, or for that matter deciding to have any particular thought. They emerge and I become aware of them.
Decisions and thoughts bubble up from my unconscious and only become apparent to my conscious mind after they have happened. Modern neuroscience is able to observe this process and confirms that the parts of our brain in which conscious thought takes place react to stimuli after the subconscious areas.
I am not in control of my mind any more than I am any other organ in my body. My heart beats without me having to think about it, my lungs breathe without any intervention on my part, and thoughts arise whether I think I am choosing to have them or not.
The decisions we appear to make are a result of our biology, our genetic inheritance, our culture, and our previous experience. We can’t help the thoughts that we have. Our apparent decisions to act are likewise out of our control. We often do things and wonder afterwards what on earth we were thinking. We weren’t!
The same it true for everyone else. They can’t help what they do or say. They are not in control. We can remove ourselves from their influence, we can protect ourselves from them, and in extremis we can incarcerate them, but we should always remember that they didn’t have a choice – any more than we do.