Heh. Once again, I have dug myself into the hole that is the inability to sleep, and against my better judgement, I am using that fact as an excuse to write a massive post for the SDMB. This instance of insomnia, however, is different from the rest, in terms of how I have come upon that state. What I have done this time is far from a unique occurrence for me, and yet never before can I recall having done it to the extent to which I appear to have done now.
It seems I’ve dug myself into a hole. I make it a point to play around with my subconscious at regular intervals, periodically using my metaconsciousness to restructure my thought patterns and make minor adjustments to individual ideas. I do this for a few reasons: to ensure consistency, making sure all beliefs jive with each other; to explore, generating new ideas based on combinations of the old which I can then contemplate; to grow, expanding the scope of current ideas to check their relevance (or lack thereof) in other areas; and to test myself, to ensure that I can still forcibly modify my consciousness if need be. It is this last effort that is both the most important and the most powerful; it allows me to convince myself of that which I logically know to be true, to maintain control over my emotions when the need arises (also useful in combating my temper), to indulge in the occasional bit of pragmatism such that I can shove idealism aside when action truly needs to be taken (clearly, this is not often put into practice, but I need to make sure I can still do it), and finally, to stretch my boundaries: to put new, wild ideas into my head and see how they interact with the rest of my beliefs within that thought pattern. It’s that last one, a form of self-imposed mental experiment, that gets me into trouble.
Sometimes, you see, my mind will take a particular experimental idea and decide that it has some merit. It then latches onto that idea, churns it around for a bit, extrapolates all that can be derived from it, and does a check to see whether the new expanded idea fits in with the rest of my belief system. Approximately one percent of these ideas are determined to be “correct” and are added to the belief set; about five percent are found to have a decent correlation and are placed aside for further contemplation/modification; and the rest are discarded immediately as having one or more fatal logical flaws. This works fine when the idea being introduced is logical in nature. Emotion, however, does not fare so well in this system; as usual, it just screws everything up. It has done so in the past two days, and it is the cause of the quandary in which I now find myself.
I have had this happen before. Many times I have introduced an emotional concept into my mind. Generally, they take the form of “Emotion X often results from stimulus Y if Y also produces inductive conclusion Z”. Most of these are rejected as illogical, and leave little more than a lingering trace upon the sum total of my psyche (more than a purely logical idea would have, but insignificant nonetheless). The problem begins when the idea in question is self-referential, i.e. “Hypothesis: I feel X about Y.” When I introduce one of these, my mindset alters to a point where I begin to feel that emotion, and I must maintain an excruciatingly careful level of metaconscious detachment in order to remember that I am experimenting, to enable myself to “end task” if unforeseen danger should arise. That need for mental stability and control is exactly why I shouldn’t do this sort of thing at night. Unfortunately, that’s not the way the chips fall. There’s a reason most people are at their creative best at nighttime; fatigue lends itself both to introspection and relaxation of consciously-imposed boundaries, allowing the mind to explore thoughts to the wildest limits of imagination without the cold hand of logic and structured belief smacking it into oblivion, but allowing it also to wreak havoc upon itself with an equal lack of constraint. When left unchecked, a self-referential emotion-based idea can work its way through one’s consciousness, implanting itself into the core of one’s psychological structure, becoming in essence a part of one’s very being.
Of course, the extent of this implantation is directly proportional to the relevance of the idea itself. If “I feel X about Y” is analogous to “I like pepperoni on my pizza”, it will manifest itself in a purely surface-level form, and can be dismissed if and when it is found to be contrary to the ideas that precede it (for example, if I did not like pepperoni on my pizza, I would come upon that newly-formed “conclusion” next time I called Domino’s, and my memory of not liking pepperoni would immediately nix it, leaving only a passing curiosity as to why it was there in the first place). Should the idea happen to be correct, or else a logical extension of a currently held idea, it will stick around. That second part is key; a little precedent goes a long way where this sort of thing is concerned. The problem is, though, that some emotions are not nearly so innocuous as topping preference. Of those emotions, perhaps the greatest is Love. You can guess where this is going.
There is a girl with whom I work that I have had my eye on for quite some time. Over the past couple days, it is no exaggeration to say that I have talked to her longer than all the times during the rest of the year I’ve been working there combined. I have determined that, in addition to being her physically attractive, she is funny, interesting to talk to, fun to be around, and without a doubt the sweetest, happiest, most – and this is an odd way for me to compliment somebody, especially if you know me personally – most positive person I have ever met. Simply being around her makes me smile, and (if this makes any sense), I find it nearly impossible to talk to her without just reaching over and hugging her. I made up my mind tonight to ask her out tomorrow, and with that, I set off to go to sleep. That was when I made a crucial mistake. I wondered what it would be like if I ever fell in love with her. My mind got started, and I drifted off into that state where consciousness subsides, yet sleep does not fully take hold. Slowly but surely, the ethereal substance of my emotional psyche began to alter. At this point, the “logical extension” theorem bit me in the ass; I’d likely have noticed the change taking place had I decided to contemplate hating her, but as I already felt a significant amount of affection for her, the individual alterations were so subtle that it was no trouble at all for my mind to re-mold itself with no intervention on my part. I began to have a very pleasant dream of holding her in my arms, watching her smile, and being wonderfully content in the moment. That was when my VCR decided to turn itself off, and I awoke.
Which brings me to the present. I currently find suddenly (and, I am certain, artificially) in love with a girl I have little more than a friendly acquaintanceship with. I now cannot think of this girl without this feeling coursing its way through every fiber of my being, and what’s more, I cannot attempt to go to sleep again without thinking of this girl. You may be thinking that the preceding was a whole lot of preamble to a revelation that I have a crush on somebody. I can assure you that that is not the case. A crush would’ve been what I had before. I have been in love before, with a girl I dated for the better part of three years, and I know that feeling well (how can one ever forget it?), and this is it…albeit decidedly more artificial in flavor; there is no doubt whatsoever that I caused this to happen, whereas the first time was quite real and quite the spontaneous. Thanks to my own carelessness, I am now pretty much screwed. I’ll see her again tomorrow, and while I’m positive I won’t say or do anything untoward (such is the advantage of acute self-awareness), it will be interesting at the very least to see how my emotions behave. I have great faith that I’ll sort it out eventually; I always do, but something as strong as this will take a while to completely eradicate. If it is as firmly embedded as I suspect, I will have to take care not convince myself that I actually dislike her in the process.
I realize that the above may well sound completely insane. This would probably be because, by the commonly accepted definition, a part of my mind is likely partially insane at any given time. An overapplication of introspection tends to do that. The trick is to train oneself, as I have done, to be self-aware enough to realize what’s happening and maintain a sense of perspective. The entity that does this would be the real “me”, or, as I have termed it in the past (and in the second paragraph of this post), my metaconsciousness. As long as my metaconsciousness remains active and unaltered, going completely schizophrenic (as happens to those who overindulge in this process without boundaries, and as has happened to more than one member of my family) is simply out of the question. Oh, and if anybody was going to bother, please don’t tell me to see a psychologist; even if I didn’t keep myself in check, I have my best friend, who helped me to create and explore the processes I’ve described here. Whenever either of us feels unsure as to what’s what, the other one grounds us abruptly and firmly back to reality. That doesn’t happen often, but it’s a good system to have in place regardless.
But I’m rambling now. Funny how 30 hours without sleep (not counting the aforementioned hour) will do that. Anyhow, I just thought I’d share my little dilemma with you. You have to admit, it’s an interesting quandary.
The rest of this post is for the folks who were curious about my Freedom of Thought Movement that I’ve mentioned in a couple other threads. If you don’t care about that, feel free to stop reading (if you haven’t grown tired of my ramblings already ) The technical terms contained within are the products of my own mind; if any of this meshes with standing psychological theory, it is entirely unintentional. In other words, I made this crap up; take it for what it is, and nothing more.
The Freedom of Thought Movement involves teaching people to perform introspection and idea/belief analysis through the methods I’ve described above (and many others). It’s incredibly liberating in terms of what it allows you to do and learn, not only in regard to yourself, but to others. Through self-examination, you can learn about what you think, why you think it*, and how* you think about it. You can explore the ways in which your own ideas relate to each other, and form solid beliefs based on correlations between existing thoughts. The more you do this, the stronger your belief system becomes, and the more confidence you have in it…and therefore, in ourselves. Then, empowered with this self-confidence, you can apply what you’ve learned to the people around you. I can guarantee you will be amazed at what you discover. You’ll be able to confirm what you perhaps already suspected; that everyone else is not actually so different from you as you once thought. By interpreting their actions and words, you will be able to determine the major elements of their thought processes, and you will discover that those same algorithms exist in your mind, whether they are the ones you use most often or not. With these realization comes a greater understanding of your fellow man. You will be able to relate more effectively to those around you, which translates into the pragmatic benefit of improved communication, and the idealistic benefit of a greater range of empathy and compassion. Even if, upon examining another person’s beliefs to their fullest, you still disagree, you will have an understanding of that person based on your knowledge about yourself that will allow you to tolerate, and maybe even ultimately accept, that person to a degree that would before have been impossible. Stretch it out a bit further, and maybe…just maybe…one day we can even learn to love each other. The movement’s motto embodies this essential principle.
Freedom of Thought: from Thought to Acceptance to Love.
Introspection does not come naturally to most. For the many who have rejected intense self-examination, whether due to fear, societal discouragement, or simply because they never thought of doing it, the Freedom of Thought Movement will teach, at a slow and gradual pace, the processes involved in introspective self-analysis. For the already introverted, we will monitor their progress, functioning largely as a friend whom they can talk to if they want help in sorting things out. Such undertakings as the sort of experimentation I performed on myself tonight, and the multiple simultaneous analyses that lead me to permit myself to do it, are considered high-level and will not be introduced to those who do not have a solid grasp on the basics of multi-leveled thought (the metaconsciousness, the conscious and the subconscious, along with countless subroutines that exist on separate stages of these three levels). So, what are the beginner-level processes? How do we teach people to move from one level to the next while still maintaining control? How do we introduce multi-leveled thought to people who’ve never so much as counted to 10 before speaking without risking a mental breakdown? These are the questions I don’t have solid answers for, which is why I have not yet started the active portion of the movement. I absolutely refuse to do so until I am 100% certain of the answers to those, and a few other pertinent questions, and have inflicted the processes upon myself and reached the same conclusions I already have (in other words, to ensure that I’m teaching people to do the same thing I am doing). The dangers of haphazardly proceeding with what I propose here are very real and very frightening (trust me, I’ve glanced over the edge of the wrong side of sanity, and it isn’t a pretty sight). I realize that, which is why the idea of the movement is, at present, just that: an idea. The way I see it, I’m 20 years old, and I’ve got the idea; I have plenty of time to figure out the rest.
The beauty of the thing, and the reason I believe it can and will be successful, is that it doesn’t make a difference what specific ideas are being examined. Anybody, with any belief system, of any persuasion, with any ideals can experience Freedom of Thought.
Oh, and please, don’t get the impression that I’m some self-righteous jerk who thinks that he’s a genius and everybody else is beneath him. Very much the opposite, actually; my whole point is that if I can do this, anybody can. I’m not a genius, just a normal guy who thinks about stuff too freakin’ much, and is lucky enough to have a best friend who does the same. I don’t think I’m qualified to lead this movement because I’m smarter than everybody else…I think I’m qualified to lead it because it’s a path I’ve already beaten, traveled hundreds of times, and know like the back of my hand. I’ve been there, I’ve done that, I think it’s wonderful, and I want to show people. That’s all.
Well, that wraps that up. One hell of a long post, this is, and one that I hope will generate at least some commentary. That’s fine; I welcome comments on my ideas, since how else would I get any conflicting viewpoints to experiment with? Please, go ahead; tell me what you think.