Permanent Stress Reduction Segment 5: Clear Thought Procesing

nautilusChambered Nautilus Training Group

Segment 5

Clear Processing of Information

Thinking comes naturally. Everyone does it. Not everyone does it well.

This Chambered Nautilus program is designed to help participants process their ideas and problem solving techniques in a clear, logical, rational manner. There are skills and principles to be learned and used in developing positive habits of clear and constructive thought processing.

If rational information processing were all there is to it we would build a whole program on that topic alone. It certainly is important enough to be studied in considerable depth. However, our focus is on how the very thought process itself can be disrupted by a lack of awareness of the role that emotions play in information processing.

Segment 5 of our program, Clear Processing of Information, deals with basic tools of rational thinking. Other Segments in the Chambered Nautilus Training Group program demonstrate how the thinking process can be most effective when used habitually, and not slip into the kinds of unconscious emotional distortions we sometimes allow to cloud our thinking process. There are essential aspects of anger, stress, anxiety, fear, etc., that are significantly affected by the way that we think. It is very important that our thought process be well tuned to objectivity and valid information.

Elements of Information Processing;

(1.)  Increasing our awareness of how we think

We begin by emphasizing an important shift in awareness regarding our reasoning powers. We wish to emphasize the fact that the brain, as a part of our body, is intimately affected by other body functions and states. Pain, fear, anger, hunger all can have a strong effect on how well we are able to think and even what we actually think about. We’ve all experienced the “I’m so tired I can’t even think straight” moments.

The distinctness of thought (brain function) as opposed to the other body functions is apparent to everyone, but the degree of distinctness, we believe, is generally over stated.

The brain does not think in isolation. Thoughts are often challenged by strong feelings about a given topic, thus threatening the validity of our decision-making from the start.

We will use the term ThinkingBody throughout our presentations to remind everyone that we are thinking-bodies and need to have an increased awareness of the body’s influence on our rational processing.

ThinkingBody is an awkward word and sometimes we use the equally awkward BodyThinking because there are no current terms that work well with this perspective and the concept is completely fundamental to our program.

 It’s what is going on in the brain that makes all the difference.

Before going any further let’s look at a couple of ideas.

  • What I call reality is dependent on my personal perception of my environment and its events;
  • My actions/behaviors flow from these perceptions and my underlying beliefs;
  • It is possible to change my perceptions and beliefs and thus modify my behaviors;
  • Before I undertake serious attempts at change, it is important to clarify and understand my personal perceptions     and beliefs.

The road to change or positive adaptation begins at home, with logical process and clear thought processing. Clear thought processing should be my normal state of mind. Unfortunately this is not so for many of us. The need to proceed with good decision-making has to start with a sincere effort to un-muddle my own thought processes.

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Let’s look at some problematic situations that arise for most of us at one time or another and examine them in relation to our mental states of perception. Some of the situations might entail a wide mix of emotions and possible responses. Troubling events often provoke anger responses, frustration, blaming, etc. They may also present moral conflicts and dilemmas. The end result might be increased anxiety, insecurity, a loss of courage, heightened discouragement and reinforced negative suppositions and beliefs. Can these situations all be solved by using clear thinking alone?  Of course not.  Will I be better able to handle crises of frustration, anger, moral dilemma, etc., if I habitually operate from a thought base of positive, clear thinking? Absolutely. No doubt about it. Would you jump into an athletic competition – football game, bicycle race, a downhill slalom or a marathon without first training for it?

Why then do we think that because we have gone to school or trained for our jobs that we will automatically be fit and able to adapt to the almost daily changes that we confront us? Why are we surprised when we struggle and fail? Is it worth your time and effort to train your thought processes to adapt quickly, effectively, ethically in any situation? That is what Clear Thought Processing is meant to do.

We are way ahead of the game if we can operate from a calm, disciplined mind. Let’s look at some things like self-talk, rationalizations, irrational beliefs, irrational fear, and worry and examine the physiology of attention – the mind/body perception of phenomena.

We have already seen that where the mind goes so goes my interpretive response. In many cases, regardless of my state of mind, be it fear, anxiety, anger, a rush of joy, etc., the physiology of the response is roughly the same. How it begins and the pattern that it follows is remarkably similar for everyone, but most people are not aware of the process. Awareness creates solutions.

Take an example of a person walking down a street into the sun, a short distance from his destination but in an unfamiliar neighborhood. A figure appears, walking toward him on the same side of the street. Because the figure is back-lit by the sun low in the sky, the distinguishing features are not entirely clear. The subject’s interpretive response feels like this: a little quickening of the pulse, a slight tingling in the stomach, a slight increase in the breathing rate, maybe a little twinge in the fingers or knees, all of which symptoms increase noticeably as the person comes closer!

What emotions might this person be feeling?

Fear? The subject is in an unfamiliar area, the figure is not entirely recognizable, the perceived context is one of possible danger because of the unknown area, and it is getting late in the day, etc. Fear could easily be the feeling going on.

Anxiety? The subject does not like the uncertainty of the situation and wonders at the body’s response. It seems to be telling him something uncertain and he begins to worry that maybe he should avoid the on-coming figure, start walking back where he came from; worry that he won’t accomplish his reason for walking here in the first place, etc.

Anger? The subject is unhappy that he has chosen this particular route to walk and that his peace of mind in being interrupted by this stranger. He begins to scold himself for his poor decision and the resulting frustration.

Joy? The subject is not sure but begins to think that the person walking toward him is actually a special friend he has not seen in a long time and feels the anticipation of a happy encounter coming closer.

Nothing has changed in the environment outside the subject but we can clearly see that it is the interpretation that the thinker is putting on the scenario that determines the emotion, while the sensations are the same in each case.

The process is identical; the end result can very different. The subject needs to clarify the information before acknowledging the sentiment. It would be counter productive to run away from a harmless stranger or an old friend; useless to worry about what might happen because the possibilities are just about infinite; detrimental to one’s health to beat oneself up over a mistake that never happened, and so on.

The implications are far-reaching. We don’t even need the external stimulus to be present. Memory of an event, imagination constructing an event, all sorts of mental plotting can initiate the process and drive me to emotional distraction. Controlled emotional responses support clear thinking and positive outcomes.

Chambered Nautilus Training Programs continually stress awareness of the role that emotions play in our judgments. We think with our entire body.  We are ThinkingBodies.  Other Segments of our program emphasize these emotive reactions. This Segment 5 stresses the need for disciplined thought processes that are necessary to maintain the integrity of our ThinkingBody reactions.

(2) What are the tools or methods of Clear Thought Processing? How can I begin to achieve Discernment?

To be able to process information clearly we need to be more aware of what goes into the act of thinking. Thousands of images, fleeting thoughts, memories etc. which our programs refer to as Phenomena, flow through our consciousness all day long, but only certain phenomena are chosen, sometimes randomly, sometimes out of necessity as in work assignments or immediate problems to be solved. These phenomena become the subjects of our constructive thinking process.

What constitutes good processing?

a)       The importance of having clear, exact ideas.

Once we fix our attention on a particular idea (a phenomenon) in order to deal with some project or solve problem, it is vitally important to have as much exact information as possible about the subject. If we have only incomplete or sketchy facts we can only produce incomplete, poorly processed conclusions. If less than quality ingredients are assembled, the product will hardly be of first-rate value. And our products always reflect their creator.

Because we have chosen to concentrate on this particular idea or are already familiar with it does not mean that the idea itself under consideration is objectively valid and not just an assumption on our part. Whenever we set out to demonstrate any fact or argument, is it wise to reassure ourselves that what we assume about the topic is itself valid information.

b)      Staying on track and establishing a positive environment.

Therefore, it is important to ask the right questions about what I’m focusing on and make a concerted effort to stay on track, not adding information that is not related to my subject and subtracting any information that distracts or leads away from the project or solution I am working toward.

Having a clear mind, a positive environment and a calm approach to dealing with the correct and essential issues, is important. And because we are always using our ThinkingBody, being able to relax and concentrate are definite advantages. This is why CNTG programs all make use of relaxation techniques which are thoroughly described in our training Segment 3. We feel that a body that is trained to relax when faced with any challenging situation is equipped to sort out irrelevant information faster and more efficiently than most others.

Many people would take an exception to this, stating that they are accomplished at multi tasking and do their best thinking when surrounded by music, noisy office conditions, or evaluating a technical manual while writing out the sequence of digits in Pi on a spare note pad.

This may be true for some. We don’t dispute that. However, information has come to light recently that multitasking may very well not be as efficient or effective as has been claimed. Our training orientation is comfortable stating that a calm body is the best field for producing meaningful thinking.

Nine examples of how a lack of clear thinking can lead to frustration and frequent feelings of anger can be found in our Segment 3, “Rational Response to Anger”.

Poor thinking habits limit our acceptance of alternate viewpoints and leads to prejudicial conclusions, unfair or non objective attitudes, shallow and arrogant assumptions that feed anger in ourselves and provoke others to negative response.

“Those people are all stupid’; Nobody likes me”; “Seriously, you are either with us or you are against us”; “I know exactly what you are thinking”; “If that person shows up the whole party will be ruined”;  It’s easy to see that much anger and embarrassment can follow one’s poorly evaluated thinking style. Consequences that are unnecessary if we value the quality of thinking.

c)    Cultivate the habit of clear thinking.  Leave emotion behind.

Maintain objectivity and openness to alternative viewpoints.

Having exact information and assurance my assumptions are valid, asking relevant questions and finding the best thinking environment, is just the beginning. Since we cannot afford to do a detailed examination of all our thought process for every new challenge, we begin to see how essential it is to have sound habits of clear thinking. The more we learn about the process and work at practicing good thinking habits, the easier it is to move quickly through problems and feel good about our ability to deal with difficult or challenging situations.

As I continue to process my thoughts it is essential to remain objective about the facts I’m using. Some facts will appeal to me emotionally but may be completely irrelevant to my solution. They may also fall into the category of invalid assumptions, just because I like them so much. In similar fashion, some facts will displease me and I might unfairly omit them from my considerations for no other reason.

If the processing is to be constructive I must work toward sound, valid conclusions and remain open to alternative positions and possibilities. One should always be conscious of the fact that the first line of sound, valid conclusions is like a foundation of a building. And just as important. My reasoned conclusions easily become my assumptions for the next level of the discussion. If the line drawn is less than true, eventually the whole brick wall of further thoughts is going to be off-center.

If my process is “true” in this constructive sense, I should be able to share my information in clear and effective communication with others. Sharing of information raises a whole other series of challenges, but for now at least, I have confidence that I know what I am talking about.

A word of caution here. We ought not get carried away with our own brilliance. Even though my conclusions are totally sound, valid, and well-reasoned out, not everyone is going to accept them and I need to remain open to further dialogue.

d)      Think through possible implications and consequences.

As we engage in our thinking process, we should take care to think ahead double check our current viewpoints and assumptions regarding their validity.

After all, readily held view points and assumptions can easily influence implications and consequences of my thoughts. I might very well arrive at logical conclusions and/or actions that, if taken,   might not be in keeping with my original intent.

Obviously, we cannot exclude all possible misinterpretations of our thoughts but our diligent attention to following the principles discussed above should make it difficult for others to interpret my thoughts erroneously or to infer unforeseen and unintended consequences.

(3). How do we know when our thinking process is “good” and true to form?

 

Experts in the field of critical thinking as a science have listed specific criteria that must be met in order to analyze the thinking process. We summarize the more important criteria below, being mindful that our’s is not a complete                       course in how to think critically. We are interested in awakening a sense of “thinking about how we think” and how the thought process itself is directly related to the efficiency of our emotional functioning.  Since it is so important with regard to emotional consequences, we want to provide the most basic tools to achieve those goals.

(Participants in our programs who would like more in-depth information are referred to the abundant material available from the many publications and internet sources available today.)

The Chambered Nautilus Training Group program is concerned primarily with the specific criteria of clarity (freedom from distortions), as well as objectivity and accuracy. Other criteria do, of course, come in to play and not always referred to specifically but are essential to healthy conclusions and sound thought processing.

In order to arrive at clarity of our own information process we should make every effort to respect opposing view points and evolve a personal culture of depth of thought and fairness in assessing other points of view. I can do this by not simply taking what is handed to me by popular ideas and my personal preference history.  The deeper I go into my subject matter the better I appreciate the many different facets of supporting and opposing information.  This in turn encourages me to be honestly fair when considering opposing viewpoints. I may not agree with a different view but I don’t dismiss it simply because it is different from mine.

Obstacles to clear information processing.

Passive acceptance of information is often a form of intellectual laziness. Individuals who are capable of improving the depth of their thinking may hesitate to do so for a wide variety of reasons.

The may have little or no interest in points of view that don’t agree on the surface with their own hard-earned assumptions or prejudices. To examine alternative points of view seems just to difficult or threatening. “I don’t need to rock my own boat. To do so is to admit that my thinking might be wrong . Forget about it.”

Employing the positive thinking habits we have outlined, gives rise to what are called intellectual virtues. As such they give our entire program an important orientation toward personal integrity, emphasizing intellectual humility, courage, empathy, integrity, perseverance and autonomy. All of which speak to creating a sound, fulfilling way of life in harmony with well-reasoned conclusions and responsible consequences.

Intellectual laziness can be related to intellectual arrogance and over-reliance on authority. It is often at the heart of bias thinking and prejudice.

The intellectually unaware individual simply repeats false ideas and is given to egocentric and/or ethnocentric assumptions.

When we don’t think things through carefully and honestly we can easily end up making bad decisions and blaming the “unfairness of life” or the “judgmental attitudes of others” for our own unsatisfactory consequences. We have no idea why we are angry, depressed, or stressed to the point of illness. If our thought process is not carefully tuned we need only to look to ourselves as the source of our discomfort.

As should be evident, there are many aspects to clear processing of information that challenge us not just intellectually but with respect to our emotions and our lifestyle. CNTG programs encourage not only analysis and education regarding optimal thinking and emotional behaviors, but also lifestyle changes that empower us to live as habitually aware, ThinkingBody individuals.

Chambered Nautilus Training Group programs are focused on raising personal awareness relative to how we function as intelligent persons. Awareness of intellectual integrity also requires the participant in the program to be aware of the obstacles to clear thinking and how to avoid them.

Learning to understand the effects of dysfunctional thinking is a genuine challenge for most of us and a fundamental strategy in all CNTG programs.

The following Summary of Key Points of Clear Thought Processing will close out our current presentation of Segment 5.

Please visit the 5 Segments of Permanent Stress Reduction for a comprehensive view of our training program, located at this blog site.

R.D.Harding,

Chambered Nautilus Training Group

rdh0728@hotmail.com

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