The Science-Based Patterns Behind Our Thoughts, Feelings, and Behaviors
Our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are the only things in life that we can control. However, to manage them, we need to learn about the science-based patterns behind them and how to manage them effectively. This article explores the workings of our minds and how understanding them can help us achieve our goals and gain greater agency in our lives.
The Two Thinking Systems of Our Mind
Cognitive science research suggests that our minds are not as cohesive as we might think. Instead, our intentional and rational thinking part of our mind is like a rider on top of a huge elephant of emotions and intuitions. We have two thinking systems: the autopilot system and the intentional system.
The autopilot system, which corresponds to our emotions and intuitions, guides our daily habits, helps us make snap decisions, and reacts instantly to dangerous situations. However, it is not well-suited for modern life as it treats many small stresses like life-threatening events. The intentional system, on the other hand, reflects our rational thinking, and centers around the prefrontal cortex. It helps us make complex mental activities such as managing individual and group relationships, logical reasoning, and probabilistic thinking. Although it takes deliberate effort to turn on, it can help us make better decisions and act more intentionally.
Comparing the Two Systems
The autopilot system is like an elephant, it is by far the more powerful and predominant of the two systems. Our emotions can often overwhelm our rational thinking, and our intuitions and habits determine the large majority of our lives. The intentional system, on the other hand, is like the elephant rider. We can guide the elephant deliberately to the direction that matches our actual goals. Although it is important to note that the elephant part of the brain is huge and unwieldy, which means training it can take some time. But over time, we can use the intentional system to change our automatic thinking, feelings, and behaviors, and become better agents in taking charge of our lives and reaching our goals.
Managing Our Thoughts, Feelings, and Behaviors
To manage our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors effectively, we need to learn how to influence our thinking and feeling patterns. One way to achieve this is by evaluating reality more clearly. We can do this by questioning our automatic patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving and seeking new information that aligns with our actual goals and values.
Moreover, we need to become more intentional about influencing our thoughts and feelings. This involves learning techniques such as mindfulness, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and emotional regulation. These techniques help us become more attuned to our thoughts and feelings, thereby enabling us to manage them more effectively.
Our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are the only things in life that we can control. Although our minds feel like a cohesive whole, cognitive science research suggests that we have two thinking systems- the autopilot system and the intentional system. By understanding how our minds work, we can become more intentional about influencing our thinking and feeling patterns, evaluate reality more clearly, make better decisions, and improve our ability to achieve our goals. In turn, we gain greater agency and improve the quality of our lives.