Wednesday, March 2, 2011

What is "the human mind"?

As a psychologist, I have been studying and working with "the human mind" for years, yet through most of my study, the concept of what the mind is has not been directly addressed. I believe that most psychologists would agree that the human mind is very complex and at times very difficult to understand.

Humans have been struggling to understand and describe the human mind for thousands of years and yet only in about the last one hundred of years or so have we been scientifically trying to examine what the mind is and what it can do. While we have made many advances through neuroscience, psychology, and other related fields, there is still so much that we do not understand.

But what is the mind?

Is it our conscious awareness? If so, what about the parts of our cognitive life of which we are unaware?

Can we reduce the human mind to the physical existence of the brain? Or is there something more to our mind that include concepts such as the soul or spirit?

Far be it from me to be even able to answer any of these questions conclusively. I simply do not know for certain. Though, I do have some ideas, though, that help me in how I work with my own mind and the minds of my patients, who are suffering.

For the purposes of my writing here, I am going to define "the human mind" as the totality of our awareness, cognitive activity like thoughts (both in and outside of our awareness), and emotions (both in and outside of our awareness). This is a pretty broad definition, but it helps us get started in thinking about how our minds operate and what makes up "the human mind".

While our minds are always at work, we are often unaware of what are minds are doing. I'll write more another time about self-awareness and something others have called "Mindfulness."