According to the legendary Atticus Finch: “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”
But what if you can’t even understand yourself? Can anyone honestly say they know themselves? Are you the same person you were five or ten years ago? What if we need to take a step back and try to consider things from our own point of view so we can understand the reasons behind what and why we feel.
This whole deep complex subject came up in conversation a couple of weeks ago when my friend Adrian did one of the most annoying things ever imaginable: “Hey Annie, want to know a secret?” – I of course said yes. To which his reply was: “Oh it doesn’t matter.” …could anyone be more annoying?
When I approached him about it the other night, his answer was even more befuddling. He said the secret wasn’t worth it anymore. “It’s the secret equivalent of starting a new job and getting to know what they keep in the cloakroom.. unsurprising and essentially far more exciting when the door was closed. What YOU want, is what’s on the 24th floor in the bio-metrically accessed safe behind 40 inches of solid steel, kept under armed guard day and night.”
When I asked what the hell he was on about, he told me to close my eyes and think of my brain. What was the first image that came into mind? What object or analogy was I thinking of when I pictured my mind, and the processes and structures of how thoughts and feelings are organised. While I was trying to imagine what my mind would be if I personified it, I asked him and a couple of friends about their own.
Adrian – “The whole place is an expansive mansion… sometimes it vaguely resembles a castle… it has a habit of changing. In the house.. or palace, if that’s how it chooses to appear.. there are hundreds of corridors, staircases, escalators, rope ladders, travelators, lifts and rope swings. All leading to thousands of different rooms – some of them big, some small, some filled, some desolate. Everything I’ve ever seen, done or experienced has a home there somewhere.. though things do sometimes get lost, they eventually turn up. I get lost in there A LOT.
Doors that are unlocked or left open are freely accessible to most, provided they know where they’re going… asking the right questions works well as a navigation tool…Doors that are locked, generally have things behind them that I have shut away for one or a hundred reasons. The cloakroom is for chucking stuff that doesn’t have a place or hasn’t been allocated one yet.. it contains alot of random, minor stuff. The proper stuff is kept in one of several rooms in an unmarked corridor behind a door which remains locked most of time time. Some of those doors have been shut and bolted and will likely never be opened again. Some of them specific people have keys to”
Lorna – “My brain is like lots of mini brains, each with its own controller. Sometimes this is helpful in terms of separating personal and professional mind sets, but can often cause internal conflict. I also think about something I want to do, for example eating healthy and then an hour or half a day later I will totally forget and an angry voice comes in my head, but she wasnt there while I was doing it! I don’t always feel like I am in control of my own brain and that can be frustrating.
It can feel like a woodland creature in some respects that it takes pieces of information and burrows them away, and at times I can blame by brain. But other times I feel like actually I am in charge and I just need to employ some strategies and not be lazy. And hormones are a bugger that show a whole other area, sometimes my reactions and thoughts are so disconnected from what I thought I really thought, same with crying, sometimes I have to try and shut my brain out so my body can do what it thinks it needs to”
A group of well spoken 1950s ladies sit in front of it, transferring calls that come in on different lines – making connections between various different thoughts and pieces of information. On occasion, seemingly randomly.
But I generally seem to have a good memory, be able to learn new things relatively quickly, and for the most part think logically and rationally. Links that seem odd at the time (or toothers), will often make sense later. So I trust those nice ladies to stay on top of things up there. That is kind of what the brain is anyway – neurons firing electrical information through the synapses to each other and hopefully connecting their calls to the correct departments”
Anoushka – “I’m atop a field. In my view I see a long narrow road in the countryside. On the left, straight ahead I see endless rows of nature’s finest; flowers blossoming, bright coloured butterflies, perfectly cut grass and on the right is a row of tall trees all crowded together evoking a dark and sombre vibe. On the other side of the road is a messy field, unkept and undesiring.
To me all those different sections represent how my mind works. It’s as if it’s a BEING in itself. It is very aware of CHOICES. It’s aware that it’s not the best idea to go into the forest. It’s aware that it could stare at the beauty of the field ahead all day because that’s what makes it happy and would fight to stay atop of the field to do so. It’s aware that the field on the other side of the road could have been where it sits today. It’s aware that instead of having found this perfect spot, it could still be walking on that long road.
I’m always atop the field overlooking everything because I need to be in control. I also need to be able to stay alert. To keep everything in perspective and everything in its place. For example; I know what feeling the forest breeds so I stay far from it, I don’t want to feel scared or nervous/anxious (I guess that also says something about what I think about forests in general – too many scary movies?). It goes back to CHOICES. It’s an ever so present concept in my conscience.
The weather to me represents my thoughts. Sunshine. Rain. Thunder. Foggy. It’s sunny quite a lot. But when it rains I’m forced to take refuge in the forest. When there’s a thunderstorm complete with lightning I don’t know where to run so I stay still feeling completely overwhelmed. Confused. Lost. Useless. Clueless. Fog is when there’s something looming around and I’m just waiting for it to pass. Clouds represent my environment. Circumstances. People. Bad energy. Karma. Sometimes they hover for a while and at other times they carry on with their business.
Being atop of the field helps with being able to see everything at large. I see clouds better – I know what a certain kind of approaching cloud means. If it’s threateningly grey I know it’s going to rain. Some day it might rain in the middle of the field or over the forest and I can understand that I’m lucky to not be there as it’s happening but still very aware that it could come over to me at any time. Blue sky and sunshine – the state that my mindbattles to exist within every day. Atop the field – for as long as it can. One day it might have to leave its spot, walk on that long road and look for another peaceful field. It’s happened before. There have been very cruel Winters and extremely hot Summers. It’s natural that the flowers die. Butterflies disappear. Grass grow long and dry, pleading for extermination. The view gets ruined. It’s hard to deal with such extremities in an open field. But it’s aware that there are more fields ahead. Similar to this one. So it simply tries to enjoy the MOMENT. Always. Come rain or shine”
I like to think my mind is like the wind, it reaches out and touches many things but it’s erratic by its nature. It will feed a fire til it’s stoked and burning high and yet it’s rarely constrained or able to be held for long. I often find myself using words and answering questions my conscious mind wasn’t fully aware of.
In some regards my mind is also a magpie; picking up shiny objects, little facts here and there that I take to my cerebral nest and treasure, although the initial use of such trinkets is never apparent, other than they took my eye and imagination at the time.
There is another layer of my thinking, which can somehow collate information provided, and unnervingly glean deeper levels of understanding from more mundane occurrences. I like to consult this usually silent witness to my life in matters of feelings, as it is the hunch that proves correct or the subtle voice that leads me to act on a whim, and often later proves itself to have the biggest overview”
Me – Tornado. A tornado was the first that I could think of when I closed my eyed. I don’t find it easy visualising a clear structure to my mind because everything is constantly moving, second to second. No up, or down… no rhyme or reason.
I constantly have different conversations running round in my head, different scenarios at the same time, different images flashing at me. I think that’s probably why I speak pretty quickly and mumble. I constantly think of so many things and want to get them all out but I haven’t got enough time for all of them so I have to do it quickly.
I need pressure to work through things. My mind feels like it’s going at 100 miles an hour, hence the tornado analogy. As my mind is whirling and whirling, it picks things up and puts them down randomly. And those quiet moments? Eye of the storm. I find it hard to just relax, I fidget a lot and like to move about, as does my brain. It can often be destructive without me meaning it to be, and wreck things. Which would explain why I feel guilty about everything fearing I’ve ruined situations. I sleep very little because the mind is whirling about and needs to not miss a thing. I feel like I constantly need to feed my tornado, so I read a lot, I write a lot and I watch a heck of a lot of films and TV programmes. I think this would also explain why I tend to take on so much more than I should. The brain is always on the go.
Close your eyes and have a think. What would you describe your mind as?