Originally posted on 05-11-07:
To continue with yesterday’s topic. If all the people who are saying, “Stay in the moment,” are really saying, “Don’t verbalize,” what’s the point? Our use of language is a major part of being human. It makes all the accomplishments of civilization possible—whether you approve those accomplishments or not.
The point is realizing you have an option, and realizing how attractive that option can be. Many of us have been caught up in obsessive verbalization at one time or another—otherwise known as worrying—and many of us have realized it wasn’t accomplishing anything. Others have recognized the simple inanity of the chatter that goes on in our heads constantly and longed for a respite. For either one of those reasons, and others, it’s nice to know that with a little paying attention to something else we can change the focus of our attention. Some people are addicted to constant sensual input—most conveniently these days, music—for this very reason: to distract them from constant internal verbalization. So it’s nice to know that, even if you don’t have an ipod, you have a choice.
But wait a minute. A couple of days ago I said there’s no free will, and today I’m saying you have a choice about what’s happening in your brain. Who chooses?
Your brain chooses–that’s its job. It evolved as a decision making/problem solving mechanism that is guided by a built-in set of priorities: 1) breathe, 2) stay hydrated, 3) eat, 4) procreate, 5) protect the body, etc. The more complicated the organism, the more complicated the processes for satisfying these priorities, and verbalization has multiplied the options and complications exponentially. One of the guiding principles in the brain’s problem solving operation is efficiency, and as it learns new ways to save itself time and energy it will usually act on them. Your brain may have come to the realization that it wastes an incredible amount of energy on excess verbalization, and when it learns that it can conserve a lot of that energy with a little practice, it may decide that the practice is worthwhile.
Of course, some people have a vested interest in worrying—if they gave it up they wouldn’t know who they were. An essential part of our brain’s job is to keep us oriented in our environment—social as well as physical—and people who find themselves located in the niche of “worrier,” or “critic,” would be lost without that identity.