Chapter 3: How the Mind Thinks

There’s an old saying that “to err is human.” But, in fact, that’s not true, because the part of your mind that analyzes information to make decisions and solve problems is actually incapable of error.

Think of your analytical mind as a computing machine. But it’s not just any computer – it’s a perfect computer. It never makes a mistake. Your very survival depends upon it always being right. But its solutions are only as good as the data that it computes with.

When the reactive mind enters hidden, irrational information into your calculations, you compute or react in an irrational, or “aberrated” manner.

The word “aberration” means a departure from rational thought or behaviour. Basically, it means to err – to make mistakes.

Your analytical mind doesn’t know its calculations are being corrupted by this irrational data. In fact, it doesn’t even know the data exists.

That’s because, during those moments in your life that contain some degree of pain, your analytical mind shuts down in an effort to protect itself – like any senstive machine would. At that point, your REACTIVE MIND immediately takes over and starts recording.

This is a cruder, more rugged part of the mind constructed to withstand the shock of pain. But these incidents aren’t memories as we think of them. The experiences recorded in the reactive mind are called ENGRAMS.

They are like movies, except they contain all your perceptions: sight, sound, smell, taste, and sensation. Including everything people are saying around you during the incident.

Your basic thrust to survive can be subdivided into 4 thrusts – 4 urges to survival.
In Dianetics, these are called the FOUR DYNAMICS.

A dynamic in this sense is the urge to survive along a certain course.

For example, the first dynamic is your urge to reach the highst potential of survival for yourself. It covers the general field of food, clothing and shelter, personal ambition and your individual purpose.

The Second Dynamic is your thrust toward potential immortality through children and includes all sexual activity as well as the creation and rearing of children.

Engrams are complete recordings, down to the last accurate detail, of every perception present in a moment of pain and “unconsciousness.” The pain can be physical pain, like when you’re injured, or emotional pain, like the shock you get when you experience a loss.

The unconsciousness could be total – such as when you’re knocked out from an accident or when you have anesthesia, or it could be time when your awareness is dulled, such as when you’re sick, injured, or when your body is poisoned, such as with alcohol or drugs.

Now, let’s take another look at the expample of getting sick from eating tainted food, which acts as a poison to your body. It’s an engram. When you later find yourself in a situation that is in some way similar to an engram stored in your reactive mind, your reactive mind tries to get you to avoid the same painful thing from happening to you again.

But it does so in a very crude and irrational way. That’s because your reactive mind doesn’t think the same way your analytical mind does.

Your analytical mind thinks rationally. It compares things and sees the differences between them.

For example, if you were asked to organise these blocks by shape and colour, your analytical mind would have no problem. That’s because it sees the differences between them. It thinks in differences. This is ANALYTICAL THOUGHT.

Now, you know analytically that an
egg you eat today is obviously not the same exact egg that made you sick when you ate it 3 years ago. That’s rational thinking. But the reactive mind is so crude, it can’t differentiate between things.

But this goes even further. TO the reactive mind, any piece of information in a specific engram is identical to every other piece of information in the same experience. For instnace, let’s say someone was playing the tuba while you were sick from eating an egg.

To your reactive mind, every egg is identified with every other egg. And all eggs are identified with the feeling of being sick to your stomach. And feeling sick to your stomach is identified with the sound of a tuba.

So later in life, if you hear a tuba playing, you could start to feel nauseous. Your analytical mind will rationalize that you feel sick for some other reason. This is called JUSTIFIED THOUGHT – the excuses that you make to explain irrational behaviour.

But in fact, your reactive mind, acting below your level of awareness, is turning on the same pain from the original engram to stupidly warn you, to stay away from that tuba, because it has identified tubas with getting sick to your stomach. In Dianetics, this reactive type of thinking is referred to as Anything = Anything = Anything, or A=A=A for short.

In lower levels of life, this reactive behaviour is a survival activity of a sort. When a fish is injured, his reactive mind records all the perception regarding the injury, and whenever these later appear in his environment, his mind will make him run away.

But in a human being, this survival mechanism has long outlived its usefulness. But it’s still there.

What if it’s not merely an egg that you’re being irrationally warned against?

What if it’s someone you know?

Or something you do?

Or something you want to achieve?

Your reactive mind operates solely on a stimulus-response basis. It’s attempting to aid your survival, but its wild errors are actually just suppressing your efforts to survive.

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