Revelations From A Note Card

In the previous essay I used the first sentence in a series of four 3” x 5” note cards to illustrate the unconscious process of pattern matching.[1]  This essay will continue the examination of that sentence by looking at what happens as those words first appear in my mind.  Let’s return to the scene:

I was walking along, bouncing a tennis ball on the sidewalk and catching it, thinking of nothing in particular.  Suddenly three things happen almost simultaneously: words appear in my conscious mind as if I am talking to myself.  They are pleasurable; I value them; I know that they are evanescent and I want to keep them for I am sorrowful and disappointed at the loss of a good idea.  I write them down, wrestling inspiration into words on paper:

“The concept of sin is functional/motivational – forcing behavior.”Something interesting happens as words arrive in my mind and I take up pen and paper to record them: the words may change.  I wrote four note cards consequent to that initial thought.  Looking back and re-reading, I find that while pertinent, the subsequent development of that first sentence is a bit scattered, that is I was writing rapidly trying to keep pace with the words while noting that the written words were not always same as the original thoughts.  The words morph as they are written.

The logic of written language, its vocabulary and syntax, drive the written expression but the logic of the unconscious thought is different.  Insight appears to be protean, just barely in my mind, the words keep changing slightly, and new words may continuously irrupt.  I am struggling to do several things at the same time – keep the original idea accessible in memory, find the best words to express it in writing and incorporate new ideas.  It’s as if there is a correction feedback loop in operation while writing.  I am writing the words but my unconscious is monitoring that process and providing continuous changes, corrections and new ideas as words are affixed to paper.  The original idea and its words may be changed or even lost.

I am word herding, gathering words together and forming some kind of order, getting them to go in approximately the same direction and on the same subject and lying flat on a page.  The logic of words, sentences and paragraphs is essentially linear.  One word follow another.  One sentence and one paragraph follows the previous.

The mind out of which this linearity emanates is not linear.  My mind processes multiple (and heavily filtered) inputs from its sensory systems in a multi-parallel, mesh connected system.  The linearity of words, sentences and paragraphs, is the result of oversight, correction, review, solidifying, connecting, checking and adding performed by the unconscious in real time as its thoughts are transcribed into words. Words are not the thoughts and not the patterns.  They have their own rules and logic.  The process of writing (or speaking) disciplines those thoughts; organizing, relating, measuring, testing, and correcting them.  They are only a best fit approximation to the thoughts.

I return to the first sentence of those note cards:

“The concept of sin is functional/motivational – forcing behavior.”

That sentence is, if nothing else, a bit cryptic.  Each word in that sentence is just the tip of a word berg, 95% of the meaning is, as yet, subconscious.[2]  The context for the words sin, functional, motivational, and the phrase ‘forcing behavior’ is missing.  That sentence “incorporates by reference” all of the related conceptual complexes residing in my mind.  It is as if concepts and ideas have best friends, other concepts with which they often hang out.  Sin hangs out with divine ordinances and punishment.  Behavior control hangs out with internalization of social norms and with deviance.  Sin and behavior control do not often pal around together.  My insight put them together because they do the same thing – they are functionally identical while conceptually disparate.

I conclude that the unconscious pattern generating, storage, matching, and reporting processes are not performed in words, or in neural connections and electro-chemistry analogous to words.  This requires me to postulate a transliteration process which translates the thought, the insights, the pattern matches, congruencies, etc. into words as they are reported to my conscious mind.[3]  The first order mental event is the pattern match, insight, or inspiration.  The transcription process of insight into words is a second order pattern match.

I add this to my short catalog of mental processes:

My unconscious mind thinks but not in words.

I’ve overused the trope “pattern match” for a specific type of mental process exemplified by my brain connecting sin and behavior control, and then expressing the idea in words.  Looking back at a concept map written about a year ago I find these words: patterns, models, paradigms and stories.  In the previous essay, The Sin Story, I used these: insights, ideas, analogies, congruencies, and parallelisms.  In this essay I find ideas and thoughts.  And from the concept map my conclusion: “Out of experience my mind perceives, finds, or creates patterns, connections, correlations, causation, meaning, and out of these creates stories.”

Out of these synonyms I have used pattern matching more than any other.  Something somewhere in my brain has determined that those words are a reasonably good description of the mental process and I get a little reward from my brain when I successfully use the phrase.  I say that “pattern match” resonates in my mind or that the path to finding and selecting that phrase has a higher conductance than does the path to congruence.[4]

I do not know how your brain receives the phrase ‘pattern match’.  It might like it, find it insightful and useful – that is, it may resonate in your mind.  Your mind may reject it, finding it ugly or repulsive and reject it – destructive interference.  Again, these verbal constructions are path dependent pattern matches.  I keep finding these so maybe I have not over-used that trope after all.

The really interesting question is “why does my unconscious mind usually report usable, suitable or reasonably accurate pattern matches.”  My conscious mind may occasionally discard an insight after inspection (see The Road Trip) but it does not have to sort through unusable thoughts.  For example, it did not receive this:

The concept of sin is functional/motivational – forcing baloney.

That sorting or filtering – a complex set of judgments – is done unconsciously.  Yet when I wanted an unsuitable pattern match as an illustration my unconscious found and reported “baloney.”  A small change in motivation reset the criteria of my mental “suitability” filters and found a useable match.


I’m not yet done with the sin story: I have so far written about the words in my mind and writing them down in quick notes.  Those were the first and third “events” in my mind.  The second “event” was that I liked those words even as they were forming.  My brain was rewarding itself for a good idea at the same time as it was making it available to my conscious.

I experience the words and their pleasure nearly simultaneously but the order of events must be something like this:

  1. For reasons of its own, its motivation, my brain is thinking, whatever that is
  2. It produces thought that meets the criteria for reportage to my conscious mind
  3. That triggers two different responses
    1. Reportage of the thought to the word transliteration system
    2. Release of pleasurable neuro-chemicals

I “know” that these chemicals have been released when I experience their physiological effects and my sensory system has detected those changes and reported them to my brain.  At a guess this is entirely within the brain and takes little time.  The word system takes time also and I experience words and pleasure nearly simultaneously.  Mental pleasure is the reward for a successful fulfillment of motivation.

As I reread the previous sentence while editing this essay, I felt a big smile moving the ends of my lips upward and crinkling my face around my eyes.  Yessum, indeedum!  I should add that there is an element of physical pleasure in the successful fulfillment of motivation.

Note that in my proposed reward schema there are as yet no words.  They are passing through the word system and takes a bit more time, so they are not here yet.  I posit that the reward system of thinking animals functions pretty much like mine.  My next essay begins with a deer thinking about me and while I will find no words in her brain, I will find motivation and reward.  I will anthropomorphize her thoughts and consequent behavior to animalize and understand mine.

[1] I have neglected pattern creation, learning, etc. because that is a larger subject and not essential to the story I want to tell.  I assume that I have a range of concept complexes available in my memory.

[2] Another interesting path dependent pattern match: subconscious meaning and an ice berg.  Where does this stuff come from?

[3] I wonder if a multi-lingual mind would preferentially select a specific language to express a particular idea, that is, the vocabulary and syntax of one language may provide a better expression of an idea.

[4] These are more examples of path dependent pattern matches.  I have some hours designing, building and tuning electronic filter circuits so resonance is familiar.  I am an electrician so I am familiar with conductance and its reciprocal resistance.