Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Subconscious Mind

I don't suppose there's anything about us that is miraculous in the true sense of the word, but I am often amazed by the workings of our brains. I am not really thinking of our general level of intelligence and concomitant problem solving abilities and artistic creativity (as amazing as these things are) but some little specific occurrence that I've noticed a number of times recently.

It occurred to me most recently several days ago in a checkout line at the grocery store. Like many people, I was absentmindedly scanning the magazine offerings as I awaited my turn. Soon, I wondered about a headline or title that lodged itself in my brain. Had I really seen those words? Hmmm ... where were they? What was the article really about? Frankly it took me some diligent searching with my conscious mind before I rediscovered the title that my seemingly unconscious brain, had already somehow and mysteriously, registered — something that simply took awhile to jostle itself into my subconscious. I found the words that I was searching for on one of those little pocket books that you often see at checkouts, like those little horoscope booklets. Of course, I have no recollection of what those words now, but I remember the incident well.

I do, however, recall a specific incident in a bookstore several months ago. I was thumbing through a cookbook when I stopped and asked myself whether I had seen the name of my best boyhood chum. Back I went through the pages, searching with my conscious mind what the subconscious part of my brain had somehow picked out of the many words on a single, busy page. It took awhile but I found it, and it was, indeed, the very same name — different person, same name.

And then there's this! Three weeks ago, more or less, we attended the Ceili that I blogged about here and here. There was a fiddle tune played several times during the concert. To the best of my knowledge, I hadn't heard the tune before and don't even recall it's name now. Several days ago, weeks after the concert, of its own volition my mind began playing the tune. Although I have no independent verification, I think I played it well and truly in my head. Later that day, I tried to willfully recall it — to no avail. I still don't know what it's called, but beyond that, I have absolutely no idea of how it goes — not any minute part of it! Yet, apparently, the thing sits in the deep recesses of my brain somewhere.

To me, things like this are bizarre, amazing, puzzling, and yes I'm also tempted to say miraculous. You must experience this phenomenon too. Eh?


Pam said...

Yes, all the time. The sub plays games with us, I think, and the older you get, the more it happens. Sometimes disconcerting, mostly fun.

How about a video of you playing the fiddle?

KGMom said...

Our brains are amazing and frustrating. Try to recall a name, a place, a movie, something--and tell your brain to do it on command. My brain too often says--sorry, out to lunch. But then without bidding, things pop into my brain. I have had exactly the experience you reference--seeing a word phrase and knowing you just read it, but where.
Don't even get me started on recalling songs and tunes.

ChrisB said...

And here was me thinking I was the only one having this type of senior experience with things slipping in and out of my mind. Then when I least expect it I get total recall only to forget it again if I can't check it out immediately- if this makes sense!!

Cathy said...

Yep. Miraculous. That business about picking up something subliminally is a very curious phenomenon. I think there's so much more processing going on in there than we imagine. Perhaps it's a hold-over from evolution. We evolved in pretty hazardous environments. Maybe there are parts of our brain dedicated to subconsciously filtering visual data (like a spider or snake, nearby) but not demanding conscious attention unless the stimulus is threatening (or of potential survival value). Maybe that's the part of our brain that registers the familiar name on a page and kicks it up into consciousness.

Pearl said...

yep, all the time. If a thought's in there, it has to be trenched deep enough by trailing through often enough to find it again. Like a path thru the woods. Maybe scouts can see the broken twigs but otherwise, it just closes around again, the new person or object or music that's entered the forest obscured.

Ginnie said...

Yep, me too. It is especially frustrating when I can practically "feel" and see a word but can't seem to get it past my brain and out of my mouth !! Good post.