The Thinking Function as given by Nature

Thinking and feeling are uniquely human abilities. Some animals have rudimentary manifestations of these functions, but their full potential only comes into play in human beings. To envision things in our mind’s eye that are not immediately present, and relate them to other abstractions, is an exclusively human capacity. To feel, empathize, and perceive someone else’s emotional condition by examining their expression, is also uniquely human. These two functions can accomplish much more, and inner farming is specifically aimed at bringing them to their full potential. As we shall see in the coming labors, thinking and feeling are by nature the least disciplined of our functions. For this reason, they are given two labors each: the first spans their functioning by nature, the second, how their output might be farmed.

The July wheat harvest will focus on the natural yield of our thinking function. This function reasons, compares, imagines, formulates words, and in general, conceives and handles abstract concepts. Thanks to our thinking function, we can entertain complex topics in our mind, break them down into smaller components, and present them to ourselves or others logically and coherently. This is such an inherently human ability that we take it for granted. Replaying yesterday’s events in my mind’s eye, or thinking and planning for tomorrow, is only possible because I have power over abstractions. Moreover, this ability permeates and empowers the other functions. It enables the moving function to visualize objects and order them in space. It enables the emotional function to consider people’s character and consider different ways to approach them. It opens innumerable possibilities for us without which we would be incapable of change, just like the rest of the animal world. In fact, the whole concept of inner farming presupposes an ability to envision things being different than they are by nature, an ability with which we are endowed thanks to our thinking function.

These examples of the power of thinking, however, presuppose an aim. In the absence of an aim, our thinking function yields very different results. It replays an irresistible stream of associative thoughts called daydreaming. At first, before we develop the discipline of self-observation, we mistakenly believe that daydreaming is something we only indulge in occasionally, in dull moments, when nothing in particular requires our mental engagement. However, our attempts to farm ourselves soon reveal daydreaming to be a much more pervasive habit. It negatively impacts not only our thinking, but also our other functions. The briefest gap of time, the smallest interval while waiting, or even while our other functions are engaged in meaningful activity, our mind freely wanders in the unbridled realm of daydreams. It is a habit very difficult to resist. Even when we realize that we are daydreaming at this very moment, and acknowledge to ourselves that our dreaming is counterproductive, we are still strongly tempted to continue indulging in it. Why is that?

When we listed the three bodies of the human being in February, we associated ‘thinking’ with Personality, that adaptable coat that develops early in life to enable Essence to conform to society. Essence knows no other conduct than its own nature, but the experience of socializing quickly teaches it that not everything it feels should be expressed, not every impulse should be acted upon, and that following the rules of etiquette, which at first seems insincere, often spares us a great deal of trouble. There is a gap between who we are by nature and who we need to be to blend into society, an abstract gap that can only be filled through learning, comparison, and understanding, or in other words, through utilizing our power of thinking. The ability to behave differently than the tendencies of our Essence—to be different than we naturally are—is only possible because of our power over abstraction. Hence the close relation of Personality to the thinking function.

In right order, Personality helps Essence integrate into society by smoothing its rough edges. This, however, requires that our thinking operates correctly. The more our thinking runs wildly, the more exaggerated our Personality becomes, to the point at which it ceases being useful to Essence altogether. It no longer helps Essence respond to real situations in life but creates and replays imaginary scenarios in its own mind. If I am dealt with unjustly, then in my daydreams I argue my case in an imaginary court and convince the jury of my innocence. If I am not as successful as someone else, then in my daydreams I get to pretend that I am, or at least to denigrate my opponent in a way that makes their success irrelevant. My unbridled daydreaming is replacing reality with a flattering image of myself. Divorced from reality, this image is constantly threatened by reality and requires continual reinforcement by more daydreaming. I have fallen into a vicious cycle: the more invested I become in this imaginary picture, the more I need to daydream to maintain it. This explains the irresistible temptation to daydream. It has become an addiction.

To restore Personality to its proper place and function, we must clear our internal landscape from the ever-encroaching weeds of our daydreams. We accomplish this by breaking daydreaming down into smaller components. Observe the habitual subjects of your daydreams. These are always limited, revolving around just a few topics, for example, relationships, career, finances, health, politics, sports, etc. Choose one subject and aim to disallow it whenever it presents itself. The addiction will make this difficult at first, but with a little perseverance, the subject itself will become an alarm clock that will remind you of this exercise. The motivation for this struggle must come from the realization that by succumbing to daydreaming, you are not only paying now, but will also pay interest in future moments. Although any other topic of daydreaming can be permitted, you will find that deliberately minimizing a single topic  indirectly disciplines the rest. Personality is the sum-total of our favorite subjects of daydreaming, stitched together. Tear off one, you have weakened the entire fabric.

This is our labor for July.



The Instinctive Function



Farming the Thinking Function