A friend recently said to me, “Do you ever wonder if we think the same?” That question has been ruminating in my mind since.
Metacognition is the act of thinking about thinking. I first came upon this term in a master’s degree course when we read Ann Bertoff’s Forming/Thinking/Writing. I’d been given the task of observing an organic object everyday for 10 minutes, recording my thoughts, for three weeks in a double entry notebook– something I’d not heard of. I kept my original notes in the left-hand column and left the right-hand column bland for the duration. Due to the organic nature of the object (I’d chosen a pansy), the object itself changed. I found myself trying to find new and creative ways to observe the object; for instance, I viewed it from different angles, or at different times of the day, or I viewed it as solitary or in relation to something else, or I completely morphed it, in my mind, to something else entirely. While the pansy remained relatively static for three weeks, it became clear to me that in order to not write the same observations day in and day out that I needed to change the way I thought about it.
Once the three weeks was over, the assignment was to go back and journal in the right column how our thoughts had taken place, evolved over time. I found it relatively easy to write about the tangible object (in the left-hand column), but when given the task to write about the intangibility of my thought processes in the right column, I struggled.
How do I think? I think in words, metaphors, images, scents, sounds. Isn’t that how everyone thinks?
As alluded to earlier in my blog, I ask my students to write in stream-of-consciousness often, something I do, as well. It’s the act of tracing the thought processes in your mind and recording them as they occur. They are fragmented. They digress. They are affected by stimuli I cannot control. They are fluid. Organic– ahh– connected to metacognive thinking; hence, the organic object.
An experiment [a stream-of-consciousness]:
rice trickling footprints that man’s deep voice i’m not seeing a thing only closing my eyes concentrating on the dark image seemingly red light seeping in around the edges shush stop talking so I can concentrate the rush of water the beach lapping waves upon the shore i can feel the warmth hear her words their words laughter i can type w/o looking but am I spelling the words right he shouts from the other room interrupted again go just go so i can finish my thoughts i need a space private and unavailable to anyone else six degrees of woolf vara has the right idea she has cats they mind their space and time i see her cat in the picture on her wall peaking like my thoughts in and out peaking [undedited]
So, now I’ll set the scene. I’m in my dining room, at the table, typing on my laptop. It’s11 a.m.My husband is in his office listening to Tyler’s last night’s hockey game on his computer; the commentator’s voice is bellowing from the other room, rising and falling with the excitement of the play. My daughter is making rice in the kitchen. I hear her pouring it, then running the water in the pan. And my husband get’s up to leave while I have my eyes closed tight trying to block everything out of my mind. When I close my eyes tight, I see a dark image that is framed in red light trying to seep in. Whenever I close my eyes, purposefully to block out sound and thought, I see colors– different colors.
I think about wanting an office. I need my own space, something that has been very much on my mind as of late which makes me think of Virginia Woolf– her plea in A Room of One’s Own. This leads me to the association of Vara, a Woolf scholar and former professor of mine, who has cats. And just the other day one of them died, so she put a picture of it up on her wall as a tribute. It was a little white cat peaking around a corner.
I think in words. I don’t see them; I hear them. I hear fragments of phrases/conversations people have said to me, what I’ve heard or read in my mind. Often times, songs (or parts of them) are running in my mind which is very much connected to the emotion I’m feeling or my mood.
I think in color. When I close my eyes to concentrate, I see color– often colors, but the pattern is unclear to me, though I’m convinced they are connected to the chakras. In fact, when I’ve mediated, I trained myself to see all the colors of the chakras in fluid succession to one another as a means of pushing out the thoughts until I could only see the colors and hear my breathing.
I think in sounds. I hear sounds which are associations often to memories or at the very least something familiar. I connect one sound to another. Melodies of sounds play in my head constantly.
I think in metaphors. Connections happen for me all the time in my mind. It’s the way I negotiate the unknown to the known. It’s the way I make comfortable the puzzling or the uncomfortable.
I think in scents. This is another form of connection for me. It’s always triggered by an outside stimuli, however, which leads to an association from memory. I can smell something and suddenly my thought generates instances of experience.
I think in random and abstract patterns. I have studied this, actually, as a teacher– and as a thinker too. I am more right-brained than left brained, so I tend to see the forest before I see the trees. I don’t think, I KNOW there’s something to be said about right brain/left brain dominance.
I’m thinking about whether you’re wondering about how YOU think right now? Maybe our thoughts are connected. Perhaps your thoughts generate an energy that dictates my thoughts or vice versa. On a few occasions, my friends and I tried an experiment– we thought of a subject (and agreed upon one, before-hand) that we would remind ourselves of before going to sleep. We’d concentrate on it to see if it would come up in our dreams. More times than not several of us dreamed about the thought we’d placed in our heads.
Now, dreams…. that’s a whole other topic!