The human mind is a sophisticated organ whose function is to make associations, look for patterns, create generalizations, predict the future, and take steps to maximize individual well-being over time. In other words, as the stomach secretes acids and creates movement to digest food, the mind generates structures and processes to carry out its tasks. Just because we do not understand why our minds are doing what they are doing does not mean they are random or illogical. There are very good reasons why a mind might create sadness or rage or bliss or contentment, even if we do not know what those reasons are at that moment. Part of the pleasure of the ongoing journey of our lives is to come to understand our own minds better. It is a sort of intimacy with ourselves.
The paradox of this task is that the mind, which is the organ that makes meaning out of experience, examines itself. Obviously there are limitations to that. Just as you cannot see your own face directly, you cannot fully experience your own mind directly. That is why other people are so valuable. They can show us what we are missing by their responses to us. There is no substitute for being understood and accepted by another human being. It is indirect methods that reflect to us that which we cannot see.
Initially there might be some fear associated with knowing one’s own mind. What if I find out that I am not a good person? Or that I am lacking in some important way? What if I’m bad at being reflective? What if I find out that I am fundamentally irrational?
One of the benefits of growing older is the capacity to enjoy deeper and deeper appreciation of experiences and this includes an appreciation of the parts of ourselves we come to know. Ironically, as we encounter the limitations and messiness of being human, we become more able to accept things as they are. We are not as perfect as we would like to be, but at some point, this in itself becomes its own perfection. We are perfect examples of normal human beings: flawed, spectacular, aware.
If you have ever gone back to a high school reunion, there is a poignant feeling of fallibility as people share the triumphs and losses that have happened to them over the years. Life has a great leveling effect as it happens to people. The deep joy of that leveling is the connection that it creates between people as they struggle to create their lives. We are each so distinctly unique, but not that different after all. This sense of connection can provide us with the courage and the calm to be willing to understand ourselves as the reality of who we are internally.
Once we know that everyone everywhere is in some process of development or growth, with some dissatisfactions, with the normal ups and downs of everyday life, we are free to come to know ourselves in real ways. We can begin to wonder why our mind generates certain thoughts and emotions. What is the logic behind it? What meanings is our mind attempting to create? And there we are. Freer to be us and freer to relate to other people in authentic ways. It all unfolds from a trust in the logic of the mind.