I cannot will my thoughts to change
October 16, 2008 § Leave a comment
I cannot change my mind through force of will. It is exhausting and I cannot maintain consciousness of my thoughts and keep changing them on a moment to moment basis. What I am finding interesting about these cognitive studies is that they are pointing to things that I can do. If my automatic thoughts are informed by memory – semantic and affective, I can start filling my memory with new content, intentionally chosen. For example, I am a racist. I have been enculturated in a society that has taught me, as a white Canadian, that I am responsible for *tolerating* other, non-white, ethnicities and cultures. I do not want to be a racist, I do not want to be separated from people whose skin pigment is not the same as mine. And yet, despite my efforts, I sense that separation, even with my close colleagues, who are visible minorities. I have found, through listening to stories told by people of visible minorities that I am able to build new memories and associations with these people, who in turn generalize to others of that minority. Through listening to their stories, I build a sense of affinity that transcends skin color, ethnicity and culture. I am still conscious of the urge to separate, to divide myself away based on difference, but I am able to access other memories, which mitigate this impulse and give me another way of being present with that person. I am still white, and I am still racially disabled, in that I am deeply uncomfortable admitting there is a racial divide. I mean really uncomfortable. It is very difficult for me to talk about it. In a sense, I perpetuate the problem of racism, by my inability to discuss it, as I would discuss any other social injustice that I do not want to perpetuate.