Language and thoughts

 

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Some pretty basic things about language and thoughts, easily noticed through a labeling practice…

Language (as defined very generously) helps us communicate with ourselves and others.

When I use language to communicate with myself, it helps with mapping, navigating, orienting and functioning in the world. And this self-talk comes in two forms: non-discursive and discursive, or non-verbal and verbal.

Since thoughts mimic the (other) sense fields, the non-discursive language takes the form of thoughts of sound, sight, smell/taste and sensation. It is non-discursive, so most animals probably have this form of language, at least to some extent. When our cat recognizes the sound of our car, it uses sound thoughts, memories of the sound. When it walks up to the food bag, it probably uses image and smell/taste thoughts. And so on. She talks to herself, using nonverbal thoughts mimicking her sense fields.

The discursive thoughts also mimic sense fields, combining sound with and image, and often whatever other sense fields are appropriate. For instance, I can tell myself that I want to get up early tomorrow, have a bacon and egg breakfast, and then go our and dig out the soil for the retaining wall, and all of that is a combination of sound (words spoken to myself), images, and at least one smell/taste thought or memory.

This type of self-talkalso helps with mapping, navigating and functioning in the world, and is a slight extention of the non-verbal self-talk. When I look at it, the similarities between the two are more striking than their difference.

And of course, language can also be used for communication with others, and again, in the same two forms: verbal or nonverbal. I can speak with words, or I can draw, paint, make music, dance, move or anything else that expresses whatever non-verbal sense field thoughts I want to communicate.

There is, most likely, no end to how much we can discover when we explore this, even if we do it only by noticing what is alive here now in immediate awareness.

For instance, in terms of how the nonverbal and verbal thoughts interact, I see how the nonverbal thoughts serve as a storehouse for verbal thoughts to emerge from and draw upon. There is a sound, then a thought-image of a car placed where the sound seems to emerge from, and this can fuel verbal thoughts such as a car is passing on the street, it is pretty noisy, maybe there is something wrong with the muffler. Similarly, the verbal thoughts can easily evoke non-verbal thoughts. I tell myself that I’ll have icecream with strawberries tomorrow, and right away there is an image of just that, a smell/taste thought, and also a sensation-thought.

And by exploring this, I see how all of these thoughts are really just memories. Even if they are scenarios about the future, they all draw from the past.

I also notice how thoughts, whether they are non-verbal or verbal thoughts, live their own life, on their own schedule. Verbal ones are more easily noticed so there is a tendency to attach an idea of a doer to them, and the nonverbal ones are often less noticed so appear outside of the realm of the doer. But when I explore this more, I find only the idea of a doer – organizing perception in a certain way – and no doer outside of that idea.

Thoughts happen, and that’s it. They happen, they are sometimes precedet by something that seems to trigger them, and they seem to have certain effects. But no doer is needed anywhere there.

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