To what extent does thought equate to action?
If you have a stable relationship, and a high libido, you might think that it causes no harm to imagine taking someone home and, ahem, realizing your desires. But is this really true?
Every time you experience a certain feeling the hyper thalamus in your brain is releasing the associated peptides, which react with cell receptors throughout your body, affecting even single celled organisms. Moreover, if you regularly feel certain emotions then when cells duplicate they will create new cells with more receptors for that feeling, and less receptors for the vitamins and minerals that our body actually needs (this is basically what aging is by the way). And if you associate these feelings with certain people, things or events, then regular use of these feelings creates a long term relationship between certain neurons in your brain. What this means is a series of cognitive biases. You come to interpret information in order to support this relationship, and reject that which challenges it. So even if thought and imagination doesn’t harm your partner, it may well have a big impact on you.
Emoto’s theory about the impact of thought on water provides an interesting example. His theory was that human thought physically affects water, in an almost telepathic way. The idea has of course gained a lot of criticism. But it has also gained a lot of support. And Emoto was even able to show photographic proof of music being used to affect the physical shape of water molecules. If Emoto’s theory is indeed correct, and given that we’re made up of between 50-60% water, think what kind of impact thoughts have on who we are, not only in terms of thought, but also in terms of physical change.
Another experiment for you; this time from Stanford. People had their brains scanned when given indulgent food. Those who felt guilty actually weakened their immunity to the effects of said indulgence, whereas those who just enjoyed it saw a positive relationship.
So let’s say you want to imagine something that would if acted, make you feel very guilty. Is it ok to imagine it? Or not?
Well i would have to say that the science you used, by your own admission, was of questionable verity, therefore it would not be valid to control your thoughts so as to build positive neural connections.
However, there would be many anecdotal, or at least circumstantial, examples of cases where people “let their thoughts run away with them”.
These spurious examples are often trotted out by the media to explain some shocking event such as mass shootings in the US etc,. The amount of times that graphic movies, violent video games, or aggressive music, have been linked to the cause of the behaviour is very common.
It would be easy to believe that there is a connection between your science of the brain and the resulting behaviours of individuals. However that is a matter for science to prove and so far there doesn’t seem to be much support for that link.
In fact, popularly speaking, you could easily disprove it.
The popularity of tv shows where the lead character is a serial murderer, or a vampire, etc, should mean that at least a few of those millions of viewers who tune in each week begin to develop such gruesome tendencies.
However, I don’t think there is yet a statistic showing that there have been any changes in the homicide statistics in populations where those shows rate highly.
Of course it is known that there are people who unfortunately suffer from an inability to distinguish reality from fiction, and suffer delusions and other mental disorders which make them susceptible to such ideas.
Fortunately however, this does not seem to be the case for the majority of the population.
Thanks for your thoughts Sean. Unfortunately however, I’m inclined to disagree. You say that the science is questionable. But the part which you question has been proved. It is habit. When neurons fire, a relationship is formed. And when you repeatedly fire the same neurons it becomes much easier to fire them again. You even come to want to fire them again.
Your example of violence on films is slightly tenuous, as firstly, it doesn’t involve thinking about you doing the violence, and secondly, even if it did it would be a much weaker connection than committing the action itself. And that’s the real question. We know that repeatable actions create strong neural networks, and thus lead to habits and addictions. The question is rather the extent to which mere thoughts are able to have a similar effect.