I model my mind as having two kinds of parts. The one kind I lump into my effortful mind, which is the part that ponders, observes, strives, and everything else that expends mental effort. The other kind I lump into my automatic mind1, which does pretty much everthing else.
That second kind of parts pretty much run my life; perhaps the effortful mind is a rider upon a partially trained elephant, the automatic mind, and sometimes the rider can direct the elephant successfully, and sometimes the rider is asleep, and sometimes the rider points one way and the elephant pays no mind at all.
My effortful mind can do more than just override my automatic mind (and exaust itself) occasionally. My automatic mind will often ask for help, when it doesn’t know what to do, there are various techniques to suggest new options to the automatic mind, and of course, the effortful mind use any of those means to rearrange the external environment.
The focus of my introspection is building explicit models of the workings and current state of the various pieces of my automatic mind. Sometimes these models provide new options for interacting with situations, sometimes they inform how I want to change those parts, or change my environment to engange or disengage those parts, and sometimes the models don’t do much at all. If nothing else, I get a lot of satisfaction out of the whole process.
- The automatic and effortful minds are also known as System 1 and System 2. ↩