What Others Think

“It is futile to waste time over what another is thinking, or what you imagine he is thinking - because you can never know. The one to be scrutinised is yourself.” Quote of the day.

‘It is futile to waste time,’ period. Okay, but what is K pointing to?

'Scrutiny" is perhaps a very strong word and sometimes indicates a critical or judgemental examination, quite different from K’s ‘choiceless awareness.’

In fact K is simply counterposing two positions: He is inferring a question: What allows for meaningful change? Does change come from self-observation or from judging oneself through the eyes of others? It is the latter which is our common practice. We conform, which is an endless travail, and K says it is futile. In what sense is it futile? Really it depends on our aim, does it not? If our aim is only to manage conflict then conforming can be very effective. But K points to another possible aim, which is the ending of conflict. Conforming to the expectations of others does not end conflict, it strengthens it. Why? Because we are thereby conforming to a conflictive world.

There are no magic answers. There is no method. K is merely pointing to a precondition for change. The only real thing that can change in our lives is our understanding. And insofar as our understanding changes, so does our action. Insofar as our action changes, so does the world. In the broadest possible sense, we are our action and everything that it encompasses, including our action in observing and understanding who we are and what we are a part of.

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What others think is a distraction, what others actually are is what I am.

No, their thinking is not a distraction unless you make it a distraction.

It is your action that counts.

Is there a significant distinction between what a person thinks and what they are?

In the context of the original quote, either I concern myself with what you are thinking and make it a distraction or your thinking plays no part in my understanding of myself. So either way what another thinks is not what matter is it?

Of course there is. Our idealisations of ourselves as our self identity are not who we actually are. Do you seriously think your self identity embodies anything actual? Do you think you actually know anyone, or that anyone actually knows you, whether it’s parents, siblings, spouse, children, friends, colleagues?

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That depends Dominic. It seems to me that your view is rather monochromatic. I have found many times that it has only been when someone else points out something they see in me that I begin to see it also. And one might take K as an example of that. That is why we have to be clearer about this.

What concerns me is our urge to adapt ourselves to what others think we should be, under emotional pressure. It is the adaption to emotional pressure, it is the adaptation to social threats and rewards that is preventative to in-depth understanding, not considering the views of others per se.

What others think about me may matter a great deal. The question however is, how am I relating to their thoughts. Am I seeking approval or truth? If it is the latter, then communication with others can be very helpful, depending on the quality of that communication. Dialogue, for example. It was reported in one reminiscence of K that he was about to enter a room full of people and said to his companion, “I wish to see what the rest of me is thinking.”

That is the meaning of two of his most famous aphorisms - ‘you are the world’ and ‘life is relationship.’

You are referring to self-image, I presume. But I did not ask about that. I did not ask
if there is a significant distinction between what a person thinks they are and what they are? I asked about what a person thinks, not about their self-image, which is only a small part of their thinking.

Taken as a whole, thought might be compared to an iceberg in some aspects. It is, to a small part, above the surface but to a much larger degree it is submerged. The observable part we may call conscious thought and conscious thinking. That is the smallest part. Within this small part the self-image is rehearsed, refined and re-energised.

Certainly, there is no true alignment between what one actually is (being the whole of thought, the whole iceberg from top to bottom) and that small part which reflects back on itself and maintains an image.

But in the deeper psychological sense, you are your thought. Not ‘you are your self-image’ but ‘you are your thought.’ Of course, you are everything physical too.

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What Others Think
What others think, and me is actually conditioning. My thinking includes what others, the society, the nation, everyone, think. We have had to invent philosophy to be able to think for ourselves. Or rather thinking for ourselves has become a sophisticated philosophy, religion, and ideology, etc. Then in conflict with all this theory, we spend all our time trying to work it out for ourselves. Its really just words. Others, him, her, you, them, that book, that theory, that authority, etc. Basically it is thought.
I am the thinker.

Thank you for your response and I appreciate what you are saying here. You mentioned dialogue and I have been looking into what David Bohm said about dialogue, and was wondering if you have attended such a thing in the flesh, and whether the processes of thinking, and problems in communication are different than when confined to the written word, and if a format like this is conducive to dialogue?

In whatever circumstance, if I am present, there will be conflict and judgement and delusion.

But you are more than that. You are also love, joy, seriousness, curiosity, empathy, humour, hunger, thirst, enervation, movement, feeling, youth, age and so on.

I attended many dialogues, both in London and at the Brockwood K Study Centre. I never met Bohm but have a friend who attended his dialogue sessions. They were open dialogues and sometimes rather fractious, he said. Bohm sets out his theories in a small volume called On Dialogue. It is an interesting read but I found it rather missionary . . . rather like a method.

I think it is possible to live in dialogue. If your relationship with the world is of the nature of a dialogue, not only in words but also in deeds, you can be engaged and aloof at the same time, always open and inquiring. So, I think ‘dialogue’ is reducible to relationship in that way. Then, a set-up verbal exhange is just one example of what one is doing all the time, a particular instance.

To participate on a website forum such as this will be many things to many people. Whether or not you are in ‘dialogue’ depends upon the nature or state of the mind in question, not on any other formal criteria.

Just my view of it.

Not sure about that - unless you are using love in the sense of emotional attraction and attachement.

Did you never feel love? If you did, then it is there still. Or, you want to make a romance out of it, use the word in some sense so absolute that reality pales into significance. No, I don’t mean emotional attachment. In fact, you may have emotionally attached to some idea of love which is unattainable.

As a child, did you not feel it? As a parent? As a lover? As a carer? Or, towards a pet or a garden plant? The unbridled feeling of the need to care. The operative word being ‘unbridled.’

Thanks to the various schools of Psychology, we may have some preferred theory as to what our emotions may be bridled to - but they may well be totally unbridled for all we can tell experientially.

Are you writing factually about yourself or seeking to disparage others? For myself, I am not bridled to any school of psychology or to any theory emanating from such. I suggest that next time you use the word “we” you do so sincerely.

Ouch! :face_with_head_bandage: thanks for the tip

When using the word conditioning, it is referring to a state of affairs most people everywhere suffer. It is the nature of a family, town, country, nation, race, etc. The conditioning is all the concepts, ideas, beliefs, religions, economics, politics, etc which we use in daily life. They have an ordinary practical use, but do we see there is a mental, psychological, intellectual, habit? That we are actually fulfilling the actions, impulses, desires, and way of thinking, of a program? To say I am not influenced this way, what I am thinking is that these influences are subject to my selection, my choice, my adoption. This self deception is the way conditioning is affecting us.


Can you name any in respect of yourself Peter?

I wasn’t trying to be offensive mac. It’s not only that I find the use of ‘we’ irksome (which I often do) but that it too often leads us away from ourselves, into the imagined world of the other, and also into generalisations we are probably not in a position to make accurately.

Yes, a program of ‘shoulds’ and ‘should nots’. And, yes, we don’t realize it’s a program…that we’ve been conditioned by punishment and reward like the psychologists condition rats in a maze.

Peter is also saying: “The conditioning is all the concepts, ideas, beliefs, religions, economics, politics, etc which we use in daily life.”

It seems to imply that everything we do is conditioned. Is that true and what are the implications and the significance?

You see, the mind is also aware of much of this conditioning, this continual effort, this attempt to cudgel and cajole and get one to perform, correspond and accept. So I ask both you and Peter to consider, in your own minds, to what extent your thought and action is determined by such influence (which you call a program) and to what extent you succeed in liberating yourself from it.

In effect I am asking, are we only that?