In this era of materialism, it is but natural to reduce all phenomena to just matter & energy. In that flow, the mind is reduced to just the functions of the brain, which means that all your thoughts & attention are just what the brain does. Hence the brain is a dictator, what it has to do, it does, no appeals allowed.
But is it really so? Is the brain really a dictator or a servant/tool? I have been a very angry person in the past. It wasn’t just anger, it was probably devil’s anger. I felt as if I couldn’t control myself anymore. I could feel strong violent impulses pushing me from inside to do harm to others. There seemed to be no appeal against it.
Then, I came across what is called rational thinking, to break down one’s thoughts to a point to find if there is any solid reason to believe whether they were true or just an illusion of truth. By this process, gradually my anger came down substantially as most of it was just irrational thoughts in the garb of facts. Speaking in scientific terms, my emotional part of the brain calmed down.
If I go according to the theory that the emotional part of my brain produced those emotionally impulsive thoughts, then how did it all change with my conscious thinking? As is said popularly that the very consciousness is produced by the brain, hence controlled by it, how could I consciously guide myself out of that devil’s anger? Someone could still say that it was again the brain’s decision. So, welcome to another religion folks, where brain is the god who accomplishes its wishes, no appeals allowed.
But it was I who chose to be what I am now, a pretty peaceful person. I could continue my life as an angry bozo, but I did not. It was a conscious decision. And I swear, I didn’t take any medication or get my brain surgically operated. I technically did some kind of a cognitive behavioural therapy, where I identified my cognitive distortions & then reduced them substantially. If we say that ‘the brain does it all’, cognitive behavioural therapies would be a waste of time & effort.
A simple illustration is of yourself listening to someone. You are there, being bombarded with loads of sensory information, looking into the eyes of the speaker, but a few minutes into the speech, you have no idea what the speaker spoke. It is because you paid no attention to it. Then to avoid any more embarrassment, you consciously pay attention to the speaker’s speech. Now you know every part of his/her speech & can be an active participant in the related discussion. Did the brain choose to pay attention? Or you chose it?
I have been a person advocating the ‘brain does it all’ theory of thoughts. But there came a time where I seriously had to ask myself if I could really support that idea. Yes, brain is a very complex tool for cognition, but the data just explains how the brain functions or what regions of the brain are activated while certain mental activities.
The dualism of mind & brain has helped me a lot in fixing more and more cognitive distortions or illusions of truth. It has worked both in theory and practice. Like whenever I see a potential angry response coming, I am consciously watching it happen and so can fade it out fast. It has made me more and more rational. I can easily spot my cognitive biases & subdue them quickly.
I am still ready for a better explanation which works both in theory & practice.