Describing the Mind as Modes of Thought
It is important to understand humans comprehend the world by breaking information down into manageable pieces. Contrary to the popular saying, we do not think outside of "the box." In reality, we draw our own boxes and those boxes/frame/models are valid when we can use them to communicate our own thoughts and improve our understanding of the world. If we wish to learn how to transcend our own circumstances to comprehend the world, we must better understand how individuals progress toward high functioning states of thought (enlightenment) and/or regress to dysfunctional states of thought (mental illness).
Students of physics learn they can look at the universe in a variety of ways. This makes it possible to understand aspects of the universe that would otherwise be inaccessible to the human mind. One paradigm to consider is that all things, including actions, can be treated as various forms and/or categories of energy. In turn, all energies can be treated as discrete packets, i.e. particles, phonons, etc., that take on wave-like characteristics as they propagate throughout the universe and interact with other energies.
When waves interact, they either constructively or destructively combine through superposition to form "envelopes." Some of these envelopes for certain categories of energies, including matter and light, are what we observe to be "objects." In other words, all things in the universe can be considered the superposition of an inconceivable number of energy waves and wave envelopes interacting in an inconceivable number of ways.
As such, the wave-like nature of energy allows the universe to be understood in terms of statistical law. Central to statistical law is the normal distribution curve where the peak at the center, or the mode, is the outcome most likely to occur with the diminishing likelihood of all other possible outcomes deviating from that mode. Here, outcome serves as a general description for anything we wish to predict; the outcome might be an expected position, energy, action, frequency, etc.
Avoiding the mess of attempting to mathematically prove the validity of psychology through quantum mechanics, which admittedly would help us better understand the mechanisms involved yet no human living today can probably do it, the human mind, which I would define as the pattern of neurological behaviors that is the self, might be considered the product of various wave-like interactions. Accordingly, statistical law applies to the mind. Because the same is true for music, it is possible to draw a limited analogy to the statistical nature of the mind and the underlying wave-mechanics associated with musical instruments, so can better understand how the mind functions.
A guitar, which offers a broad range of notes, has some very distinct characteristics like any person's mind; however, the instrument can be made to sound radically different by using different scales, chords, tunings, and techniques. The underlying mechanisms, which allow for some of these variations, can be explained in terms of modes. Scales are subsets of notes, or the frequencies of sound waves, that produce the harmonic quality we find enjoyable where the mode frequency is the root of a particular scale. (In terms of wave mechanics, harmonics are a set of frequencies deviating from the mode by an integer multiple, i.e. f, 2f, 3f….) Even though the standard guitar always has the same 132 notes (12 notes in 12 octaves with 22 positions per string), shifting the musical mode allows the guitar to sound different, because the combination, or superstition, of the notes changes with any change in the mode.
For behavior and thought, which can be considered an "envelope" formed by the superposition of many neurological behaviors, the mode is the most likely set of behaviors (actions), which includes thoughts, an individual might engage in, given a particular situation. By shifting to another mode of behavior, behaviors previously considered to be less likely now become most likely. A shift in mode of thought, therefore, represents a different perspective. If the human mind is viewed as the superposition of our thoughts, and the product of neural activities, each individual is capable of engaging in a great variety of modes of thought.
In psychology, the concept of compartmentalization refers to a person isolating parts of his, or her, mind. For example, someone may exhibit an extremely apathetic response to an emotional situation, because that person has become disconnected from the emotional components of his personality. A thoroughly compartmentalized person could even exhibit states where he is both highly empathetic, which is the capacity to feel what others feel, and devoid of empathetic thought, i.e. sociopathic.
In a degenerative case, i.e. where a person has trouble functioning, an individual may learn to separate the emotional and intellectual components of his personality to the point where the intellectual components cannot affect the state of certain emotional components. As traumatic events and/or prolonged periods of stress/duress are often the cause of compartmentalization, some of the emotional components of such a person may not be functional, even if the intellectual components are highly functional. In such a case, the individual could not function properly when facing an emotional obstacle while the intellectual components could not resolve the underlying emotional issues with reason or a deep understanding of those issues.
Repairing the emotional components, whether or not the compartmentalization process can eventually be reversed, would depend upon that person's ability to find a proper environment where exasperating stressors can be controlled for an adequate period of time, underlying grievances can be resolved, real opportunities exist for the individual to fulfill neglected emotional needs, and the individual can be empowered with meaningful choices.
Compartmentalization is often considered the sign of an unhealthy mind; however, our society does essentially train us to compartmentalize our thinking for the benefit of society as a whole and ourselves when educators teach us how to consider the perspectives, or modes of thought, of others. Because humans are subjective beings with limited knowledge of the universe who develop unique perspectives based on environment, our subjective modes of thought must be transcended, so we can function outside of our immediate environment, i.e. family, community, etc, and understand our broader global society.
A scientific thinker, for example, transcends his, or her, subjective mode of thought, i.e. the eye of the beholder/the perspective of the subject, by eliminating the impact of his, or her, own personal bias. As the scientist is a subjective thinker, however, the degree of objectivity such an individual achieves is dependent upon his, or her, ability to approach an increasing number of circumstances without the influence of personal bias. Thanks to our modern education system, which is largely science based, most individuals in the developed world learn to think in some degree of objectivity.
Alternatively, a nonscientific philosopher transcends his, or her, subjective mode of thought by attempting to bridge other subjective modes of thought. Instead of removing the effects of bias, such a thinker focuses on discovering common understandings/biases in order to learn how to think in a broader mode of thought that encompasses both the subjective personal mode and the subjective modes of others. Consequently, the scientific thinker is a philosopher as his objective mode of thought is a broader mode of thought that bridges all subjective modes of thought, even though it requires the shedding of subjective thought. (In music, the chromatic scale encompasses all notes and all other scales; similarly, the objectivity of scientific thought provides for this transcendence when it is used properly.)
That said, two modes of thought, such as scientific thinking and nonscientific philosophies, can be incompatible. When a guitarist tries to erratically shift between two or more musical modes, the instrument produces a rather off-putting disharmonious sound. In turn, confounding two or more incompatible modes of thought leads to destructive thinking. For example, it can be argued the improper muddling of scientific thinking, Christianity, Nihilism, Existentialism, and other perspectives resulted in thinking that allowed for the justification of the Holocaust.
On the other hand, an individual can, and must, utilize various incompatible modes of thought in order to function in our modern world. For example, a scientist, who seeks an understanding of the world that is verified with fact, can be a religious person while Catholic priests are often educated to think as objective scientists. This is only possible, because we learn how to shift between different modes of thought. By properly resolving differences between each incompatible mode of thought, a well-adjusted individual is able to do this by understanding when a particular mode of thought is applicable and how inconsistencies can be resolved through adjustment to the least relevant mode of thought for the particular circumstance. Staying with the current example, religious and moral philosophies compensate for a lack of understanding while religious doctrine and morals must be reinterpreted to compensate for an improved understanding of the universe.
Returning to the concept of compartmentalization, a compartmentalized person becomes unhealthy, especially when a mode(s) of thought is dysfunctional, when he can no longer bridge his own modes of thought, utilize the proper mode of thought, and/or influence the traits of a mode of thought. Like trying to play more than one mode on a guitar, possibly with a missing guitar string, the mind trying to function in a broken mode of thought, an improper mode of thought, or multiple incompatible modes of thoughts at once creates a disharmonious mess. In other words, the person can no longer properly function in his environment. Compartmentalization is, however, quite constructive when a person can use various modes of thought to transcend his own circumstances in order to understand others and the broader universe, i.e. become enlightened.
Moreover, understanding modes of thought offers us one more tool that can be used by laymen and professionals alike to better understand severe mental illnesses, such as clinical depression, schizophrenia, anti-social personality disorder, dissociative identity disorder, and many other diseases. It also offers intellectuals one more means of modeling the mechanisms behind broad-base thinking.