Our Fetishisation of Consciousness

Something I’ve noticed in my struggle with anxiety was seeing how much this overthinking or anxiety was a part of my life. Looking more broadly I can see how much overthinking has become part of our society. Bombarding us with information the world has driven us into our minds; it’s a head-driven life we live now.

In our lives, problems need fixing, answers found, and strategies developed. In our existential quest for meaning and purpose, it’s the same; we think and think some more. We expect life to have the answers for us and find them through discursive thought; the answer laid out on paper.

It is a way for us to gain some sense of control over life, to have it all make sense, and to clear away all the ugliness and uncertainty that force the world into our reason.

This bias towards thinking is part of what I call the ‘Fetishisation of Consciousness.’ We’re fixated on the conscious mind and its contents, features like feelings, thoughts, and ideas—the analytical process of solving problems. along with intentions, will, desires, and our sense of directed activity.

One example I noted is the search for artistic voice. We get the idea that we need to work it out before making art. Artists can become quite concerned over the failure to find this mythological artistic voice before they make art.

We believe that success, happiness, and meaning can only come through having the proper thoughts, to get us to the right knowledge and ideas.

Such a narrow view happens when people over-identify with the thinking parts of their mind and forget the non-thinking subconscious that does most of the heavy lifting.

Hammer and Streetlights

It might be called Maslow’s Hammer or the ‘Law of the instrument‘. ‘He who is good with a hammer sees everything as a nail.

We can illuminate the conscious mind but not the subconscious with any certainty. We think a lot; we’re well-practised at that. Therefore we gravitate towards thought and ideas because it’s a well-trodden path. Ideas are easier to assess and deal with messy emotions and ambiguity.

It’s the Streetlight effect or fallacy. It’s easier to find answers where it is easiest to look.

'A policeman sees a drunk man searching for something under a streetlight and asks what the drunk has lost. He says he lost his keys, and they both look under the streetlight together. After a few minutes, the policeman asks if he is sure he lost them here, and the drunk replies no, and he fails them in the park. The policeman asks why he is searching here, and the drunk answers, 'this is where the light is' - Wikipedia. Streetlight effect or fallacy

We draw conclusions based on what we have to examine in our conscious minds, what is easy to do or to remember.


Our lives are dominated by thinking, so I see no surprise that anxiety is a problem today. Our neurotic attitude is summed up in Rodin’s, The thinker. the sculpture epitomises our neurotic attitude. Thinking has become necessary, and desirable because we need the control that having knowledge gives us. Yet the danger is overthinking, and analysis paralysis.

All this focus on thinking fuels yet more ideas and thoughts, and western society in some ways has become trapped in the maze of its thinking.

Instead of thinking, perhaps the way to go is to think less and accept the mystery, then dive into it by taking action.

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