Life on Auto Pilot

I think this question relates to science because it’s a psychological issue that I’d like to discuss and inquire about. I’ve realized a couple weeks ago that I am on auto-pilot. I realized, I don’t think about cooking, I just cook. I don’t think about my job, I just work. I don’t think about walking or talking or reading or hearing or feeling, it just happens automatically. However, at certain moments I have “out of body” experiences where I’m totally blown away by the fact that this a physical world and I actually EXIST. My existence and my experience through this life is all I know, but I rarely acknowledge it. Instead, I’m thinking about the “second layer to reality”.

For example, as I type out this message, I’m far more focused on the communication with others that will hopefully ensue. I’m thinking about how to form the sentences, so my point can get across, and I’m reading my words as I type them aloud in my head. I’d say this is the “second layer” I mentioned before because I lack any real scientific vocabulary to describe this. But then if I start thinking about what’s REALLY happening… as in, what’s happening in the physical world, I realize I ignore it all the time. For example, I feel the shaggy rug on my feet, and my hair is dry and rough. I can hear the click of the keyboard, and I can see the light of my screen projecting all sorts of colors that I am able to distinguish. I’m existing, and the very thought of it is very challenging for me and is somewhat scary. My presence is completely inevitable, but I don’t hardly pay attention to it (in the physical sense at least).

My question is, can anyone relate? Does anyone know what this cognitive conundrum even is, or am I alone in this? Is anyone else just totally floored and somewhat scared of their physical placement in this world?

Any advice to help me stay grounded, personal coping mechanisms, or stories of commonality would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

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I think we all have moments like that. We all tend to take things for granted until something comes along to wake us up. We have our plans of what we need to do each day and are so busy checking off the boxes that we don’t take the time to notice our primary sense perceptions. It is the norm for how we people tend to live our lives (and probably a good part of why eye-witness testimony is often not so reliable as we are focused on other things). Whether that is a good thing or a bad thing depends. Are we taking what God has done for us for granted? Bad. Are we taking our ability to get dressed in the morning for granted? Probably not a real problem…at least not until we run into someone who has a disability that makes that a major challenge.

Hi!

Well, its actually quite an interesting experience the one you share here. I can notice by the way you write about it that you are a bit worried. I hope I get it right, but roughly speaking, you are saying that you have this experiences where you just have meta-cognitive thoughts right? I mean, you are conscious that you are conscious about things and the real world that surrounds you and the activities that you do in it right? If my insight is correct, I think that you are aware of a very special capability that God gave to humans. The ability to reflect upon our thoughts and our actions. I do not see something wrong about it. Sometimes I also do that, I like to study psychology and philosophy because I teach at my local church and sometimes you have to have this meta-cognitive thoughts.

Now, what I would like to share with you, if you let me, is a principle that I learned from a local pastor. It is dangerous to spend too much time with yourself, because we are imperfect and sinful creatures. Is better to spend time with God and surrender to him our thoughts. That is why it is important to also attend to church, because you can maybe share this with a small group :slight_smile:

I think it could be a good idea to talk about this with your local pastor or a Christian psychologist. Please, do not get me wrong :slight_smile: I am not saying that you are crazy. I just think that if you shared this deep thoughts in this community with us, seeking for an answer, it could help to expand this talking with someone that can just listen to you. Because, you know, sometimes you cannot express everything in a post. Is very limited.

Philipans 4:8 says “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

Sorry for the long post, I tried to made it simple :slight_smile:

I hope that my view can help.

God Bless!

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@DeAnna_Collins I think I’ve had the feeling of being on auto pilot when I was younger. During those times, I remember moments when I’d get the incredible realization that not only are we alive, but that there’s a vast universe out there, that there’s a God! It can make a heart skip a beat to think we are less than a grain of sand in a vast universe. And then the strong feeling goes away, and the humdrum of daily life continues. I think sometimes these experiences may be due to personality (I’m not an expert, but I would think the more introverted and intuitive one is, the more likely to feel this way), or the experience may be due to physical issues such as lack of good sleep or garden variety depression. The brain needs energy for the body to function at its height. We are spirit, soul and body, and all three need to be taken care of. I don’t remember who said it, but this man likened a human being to a tricycle. If any of the three wheels are flat, the trike cannot go anywhere. Spiritual conflicts, emotional conflicts, physical hormonal issues affect the way we think, the way we feel and with what energy we go about our day. It is always best to trust the Lord with whatever comes into our life. I know the only regrets I have are of not trusting God enough to say “thank you Lord” whenever He allowed a loss in my life. Bitterness, lack of forgiveness, self loathing, self love, comparing ourselves with others … all of that can drain our life and energy and make us less alive. Feeling like one’s on auto pilot may not be due to any sinful thinking, but it’s worth looking into. Hebrews 12:1 speaks about two things, weights and sin. Sometimes we carry unnecessary things in our hearts that are not sinful, our feet are shackled if you will, and we try to run the race with gusto but cannot. Sin, on the other hand, may cause us to run the opposite direction or run after different goals than what God has for us. If any of that is going on, and we avoid dealing with issues or even deny they exist, we may end up following our daily routine in auto mode. This may or may not be relevant to you, of course. None of us can wrap our mind around the great reality of the universe. God is so much greater than we can even imagine, and only He knows everything about us. We can trust Him because He came to us in the person of the Lord Jesus and redeemed us and gave us a glimpse into eternity. I hope some of this is helpful. Hopefully, others will be able to share something more meaningful or more to your question. The Lord bless you!

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Hello, @juansebravo95 thank you for the response.

I would definitely say some of it is metacognition. I’m unsure if the realization of existence falls in that category or not. But I think something else that has been sort of scaring me is realizing, I only have my own view, my own lens, my own consciousness to perceive the world. It made me wonder to myself, how can I possibly know what is and is not true or real. The only thing I’m capable of is living life according to my own brain waves and the way I take in and process data. This has troubled me. How do I determine what is and is not complete imagination? As silly as it sounds, I think of things like the movie The Matrix, and I ask myself, do we have any ways of proving this isn’t what’s going on? Before I sound too awful crazy, I’m not saying we’re in The Matrix nor do I think we are, but what I do wonder is, do we have a way to “prove” that we’re not? Although our consciousness is strictly individual, can we share a true sense of reality with everyone? Is there a way to prove that the people around us are in fact real people who are distinct from us containing their own individual consciousness who share a sense of reality that is compatible with our own?

I know this is a very odd question, and it’s sort of all over the map when it comes to consciousness, but I will admit, it has me a bit worried. How on earth can I separate fact from fabrications I make up?

@DeAnna_Collins

It sounds like you’re questioning the nature of reality itself. How can we prove that the physical world around us and that others we see and hear are truly there rather than simply figments of our imagination. Or worse yet, what if we are all figments of someone else’s imagination (or as Elon Musk of Space-X fame apparently believes that we are characters in a VR simulation).

Strictly speaking, we cannot PROVE that we aren’t just disembodied brains imagining all this sensory data. However, just because we cannot prove we are NOT does not mean that we ARE. Our every-day experience seems to argue against it. For instance, if you stub your toe, is your first reaction “I’m imagining that I stubbed my toe” or is it OUCH!!!? Put another way, if we aren’t actually real, then are we who responded to you simply voices in your head? Are you, in essence, talking to yourself? Consider conversations you have had in which information was imparted to you. Where did that info come from? How can you teach yourself something you do not already know? Hopefully, these examples are demonstrating that we do have good reason to believe from our normal life experiences that we are, in fact, real individuals who interact in a real world. Given that, the only reason to abandon that presumption would be if a really strong case can be made for the alternative’s being true and our every-day experience’s being false. No such case has yet been made.

Hope this helps.

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If you want more information about this topic, you might want to look into some good Christian philosophy on general ontology which covers the nature of existence, identity, and the mind/body problem. One good source that I’ve read, though it may be a bit more than you’re looking for, is called “Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview” by J.P. Moreland and William Lane Craig. Here is the link to it on Amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/Philosophical-Foundations-Christian-Worldview-2nd/dp/B087Q1XJ45/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=philosophical+foundations+for+a+christian+worldview&qid=1590892811&s=audible&sr=1-1

Thank you for your response, because I do think that some of these concepts you mentioned have gone through my head. You also laid out some good questions that I was beginning to ask myself. I would not say I’m anywhere near the Elon Musk side of things… thank goodness! How silly (in my personal opinion) to think we are under the control of an external force via simulation.

Something that I was thinking of this evening is Descartes “I think therefore I am”. It occurred to me that our own consciousness is our only verifiable proof within ourselves, and after we debunk that a little then we can build off of that. So, only my consciousness existed then that would mean my consciousness would have to be god. However, this makes no sense, because God must be perfect, and this conundrum I’ve been thinking of is far from perfect and simply doesn’t seem like something God would have an issue with. The other option is that God created my consciousness and only my consciousness, thus allowing my consciousness to run rampant. This seems a little deceptive… to create a being that has no real sense of what is going on. So then, it seems as though this argument must have an additional statement, namely that reality must be present to avoid an imperfect God.

I’m not sure if that’s a logical argument or not, but it’s something my brain concocted up in a few short minutes.

Also, thank you for the book recommendation. I started looking up information about all of this, and I just found JP Moreland, and I think I plan to listen to some of his lectures as well as visit his website. The book may turn into a necessity as well!

Out of curiosity, do you have opinions on the topic of “consciousness as controlled hallucinations”? I personally feel “hallucinations” may be a strong word, but essentially, it argues that reality is just perceptions that we can agree on. Thoughts?

The idea of “reality’s being just perception that we can agree on” is a rather post-modern view. Post-modernity seeks to argue against any objective truth. This presents a problem for the Christian world-view in that if God exists and is what the Bible says He is, He defines our reality. Thus, reality is not subjective to us, but objectively prescribed by Him. This has repercussions in many areas of thought and action. If we cannot know anything for sure about God (as post-modern and agnostic thought would argue), then all we have for living our lives and constructing our society is common opinion. If we can and do know God, He gives us our blue print for how to live our lives regardless of what others may say/think.

Is that helpful?

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Btw, I just remembered a rather amusing anecdote which I believe came from Ravi. He said that a philosophy professor friend of his was once asked by a very serious-looking student “Can you prove to me that I actually exist.” The professor looked at him and said, “And who shall I say is asking?”

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I totally agree that we need objective truth and that God would provide that for us. I do think that objective truth exists as well. Consciousness is an odd thing, and I’m thinking further study is going to be necessary on my part. Thank you for the insights, and the funny Ravi quote!

The things we do automatically as an auto-pilot like what you said" I don’t think about cooking, I just cook. I dont think about working, I just work" All these behaviours has almost became like our muscle memory. Each and every action leaves a neural impression in our brain. And these neural connections get strengthened based on the frequency and intensity of those particular actions. And it gets strengthened to an extent where you dont have to put your effort to “think” of doing it, you just do it because your brain and body has got “HABITUATED” to it. As we get shackled with this routine things of this world . We often forget to get into the most fundamental questions of our existence in this vast universe. And when we think of it, it just astonishes our mind at the same time some of us might get terrified by those thoughts.
So, my point is when we dont get shackled by the things of this world and try to anchor our identity in christ and find the very reason for our existence in Gods truth that “You are made in the image of God” & “You are here to enjoy the fellowship of god” & “You are created for a special task on this earth” I would say we’ll neither be terrified nor will have cognitive conundrums because he has given us a spirit of sound mind. Our God is not a god of confusion. We just have to submit and trust his infinite wisdom over the limited logics of our six pound brain.
I just gave it a try to reply from what I understood and Iam not sure whether it answered your question. Hope it does. Thank you. :blush: :grin:

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Hi, @DeAnna_Collins! You’ve brought up a fascinating question/experience. It sounds a bit like you’re experiencing what can be called ‘moments of transcendence’. That is, in the midst of the humdrum of everyday life (‘autopilot’?), you become aware of really existing…and what makes up those moments of your existence.

To your question, yes, I am often floored by my own ‘physical placement’ (as you put it) in the world. :smile: My reaction is usually just to chuckle at how ‘strange’ life can be sometimes. There is a certain kind of fear that that can induce in me, but I’m curious what it is for you? For example, I find it interesting that you ask about how you can stay ‘grounded’ or cope amidst those moments. Are they anxiety-inducing for you? Are you feeling a certain weight that comes with your existence?

Thank you for the input. I would say I agree with your explanation of muscle memory and the body doing habitual routine actions.

I think something that bothers me is realizing that even when living in the moment, it seems like I’m not. For example, when I am laughing with a group of friends at a joke, I’m not thinking to myself, “Oh, I’m laughing at a joke with my friends. How nice.” Instead, it’s just happening. My brain and body just does what it does, and there is no way to avoid it. These automatic reactions and intimate relationships with others are supposedly helping to shape me into the person that I am, but I’m not even aware of it. This then leads me to the thought that reality is just my perception. It’s somewhat existentialist in nature.

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Hello, @KMac and thank you for your response, I would definitely agree with your last section of your first paragraph:

To answer your questions in your second paragraph, so many things about it absolutely terrify me. For one, I realize, my existence is something that I cannot escape. I am inevitable (not to be silly and quote Avengers), but honestly, I cannot get rid of my essence. It’s there, and I have zero control over this. It sounds awful, but part of me thinks that annihilation sounds peaceful… perhaps because it seems like it would be similar to sleep. When I’m experiencing this “awareness of existence” I immediately want it to stop, and I want my existence to stop as well. Let me just say, I think some of this may be because of the toll that the quarantine is taking on me as well. Perhaps my mental health is declining resulting in these unhealthy thoughts.

Furthermore, I’d say it’s very troubling for me because it makes me feel so alone, small, and empty. I’d say this best relates to existentialism. My entire world is experienced through my perception of reality. No one can really know what I’m going through, and what I thought was so big and important isn’t very important at all! So, in the sense of the world and universe, my existence and consciousness is so small and insignificant. I feel so menial. But at the same time, my existence is my whole world. ‘Being me’ is everything that I can be and yet I’m oblivious to myself. For example, I can get just about anywhere in my hometown, I can describe my favorite meal, and I can recall memories of my childhood. But, I can’t give an accurate description of how I came to be who I am today. I can’t describe what I look like even though I look at myself in the mirror everyday.

Finally, I’d say it is very anxiety-inducing for me because it just makes me think to myself, “How can I know anything?” I have lived 26 years of my life thinking I was living life, but never really aware of it. If it took me 26 years just to be aware of myself in a new way, how can I be sure of absolutely anything else in the world? I ask myself, is belief in God just wishful thinking, so I don’t feel so alone? Is everything just an extension of my own conscience, and is it right or wrong to live in that extension? It makes me feel like I don’t know where my mind should be focused while I live this life. For example, say in a certain scenario I am reading a biology book about flowers: should I be focused either on a) the content of the book thus also imagining in my mind’s eye the petal description of daisies b) the fact that I am reading a book and thus existing c) not think about anything at all and not read the book and just exist.

I know that was a long message, and quite odd sounding, but I think it’s getting at the heart of what I’m trying to express.

Mind blowing! I heard from someone that the best way to handle an existential crisis is to watch the matrix trilogy three times, go to burning man and write “simulation theory” on the burn temple. After that the gods will take away all the inner anxieties and give every raver a chance at a clean slate… right?!

but in all seriousness maybe don’t overthink it at first, because from glancing at the comments it definitely would seem like you have that trait. we’ve all been there, but feel like maybe an initial encounter with existentialist writers or writing isn’t cause to question your whole existence hahaha. People like sarte or camus or whoever you are referencing earlier aren’t really saying anything new. Neither are hollywood, netflix, and many of our favorite influencers mimicking that postmodernist belief of morality that truth, good/evil, existence, consciousness all of that is subjective.) People have been arguing over that since the beginning of civilization and i’m sure before it as well. It just get’s a new label or new name or new character depending on wherever you notice it.

But yeah, not sure about your personal situation because it would of course be great to travel more and have a lot of money and live crazy life experiences and living unforgettable moments that would shatter any fears of living on autopilot and something that would undeniably feel real beyond question, but it’s also nice to pay the rent and not be broke all the time if you get what i’m saying.

Anyways, my point is after reading some of your thread is to soak it all in and respect it but no need overthink… not to the point where it has you questioning your whole existence and consciousness and thinking that all the people you imagine and encounter and who respond in forums are just figments of your imagination or projections of your consciousness. We are people too!!! hahaha

Stay blessed ~

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In a sense, we are ALL alone, small, and empty. Looking at who we are, in and of ourselves, would be depressing. That is because we were designed to be in relationship. Relationships with other people, yes, but most importantly in relationship with the One Who created us. When we try to find some kind of meaning in our own existence alone, we are small. When we look to God, we find that we are made for a purpose, bought with a price, loved, and valued by the only One Who has true, infinite, intrinsic worth. He understands us and what we are going through because He designed us and knows us better than we know ourselves. Only in our relationship with Him can we find our own value. This is what existentialists miss. They see only part of the reality.

We will almost never have 100% certainty of anything in this life. There is almost always some insidious variable C that might come along and turn everything on its head. If we wait to make a decision until we are 100% confident, we will never do anything because we can’t be 100% sure that there is not an invisible tack ready to stab our foot when we take a step. We have to look at the probabilities. Yes it’s possible there is such a tack, but the odds of that are extremely low. Thus, I will take that step. It’s not about 100% certainty, but certainty enough to make a decision and take that chance. That’s called faith, by the way.

Here is another good example of the need for faith. Not do we think God is there (in our heads), but do we truly believe it in our hearts enough to place our trust in Him? Will we act on that belief and take that step of entering into relationship with Him through Christ?

Thank you. This was very uplifting! Especially about the 100% certainty concept you were writing about. I’m a math teacher, so that resonated with me :slight_smile:

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Very sobering. thank you!