As you may recall¹, Mental Mapping is the process of describing the shape of a mind (usually your own) by identifying recurring (and preferably unusual) thoughts.As with most sciencey ideas, questions abound regarding the process of Mental Mapping. Some of these will be answered in good time, to the best of my ability. Some of you might answer the remainder, to best of your ability.
Let’s start with this example: our beloved Captain’s Mental Map [discovered in the archive, recorded somewhere in the year '02]:
Grapes (or peanuts) the size of footballs²
I’m Homo sapiens / everyone else is Homo faber
Being first on the scene of an accident
Awareness of paranormal activity
Desire to commiserate with the Irish working class
The words “Half and Half” are pronounced “Hlaf n’ Hlaf”
Want to move to Chuuk
The above should give you a pretty good idea of what a basic mental map might be. I conferred with the Captain, and she claims that mostly, over the last six years, the entries have held up. Mostly.
Which brings us to an important point about mental mapping: these maps (like all maps) are subject to change. Given the nature of this invisible ganglionic territory, even the best efforts are bound to be full of guesswork and errors.
As with any map, you must start with the basics, and make some assumptions. Here be dragons, and so forth. Revisions are essential. Paradoxically, errors in mapping your thoughts increase the accuracy of your mental map (only if they are your errors). Mis-thinking is a form of thinking. Accuracy (I’m talking to you, Ensign Aargh) is not a prerequisite for success.
It is probable that conscientiously mapping your thoughts will change what thoughts you think. But unless you can un-think about it you’re humped, so you might as well start with what you got.
Don’t think of the points (or lines, or stars, or townships, or mountains, or whatever) on your map as being “right” or “wrong.” There is no right or wrong in mental mapping. There are only degrees of interestingness.
Here are the basic criteria I use when assembling a mental map:
Recurrence: when you have a thought, consider whether it is a thought you’ve had before.
Regularity: how often has this thought recurred? The thoughts that interest me most recur at a rate of less than once a day and more than once a year.
Interest: what is your reaction to this thought? Does it stimulate an chain of further thoughts? Does it (or has it) worked its way into conversation or action? If you cohabitate with someone, they might have a good idea of what some of the points on your map are.
Uniqueness: is this thought yours, or is it owned by many people? A common thought is often accurate, but not telling. For instance, let’s say you regularly think “puppies are cute.” It is certainly a part of your mental map, but it does not go far in distinguishing your mind from anyone else’s.³
One typical reaction to the idea of mental mapping is to be stumped. This leaves you to consider the possibility that perhaps you are deep down, a boring person (see footnote). Don’t panic – the process of assembling even a meager list can take weeks or months.
One patient swore that he had nothing of interest to map. Two months later, at three in the morning, he called us with a revelation: he had recognized a point on his mental map. Every time he went into an old house, he said, he would find himself thinking that maybe there was treasure secreted inside the walls.
Good for him.
Always here to help,
p.s. More to come, including an important message about the dangers of psychic robots.
¹ Mental Mapping (Part 1)
² As previously mentioned, although now the grapes are the size of watermelons. “I need to be able to carve off a large slice and eat it with two hands,” she says.
³ It is possible to have a mental map made entirely of common thoughts. But it is sad.