“Mind” as a Verb

From: L. Michael Hall
2023 Neurons #42
October 2, 2023
One of the greatest distinctions in the Meta-Model is the linguistic distinction of nominalization.  When you have one of these creatures, you have a mystified noun.  It is a mystery because, since it is not a true noun, it is challenging, sometimes difficult, and sometimes utterly impossible to know what to do with it.  How different from a real noun which is “a person, place, or object.”  When you have a real noun, you can see it or hear it or touch it or taste or smell it.  Examples of real nouns— your mother, your bed, your toothbrush, shoe, shirt, car, eggs, hamburger, etc.
But then there are the false nouns.  These are verbs which have been noun-ified.  Take the verb “relate” and when you nounify it, you have “relationship.”  The verb that’s hidden inside of relationship is “to relate.”  It is unspecified, so we have to ask more questions: who is relating to whom, relating in what way, for what purpose, over what time frame, etc.?  Take motivation and what is the hidden verb inside it?  Easy.  First we get motive then we get move.  Again, unspecified, so who or what is moving?  In what direction?  What is the style of the moving, toward or away from, slowly or quickly, etc.?
Many, if not most, nominalizations are like that—it is easy to detect the hidden verb and to expose the real referent.  That’s good because if you don’t, you will be left with a distorted mental map about yourself, others, life, and/or the world.  You will have a mental map that is false-to-fact and that will trick you, even deceive you, about things.  Psychologists for most of the 20th century were fooled by motivation.  They thought it was a thing, an object, something real, and so off they went looking for it.  But it is not a thing!  It does not exist as a separate entity.  It describes a function—the thinking-and-feeling (meaning-making) function within a person.  Maslow got it right when he identified motivation as a function of the driving needs that need to be gratified; he wrote a whole book about that—Motivation and Personality (1954/ 1970).
Now for one of the most mysterious of nominalizations of all—“mind.”  We certainly talk about “mind” as if it is a thing, a real thing, an object that somehow exists in our heads.  There is a whole field, Philosophy of Mind, in which great “minds” theorize and philosophize about mind.  Some say the mind is just the brain; some say there is no such thing, “it is a figment of your imagination.”  Then there are many other definitions, all striving to specify what it is.  But, of course, that’s the thing, it is not a thing at all!
Fortunately, we do at times use the word “mind” as a verb.  Getting on and off of trains or subways you see the words, “Mind the gap.”  We hear our mothers say, “Now you mind your mother and do what I tell you!”  We may hear our parents also say, “Mind your brother while I go into the store,” “Mind your manners, you’re in church!”  There are more: mind your own business, mind your head, mind your step, mind me, mind yourself, mind the goats, etc.  There are even “conversational postulates: “Would you mind passing the salt?”  “Would you mind closing the door?”
Now when it comes to mind as a verb, what are we actually saying or asking?  To “mind the gap” is to think about and pay attention to the gap.  So with “mind your mother,” we know that she means, listen to and think about what I told you.  “Mind” as a verb means think, think about, pay attention, focus on.
Now you know the hidden verb inside of “mind,” it is think.  Yet again, we have an unspecified verb, so we have to ask more questions: Think in what way, think how, think about what, etc.?  Now when it comes to thinking, there are essential thinking skills: considering, questioning, doubting, detailing, and distinguishing.  There are constructive thinking skills that lead to eureka moments: inferring, organizing, creating, and synergizing (systems thinking).  Then there are the advanced thinking skills: learning, deciding, discerning, reflecting, and sacrilizing (valuing). (I have detailed these thinking skills in Brain Camp I and in the forthcoming book, Thinking for Humans, 2024).
What is your “mind?”  Well, since we know it is not a thing, it must be a function, and given that the hidden verb is “think,” what we refer to by the word “mind” is your thinking functions.  Question: “What’s on your mind?”  Answer: whatever you have been thinking—your thoughts, your ideas, your constructs.  Question: “What’s in the back of your mind?”  Answer: previous thoughts that you now use as your thinking filters or references.  “What does it mean when you say you must be losing your mind?  Answer: It means that you are forgetting a thought or not comprehending a thought.  “Do you have a good mind?”  Now we are asking about the quality of your thinking and if you can think in clear and reasonable ways.
Mind— a mystery especially when you don’t know how to de-nominalize.  Mind— the wonder of human ingenuity, creativity, and innovations when you know that it is your thinking and the quality of your thinking.  Mind— the result of your thinking.  Your mind is your own self-creation!   Given that, how’s your mind?