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The Mind is Like a Documentary Maker

This lesson looks at the idea of the mind as a documentary maker or newsreader. It may start as a newsreader but then turns into a documentary maker.

Imagine you are going to the shopping centre. You spend a bit of time looking for parking. Finally a spot opens up, you turn on your indicator patiently, wait a few minutes for the other car to leave and just as you are about to drive in, someone sneaks in and steals your spot. You feel angry, upset and infuriated.  

Wanting to avoid a scene, you decide to keep driving, and eventually find a spot and walk into the shopping centre. While in the shops you move from one place to the next. It’s early in the morning and not busy, and the shop attendants are welcoming and efficient. You return to your car after a pleasant shopping experience. You put your shopping in the car and drive home.

At home, your partner asks about your experience at the shopping centre. The first thing that you talk about is that the parking was horrible and that someone stole your park.

If we had taken a video of the entire shopping trip, it would show that you comfortably drove to the shops, found a parking spot, waited for a couple minutes, watched as the spot was taken, and then found another park. It would then show you have a wonderful experience with shop attendants being helpful and efficient, and you picking up a few items on sale. The video then continues with you comfortably putting your shopping items into your car, driving home and then walking inside.

Interestingly, when asked about the trip, the mind selects a small segment of video, relating to the parking issue, and only reports on that. This one segment formed the basis of your ‘report’. This is the mind as newsreader.

Self as Context is about acknowledging our newsreader bias and thinking of our stories as documentaries. A documentary takes a segment of a person’s life and edits it into one filmstrip. It illustrates highlights (or often lowlights for our clients), and then labels this filmstrip as ‘you’. But it is not you. It is a story about you.

If we look at a series of images of the ocean, we can form a picture of a glorious part of the earth, home to innumerable species, calming and enriching to many humans. Another series of images may show damage to reefs, dead fish, pollution, oil spills and destruction. Which is the real ocean? We might say both. But the answer is that neither is the ocean – they are images of the ocean. They are not the ocean. 

What happens in our lives is that the mind generates and edits a stream of footage that we label as our identity. Self as Context is the recognition that this documentary – this newsreader’s representation of us – is a story about us. But it is not us.


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