I just tried to catalog the running programs in my mental background, the ones that hover just below conscious attention. I can become aware of each process by thinking of it but like most healthy patterns you aren’t really supposed to bother yourself with anything that’s running properly. Conscious attention is a costly resource and your living system respects that. Most of these app-like status monitors will send you a little “throat-clearing” style please notice me signal when discomfort in that area requires your attention, – when it literally requires your conscious attention – even it that is just shifting your butt because your legs are tired.
Basically, they stand politely in the background like a row of servants on Downton Abbey until they are sufficiently pressed to interrupt us as we read our very important memes.
“Damn it all, Pennyworth, I’m a busy man! What is it now?”
“Pardon me, M’lud, I believe you have a rather pressing poop to attend to.”
These are some of the conditions being monitored unconsciously by my mind:
- Safety/Danger (no active threats, scanning)
- Sleepy/Awake (tiny bit sleepy but well slept, mid-morning)
- Hungry/Full (recently eaten, comfortable)
- Pain/discomfort/comfort (tiny headache, sitting too long)
- Muscle fatigue/readiness (feel able to move, respond…expend consistent energy over time, restless)
- Mouth, teeth, tongue (clean? comfortable?)
- Need to poop? – need to pee? (some fullness, not ready yet)
- Balance, equilibrium (maintaining)
- Ambient noise – and exceptions (normal sounds, fridge, shower, distant cars)
- Hormonal regulation ( I feel male, somewhat interested in sex, prefer dominance…not stressed)
- Time of day (day underway, not far advanced)
- Time of year (Spring ending – Summer beginning)
- Recent memory clips (yesterday driving, sleep, breakfast)
- Anticipation scenarios – the future imagined – disparate upcoming events (What to do today, next week: Love, friendship, family, work)
- “Don’t forget” (Occasional anxiety reminders)
- Happy/Sad (calm and mildly happy, wistful traces)
- Long term memory flickers (old girlfriend, my family, teaching, random places and moments)
- Ambient smells (Due to being home the smells are too familiar to notice, only hot spots stand out)
Each of these is the organized synthesis of several mental and physiological subroutines. They cooperate and appear as a discrete process.
“Oh man, I’m starving” requires the cooperation of multiple “moving parts” of our neurophysiology and organs functioning smoothly and silently until some silent version of our executive function gives the order to inform the conscious mind to get off its ass and eat.