Here's a representation of a typical thought process. The outward going arrows represent the branching of a thought, while the inward coming arrows represent merging. 'Branching' in physical terms can be thought of as a process that acts on the brain(thought) to create a state of superposition i.e., multiplicity of a given brain(thought) with varying properties across space at any given point in time. Although it might not be literally true, this analogy can help us conjecture why we fail to track the internal steps that lead to a particular thought — The thought that we perceive as a successor to the perceived predecessor.
Note that each brain has a different degree of opacity at any given level. This denotes the impact of a given brain(thought) on the final state we perceive(or the final brain that has this thought). This process of arriving at a final brain(final thought) is what we call 'merging. Though these branching and merging processes can extend for an arbitrarily long time but is only the merged state that we have access to. (Similar to the measurement problem in QM?)
In perceiving brains(and thoughts) like this, there's an important observation we are able to make. We don't have to, or more appropriately we cannot contemplate the 'aboutness' or the 'meta' because 'meta' is a consequence of branching i.e., it's a part of the superposition that is intractable. This is to say that when you interface with things like anxiety or depression by way of analyzing your thoughts, you never really are accessing the 'aboutness' of it. The aboutness always gets destroyed once the thoughts/states/brains are merged to provide you with the perceivable state/thought/brain.
This is to say that our attempts at tracking what could have caused a certain thought are motivated by our belief in our ability to reverse engineer the possible trajectories from the perceived predecessor and our confidence in our knowledge of who we are. But it is very counterproductive, because all thoughts/states/brains that are trajectorial i.e., that lie between the perceived predecessor and successor are inaccessible to us, partly because they are part of the superposition which is intractable in a sense, and once the merging happens these thoughts become totally inaccessible owing to the destruction of all the states.
A better way to interface with your thoughts(or things like anxiety and depression), particularly the 'aboutness' or the 'meta' would be to conjecture teleologically not etiologically i.e., keep the plausible causative elements in mind, but don't use them as primary navigation tools. Use your current perceived/merged state as a navigation tool via error correction. If your conjecture leads you to feel better, then that is what the solution, at least tentatively, should be. If the conjecture leads you to not feeling any better or feeling worse off, error correct. And conjecture again.
To put it succinctly, teleological conjecturing with built-in error correction is the way to handle 'aboutness' or the 'meta'.
- It was not intentional to connect thinking-as-a-process to machine learning or quantum mechanics or the everettian interpretation here. All similarities you see in terms of multiple brains(or multiple thought-states) are either a coincidence or merely an unintentional byproduct of having been exposed to some of the aforementioned concepts from before.
- The difference in etiological and teleological thinking can be understood better from Adlerian Teleological Thinking and A Simplified Life.
- The notion of conjecture and criticism can be better understood from the 'Objective Knowledge: An Evolutionary Approach' by Karl Popper.
- Stephen Wolfram. (2020). Exploring Rulial Space: The Case of Turing Machines
- Lulie Tannett. (2021). Internal Meta Discussion 🌀 How I got out of my head
- Bertrand Russell. (1912). The problems of philosophy