The toughest book I ever read: UNTHINK by Chris Paley

By | December 1, 2015

Was it the subject or was it the insipid writing that made the book a cross to carry. The last time I left a book unfinished was many years back; hence I ploughed through the difficult task of making sense of the subject for myself. The only thing I can say with surety is that I will never ever pick a book by Chris Paley, not because he is not good with it- but most likely because I am not good enough to understand what he is saying.

It has been my stupid attempt to consciously make sense of my consciousness. And the book right there at the top screams ‘Why You Don’t Think The Way You Think You Think’. Is that not a mouth full? And yet I can consciously say that when I picked this from Strands I did read this flashing statement- and there I said- why- I will read and know ‘Why You Don’t Think The Way You Think You Think’. Trust me I am no wiser than I was then.

It has some thoughts that I could not even try understanding. Many that went against my conscious learning and I am worried that my unconscious brain would have consciously grasped quite a few of them.

Screen Shot 2015-12-03 at 5.15.58 pmSome of them like “A lamp doesn’t need to know why it shines light when its switch is flicked” sound so stupid that you say carry on. And suddenly you find him weaving the conscious unconscious magic and you loosing your will power to defend your choice. The post rationalisation kicks in. You flip and see wow- I have done 100 pages- the book is 257 pages- with last 57 devoted to references and explanations- I can do it- I can torture myself to read it further. I did it, even though I was not getting much in.

Maybe I was paralysed with the amount of psychology experiment referred in the book, the moral questions which had me foxed and yet through out the book that is centred on – yes you know that – ‘Why You Don’t Think The Way You Think You Think’- deals with conscious and unconscious brain- there is no reference or platform to explain these terms. Maybe it is expected that the reader will understand it unconsciously- and that the surrounding information will help the brain complete the map.

Yet some of things stuck with me, maybe my mind unconsciously agreed with them, as it was in past consciously made aware of them in another learning experiences. We all instinctively mimic each other. It’s not deliberate, but it is socially important. Oh yes the Rapport building of NLP.

‘Remembering something doesn’t mean it happened.’ The corrected version would be that you remember your remembering an incident, which imprints in you mind that creates your inferences and residual impression when it happened you can see that incident separately and so can some one lese and hence there is no need for the story to match. See I can write like him.

Then I went back to the introduction in the book. I saw unconsciously underlined passages and suddenly the crux was right there. ‘Your life is dominated by your unconscious mind, by thoughts you are unaware of, movements you don’t realise you’re making and behaviour you think is caused by something else…’We are conscious not to understand ourselves or what we will do, but to understand other people and predict what they will do’. Yes that is page 2 of Introduction.

Further ‘We think we know why we are doing things even when we don’t because we construct plausible reasons for why we do what we do and believe these reasons came first’. I can understand this much.

And then right in the next page of introduction- I seem to be loosing it. ‘We form consciousness from the outside in because that is what other people have to do when they have to understand us. Our success in life is dependent on predicting what other people will do. But we are only as good at this to the extent that we can predict what they will predict we will do. We need to be able to see ourselves not as we really are but as other people perceive us to be’.

I am getting it a bit more as I slow down my reading and write notes on laptop.

Here I attempt the next one. ‘We model other people as having minds and by working out what they are thinking from the expression on their faces, what they say and do, and what we know they have heard or seen, we can guess what they will do and how they will respond to what we do. But they are doing the same with us. So to really fill the blanks about what is in their minds, we need a model of ourselves that approximates the way they are modelling us.

I thought I understood that a bit- but then around page 133 Chris deserted me and F**K*d my mind. Here he said something as a matter of fact. Many of you may understand and ten pardon my ignorance and understanding. Some of you who are in the same boat as me- can buy this book and gift it to your boss. Then remember few of the examples and mind F**K him in meeting quoting Chris Paley.

‘Imagine that I stand on your toe. I need to know how you will react need to know what you are thinking. But the answer will depend (in part) on what you think went through my mind when I stood on your toe. If you conclude that I was deliberate, you might hit me and I have to get ready to defend myself. If you infer that I was just clumsy, I’ll probably get away with an apology’

Till here I was with him. Then he adds ‘ So to know what you are going to do, and therefore what I should do, I need to know what you think I am thinking’.

Here I started losing him and when he said what I am sharing now- I went with an expression – Why me. ‘To build the best possible model of your mind. I also have to build a model of my mind as you model my mind. Your model of my mind has to be a part of my model of your mind. This model of our own mind as other people will model us is the foundation of what we are conscious of’.

It will be wrong to say I did not like anything in the book. Well out of 200 I would have understood 70 odd pages.

All chapters are real short. Two to three pages max. This was the SHIFT TRAINING  style of writing. Short experiments focussed takeouts. One must read then consciously and think through them. Finding a friend who would want to debate it will be added bonus. Maybe he was not looking at a reader to read it at few sittings.

To me UNTHINK from page one was like the day-2 of a over loaded boring  wasted corporate training programme. You were not even looking it in half empty glass and willing to see the positive side of it getting over soon.

Maybe unconsciously loading the book has made is consciously difficult for the unconscious to understand. Take that Chris. This book will be ‘Uncaged’ next year.


UNTHINK by Chris Paley. Special launch edition- INR 299. Pages 257 (reference pages 50). Hachette publications.