Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about free will.
Free will is a tricky thing. I made up my mind that it’s a thing that exists in the world I exist in a while ago, so that’s all dealt with…
But there are still some issues to sort out. Things like the subconscious, and whether decisions are ever made in that dark corner of your mind, or what this will I’m talking about as a thing in itself, floating around somewhere outside of the deterministic universe (Because that is how I talk about it) really is.
In the context of free will, I also think about impulses. I think about how making a choice might mean choosing between impulses rather than coming up with a suitable choice for an action yourself and then going through with it. Or how following a sudden impulse seems so far away from that very active way of choosing your way that made me believe in free will in the first place.
Earlier today (tonight) I walked home and it was dark. I stopped right outside the house I live in and looked to the left of that house. I was looking at the part of the woods behind the house that kind of sticks out at both sides of it.
I was looking at the shadows and feeling afraid, as I usually do when I’m alone, looking at shadows. I was also thinking about how I sometimes breathe faster when it’s dark outside, and how that reminds me of panic attacks (which is a small or bigger than small problem in the lives of some people I know). I thought “I shouldn’t encourage this. I shouldn’t let my body react like this to darkness, because one day I might end up having panic attacks too.” And I decided to go where I would be even more scared. The dark spot with trees, sticking out from behind my home.
This would definitely fall into the “impulse” category of actions.
It took me about half a minute to come up with the idea, decide to do it, and start doing it. It took me less than two minutes to finish it (Unless you count the time that passed while I just stood there, listening to creepy sounds coming from the woods).
But this small rebellion against my fear of the dark was just one part of a bigger plan to try not to let fear get in the way of other, more important things. I’ve made up my mind several times before to ignore fear when I can, if it’s keeping me from life.
So. If it’s a part of a carefully formed plan, created over time and as a result of much thinking on the subject… Is it really that impulsive?
And even if it is, can anyone claim I didn’t make the decision myself? I doubt my subconscious, animal self, was telling me to move closer to the dark. In fact, I could feel my deepest self yelling at the higher levels of my mind to stop and turn around. Obviously, this was the active, aware-of-exactly-what-I’m-doing me, choosing to “face” my fears – or whatever it was I was doing.
To make some sort of point here… Impulses may seem like involuntary thoughts, and it makes sense that it’s whether or not to act on them that’s the actual choice. But sometimes impulses aren’t random ideas, throwing themselves at your mind when you least expect it.
Sometimes they’re the love-child of every decision you’ve ever made in your entire life, and they just want to help you do what you already chose to do.