What do you think?
There are two reasons why it’s not a simple question. Firstly, we do a lot more thinking than we realise; much of it is automatic and relatively hard to get at. Secondly, the culture we live in doesn’t help us see exactly what we are doing when we think.
Generally, our culture regards thinking as just us seeing the World as it is; as if it’s nothing to do with our aims and ambitions. As a result we can lose sight of how detailed and complex thinking is.
Increasingly people talk about how brains work not about what minds do. We can lose sight of all the personal choices we make.
This is a brief introduction to four thinking tools which you’ll find on separate pages on this site. They show how rich and complex our thinking is. When we think we’re not simply seeing the world as it is; we are also imposing on the world our view of what we like and dislike; what we want and fear; what we feel the world should be like and what we hope it is not. We are comparing, judging, predicting and asserting what we believe matters. These personal choices and values, are at the very heart of our thinking. They give us our individuality.
Our thinking animates us and colours our world. The thinking tools offer a way of understanding the link between our thoughts and feelings.
(We actually already know all of this. The mystery is that much of the time we act as if we’ve forgotten it.)
The Decorated Room
When you finish decorating and stand back what do you see? Do you focus on the imperfections in the corner? Or do you see the room as a whole? How does your thinking roll on? How do you feel as a result?
The Decorated Room is an easy-to-remember example. It shows how we can think about any situation in many different ways; how our thoughts can get out of all proportion; how they can change over time or even from moment to moment; how the way we feel about a situation is in the thoughts we have about it.
The Decorated Room will help you understand how you think about any situation that is important to you; yourself, partner, relationships, jobs, life itself.
The Red Mini
When you’ve bought a new car you may have been surprised by how many of the same model suddenly appear on the roads.
When we give meaning to something new it ‘automatically’ changes what we notice; it creates a new focus. We don’t have to consciously look for things; they just jump out at us.
The Red Mini can help you see how you draw yourself into ‘vicious circles’ of thinking whether it’s worrying about an annoying habit of a partner or friend, a worrying symptom you have, or the possibility of some danger.
Two people on a Plane
Many of us get nervous about flying. Two People on a Plane looks at two people, one nervous and one relaxed and asks how we can explain the difference. It shows they’re running two very different programmes of thoughts; that it’s our here-and-now thinking that creates our feelings and emotions; whenever we run a programme of anxious thoughts we have to feel anxious because the anxiety is literally in the programme of thoughts.
If you want to understand how you get anxious about anything Two People on a Plane gives you a way of thinking about it. Anxiety is no longer something you have; no longer something you have to put up with, or cope with.
The Speeding Car
It may not be a good idea to stand in the middle of the road, but it makes a good thought experiment to explore the mechanics of anxiety.
The Speeding Car shows us that the only time we can be anxious is when we are actively predicting something that we don’t want. ‘Predicting’ and ‘not wanting’ are things we do. They can only happen in the privacy of our thoughts.
The Speeding Car can help you understand feelings of anxiety in a purely psychological way. It also explains intense feelings of anxiety; the more likely you think something is and the more you don’t want it to happen, the more anxious you’ll feel.