What do you think?
A simple question but there are two reasons why it is not always easy to answer. Firstly, we do a lot more thinking than we realise and much of it is automatic and relatively unconscious. Secondly, the culture we live in does not encourage us to recognise exactly what we are doing when we think. Generally when it comes to understanding the human condition our culture is predominantly materialistic and deterministic. Typically, it regards thinking as just a rational process about how the World is; as if it is nothing to do with our feelings and emotions.
Some years ago it was widely expected that the human genome project would provide the ultimate answers to the mysteries of life. Currently, the hope is that the neurosciences will explain the human condition. The emphasis is now on how brains work not on what minds do. As a result of these cultural preoccupations we are at risk of losing sight of just how detailed and complex thinking is.
This is a brief introduction to four thinking tools which you will find on separate pages on this site. They are all based on everyday thought experiments. The thinking tools aim to show just how rich and complex thinking is. In particular, they offer a way of understanding the relationship between our thoughts and feelings. They show that thinking is an on-going, active, expressive, creative process. They illustrate that when we think we are 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 ideas and values, are at the very heart of our thinking. They are a framework for our individuality. It is this thinking that animates us and colours our world.
(Of course, we actually already know all of this. The mystery is that because of the culture in which we live much of the time we do not actively use what we intuitively know.)
The Decorated Room An easy-to-remember example of three aspects of our thinking that make up our view of a situation. Shows how we can think about any situation in a host of alternative ways. Shows how our thoughts can change and can sometimes spiral intensely. Shows how our thinking leads to the way we feel about a situation. Can be applied to how we think about many situations that are important to us.
The Red Mini An example that many people will recognise showing how the meaning we give things ‘automatically’ changes what we notice. Shows how we can draw ourselves into ‘vicious circles’ of thinking whether its worrying about a symptom,or feeling or a conflict in a relationship..
Two people on a Plane Useful for showing how it is our here-and-now thinking that generates our feelings and emotions. Explains that if we want to feel differently we should try to change the way we are thinking. Particularly useful for demonstrating that anxiety flows from the way we are thinking at the time.
The Speeding Car Explores the mechanics of anxiety in terms of the thinking we have to do to be anxious. The only time we can be anxious is when we are actively predicting something that we don’t want. Helps us understand the intensity of our feelings of anxiety; the more likely we think something is and the more we don’t want it to happen, the more anxious we will feel.