How to Become More Aware of Your Thoughts: A Fun Experiment
The mind is always buzzing about something. And unfortunately most of the thoughts are repetitive, dwelling in the past, fearful of the future or simply utter nonsense.
How many of these thoughts do you think we are aware of?
Most of the repetitive thoughts are on automatic—programmed into the subconscious mind and beyond your conscious awareness. (The conscious mind can process about 40 bits of information per second; the subconscious mind can process 40 Million bits of information per second.)
The sheer number of thoughts and the incredible power of the subconscious mind make one wonder if we are ever in control. Can we control our thoughts? And do we need to control our thoughts?
I don’t think we need to control our thoughts. But we need to decipher them and create a mental gate so negativity doesn’t continue to seep into our subconscious based on previous thought patters and experiences.
The negativity was programmed by having thoughts go straight to the subconscious, unquestioned, and unchallenged. Over time, they turn into habitual nagging beliefs. They can trigger emotional responses before we can process what happened.
Recently I’ve been experimenting with a fun idea that I’d like to share with you today. I call it the thinking sidekicks.
The thinking sidekicks
But before I describe the process in detail, let’s look at why I’m recommending it.
Separate thoughts from yourself. When you assign other parties to be the bearers of your thoughts, you separate yourself from them. You realize that you are not your thoughts. They can come and go and you are the same, unless (or until) you believe them.
Pay more attention and filter incoming thoughts. This is a result of separating yourself from your thoughts. This separation allows you to stop and decide if you want to believe this thought or not. This can be a huge improvement from the automatic programmed response.
Lighten up and don’t take thoughts too seriously. The process is a fun exercise of the imagination. We imagine all sorts of things all the time. So why not change our thinking pattern while having fun?
How to create your own thinking sidekicks
Thoughts either support you or they don’t. Some can be helpful and effective. Others can be limiting, negative, and harmful. And a lot of thoughts can be just mental noise, nothing important.
Imagine that you have two sidekicks, one sitting on your right shoulder and the other on your left shoulder. They are your thinking sidekicks, guards, assistants, or any other name you’d like to call them.
The Supporter: On the right hand side sits a character that’s imaginative, cool, and supportive. My choice is Sonic the hedgehog. He’s feisty and playful. I chose him because he reminds of the fun games I played in the past.
The Destroyer: On the left side sits a gremlin like creature. He’s critical, analytical, and negative. But he’s not really evil. He doesn’t know any better. My chosen character is a demon that nags a lot but is well intended. He wants to support me in his own goofy way.
Thought receivers: When a thought comes through, listen and see which side is telling you this. Is it the supporter or the destroyer? Is it helpful, negative, or just nonsense?
This is where you start to notice. You become more aware of thoughts as they pass by. The process gets better with practice.
Filtering thoughts: If the thought is just useless drivel, imagine one (or both) of your sidekicks throwing it away. If it’s supportive, smile and imagine your supporter kissing you on the right check. Gently touch your right shoulder and thank your supporter.
When a negative thought comes through do the following.
Have a conversation with the sidekicks: This is important when faced with a new challenge or experience and you think: “This is crap, I can’t do this”. Imagine your gremlin/demon whispering these words in your left ear. Mine pokes me with his pitchfork. Sometimes he’s jumping up and down and I have to tell him to settle down. :)
Stop and smile. Ask the demon: Is that so? What makes you say that?
Listen to what the demon says and continue questioning. Your supporter can chime in any time as well.
Imagine that the three of you are conversing about the new idea. There is you (the observer) and your supporter and the noisy negative sidekicks with their arguments.
Don’t think of the destroyer as an evil creature, he/she is more like a sensitive dork that wants to protect you at any cost.
After the conversation is over, pat the destroyer by touching your left shoulder and thank him/her for their support. And you decide which side to act on, if you need to act at all.
The process is intended to be fun and experimental. It is not a rigid technique that you either get right or wrong.
You will not capture every thought this way but you will do much better than nothing at all. The purpose is to question the negative and clear it out before it sets in.
The thought gate will help you in stopping thoughts from going straight into actions and emotions. This can be very helpful.
This experiment works with most of the daily challenges and thoughts. I don’t think it will work in emergency situations. At that point your level of awareness will be heightened by your instincts and you will act without much thought.
Consider the following when you want to start your experiment.
Have fun with it. Taking things too seriously will compound the negativity, not reduce it. Play with the idea and don’t be afraid to act silly and laugh at the whole thing.
This experiment is fun and playful to ensure that that we don’t face a lot of resistance from the old habitual patterns.
Choose characters that resonate with you. The sidekicks/gatekeepers don’t have to be cartoons or animated graphics. They can be actors or personalities that resonate with you, or certain characters from movies and TV. Use your imagination.
Practice. You won’t capture every thought. But the more you practice, especially with the negative debilitating thoughts, the better you get at it.
And that’s it. I hope you found the idea useful to you.
Our thoughts have tremendous power if we believe them. The process of noticing, and breaking thoughts down will help you immensely in becoming more aware and less reactive to negative thoughts that drain your energy and limit your growth.