Exposing Our Thoughts
We don’t think the way we think we think. Duncan Watts
One way for me to know how I really think is to say it out loud. Then I could ask myself: “Is this really the way I am thinking? Why am I thinking this way? Is this the best way to be thinking?” Or if asked, others could give me feedback and tell me what they think I am thinking. Or tell me even if I don’t ask.
Exposing thoughts to questioning, inspection and discussion is not standard operating procedure for most of us. I am suggesting that we try to make it a habit, not all the time, but some of the time. Most of the time thinking, like believing and breathing, is on autopilot. Sometimes allowing thoughts to be exposed to self-awareness and to clarification feedback from others cannot be a bad idea.
It is well known that you can’t tell what a person is thinking by hearing what they say. So hearing what I say out loud, doesn’t always tell me, or others, what I am thinking. My interpretation might be different than other’s interpretation. They may be reading body language and non-verbal clues that I don’t notice. Or they may be able to see how my subjectivity is influencing or distorting my view. I never know how much of what I say is true, Bette Midler. Others can help me know if what I am saying is true.
Thinking is a significant, even critical, human ability; it influences our interpretation of reality. And as William James once said, Thinking is the grand originator of experience. It is a function of our consciousness, created by us. Practice that includes thinking out loud with inquisitive listening and curious investigating can be helpful. Of course, I may not be such a skilled listener when listening to myself. Or when listening to someone else say what I want to hear, or don’t want to hear. The subjective me intervenes. The subjective you may intervene when listening to me.
Thinking out loud helps our ability to look inside our minds, to pay attention to our thoughts, beliefs, attitudes and emotions, to reflect on what is influencing what we do. What we do speaks so “loud”, others can’t “hear” what we are saying. Thinking gets subdued. Thinking about thinking is not automatic; it needs to be learned. Have you learned?
Be the witness of your thoughts. Buddha