Am I The Thinker Of My Thoughts?

Am I the thinker of my thoughts? The initial response is “Of course I am the thinker of my thoughts.” However, upon investigation this does not appear to be the case. Thoughts appear to arise all by themselves. For example, I get a thought about going for a walk. I don’t decide that I am going to think a thought about going for a walk. The thought or idea to go for a walk just occurs.

Close investigation shows that most thoughts are triggered by other thoughts. Suppose I see a flower. I may suddenly have a thought to walk over and smell the flower. I did not actively decide to think a thought about smelling the flower. The sight of the flower automatically triggered the thought to walk over and smell the flower. I was not the thinker. It just happened.

My mood appears to influence thoughts. If I am in a bad mood, I may have more negative thoughts about something. If I am in a good mood, I may have more positive thoughts about something. If I am in a terrible mood, I may have terrible thoughts. Again these just arise. Why would I actively purposely choose to think terrible thoughts? I have no control over them. If I have no control then I cannot be the thinker.

Another clue that I am not the thinker is the fact that I cannot just stop thinking. “Don’t think of a pink elephant.” I am just about guaranteed that a thought about a pink elephant is going to arise. I cannot stop the thought.

I also cannot think a thought on demand. “Think a thought…now.” There is a short period of time where there is no thought, only silence. After this short period a thought arises such as “that cup is blue.” I did not decide that I was going to think the thought “that cup is blue.” The thought just arose and I claimed it as “my” thought after the fact. I cannot think a thought.

But surely I think! What about problem solving? Do I do the thinking when solving problems? Upon investigation, this too seems to break down. One thought triggers another thought which triggers another thought. There is this cascade of thoughts, none of which I am actively thinking. The cascade appears to be a process of pattern matching with the final pattern being the answer to the problem. If this, then this, then this.

I am not the thinker of my thoughts. I am aware of the thoughts though. What is it that is aware of thinking, but does not think?

11 Thoughts on “Am I The Thinker Of My Thoughts?

  1. Lokesh on August 13, 2013 at 1:04 PM said:

    This article opened another dimension in my life. Thanks for the great article.

    I was constantly aware, thoughts cant be controlled and only arises based on previous related thoughts.

  2. anon2 on June 14, 2014 at 7:33 AM said:

    There is no thinker of thoughts. The “thinker” is just another thought. Even the thought that there is no thinker of thoughts is thinkerless. Who knows there is no thinker of thoughts?
    No Thoughts…Gone!

  3. kalpana on August 27, 2014 at 3:11 AM said:

    Lovely article put in the simplest way.I was in search for something like this.Thinker is also a thought.

  4. Perhaps we’ve settled the matter of whom the thinker of thoughts is for now, but I wonder, who is the controller of this blog?

    I was informed that Bill East passed away. I recently purchased his music and blogged about it and someone has contacted me hoping to also buy it, but they claim they cannot because of the country they are in.

  5. possible to have a skype call with you sometime to discuss this?
    let me know

  6. Philosophy Cat on January 3, 2015 at 8:35 AM said:

    I get what anon is trying to say. Thinking about thoughts that produced other thoughts, that produced other thoughts, is like a cat chasing its own tail. You keep trying to catch the thought that preceded another thought, yet this ‘catching’ is a thought that was also triggered and so on it goes. But it is possible not to think? Isn’t that what monks do. You gave an example of “don’t think about a pink elephant” makes you think of a pink elephant at first- hence the process of bringing about non-thought commences and finishes when you are simply just “blank” and not thinking about the pink elephant. So the process has to start in a paradoxical way-but can finish non thinking.

    • No. You cannot stop thought. Monks do not stop thought. No one stops thought. There is no reason to stop thought. It is enough to understand that you are not the thinker of thoughts. Then there is not the tendency to follow thought, to believe thought.

      You are not the color blue either. Do you need to suppress and remove the color blue from all experience because you are not the color blue? You are not the sound of a bird. Do you need to suppress and remove the sound of birds from all experience because you are not the sound of a bird? You are not the thoughts. Do you need to remove thought from all experience because you are not the thoughts?

      There is the experience of the color blue. There is the experience of the sound of the bird. There is the experience of thoughts. The color blue, the sound of the bird, and the thoughts are all the same underlying potential in essence. You are the underlying potential, not the color, the sound, or the thoughts.

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