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Changeable Podcast

EP255: “Whose thoughts are they?” A question from a listener

Mon Jun 12 2023

The Changeable podcast

  • The Changeable podcast is about breaking habits, ending anxiety, and how change really works.

The nature of thoughts and the self

  • Dr. Amy Johnson received a question from a listener named Linda about the nature of thoughts and who they belong to.
  • Linda recognizes that there is a witness within her that sees everything about her and watches her thoughts, but she still feels like the thoughts are hers.
  • Dr. Johnson explores this question intellectually and experientially by looking at sensory information and thought as two components of experience.
  • Our senses create a clear separation between ourselves and the things we perceive.
  • We don't think of ourselves as being what we feel or smell, but rather as separate entities.
  • Thought tends to be narrative and constantly refers back to an "I" or "me."
  • This narrative has been present since childhood and is often taken as truth without question.

Inquiring into the nature of the self

  • The podcast discusses the concept of the self and how it is created by our thoughts.
  • The speaker encourages listeners to question their sense of self and to inquire about who they really are.
  • They suggest that we should look at this experientially, rather than just intellectually.
  • The speaker asks listeners to find themselves and locate where they think their sense of self resides in their body.
  • They encourage listeners to examine their thoughts about themselves and ask who these thoughts are referring to.
  • The speaker suggests that our sense of self is created by images, memories, sensations, words, and labels in our minds.

Unraveling the sense of self

  • Thoughts can be associated with images, feelings, sensations, words or labels.
  • The sense of "me" is constantly changing and thoughts are just spitting out something that feels associated with this sense of "me".
  • When asking the question "what is that?", it's important to keep looking and getting curious about who the person behind the thoughts really is.
  • The narrator constantly saying "I and me and mine forever" creates a sense of self as the thinker which needs to be unraveled.
  • The mind is good at keeping this sense of self alive and diverting attention elsewhere.
  • The content of our thinking is all about us but it's important to question who the person behind these thoughts really is.

The witness and awareness

  • Thoughts cannot belong to any individual because they cannot be held onto or controlled.
  • There is a witness that is bigger than the character and body, aware of thoughts and everything else.
  • It's worth being curious about whether there is something aware of the witness.
  • The witness is aware of the Linda character and her thoughts.
  • The witness is a complex concept with layers upon layers of story and belief.
  • Thought is narrative and talks in "I, me, my" language, making it feel personal.

Overcoming anxiety and unwanted habits

  • The Little School of Big Change self-study course helps overcome anxiety and unwanted habits without relying on willpower.