Shift from Outward Thinking to Inward Thinking
Use Inward Thinking and notice how challenging it is to observe people and their actions free of your judgements, beliefs, criticism, or analysis.
“Feelings of resistance do not reveal the nature of the things we resist. They reveal the nature of our blinders and the limits of our understanding.”
Edward Phelps -
Outward thinking focuses the thinkers attention on anything external to avoid looking at and examining the thinkers own thoughts. This kind of thinking assigns judgements in the form of blame and responsibility for circumstances and conditions the thinker is facing. The Outward Thinker does not look clearly at and examine their own thinking, free of their judgements and beliefs.
J. Krishnamurti, an Indian philosopher, said “Observing without evaluating is the highest form of intelligence.” I suggest doing some Inward Thinking and notice how challenging it is for you to make observations, especially of people and their actions, that are free of judgement, criticism, or other forms of evaluation or analysis.
Inward Thinking is a term I use to describe the act of focusing your attention and thoughts on your own needs, feelings, and thinking. In chapter 2 of my book “A Guide To Living Free” I take a look at the amount of thinking we do. Here is an excerpt:
“The average person has between fifty thousand (50,000) and seventy thousand (70,000) thoughts every day. That’s between thirty five (35) and forty eight (48) thoughts every minute. If you think thirty five (35) thoughts every minute, you spend 58 percent (58%) of every minute thinking. That grows to spending eighty percent (80%) of every minute thinking if you think forty eight (48) thoughts every minute. That’s a lot of thoughts. This constant thinking is like a really thick wall between our thoughts and our feelings”
In the book I also point out how little we think about what thinking actually is. I find this interesting because we spend most of our lives thinking. And yet we never take a deep look at what thinking is or what its purpose is.
Try doing some Inward Thinking the next time you feel anger or frustration towards another person when they say or do something. Can you see that your feelings are caused by some belief, or judgement, or idea you have about what the person said or did? Can you notice that it is not easy for you to see this? Here’s an example. My Mom is in her 90’s and the other day she looked right at me and said “You don’t spend any time with me.” My habits took over and I got intensely angry and shot back saying something I won’t repeat. Be assured what I said was not nice, not loving, and not likely to soothe or assure her in any way. Afterwards I did some Inward Thinking and realized the following:
- My anger came from the story I have and hold onto that says “she never appreciates me.”
- I imagined that the feelings and need she meant to express could be described as: “I need some more time with you to get your attention to a few more things I want your help with.”
Later, I asked her if she wanted more time with me, and she said yes. I asked her to tell me what she wanted more time for and she gave me a list of things she wanted (after a bit of gentle guidance). Finally, I assured her that I would make the time in the near future and come back to address those needs.
My take-away is to get better at not hearing accusations or insults when people speak, and instead to use Inward Thinking to hear only feelings and needs. When we take what we hear personally and hear accusations or insults from others, even when that is precisely their intent, it prevents us from connecting to our feelings and needs. That said, you may notice that we are living in that exact violent world right now where we quickly and easily label, condemn, and act to punish others who we judge to be “bad” or “wrong” or “undeserving.”
A process of hearing only feelings and needs is well documented by Marshall B. Rosenberg in his book “Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life.” I’m practicing Nonviolent Communication. Seeing how violent and ineffective our current way of thinking is at peacefully communicating and sharing the power and resources at our disposal to the benefit of all of us, I asked for a different way of thinking that meets these needs. The thinking approach/method used in Nonviolent Communication is a different way of thinking. Keeping in mind the fact that thought inherently creates division and the inevitable state of conflict, then ultimately doing less thinking is a more effective way of achieving peace.
Here’s to your clarity!