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This is one of a series of articles
Lesson 2 - learn communication basics and seven powerful
to get more daily needs met more often. Progress with this Lesson depends on
concurrent progress on Lesson 1 - free your wise true Self to guide
you in calm and stressful times.
Before continuing, stop and reflect - why are you reading this -
what do you
From almost 20,000 hours of listening to over 1,000 therapy clients,
students, and others since 1981, I conclude that all kids and most adults
aren't aware of how they think. This is part of adults' general
Implication - most of us aren't
aware of how ineffective (unfocused, irrational, fragmented, vague) thinking" hinders
filling current needs. It's
encouraging to read that researchers are starting to study the epidemic phenomenon of "mind wandering" and "not
This brief YouTube video provides perspective on what you're about to read:
This article provides...
premises about why we think and effective
how to assess the effectiveness of how you think
in important situations,
premises abut what
ways to think more effectively when you need to.
Have you ever thought about how you think?
On a scale of one to 10, how would you
rate the effectiveness of your thinking in general ___ and in
stressful situations ___?
This article assumes you're familiar with...
the intro to
this nonprofit Web site and the premises
about personality subselves
See how these ideas compare to yours...
exists to help animals like us reduce current emotional, physical, and
spiritual discomforts or needs. Effective communication fills primary
Thinking is internal communication among
our personality subselves in three domains: conscious + semiconscious +
This ceaseless internal communication process uses
information-processing rules like logic, reasoning, grammar, and
syntax to help us...
"make sense" of (understand) sensory
information and perceived environmental events, so we
identify and prioritize our current needs
choose behaviors that fill our current needs well enough.
thinking means "using awareness +
conscious thoughts + memories + reflexes, hunches, and unconscious inputs to
identify current primary needs, and decide how to fill them well enough."
thinking interferes with these two goals.
The rest of this article offers practical options for raising your mental
What Is Effective Thinking?
Premise: the purpose of thinking is to "make
sense" of (understand) our current inner and outer environments so we
can decide (a) what we
and (b) how to best fill these needs. Can you think of other reasons you
Implications: thinking and feeling automatically build a huge data base (memory) about
all the inner and outer things you've experienced. For
example, you learn that butterflies and broccoli are safe to
touch, and rattlesnakes usually aren't.
Your un/conscious minds use this ever-growing data base
to "make sense" out of current perceptions and sensations. Recent
medical research reveals that normal kids and adults have several different brain
regions which act as a network of temporary and long-term data bases and
There seems to be at least two levels of "making sense."
is via "thoughts," which are inner strings of
learned words. Words are symbols we began collecting in infancy to represent
thousands of concepts.
Because "a picture is worth a thousand words,"
also involve our innate ability to form inner images, and weave them
among our words to enrich and simplify making sense of the world. Some
people are more "visual" than others. They have a wider
capacity to recall or invent ("imagine") meaningful inner
images, and/or they use more images in their
information-processing than other people.
Are you a
visual person? Do you know someone
who is? Common alternatives are kinesthetic (touch-and-action
oriented) and aural or audible (sound-oriented).
The other level of "making sense" of
the world seems more primitive. It may lack word-symbols and
"reasoning" like a newborn infant does. It reacts to perceived information
(stimuli) via a fluid
mix of vaguely felthunches, intuitions, instincts,
dreams, senses, ("I sense you're angry now") and/or knowings.
These form the mysterious province of our unconscious mind. It can be thought of as a
crisis-backup system to help us survive
when we're not consciously thinking "too well."
Distraction-free meditation and our learned vocabulary can help us consciously discern and identify some
feelings, hunches, and
instincts. Doing so adds
them to the database your conscious mind uses to define, rank, and instruct your body to
fill your current needs ("I feel thirsty. I need to stop reading and drink
something.") There seems to be a
time lag for some of us: our unconscious mind/body can
"know" what we
need before our conscious mind "makes sense of things." Do
you ever experience that?
See how you feel about these proposals...
a semi-automatic, organic (mental + physical + spiritual + emotional) process
that combines conscious and unconscious "decoding"
(sense-making) of the ceaseless information from your five or
six senses, using (a) several mental "data bases," and (b) learned
"Semi-automatic" suggests that your conscious mind can control
of your thinking process, just as you can learn to change your
breathing, sleeping, and eating habits.
This implies that you can learn to improve the
effectiveness of your thinking, within
limits. Do you agree?
of your (conscious + unconscious) thinking process over a time
period by deciding how consistently you get
your current primary needs met well enough. This implies
you need to
be clearly aware of what you think, feel, and need.
Common symptoms of
thinking + unawareness are often feeling...
you often feel "I don't
know what I need right now."
These are usually symptoms of a
deeper problem - being often dominated by protective
So your emotions
and body sensations indicate the
effectiveness of your current (conscious + unconscious) thinking. Do you
Causes Ineffective Thinking?
makes accurate "sense" out of current
inner and outer events,
defines and prioritizes current primary needs,
evolves safe, healthy ways to fill current and long-term
needs well enough.
thinking hinders these goals.
Do you agree?
Except for organic brain malfunctions, ineffective thinking is caused by factors like these...
personality governed by disorganized subselves
This is like a committee meeting where everyone talks at
once, no one hears well, and effective group processing is sporadic at
best. A solution to this is
steady commitment to some version of
Emotional numbness and/or
unawareness of our outer environments. This is
like a radio with no antenna. Over time, we grow numb to our numbness. Chronic
emotional numbness ("I don't know what I feel or need now") is a common symptom of
ineffective thinkers lack...
awareness of their inner
translates current mental, emotional, and physical signals into
"understanding" and current
needs. This is
being unaware of our breathing, posture, and social eye-contact habits. And
how personality subselves affect
perceptions, reactions, and
behaviors - including thinking and social communication;
Typical ineffective thinkers don't know what they're missing or
their options for improvement; and they lack...
to accurately describe the data they get from their minds and body.
Having a small vocabulary is like trying to paint a fine portrait
with a broom; And ineffective thinkers lack knowledge of...
skills which empower
define their needs clearly and to act to fill current needs effectively.
In other words, typical ineffective thinkers don't know they don't know the vital information that comprises
Lessons 1 and 2 here.
Two more factors that
promote ineffective societal thinking are...
distraction, and social disinterest. Our high-stimulus, warp-speed culture is
used to unawareness and
ineffective thinking, and promotes it by ignoring it. Because of the factors above
and lack of public demand,
the people controlling our media and educational systems
and programs don't focus on "effective thinking." Some
business leaders do, to raise their profits.
ceaseless sensory stimulation our culture
bombards us with promotes personal and social numbness and
"information overload." Our
Information-Age flood of data, images, and sounds constantly distracts us from
growing the habit of quiet, focused awareness and clear
thinking. Does this happen to you?
Reality check: can you recall a recent radio or TV program,
or an article, billboard, local school program or course that focuses on
to think effectively (vs. "logically")? In your many years of
did you ever focus on this subject?
Once you understand what causes ineffective thinking, you can choose among
critical, conflictual, or confusing situations,
(a) confirm that your true
Self is in charge and then (b) ask
questions like these:
"What do you (or
need right now, specifically - in general,
and from me (or you)?"
"What have you (or
I) tried, already - and what did you ( I ) get
- specifically?" and...
"What do you (or
I) feel is in the way (of getting enough of what you /
need) - specifically?"
you to avoid vague terms and phrases (5 below). The last question is not
an invitation to blame someone (including yourself), any more
than you'd blame a car tire for going flat. ("Agh! What a stupid,
irresponsible tire!") This brings up another impactful option.
Ignoring this option will dilute or
block benefits from the rest of these options.
executive subselves must want to
become "more aware" by doing things like...
practicing this simple
regularly without trying to be "perfect";
quitting tobacco and other "downer" chemicals like ethyl alcohol can help
raise your present-moment awareness;
So can learning to breathe well from your
belly, vs. your chest, and...
meditating and objectively noticing your inner and physical dynamics;
and trying the ideas in..
choose to overload themselves with responsibilities and
tasks have lots of distractions to block inner awareness.
So do people
false selves) who avoid
journaling, meditating, and/or
quietly in nature. Zen Buddhism
and similar practices promote raising present-moment awareness. Paradox: you'll not experience the great
benefit of awareness until you try it!
Evolve your own
definition of effective
thinking, and practice using it to gauge your status and
progress. Try saying your definition out loud now. Two signs of effective
thinking and awareness are (a) feeling calm, centered, secure, and serene;
and (b) consistent clarity on your current
and potential ways to fill them.
Option 4) Coach yourself to
notice your body signals in all situations, and develop awareness of feelings
that indicate false-self control.
Conversely, notice how your bodyfeels when your Self is
other subselves and your thinking is effective. "Noticing"
improves when you (a) breathe from your belly, and (b) ask yourself with an
open mind "What am I feeling physically right now? in random and important
5) Practice viewing
and interpersonal "problems" as unfilled needs, and (b) each
adult and child's non-emergency needs as being just as legitimate and worthy as
will promote wanting to
"What do you and I
really need right now?"
When true Selves are in the lead, discovering mutual current primary needs
problem solving if both people
have reasonable fluency in using
6)Regard all your emotions
as useful signals
about current needs. If your
Inner Critic and/or
Moralizer were trained to denounce anger, fear, shame, confusion, frustration, and
guilt as bad or negative, they are (a)
ignoring what your other subselves are trying to communicate,
and (b) probably shaming them. That hinders inner-family harmony, and
degrades your thinking!
Note the difference between feeling an emotion and expressing it.
When people label an emotion "bad" or "negative," they're usually referring
to (a) related discomfort ("guilt feels bad") and (b) ways of expression ("When Chris gets angry s/he screams and gets
physically violent.") This labeling promotes guilt and shame, and hinders
effective communication and problem-solving.
Accepting that all emotions are valuable rather than good or
may be a core-attitude change.
7) Learn and practice the
communication skills in
Then use the skills and these communication-process
terms to try
"mapping" communication sequences between
subselves and (b) you and other people. Use awareness and mapping
to spot situational and/or chronic in-effective thinking, so you can improve
it. You can also use mapping to spot any of these common
communication blocks - and then use the seven skills to resolve them!
Option 8) Coach yourself and
those you love to become fuzzy and "hand-grenade"
Vague Words and
People who have chronic trouble resolving conflicts well often...
use vague, general pronouns (fuzzy thinking), and/or
don't check to see if
their partner decodes the meaning of key words the way they do.
Common vague terms are it,
those, the problem, this issue,these things, soon, and
them in talking about complex
personal and social problems. For
"We have to find a way to
make it better."
is far less likely to promote
effective communication and problem-solving
"I need to understand
specifically what you need from me now about my daughter's recent disrespectful behavior."
Option - build the habit of
asking yourself and your
communication partners "What is it|that | the problem
| them | those things | all
that stuff | deal with |...?" Often that will uncover
an inadequate vocabulary and/or ineffective thinking and unseen
Another type of fuzzy terminology (and thinking) is
general or slang terms to mean specific things. For instance, if you say
"At times, you really upset me," you'll have a harder time
unearthing what you needthan if you choose more
specific words like...
"Wanda, when you repeatedly interrupt me before I'm
finished speaking, I feel disrespected, hurt, frustrated, and like clamming up and
Composing statements like this
takes intentional focus and awareness
until it becomes a habit.
Option: develop your skill and reflex to
listen empathically in important situations - i.e. to
do "hearing checks"
with your active subselves and outer partners.
This can expose misunderstandings and wrong assumptions over
key words or phrases. For example, you say calmly...
"So Martha, you're
asking me for more intimacy, meaning better sex."
and she replies...
"No! Honey, I
need more time just holding each other, and talking like we used
to. I really need to know how you're feeling, and what you want.
You rarely talk about those, and I feel shut out, frustrated, and
anxious. Our love-making is usually fine for me."
Hand-grenade Words and
"Hand-grenade" words and phrases are terms that are emotionally explosive -
i.e. they provoke significant hurt, guilt, shame, fear, disgust, and anger in one or
more people. Using
provocative language can activate the listener's false self and
instantly raise their
E-level, so they lose their ability to
People accumulate different collections of hand-grenade words. Option
- evolve a list of such terms that occur in your inner
and outer relationships, and consciously choose to avoid them. That
will probably require your Self (capital "S") to confront key
love those terms!
Other powerful hand-grenade
words denote racial or religious scorn, disrespect, and bigotry.
these words are spoken (voice tone, inflection, facial expression) can make
them explosive or OK.Umbrella terms
for using provocative,
words like these
are "name-calling," "being mean," "foul-mouthed," and "blaming."
Chronic or situational use of provocative terms and phrases usually signals (a) false selves
control the speaker, and
(b) they are unaware of - or don't care about - the effects of their behavior on the receiver
or their relationship. The speaker's ruling subselves have a 1-up
(superior) attitude and a one-person or no-person
awareness bubble. For example:
"Jeff, when it
comes to confronting your ex wife, you turn into a spineless,
yellow-bellied coward." (hand-grenade phrase)
may really mean...
frustrated, confused, and scared. I need to regain my respect
for you, and my trust in you to help
keep our relationship safe by wanting to be more assertive with
your ex wife for your sake, not to please me." (Note
- this can be received as an unintended communication block called a
Is it your experience that ineffective thinking and unawareness usually promote
The more important you feel a situation or relationship is, the
more you can benefit from being alert for (a) vague and provocative
terms, and (b) for people (or subselves) having different interpretations of key
words and phrases. The learnable communication skills of
awareness, metatalk (talking about
empathic listening are major
helps here. These apply to the way you
(your subselves communicate) as well as
how you talk!
"Build your vocabulary, for sharper thinking and speaking."
This may feel pretty vague and overwhelming. Try restricting your learning
goals to several classes of words and
phrases. For instance, patiently expand your
inventory of words that describe...
Emotions. There are
several dozen useful descriptors - how many can you
How many do you use regularly?;
Primary needs ("I need
respect, security, appreciation,
challenge, purpose, and stimulation.");
Does building special
vocabularies like these feel more do-able than learning the whole dictionary?
Breaking big tasks into manageable chunks and prioritizing
typical of a
true Self in charge. Do the
young people in your life know how and when to do this yet?
Coach yourself toidentify specifically what
you expect from yourself and others. Typical
stressed, over-busy (wounded) adults and
all kids are...
unaware of - or can't articulate
- what they expect from themselves
they haven't explained or confirmed their expectations; and/or...
they haven't reality-checked whether their expectations
are realistic or appropriate now.
All of these promote ineffective
thinking and communicating.
A tragically frequent example of this is expecting a
wounded, unaware person - including yourself - to behave like an informed person guided by their
true Self. This is as unrealistic as expecting the person to rise into the air by
flapping their arms. Unawareness of unrealistic role and
relationship expectations is a frequent stressor in typical troubled (low
nurturance) families and
Option 11) Work with a motivated partner
to learn and practicethese effective-thinking options. Having Self-led,
informed partners to exchange supportive feedback
with can reduce distortions and other blocks and speed your learning and
skill-building. It's also
+ + +
We just reviewed 11 practical options for improving your mental
awareness and effectiveness. Other powerful ways to improve your thinking
efficiency are to observe...
how you use imagery and
to form mental perceptions and behaviors,and...
how you process your perceptions - i.e.logic, logical
inference, and deduction. These are beyond the scope of this
This article is one of a series on how to communicate effectively.
One skill is effective (vs. fuzzy, scattered, unfocused, and vague)
thinking. The article offers perspective on thinking, a definition of
effective thinking, and
factors that promote ineffective thinking. It proposes 11
options for improving the effects of your mental
processing. Key requisites are...