Where Do Thoughts Come From?

Thoughts come in different forms: verbal and visual. But when we talk about our thoughts, we usually think of verbal thoughts: those strings of words that form in our minds. Some thoughts form rapidly and easily. Other times we can actually hear our minds fumbling to get the words right or searching for the best words to express something we’re feeling.

Since thoughts are formed by your mind, it’s easy to assume they originate from your mind as well. And yet here is where things get very interesting as once again the processes of your mind turn out to be surprisingly complex…

Talking Elements

All humans have three elements to their beings: mind, soul, and body. Each one of these elements has its own natural language which it uses to communicate to the other two elements. When it comes to your mind, another layer of complication is added because your mind has two separate compartments which also talk back and forth to each other. The two compartments of your mind are called your conscious and your subconscious.

As a human, you actually have four sections of your being which are chattering away with each other throughout the day: your soul, body, conscious and subconscious. None of these elements use verbal language as their first, or natural language. In fact, your body and soul don’t use verbal language at all. Your mind is the only part of your being that bothers with pronounceable words, and the only reason it gets started with the chore of learning how to use words is so that it can communicate with other humans. With verbal communication being such an important part of your life in this world, your mind gets into a habit of using words even when you’re not talking to anyone out loud, and those silent communications are verbal thoughts.

A Love of Words

Your conscious and your subconscious have different skills and preferences. When it comes to communicating, your subconscious prefers to speak through metaphorical images and symbolism. Your subconscious is like a surrealistic artist who paints really strange pictures that only make sense to him. Meanwhile, your conscious prefers things to be much more straightforward and clear. In an art contest, your conscious would sketch a tree that looked exactly like a tree, while your subconscious would come up with some bizarre looking metaphor for a tree that doesn’t look like a tree at all. This difference in preferences is one of the reasons your conscious becomes so fond of verbal language. Words are straightforward and clear. Words enable your conscious to communicate important ideas to other humans and clarify misunderstandings. Your conscious finds it tiresome to have to try to figure out what in the world your subconscious is trying to say through the bizarre and highly metaphorical short films that it creates every night which are known as dreams. To your subconscious, your dreams are creative works of genius that communicate complex messages in very powerful ways. But to your conscious, your dreams often seem like a bunch of random nonsense, which is why you will often find yourself shrugging off the memory of some dream you just had, feeling like it’s not worth trying to interpret.

Verbal language is a winner for your conscious, especially once it builds up a good sized vocabulary. But because your conscious has such limited storage space, it needs the help of your massive subconscious to maintain a working vocabulary. The words you learn, their pronunciations, and their meanings are all stored by your subconscious. Your subconscious keeps the words you frequently use in an area of its memory archives that your conscious can easily access. Sometimes your conscious has to wait a moment for your subconscious to retrieve a less used word that it needs to complete a thought. This process becomes especially obvious when you’re trying to learn another language and you keep forgetting the new words in the language that you’re learning. In real life, a combination of ineffective learning methods and a lax approach to studying often cause our subconscious to decide this language learning business isn’t worth making a priority. So instead of retaining the new words in a readily accessible place, our subconscious resists the learning process, choosing to spend its resources on other, more important tasks. Without the support of your subconscious, your conscious can’t become fluid in any language because it simply doesn’t have enough storage space to keep a working vocabulary readily accessible.

Once your subconscious and conscious get skilled at using a verbal language, your conscious finds the new way of communicating very appealing, while your subconscious still prefers playing around with metaphorical imagery. Throughout the day, the four elements of your being are chattering away with each other, and each element is speaking its own, non-verbal language. Your subconscious quickly becomes the main hub of communication, and it finds it easy to understand what your soul, body, and conscious are saying. Your conscious, on the other hand, isn’t as skilled as your subconscious, and it often finds inter-element communication to be confusing. For example, your stomach starts feeling queasy. Why? Your conscious can tell that your body is distressed, but it doesn’t know what’s wrong. Your subconscious has a much more in-depth understanding of the situation, because it is receiving a detailed explanation from your body about which physical systems inside your body are suddenly having problems. Once your body explains to your subconscious what it is experiencing, your subconscious plays the role of an onsite doctor and starts rifling through its memory files for potential cures.

Whenever you eat or drink a substance, your body analyzes the contents and effects of whatever it was and reports that information to your subconscious. Your subconscious then stores that information for future reference. When your body reports a problem to your subconscious, your subconscious rifles through its data files looking for a substance that could potentially help your body get its systems back online. Perhaps in the past you experienced that eating black licorice helped calm your queasy stomach. Once your subconscious locates this memory file, it gives your conscious a command to find some licorice. Your subconscious doesn’t explain to your conscious exactly what’s wrong with your body because it knows that your conscious is too easily overwhelmed by excessive information. Your conscious does better with short, direct commands. “Get some licorice” is a task that your conscious can handle.

Your conscious communicates most easily with your subconscious, because your subconscious intentionally speaks to your conscious in ways that it knows your conscious will find easy to understand. Your conscious and subconscious don’t rely on words to talk to each other: they primarily use a non-verbal language that is much quicker and more efficient than words. Of all of the languages your elements use, words are by far the least effective. Just by flashing an image of water at your conscious, your subconscious can let your conscious know that your body needs hydration so it’s time to go fill up your water bottle. Or, by flashing an image of coffee, your subconscious can direct your conscious to get your body some needed stimulation. Your conscious and subconscious don’t need words to communicate with each other, and your subconscious prefers not to bother with such an inefficient language. But your conscious loves words, and finds it comforting to translate incoming messages into verbal forms.

Your conscious is so into words that it is constantly translating non-verbal communications into verbal ones just for the fun of it. For example, when your subconscious flashes that image of water at your conscious, your conscious knows what it needs to do. But it will still have fun translating that communication into a verbal thought of “Wow, I’m so thirsty.” This is a totally unnecessary rehash of a conversation that has already been completed between your body, subconscious, and conscious. When you mutter these words to yourself with no other human around to hear it, it’s even more silly. But then again, your conscious finds it soothing to translate non-verbal communications into verbal thoughts. Among humans, words are considered essential tools for communicating clearly. Your conscious loves clarity. It finds it tiring when things are ambiguous or super complicated.

Translating the Elements

Remember that your subconscious is the main hub of communication for your elements. Your subconscious is constantly receiving communications from your body and soul and it responds to those communications in various ways. Your subconscious has a different relationship with your body than it does with your soul. When it comes to your body, your subconscious is like a very protective caretaker and guardian. Your body constantly appeals to your subconscious for help with various issues, and your subconscious uses its massive memory archives to assist in those situations. But even when your body doesn’t have any particular problem, your subconscious is always on the lookout for situations which might put your body at risk of being harmed. When it feels that there is danger ahead, your subconscious gives your body sharp commands about how to respond to that danger. Sometimes these commands get relayed through your conscious, like when you see the edge of a cliff crumbling and you think to yourself “Yikes! I’d better move further back from the edge. This looks unsafe.” Once again, this verbal thought is formed after your conscious has already received and understood the message from your subconscious. The verbal thought is a translation of something your subconscious has communicated.

Now suppose you’re playing outside in the snow and your body starts feeling uncomfortably cold. Your body complains to your subconscious. Your body doesn’t use verbal words. It doesn’t say “I’m cold.” It has its own, non-verbal way of communicating this message to your subconscious. Your subconscious then passes on a two part communication to your conscious. First, your subconscious repeats your body’s complaint. Second, it gives your conscious specific instructions on how to help your body. Your conscious receives this communication and instantly understands it without forming any verbal thought. But then, for its own benefit, it translates what was said into the thought, “I’m so cold! I’d better go inside and warm up.”

The Mechanics of Prayer

So what happens when you talk to God? What exactly is prayer? What most people call prayer are the verbal translations that their conscious comes up with of things that are said between their souls and God. The problem with defining prayer like this is that those verbal thoughts you form aren’t very accurate translations of what was actually said. Like your body, your soul uses a very complex, non-verbal spiritual language. When God talks to your soul, He also uses a non-verbal, highly complex spiritual language. (As the Creator of all languages, God is fluent in all forms of communication, but He intentionally talks to your soul using a language it can understand.) The language of your soul is different than the language of your body. Happily, your subconscious understands all of these languages, but it finds it tedious and unnecessary to try and translate these languages into verbal thoughts unless it is necessary to communicate to other humans. Once again, it is your conscious that loves words.

So here’s what actually happens when you pray. First, a conversation gets started between your soul and God. (Interestingly, it is God who usually starts these exchanges, not you, but that’s a topic for another post.) God says something to your soul using a non-verbal, spiritual language. Your soul instantly understands what God said and it replies with lightning speed. The language your soul and God use to talk to each other is so efficient that your soul can say something very complex to God in the time it takes you to snap your fingers together once.

All of your elements feel dependent on each other for their well-being, so everyone’s always eavesdropping on everyone else. When your soul and God have a conversation, your subconscious is listening in. Your subconscious understands what is said. It often pipes up with its own opinion about what your soul and God are talking about. In fact, your subconscious and soul often get into an argument about what your soul is saying to God.

Your subconscious doesn’t care about God or morals or spiritual growth. Your subconscious only cares about what’s happening between your soul and God because it knows that your soul’s beliefs can end up affecting the way your soul interacts with your subconscious and body. Ever have a friend who you got along with just fine until she got another friend in her life and you felt like that other person started causing your friend to change her attitude towards you? If that other person is having a negative effect on how your friend treats you, then you’re not going to like that other person very much, are you? In the same way, your subconscious has no use for God when it feels that God is having a negative affect on your soul.

Why do people fast on religious holidays or as a way of getting God to pay more attention to their requests? These ideas only sound appealing to your soul once your soul accepts certain beliefs as true. But to your mind and body, going without food to please some Supernatural Being who they don’t personally care about is just plain stupid. Your mind often finds your soul’s ideas exasperating. At the same time, your soul often finds your mind’s ideas immoral and foolish. It is different sets of beliefs and priorities which cause these two elements of your being to frequently lock horns with each other.

Your soul is the only part of you that is interested in cultivating a positive relationship with God. When you sit in a church praying to God, all of the thoughts you say to God originate from your soul. The verbal thoughts that form in your mind–things like “Dear God, please help me know the best thing to do”–are only partial translations of what your soul has already said to God. In the process of praying, your soul says something to God, your subconscious listens in, your subconscious relays the gist of what was said to your conscious, and your conscious translates that summary into verbal thoughts. The point is that the contents of the verbal thoughts you’re calling prayers never originate from your mind. Your conscious mind is creating the verbal thoughts, but the contents of those thoughts originated from your soul or God or both. Your actual prayers–which are the communications made directly to God in your soul’s own spiritual language–are far more complex than what your mind translates them into. Your conscious’ verbal translations are very simplistic and don’t begin to capture the depth of what your soul actually said.

Stammering Thoughts

So what’s happening when you hear your mind struggling to find the right words? This often happens when people are trying to pray. They hear their minds form thoughts like, “Dear God…um…I’m really…I just feel bad…I mean I’m really sorry for what I did…I didn’t mean…I mean, I don’t know why…I just feel bad, God. It’s like something’s wrong with me but I don’t know what it is. Maybe I’m just…I don’t know…I can’t think of the words…Can You ever forgive me?”

Is your soul really stammering like this when it is talking to God? Not at all. Your soul is extremely skilled at communicating what it means and its natural, spiritual language is much richer and more precise than the verbal languages humans are stuck using with each other. What causes the mental fumbling in the example I gave is your conscious struggling to translate thoughts from a highly complex language into a very simple one.

Verbal languages just aren’t on the same level as the language of your soul. Imagine trying to accurately describe your feelings for someone who you love deeply without using any word that is more than 4 letters long. No matter how hard you try, the explanation you come up with won’t feel satisfactory at all. This same situation is very common when your conscious tries to translate exchanges between God and your soul. The frustration people feel in trying to pray is often caused by their souls expressing dissatisfaction with what a poor translation their conscious minds are coming up with. When the soul criticizes the conscious, the conscious expresses frustration that the words it has to work with simply aren’t efficient enough to accurately describe what the soul has said. When you say things like, “I don’t know how to say what I mean,” that’s your conscious talking. What it really means is, “I can’t find a way to accurately translate what the soul just said.”

Translating soul talk and God talk isn’t the only time your conscious starts fumbling. Translating body talk and subconscious commands into verbal communications can also feel impossible to get right. Ever find it hard to describe to a doctor how your body feels inside? You know exactly how it feels, but body talk doesn’t always translate well into verbal forms. Then there is your subconscious. It doesn’t always want to play the word game with your conscious. In emergency situations when your subconscious feels threatened, it will suddenly sound alarms to your body, soul, and conscious using non-verbal forms of communication. When other humans notice you turning pale and acting bizarre, they ask you what’s wrong. To understand your dilemma, they need you to explain your crisis using a verbal language. But if your subconscious is too busy with other priorities to help your conscious with the translation process, you’ll end up standing there with saucer eyes and a gaping mouth, unable to form any coherent explanation.

Secondhand Translations

Your verbal thoughts are always secondhand translations of nonverbal communications that are originating from your body, soul, or mind. It is your conscious that does most of the translating, and your conscious is the part of you that finds words the most appealing. Your subconscious is also capable of translating nonverbal thoughts into verbal communications but it just doesn’t share your conscious’ enthusiasm for words. As far as your soul and body are concerned, words are necessary for communicating their thoughts to other humans, but they often find the conscious’ translations to be frustratingly inaccurate. Your soul longs for your partner to really understand how much you love her, but since it can’t communicate directly to your partner’s soul, it is stuck having to relay its sentiments through your conscious, and even when your conscious really wants to please your soul with its translations, words often feel like they just don’t say enough. And yet forming relationships with other humans is critical to getting many of our core needs met, so as limited as verbal languages are, we need to be very good at using them. Despite all of the flack your conscious receives for its poor translations, it is performing an essential function for all of your elements as it works tirelessly to translate your complex feelings and desires into pronounceable words.

Want to dig deeper on this subject? You might like Voices In Your Mind, Part 1: Internal Sources.

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