We don't decide to think this thought of feel that emotion. They appear out of the blue.

Thoughts and their emotions are activated by incidents or memories. They can be fleeting or overwhelming. They are a window into the subconscious. We can peep through that window.

You can check anytime.

  • Are there words?

  • Are they in the first, second or third person (he/she, you, him/her)?

  • What set it off?

  • What does it remind me of?

  • What assumptions underlie this?

  • Where in the head is this? Or does it come from outside?

  • What are the emotions?

  • When did I first have this thought or emotion?

  • Where does the body feel this?

  • Is there a body posture? A facial expression?

accuracy and usefulness
Expectations save having to think through every new situation but they are not always realistic or useful.

If a situation reminds us of a past trauma we might expect the worst and focus on dangers and miss opportunities. If a situation excites us positively we might notice opportunities but miss risks.

Here are some questions to check for self-sabotaging, naive, paranoid or wishful thinking.

  • How certain am I that this is true?

  • What is the evidence?

  • Is this too optimistic or too pessimistic or is it realistic?

  • Do I have unrealistic expectations of perfection?

  • Look for feedback from others to check if the situation is as it seems.

  • How accurate have I been in the past when I have thought this way?

  • Was the outcome satisfactory?

  • Is this is my problem or someone else’s?

  • What is the very worst that could happen?

  • What could I do to minimise the effects if it did happen?

  • What would make my worst fears come true?

  • Do I have contradictory expectations like expecting success and fearing failure at the same time?

Hopes and fears don't necessarily eventuate but they help evaluate and speculate on possibilities


  • What are the advantages of having these expectations and beliefs?

  • And the disadvantages?

  • Do they get me where I want to be?

the alternatives

  • Experiment with alternative expectations or perhaps no expectations.

  • Is there a more effective way of looking at things?

  • Have I been too vigilant or not vigilant enough?

  • have I been avoiding something?

  • What are the positives in this situation?

  • What opportunities does this open up?

  • What could I do that would lead to an opportunity.

  • How would I advise a friend in a similar situation?

  • What do I really want?

  • What appears important now that I have thought about this.

  • What goals and activities no longer seem worthwhile.

Even a cherished or widely held belief might be limiting.

On one hand we learn to trust our intuition. On the other we let go of the past and open up to change - taking each moment as a journey into the unknown.

Explore the difference between noticing what thoughts come up and deciding what to think next.

Another way to examine free association of ideas is to write thoughts that come to mind without editing or paying attention to grammer, or spellnig. When we write something we experience it outside of our self.

Write non stop so writer's block doesn't get in the way. Perhaps with a timer set for, say, 10 minutes.

With practice this flows easily. It is like channeling oneself.

There is often a feeling of a weight being lifted. Ideas and feelings including subconscious preoccupations and anxieties are now outside of the head where they can be examined. One can then stop to notice any understanding that arises. Or any shift in feelings or priorities. Then either discard them or put them aside to come back to later. Surprising insights may pop up.

Or keep a diary of thoughts as they come to mind. Or hum them or set them to music. The thoughts may be in pictures or other kinds of images as well as words.

hearing voices
Some of us hear voices as if they are outside of us. For some this is pleasant, and for others intrusive and distressing. These voices can be examined the same way as internal chatter. Just like internal words they are a window into our subconscious and often express valuable ideas.

Free associations alert us to what we think. The awareness therapy pages and the dream suggestions in the sleep pages also suggest ways to heighten awareness of thoughts that have not come to consciousness and the feelings that come with them.