Where Do Our Thoughts Come From? (5 Experts Explain)

Martin Caparrotta
By Martin Caparrotta
Updated on October 12, 2020
Expert Content

Have you ever wondered where your thoughts come from?

The human mind is incredibly complex, and trying to define our thoughts and their origin is not an easy task by any means.

We asked a selected group of experts to answer the question: ‘Where Do Our Thoughts Come From?’

Here’s what they said.

Most Of Our Thoughts Come From Our Subconscious Mind

Jennifer Fidder, Mindset Coach and Personal Trainer

Most of our thought processes originate from our subconscious mind and are oftentimes outside of our conscious awareness.

The little voices in our head (“I am not good enough”, “This won’t work anyway”, “Why?” etc.) are thoughts we continuously repeat to ourselves.

When we are trying to control these thoughts, we usually approach them from a logical, rational standpoint.

The problem is that these thoughts are sometimes not based on current logic but stem from our childhood, from a time when a different logic applied.

The fear of spiders is a great example of this.

A fear of spiders can come from our childhood. We might have watched one of our parents scream frantically and jump on a table when they saw a spider. That’s when our subconscious mind learned, spiders are dangerous and something to be afraid of.

This logic made sense to us when we were a child. Now that we are an adult, we know most spiders are actually not dangerous. And even though this adult logic makes sense to us, we are probably still afraid of spiders because this adult logic doesn’t apply to our subconscious mind.

And that’s what makes changing our thought processes so hard. To make it easier we have to initiate the change where these thoughts originate from, the subconscious mind.

Thinking Thoughts

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You Can Accept Or Reject Any Thought

Stuart Doughty, Personal Development Mentor Consultant with The Proctor Gallagher Institute

“Thoughts are things.” These are the opening words of ‘Think and Grow Rich’, Napoleon Hill’s classic bestseller about the workings of the mind and the principles of success.

Powerful things that stimulate a person’s imagination and are the source of everything we create. Thinking is a mental activity of the human mind that never ceases. It has no beginning and no end.

Our personal thoughts are the intellectual expression of an electrical energy that flows constantly through the human mind. And our thoughts are the ignition for everything we do.

Nothing gets created without a person first thinking about it.

But we rarely give any thought to where those ideas and concepts come from. They just are. While labeling or describing the thinking process helps to bring order to our mind, we have never adequately understood why we think or how thoughts arise in our conscious awareness.

As human beings, we think. We do not need to know any more about the origins of thought or the mind. It’s more important to understand how to use it and how to take conscious control over our thinking.

The majority of a person’s thoughts are automatic and arise from the subconscious mind. We do not consciously choose most of our thoughts. They simply appear from that constant flow of mental chatter.

The thoughts we actually ‘think’ are the ones we focus on; the ones that catch our attention – which often come with a strong feeling attached to them.

These are the types of thoughts that we act on, and they are often a repetitive pattern of activity that deliver similar results and leave a person with a recognizible life and predictable future. We can, however, change our life if we learn to use our mental faculties deliberately.

When we consciously apply reason or perception to originate thoughts and ideas, we can influence our future, but mostly we are guided through our days by our subconscious mind delivering familiar thoughts, ideas, observations and judgments into our conscious mind.

Those thoughts cause our actions and become habits of behaviour that deliver predictable results.

If a person is to take real control of their life and create the life they want, they must learn to take conscious control of the thought-stream in their mind instead of abdicating responsibility for thinking.

That begins with awareness of what they are actually thinking; to be able to distinguish between what automatically arises and what is consciously originated; learning to choose the thoughts that match their goals and desires; rejecting thoughts that arise that do not match their vision for their life.

We have the power and right to accept or reject any thought that enters our mind.

To do that, we must learn to recognise that our thoughts are not reality, or ‘the truth’, but offerings.

We have the option of choosing to believe and follow a thought, or to reject it and replace it with a better one.

It requires awareness of that option, and practice of rejecting strong thoughts that do not fit our view of who we want to be.

Begin to choose thoughts that reflect your values and desired identity. Do not choose those thoughts based on present conditions or circumstances, which were created by past thinking.

Choose your thoughts based on what you wish to be, do or have. That’s how you create a future you desire, instead of a predictable future that looks a lot like the present.

How To Stop Thinking About The Past

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A Thought Is The Simplest Level Of Conceptualization

Anne-Marie Emanuelli, Creative Director and Founder of Mindful Frontiers

Thoughts are a product of the way the mind interacts with our environment to create a story.

Stressful thoughts originate in the amygdala, part of the limbic system. Thoughts are also called “stories” in the Buddhist teaching of the Five Skandhas (Five Conditions) that explains how our brain relates to the chain reaction of a stimulus.

The chains contain sense perception; reaction; interpretation and story. The story is when the mind creates meaning around a stimulus and an experience. A thought is the simplest level of conceptualization.

We can most definitely control our thoughts by using mindful meditation skills based on present moment awareness.

Firstly, I do not use the word “control” in my teaching and practice. I prefer using the concept of “allowing”, “acknowledging,” “investigating.”

Certainly, a thought gone wild (the “story”) may end up causing hurt, pain, misunderstanding, even violence. However, a thought by itself doesn’t need to be controlled; rather, we can be gentle and allow thought to come and go with equanimity.

Basically, when a person meditates using open awareness, which is a type of meditation practice wherein all thoughts and awarenesses are welcome and acknowledged, they are allowing whatever comes to mind at that moment.

During an open awareness practice, thoughts come and go and we choose whether to allow them to pervade our consciousness or we can do a variety of things to acknowledge them and let them go.

For example, “noting” or “labelling” is a powerful way to acknowledge our thoughts and let them go.

When a thought comes to mind, we recognize it, accept it, investigate where we feel it in the body and maybe even what is about.

Then, we label it as “past”, “future”, “pleasant”, “unpleasant”, and we send it on its way into a file in our mind with that label.

With practice, this kind of mindful meditation will allow us to be focused on the present moment, and not controlled by thoughts. We won’t ruminate about them, or let them take over our consciousness.

Meditation and mindfulness

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You’re Not Supposed To Control Your Thoughts

Vanessa Broers, Life and Performance Coach

According to the three principles, thought is one of three fundamental life energies.

Just like you cannot control the actual life energy that flows through you keeping you alive, you also cannot control the thought energy that is flowing through your mind and creating your thinking.

You’re also not supposed to. Thought is one of the most powerful energies available to us as human beings and it is absolutely our key to create anything and everything we want in our lives.

Thought is what has us create our internal and external experiences. When you know how to use it. Instead of being used by it.

You cannot control your thoughts, but you can control the attention you pay to them.

Behind all of our active and relentless minds is our true, authentic self. It’s the peaceful, calm presence that you access when you sit in meditation for long enough, after a really great massage, or the feeling of total peace and calm after a really hard laugh, or a really good cry.

That peaceful presence is available to you at every single moment. If you start to pay attention to the fact that you are thinking, you realize you cannot be your thinking.

You start to create more and more separation from your thoughts and get more and more access to your ability to observe them (but never control them).

You can begin to realize that the thoughts you think create the emotional experience you are having.

You are always feeling your thinking, nothing else. When you start to see that you are feeling what you’re feeling because of what you are thinking and not what is happening around you, life gets really interesting.

If someone cuts you off in traffic, or is rude to you on the street, you no longer have to control them, you simply notice the thought you have about it, and how that thought makes you feel.

Once you get the hang of this, you can begin to simply let go of thoughts that make you feel bad, and conjure up more thoughts that make you feel good, inspired, excited and grateful.

This can sound a lot like ‘positive thinking’ but the key difference is noticing that behind your thinking is always your calm center. This is the true command and control center.

The more access you have to this space, the more you can control your response to your thoughts and you let go of taking your thinking seriously all together. Then, your thoughts become a servant to you.

How To Stop Thinking About Something

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Your Thoughts Are Not As Random As You Might Think

Girish Dutt Shukla, Digital Marketer and Author of Maroon In A Sky Of Blue

Your thoughts are a culmination of your experiences, the stimulus you receive from around you, and your beliefs and principles.

Your sudden thoughts are not really that random. The precursors must have been simmering in your subconscious for a while. This is often indicated by sudden slip of tongue or impulse actions, because sometimes the filter in our conscious is overpowered by our subconscious.

Your thoughts can arise because of two reasons – our experiential history and our evolutionary pre-history.

What we have learned, consciously and unconsciously, and the various experiences that have shaped our bodies and the way our neurons interact in large and small ways, are what our experiential history compromises of.

On the other hand, our evolutionary prehistory is essentially the experiential history of our ancestors. Many scientists believe that we are only in control of a tiny fraction of our thoughts.

As the majority of our thinking is done by the subconscious, we have little to no control over it. What our brain receives and processes is not under our power.

Of course, we can decide to think about something consciously, such as something we have learned or something we want to recall.

But most of the time when we have taken a particular action, our mind may still be cooking up alternative plans.

But in the end, you do have the power to change the direction of your thoughts with reasoning and facts. You can also take conscious steps to take the right action.