Understanding Your Two Minds - The Living Well

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Understanding Your Two Minds

two doors signifying two minds

Thoughts are not just invisible things floating around in space. They are constantly creating the whole of who you are. It’s time to take back control of your mind, not to think yourself better but to choose a better identity. It starts by understanding your two minds.

Have you ever tried to think about nothing?

Go ahead and take 30 seconds to give it a try. Close your eyes and center your mind on nothing. Stay here for as long as you can.

How long did you last? Two seconds, maybe three, before your mind started filling with thoughts again. That’s because thinking is the norm. It is the intended design of the mind and how your body works to keep you alive.

Ironically, the more you try to push your thoughts away, the more thoughts come flooding in. That’s because your mind is like a stream of water. You can hold back the thoughts for so long, but eventually, they want to fill the empty space.

It’s what your mind does.

While there is a benefit to quieting the mind, even the world of meditation is learning that nothingness is a highly trained skill and potentially impractical in healing. The healing aspect is not in the absence of thinking but becoming aware of what you are thinking.

To live aware of your mind, which happens only through understanding your two minds.

Understanding Your Two Mind

Your mind acts as your moral compass. It is your mode of survival and the lens through which you view the world. Making sense of why it doesn’t stop. It’s the very vehicle that creates the action of reaction.

The problem isn’t that you’re thinking. It’s living unaware of what you’re thinking.

Unfortunately, most people’s thoughts have been tainted by trauma and pain. Leaving them to react to life in negative ways. Everything you’ve ever encountered, been through, or had spoken over is stored inside your mind like a filing cabinet. And your mind is always using this information to confirm present-day thoughts, altering beliefs and building your identity.

Meaning if you’ve had any level of pain or trauma in your life, your beliefs and identity may be more doom and gloom by nature, making it harder for you to achieve the things you’ve desired. Leaving you fearing the thoughts and emotions you can never seem to escape.

The good news is you have more control than you think. It starts by observing what you think.

Changing Your Thought Patterns

If you fail to separate your two minds, you’ll live frustrated that you can’t escape your past.

In the health space, this looks like the common belief, “I’ve tried everything, and nothing works. I’ll always be fat.”

This is a belief that has been formed throughout a person’s life. Built from things other people have said. Like getting called fat or chubby. Or attempting a diet and failing. Leaving you to question if your body is broken.

Or perhaps you’re in the other different and yet similar camp. Gaining weight out of protection, in a way to hide. You hate it, but if your body did this from a pattern of safety, it will feel impossible to break.

All of these have become a mindset pattern creating the action that you’ve worked desperately to break.

No matter how hard you try to change it or try to think yourself better by overcoming those negative thoughts with positive ones, you still find yourself here.

Feeling like the more you try to get yourself out of these negative spirals, the stronger they become. Pulling you in deeper and deeper as you give it more and more attention.

That’s the thing about thoughts and feelings. They take energy. The more attention and energy you give them, the more powerful they become. This is why this fight feels neverending.

All because you unintentionally gave it the energy it needed to survive while simultaneously sucking the energy away from something you needed to thrive.

Proving why you can do all of the right things in the world, but if you’re wasting your energy on negative thoughts, holding onto trauma and pain, you’ll never get healthy. Because no amount of diet and exercise can make up for the emotional wasteland that your mind has created.

It feels backward, but trust me, overcoming negative feelings and emotions by avoiding them only makes matters worse. Overcoming them happens not by avoiding them but by living aware of them. In the awareness, we can choose what to do with them.

This is the power of your two minds.

The Difference Between Your Two Minds

Your mind is not just a series of random thoughts. It’s actually a system of processing consisting of your two minds.

When you closed your eyes and tried to avoid any thoughts, you quickly realized your mind didn’t stop thinking.

But as Mark Mason states, “If your mind is thinking, then who is observing the mind thinking?

Often, we’re too focused on the thinking that we fail to see, we’re not just thinking those things, but we’re observing the thoughts and acting accordingly. This is referred to as the “thinking mind” and the “observing mind” or your two minds.

Understanding the two as separate and yet connected is potentially one of the best ways to retrain your brain. What I believe is one of the best ways to change the entire outcome of your life.

Not to just change your thoughts but to actually change your actions based on those thoughts. Creating a sense of control in an otherwise out of control state.

The Thinking Mind

Let’s start with your thinking mind. Your thinking mind is the chatterbox. It’s constantly running and always filling space. Even when you sleep, you’re thinking.

As you’ve tried and failed, you realize stopping your thinking brain is no easy task. It’s almost impossible. Showing how little control you have over your thinking brain.

If you’re not careful, you’ll follow your thinking brain, trusting every thought as if it’s a fact and finding yourself in places you hate. In places you willed yourself, you’d never end up.

That’s because your thinking brain is a bit obsessive. If you give it an inch, it will take a mile, Dragging you around and getting you involved in things that aren’t helpful.

Contrary to popular belief, your thinking brain is quite dramatic. Not necessarily as logical as you might expect. That’s because your thinking brain is the producer of your life. It’s directing the story you live by constructing stories that attempt to help you make sense of the things around you. Making it feel helpless to reign in.

Especially when you’ve allowed your thinking brain to fuse with your emotions. Which creates the path of most of our suffering. Not from the negative emotions themselves, but the stories your thinking mind has sucked you into believing about those negative emotions.

But it doesn’t have to stay this way. It just takes understanding the other mind – the observing mind.

The Observing Mind

Your observing mind, on the other hand, simply observes your thinking. As K. Neal Hughes states, “Unliked your thinking mind that judges, analyzes, reasons, constructs scenarios, tells stories and attempts to make sense out of things – the observing mind simply watches. It does not engage in judging, analyzing, or storytelling.”
But out of the observation comes the action.

Which makes sense of the dangers of fusing the observing mind and thinking mind into one mind. It allows the “thinking mind,” the dangerous mind, to drive the entire ship. But when you realize they are different, you can change the ship’s direction.

Just because you think it doesn’t make it true.

The Advantage of Your Two Minds

When you realize your mind is not one but two, things change because you stop living a life of reaction to what life hands you, and you start to choose how you want to react regardless of what life gives you.

Not because you stop feeling what it is your feeling, but you can observe those feelings without acting on them, making the best choice possible based on your desired outcome.

The beauty is you don’t have to stop feeling. Because feelings never stop. Bad things are always going to happen. Negative emotions don’t just leave, and you can’t escape your past. But you can stop being controlled by these things. Learning how to use them to your advantage.

You don’t stop trying to not feel angry.
You don’t stop trying not to feel fat.

What you stop is trying to escape the thinking mind knowing those emotions will always pop up. Instead, you feel them, but you refuse to make them your identity.

You use your observing mind to decipher what is helpful and what isn’t, making sense of what you feel rather than letting it run ravage in your mind.

Instead of saying you are angry, you understand it’s just a feeling. It’s not permanent. And it certainly isn’t your character or your identity. It’s a temporary and fleeting feeling.

It feels subtle, but there is power in language.

What you say repeatedly becomes your belief, building your identity.

What you say repeatedly becomes your belief, building your identity.

Here are a few more to practice:

You are not fat. You may feel fat, but you are not fat. And feeling fat versus believing you are fat changes the action that you take. One feels hopeless, the other feels powerful.

You are not broken. Even though you may feel broken, you know you don’t have to stay that way.

You are not depressed. Even though you feel depressed, you know, you as a person are not depressed.

Be careful what you say.

The trick is not to fuse with those emotions but to realize that you can feel them without acting on them.

As Mark Manson states, “Emotions are not a choice. Behavior is.”

How To Take Action

The power is not in elimination. It’s in action.

Separating your thinking mind and observing mind is a skill that takes practice. But once you begin to observe your thoughts before you act out your thoughts, things change. You can choose what you hold onto, what you give your power to. Releasing what doesn’t serve you.

The art of letting go is potentially one of the most healing practices you can learn. An art that takes a lot of observation built on the skill of awareness. Creating a filter to your life, helping you choose what sticks and what doesn’t.

The last thing we need is more people acting out of the brokenness of the world.

You are worth more than the pain you carry or the pain someone placed on you. You were made for a purpose, created in health, with the power to change your entire life. I think that’s why God made our minds moldable forever.

Nothing is set in stone.
No one is too far gone.

What a gift the plasticity of our mind is. Knowing that patterns can be shattered and new life can be born in every season.

Stop being a slave to your thoughts and emotions. Not to dismiss those things but to stop wasting energy and breath meant for living on things that prevent you from living. Start to differentiate your two minds and begin to evaluate what you’re thinking and feeling from an objective place. Allowing yourself the benefit of choosing which thoughts are helpful or which ones are hurtful, deciphering how to act

Get Started Using Your Two Minds

Like most things, using your two minds starts with awareness. Which always feels too easy to be true. But your observing mind is nothing more than an act of observing (a.k.a. awareness).

I like to think of my thinking and observing mind like the old cartoon shows, where the characters had a good and evil part of their mind sit on their shoulders. Not because one is good and one is evil but to separate the two. 

Others have found it beneficial to call this practice stepping outside your mind or taking the “witness seat.” Whatever you call it, get a visual in your head of taking a step outside your mind. Then observe it. 

Close your eyes take a few moments to observe what your thinking mind is processing. After you are aware of what you are thinking, you can analyze to see if this is something valuable to you or something that is hurting you – allowing you to choose how to respond. 

Again, the highest form of healing is learning the art of letting go. Releasing what doesn’t serve you. All you need to do is acknowledge it and then take a breath and free it. 

Remember, the more you focus on the emotion, the more powerful it becomes. Try to be aware without fixating on it. 

Here is the quick and easy of using your two minds.

  1. See the thought.
  2. Separate yourself from the thought and emotion. 
  3. Be grateful for that thought and emotion – respecting the things your body has done to keep you alive, even if you hate it. 
  4. Take action based on your desired outcome – whether you react to it or let it go.
  5. Repeat over and over and over again.

Using your two minds is a skill that takes practice. But the more you pay attention, the more this becomes second nature. Eventually, changing those patterns that make this who you are. 

Final Thoughts that Will Be Helpful

Your thinking mind will always produce overwhelming fears and worries. Don’t try to prevent these things but learn how to act despite these things. The more you act despite what you feel, the more confidence you will experience.

Stop the thinking mind from controlling your outcome by separating yourself from it. Then learn to walk into your thoughts and feelings without avoiding or running from them. Knowing you can act based on what you want, not on how you feel or what you think.

Your thinking mind isn’t trustworthy. Allow your observing mind to take notice and impart your wisdom over your thinking mind. It needs a mentor and it needs guidance. Guide it and watch it change.

Want to learn more on how to make this practical in your own life? Check out this post to get started right away.

If you liked this post and want to learn more, check these out!

–> Read this if you want to change how you feel!

–> Struggling with emotional eating? Check this post out!

–> Why you can’t build habits that stick. This answer may surprise you.

–> The simple mindset shift that changed my health.

–> Do you ever wonder if God cares about your health? Get the full answer here.

–> Did you know you can change how you look by changing how you feel? This ones mind blowing!

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