Who controls thoughts, who is thinking?

According to the common materialistic point of view, only matter and energy are real and consciousness is not. The latter is seen as some kind of illusory or emergent phenomenon, caused by matter. Yet, all things considered one could just as well pose that consciousness is the only thing we actually know!

We suggest, that the only way we know or experience anything about reality is via our consiousness. All physicists, mathematicians, philosophers etc. created ideas, experiments, hypotheses and theories about reality via and within their consciousness. So if we call that whole process illusory, what does that mean for any statements we make about reality? A huge contradiction appears… Philosophers and scientists are still in deep thought regarding the nature of consciousness. Some suggest it could be a fundamental and is not derived from matter.

Anyway, let’s be pragmatic and skip the philosophical discussion and focus on just two simple questions, which is the actual and related topic of this article, namely the thought processes taking place in your consciousness.

  • Who controls your thinking?
  • Who is thinking?

We suggest that, in spite what most people think, you are NOT really in control of your own thinking! To illustrate this, you can’t even answer the simplest question, like:

Q: tell me exactly what you will be thinking in two minutes from now.

Obviously you can’t. Conclusion: thinking arises more or less spontaneously. You only have limited control over it. Next question:

Q: Stop thinking please for at least 5 minutes, and begin now…

Obviously this is nearly impossible for most. Try it. You will notice that thoughts slip-in kind of automatically. By habit, we think. Most of it is repetitive you will notice.

Q: Excuse me, who is noticing your thoughts?

A: Aha, well…me of course!

Q: who is this me?

A: I don’t know, but I know I exist.

Q: Are you your thoughts?

A: I’m confused. Since I can observe them, I must be different from my thoughts, but I can think about my thoughts, and I can observe that again.

Q: So who is this observer?

A: I am.

Q: What are you then?

A: I don’t know….I just exist, I am. But I do not know what “me” is. I know I am aware of my thoughts. So perhaps I am not my thoughts after all. Hmm. I wonder what that means!

This question-reply session could go on for a long time. Generally the amazing conclusion of most people is that we are not in control of our thoughts. Most agree we are not equal to our thoughts or our feelings/emotions either.  So what then? When we are not equal to our thoughts/emotions, it means we do not have to identify with them, in other words, we don’t have to “believe” them. This does not mean we should supress them, but it does mean we should not take them so seriously…

See where we are going with this?


Isn’t this realization a way to end identification with beliefs? Could that be a beginning of growth in Awareness? What would you say?


  1. This is very interesting questions and topic. I like it My 2 cents as we look into the answer to this is:
    Do not fall into the THIS OR THAT when looking for an answer. Consider that it is this AND that!
    My understanding is that it is BOTH.
    We have a physical mind with limited consciousness that is capable of AWARNESS mostly and also some simple and rudimentary logic thought.
    ALL other thoughts come from the HIGHER MIND.

  2. If we are consciousness/awareness then perhaps thought is your subconscious communicating your attachments with what you are focusing on.

  3. Thoughts arise, and can be seen as separate from I-the-observer. But will does appear to exist as a property of I-the-observer. Thus, I-the-observer appears to be an observer-with-agency. The agency does not seem to be in selecting what thoughts you’re going to have; in the same way that you can’t select what’s going to be shown next on TV; but the agency comes instead in that one is able to direct thought, in the way one selects a channel, or a show to play on Netflix.
    In this sense, my view of “awakening” is that a part of it, at least, involves developing more agency, in the sense of choosing the channels of thought more deliberately. This is as opposed to a “sleepwalking” person, who might be considered at whim of their thoughts, rarely using their will-muscle to stop thought (indeed not knowing they have it), or to select a different thought-current.
    From the ground floor at which I reside (which is to say not really awakened), it seems to me that when people talk about cycles of awakening, this involves, at least in part, developing a greater agency in each cycle: claiming more control away from sleepwalking-thought, and exercising will more effectively to direct the thought-current.
    But that’s my (possibly mistaken) impression.

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