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Old 20th October 2015, 13:56
black_mamba black_mamba is offline
Join Date: Jul 2005
Location: London
Posts: 9,063
Default Thought Experiments

I've got a cool book at home called The Pig That Wants To Be Eaten about thought experiments. I got it from a charity shop, they're a goldmine.

Anyway the book is full of short thought experiments to challenge your ingrained thinking habits and personal philosophies. The eponymous experiment is where someone has developed a pig that lives for and craves being eaten. The question then is to imagine that scenario, imagine you are a vegetarian and would or wouldn't you eat it? I actually think this is one of the poorer examples of what lies in the book, they're generally a lot better and some can be found here if you are interested:

The book has given me an ideaÖI've noticed I've collected a few anti-SA thought experiments over the years and wanted to share. Feel free to share your own.

I think however they have a fairly limited use and should form only a tiny part of your arsenal against SA. They're not intended to 'cure' you but jolt your thinking in small ways and provide little reminders from day-to-day.

Donít Be a Bully
Whenever you catch your subconscious making a negative judgement about yourself, imagine that you were saying those things to a friend. How would it make the friend feel?
Example: you catch yourself in a mirror and think ďgod what an ugly bitch I amĒ. Imagine if you had said that to someone you cared about? Really picture that specific person's reaction and the effects it would have on their confidence. It must be extremely upsetting to be told such a thing. In fact I would only expect comments of that nature from a bully. Maybe you can't stop those thoughts, but understand how little power they should hold since they come from a very toxic place in your head. It sort of helps you understand the saying: don't believe everything you think.

Future Perspective
If you find yourself getting anxious at something you know is relatively unimportant, one way to try and rationalise it away is to ask yourself: will it matter in 5 years time? Picture yourself in 5 years doing something fun Ė are you really that bothered that you stuttered in front of a cashier in Sainsburys all those years ago?

Everyone is a Lead Character
Do you find that sometimes you over-estimate how obsessed other people are with how you act? For example if you're walking down the street and have messy hair, you might obsess that everyone is looking at you. Even if the worst case were true, and people thought "wow he looks a bit unkempt"....consider this: imagine that we're all 3-dimension characters, we all play the lead in our own lives, all have rich inner lives, friends and foes and adventures and struggles. Everyone has a story. No one is as flat as an extra in a film: they have plenty of other things to occupy their mind with. To imagine this scenario, you can then place your little social hiccup (whether real or imaged) into the hierarchy of their lives. Yes you may have looked a bit shit one day and stuttered a hello, but in the grand scheme things that Sainsburys cashier is extremely unlikely think it an event worth remembering. (I do appreciate there are some exceptions to this one e..g when someone is not very nice and obsess over your faults because they're a trouble maker).

Street Angel
When youíre out and about, getting agitated by strangersí eyes on you or people intruding on your personal space, try this. Make a deliberate effort not to judge strangers too harshly and make a pact with yourself that if this person needs help, you are going to aid them. So for example if they fall over, drop their shopping or just need a hand opening a door, youíre going to help them. This simple thought often softens our judgements of strangers that are seemingly inconveniencing us. I got this idea from a blog I read, here is why this works:
Now, itís not important whether any of these events are likely to happen. The point is to locate that feeling of being willing to help, of being someone who cares about this other person. These feelings are incompatible with that of being just another cold stranger.

By doing this Iím creating a total, deliberate inversion of my initial feeling towards him. In the first moment I noticed him, he was an adversary, just another instance of evidence that the human world is mean, and that we are a selfish, thoughtless species ó an irony that was almost lost on me. And now heís someone Iím cheering for, someone whose well-being is worth something to me.

The most gratifying part is knowing that this man has no idea he has gained a secret ally ó just as he probably had no idea when he gained, briefly, a secret detractor. My new role makes me feel good in the way judging him made me feel bad.
I strongly recommend the original article:

Curtains Up / Playground Effect
At any given moment you can play this little mind trick on yourself. Again this was inspired by the same blog and you can read about it in more detail in the link below (strongly recommended) but this is my interpretation of it:

Imagine you've been wandering around in limbo for thousands, millions of years waiting for your time. This very moment, the curtains go up and your life begins. Now is the beginning of your life. You can recall your backstory, but this will be the first time you can act on it.

This often makes me approach issues with a sense of fun and gentle curiosity, rather than feeling stifled by them. This is a quote from the blog to explain it better:

When you can look at any moment as though itís the first moment, if you can really see your surroundings as the opening frame in a story, the world gains a certain playfulness. Suddenly your problems seem more interesting than annoying, the way another personís problems always seem easier to solve than your own. Itís almost impossible to be impatient with others, because itís fascinating that theyíre even there. You still care about outcomes, but itís far easier to relax around the possibilities. Any uptightness about making things go a certain way seems a bit silly, because it already seems unlikely that anything is even happening, and that youíre at the helm.
The full article makes far more sense than I have here so if interesting please read:


I whizzed through these ideas quickly but each one I've been doing for years and years and soon they become habit. Worth a go.

PS. You really have to engage with your imagination during these experiments, don't just do it half-arsed. Really employ all your sense e.g. if imagining myself in 5 years time, imagine the activity, the sights, smells, textures. It really helps.
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Old 24th October 2015, 10:35
Richard Ingate Richard Ingate is offline
Join Date: Sep 2015
Posts: 9
Default Re: Thought Experiments

I think it is great to experiment with these different perspectives. It's valuable to notice how we can change our own experience. It's even more valuable to understand with a felt realisation that SA is only another perspective, it is not reality, it is a story we believe about reality.

There comes a time for some when we can feel SA and not believe in it.
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Old 26th October 2015, 11:23
black_mamba black_mamba is offline
Join Date: Jul 2005
Location: London
Posts: 9,063
Default Re: Thought Experiments

Thanks Richard yes sometimes a change of perspective can do wonders for our well-being.

Anyone got any ideas for thought experiments?
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Old 26th October 2015, 11:31
tryinghard tryinghard is offline
Join Date: Feb 2012
Posts: 1,293
Default Re: Thought Experiments

These are good. I do something similar to 'will this matter in five years' time' except I guess I just ask myself: Why is this important? Then I try to convince myself of why it's important I'm so anxious about whatever it is, usually in the process making myself laugh with the absurdity of it

The other thing I do is recognise when I'm making doom-laden projections about the future and feeling trapped and ask myself why I think I can predict the future when things are happening all over the world. I like to imagine what else is happening elsewhere in the world, and the millions of little coincidences and exchanges going on everywhere and remind myself the world is random and you never know what will happen in the next minute. This makes the world exciting and increases my curiosity rather than feeling that I'm trapped in a world that will offer me nothing.
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Old 7th November 2015, 23:39
OllyAvoid OllyAvoid is offline
Join Date: Jul 2007
Location: South London
Posts: 476


Default Re: Thought Experiments

black_mamba, lots of for a great post.

I like the "curtains up" thought experiment. It resonates with me in the same way as the mindful practice of always "beginning again" or "starting over", where you endeavour to drop all your narratives and stories about your past and all your worries about the future and just connect with this one breath...because really this one breath is all we have and the past is nothing more than a story we tell ourselves about ourselves, a highly prejudiced and subjective story at that. Imagining this moment is "curtains up" seems a nice way to hold our personal narratives a bit more lightly.

Tomorrow I vow to look out for how I can be helpful to those around me. A nice way to try to get out of my usual headspace of disconnection, alienation and fear and move more towards one of openness and warmth. Worth a try anyway.

The one about talking to yourself the way that you would talk to a friend or loved one is in a lot of books I have read. I have never had much success with that but I certainly know that I would never talk to another person in the same extremly critical and harsh and hating way that I talk to myself.
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