Can You Think Two Thoughts At The Same Time?
Can you think two thoughts at the same time? I don’t know about you, but I can’t. I’ll admit that I can cram two different thoughts very close to each other, but I can’t actually hold two thoughts in my mind at the same time. For example, while driving my car I might see a policeman, think about how fast I am going, look at the speedometer and then adjust my speed. In performing this sequence of thoughts, I did cram them together, but at no time was I thinking two of the thoughts at the same time.
Ok, so what’s good and/or bad about this? Why were we designed (for those of you who believe in Intelligent Design) or why have we evolved (for those of you who believe in Evolution) in such a way that we are only capable of thinking one thought at a time? Perhaps, we think in this manner because we would not be able to successfully think any other way. Frankly, I don’t know.
Now, before I continue let me make clear that this idea, of only being able to think one thought at a time, is not necessarily based on any scientific theory or evidence. This is simply what I think and as I’m thinking this, I am only thinking one thought at a time. :-)
From my point of view, being able to only think one thought at a time is helpful for improving the quality of our thinking and life. Consider how much negative thinking is done by us. Consider pessimistic thinking. Consider any thought that is bothersome to you. It may be fear, illness, hate, shyness, danger, rejection, … The list could be almost limitless. How can we get rid of these bothersome and negative thoughts? Well, first and foremost, realize that we can only think one thought at a time!
Thinking only one thought at a time gives us the secret to getting rid of negative thoughts. Once a negative thought is identified, you could visualize something that is not negative. For example, suppose you had the negative thought of fear of speaking in front of an audience. Once that negative thought (fear) is identified, visualize something that is neutral or positive and is completely unrelated to the fear.
As an example of thinking a positive thought for the case of, “fear of speaking in front of an audience,” perhaps the visualization of a past birthday party, where you were the center of attention and felt no fear, would help. As you visualize and think this positive thought, you won’t be thinking about the previous thought of fear. The blessing, of being able to only think one thought at a time, enables you to divert your fear to something positive. Now, as you are thinking the positive thought of the birthday party, replace the audience that you were fearful of speaking in front of, with the “audience” at the birthday party. In other words, get rid of, in your mind, the audience you fear. In doing so, you are getting rid of your fear and replacing it with the positive thought of enjoyment and friendliness.
Of course, this technique has to be practiced and success won’t happen instantly. But, knowing that you can’t think two different thoughts at the same time does give us a tool for improving our thinking and possibly, our quality of life. In one sense, I guess multi-tasking, from your “brain’s point of view” is not possible. :-)
How about picking out one of your thoughts and sharing it in a comment?
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when i was younger i discovered that if you think really hard you can actually think two thoughts at once, i then trained my brain over a number of years and now i cant stop thinking two things at once. Everything else you said is mostly correct, there are some huge downsides to thinking two things at once.
Ever since I was younger, I’m a teen now, I have been able to think two thoughts at once. I completely agree with the write of this article, given that once person can think one thought, it gives them a chance to dis spell the negative thoughts. Where as me, or Toby said, there are some serious downsides to it. When you think of a bad thought, you might think of a positive image to put the thought away, but you are still thinking the other thought it in a more quiet manner. As I would describe it, it’s like recording yourself saying “I’m going to hang out with friends tomorrow,” Then with another recording saying “I wonder how so-and-so is,” Then playing both those at the same time, one louder than the other.
Thank you for this great article! It really explained a lot to me.:)
I’m soo happy i found this!! I have the same problem and this is the first time i ever thought about looking for other people with this. I wish i could bring it up to a doctor without them just immediately thinking I’m schizo or have a split personality. Both thoughts are my own, and Maddy you described it perfectly. Thank you for letting me know that other people out there know what this is like :D I’ve been trying for years to get back to one, but i don’t know if that will ever be possible now that i know how to think with two…I try meditation and when i get close to getting the two together it feels almost dangerous like something i wont be able to handle is about to happen and i stop. Shits weird and i hope one day some research is done on the subject. Again thanks for showing me that other people out describe the same condition i have!
Hey Jake, i’m glad you found my comment informing. And as for the research, there are some books about the physiological part of it, although they might be a challenge to read, it would be worth a try. I would recommend doing some research about the book and the author first though! Good luck!:)
Huh, I’m glad i decided to google this.
anyhow, about a week ago I had two thoughts at the same time, they were both coherent and about radically different matters.
They both felt as if they were my thoughts, i felt in control and all that jazz. the problem is I am not sure if i am actually losing it, and i am just unaware of it (Anosognosia) or, if this is a very powerful and efficient and a totally non crazy way of thinking.
admittedly it feels as if the people here are describing two thoughts at the same time as “look at my ability to snap fingers on BOTH my hands” and my situation feels as if “i am rubbing my belly and patting my head at the same time”
Yeah its definitely more of a pat the head/rub the belly experience. It almost makes it difficult to do the snap at the same time type thoughts, and the former a breeze.
oh here’s something useful. i had a conversation with a friend about a 16th century philosopher (i forget the name, Spinoza?), whom among other things, suggested that there are different tiers of thought: imagination/visualizing and abstract thought.
I can say for sure one of the thoughts was a visualization, and the other was an abstract thought.
so i’ve two questions for you all. do you guys recall what types of thoughts you could have at the same time? also, how intelligent, smart, and emotionally stable are you all?
I enjoyed the article, and I must admit I’ve tried thinking of more than 1 thought at the same time. It’s quite difficult.
Even though are brains are basically parallel computers, it is simply not efficient in terms of computing information to process two things at once. I believe it is an evolutionary adaption to be able to only focus on one thing at a time. If our brain power was spread out by trying to contemplate 5 things at once, we would never get anything done. More importantly, we would not survive if a predator attacked.
Perhaps this is why adrenaline (produced when a predator attacks) makes your focus go into overdrive.
I sometimes have 2 or 3 thoughts at a time. If 3, the 3rd is usually a song (like my head is a radio), the 2nd is what I’m intending to think about, and the 1st is what randomly pops into my head (I remember a to do I want to write down, I hear a word or see a billboard, and it jogs a thought that may be totally unrelated to the conversation I am having. This gets greatest when I am driving and lowest when I am in a dance class or performing dance – an activity which requires coordinating what you see, here, and move—so that doesn’t leave much room for other thoughts. One comment I saw on a similar site that thoughts are not you – they happen to you, just like your heart beats. So you are an observer of your thoughts, then you actively think something intentional about it. I am smart, get emotional easily, and therefore take antidepressants. I did find that 20mg of celexa or lexapro made me less prone to emotional breakdowns, but at 40 mg I had only 1 thought. I was odd and quiet to me but it was also cool to be uber focused. Thanks for the thread.