Where are your thoughts, exactly? In the space where puns and creativity collide, this is what I thought about falling asleep one particular night.

Second Thoughts

We know that the second thought comes after the first thought - it’s when you receive new information and might change your mind. You are indeed thinking twice. What about if you have a third thought that supersedes the second thought? Does the second thought become a second thought once removed, or the thought previously known as second? Or is our second thought fully deserving of retaining his position as second, and simply points to the third if our brains are following the thought trail? I present an example:

Oh yes, well when you were little you thought that avocados might be vegetables (first thought), but then when you were a little older an adult told you that they were fruits (second thought), and while that isn’t entirely wrong, we now know in fact that avocados are single seeded berries (third thought). Amazing!

That should be some food for thought. So does it follow that thoughts are like a linked list, always coming from a link to how they were derived and linking to the trail of following thoughts? What happens when a thought becomes disconnected from his family, does he feel lost in thought? Does the sum of our thoughts always include the entire trail, or can one fall off the train of thought and then we find ourselves charging forward without a second thought? Do we then slow down, get off the train, and carefully walk back along the track to collect our thoughts?


A forethought then, would actually come before the first thought, because it happens at index 0, before the first thought. But could one argue that makes it an empty thought? Surely not, because an index of 0 does not imply emptiness, but rather precedence. But what would a forethought to a first thought be, a reconsideration? Does a forethought to a first thought imply replacement - that you previously had a first thought, and swiped it for another one? And then where does that original first thought go, does he also become lost in thoughts?

Negative Thoughts

The negative thought is on the negative side of the thought line, and it logically follows that two negative thoughts added together form a more negative thought, e.g.,:

I’m ugly + I’m really not good looking = I’m very unattractive

However, two negative thoughts multiplied together can result in a positive thought. E.g.,:

I’m a bad person X Bad people don’t care about their thoughts = I don’t care about any of my thoughts, therefore I don’t care that I think I’m a bad person.

or another example:

I hate not having money X Having too much money can make you a selfish person = I don’t have money, so there is a better chance I’m a less selfish person!

I’d offer you a penny for your thoughts, but let’s be honest, it’s neither the case that I’d want to know what’s going on in your head, nor the case that a penny is financially useful in our current economy.

Imaginary Thoughts

Imaginary thoughts are the ones that we didn’t have, but in retrospect we reflect back after making bad life decisions and wish that we did. They exist on the imaginary timeline. Let’s imagine that we have an amazing piece of pi. Would we share it? This imaginary pi, along with being imaginary, is also irrational, because along with being a property of pi, it’s unlikely to think that a selfish entity would want to share. Sometimes lovely and delicious things make rationality an afterthought.


If a forethought comes before a first thought, then an afterthought must come after it. Does this make it the last thought in our linked list? If you come to a conclusion after thought, it could be that the conclusion was actually derived from a second thought, after the first thought, but not before the last thought. Yes, indeed I think that an afterthought just needs to be after but not necessarily a final thought. Afterthoughts, akin to imaginary thoughts, might be the thoughts that you wish that you had after an initial thought. For example:

I see a dog, so I should pet it.

In the example above, the first thought is reacting to seeing a dog. The individual wants to pet it. But then the individual might pet the dog and get bitten. He then has an afterthought:

I should have asked the owner if the dog was friendly.

In this case, logic and reason comes as an afterthought. We call it an afterthought because it was too late to influence the resulting action, and is no longer salient in the decision that was made. It is distinct from an imaginary thought because it is a thought that we actually have, but too late. On the other hand, afterthoughts can be useful to influence future thoughts, thus making them future forethoughts, but only if we remember them. Indeed, afterthoughts are a good way to think ahead.


If you approach someone trapped in a box, no matter how much they might try to think outside of it, their current situation will make it very challenging. You might try to think inside their box for them, but if we reverse the situation you are also in a box, and importantly, it isn’t their box. We might consider that they exist in a subset of your box, in which case you might consider enrolling them in your school of thought. Given that the professors are suitably thought-full, they might actually spill over and accidentally leak out some solid words to live by, and your student (let’s call him “Who”) will make much better decisions in the future than climbing inside of boxes. Who would have thought!


Suggested Citation:
Sochat, Vanessa. "The Space of Thoughts." @vsoch (blog), 17 May 2020, https://vsoch.github.io/2020/space-of-thoughts/ (accessed 16 Apr 24).