Unit 101: Clear Thinking Overview 

Clear Thinking Module, Coaching Curriculum

Overview of Clear Thinking Units

Clear Thinking 101: Clear Thinking Overview 

Clear Thinking 102: Language: Toxic Words and Phrases

Clear Thinking 103: Varieties of Emotional Cognitive Distortions

Clear Thinking 104: Varieties of Logical Fallacies

Clear Thinking 105: Varieties of Cognitive Biases

Unit 101: Clear Thinking Overview 


  1. Knowing why clear thinking is important
  2. Knowing why clear thinking is a module in the healing component of the IDL Curriculum
  3. Learning common scripted words and phrases that throw us into toxic drama in thinking and relationships
  4. Knowing what emotional cognitive distortions are and why they are important
  5. Knowing what cognitive biases are and why they are important
  6. Knowing what logical fallacies are and why they are important

Why clear thinking is important

Most everyone will agree that clear thinking is important and necessary for healing, balancing, and transformation, since it is foundational to almost every aspect of life, from everyday decision making to long-term success and fulfillment. Clear thinking is rather like mom, apple pie, and democracy. Who can throw stones at it? As we shall see, if we don’t learn fundamental skills of clear thinking we will go through our lives assuming we are thinking clearly and not understand why we are not understood, respected, listened to, or effective at getting what we want out of life. It enhances cognitive abilities, improves problem-solving skills, and fosters resilience in navigating life’s challenges. It means we hear better, learn faster, self-correct from mistakes more easily, and have better relationships. It means we are more likely to consider and accurately weigh different factors relevant to the choices we make in our lives. 

Clear thinking enables us to assess situations accurately, weigh options, and make informed decisions. It helps in identifying the best course of action while considering potential outcomes and consequences. When faced with challenges or problems, it allows us to break down complex issues into manageable parts, analyze them logically, and develop effective solutions. Clear thinking also facilitates clear communication. It helps us articulate our thoughts, ideas, and arguments coherently, making it easier for others to understand and engage with us.

Clear thinking is essential for critical thinking, which involves evaluating information, identifying biases, questioning assumptions, and reaching well-reasoned conclusions. It allows us to distinguish between fact and opinion, logic and fallacy. It also provides a solid foundation for creativity and innovation. By eliminating mental clutter and confusion, it allows us to explore new ideas, think outside the box, and come up with novel solutions.

It is also important to know and understand that clear thinking is not necessary for many important areas of life. For example, life on a purely sensory level doesn’t depend on reasoning in the form of objective knowing. For our bodies, for animals, and for hunter-gatherers, reasoning is limited to the ability to eat, survive, have sex, and be secure. Adaptation and evolution work whether one is clear thinking or not. In fact, if one thinks too much about sex and the challenges of parenting it can deter replacing a continuously dying population. It is not for nothing that birth rates go down as the educational level of humans, particularly women, goes up. 

Such factors do not argue against clear thinking, but serve to remind us that reason has its limits. When you just want to watch a movie or have a good laugh with friends, you probably aren’t so interested in clear thinking. The point is that clear thinking includes thinking clearly about its limits and realizing there are life situations that don’t involve clear thinking and don’t need to. 

It is easy to assume that we think clearly when we don’t. We all start out life without clear thinking. We have to learn to think, and on top of that, we have to learn to think clearly. The assumption is that the interests of our family, friends, and nation are based on clear thinking. Are they? How do we know? It is also easy to assume that our family, friends, and nation support us in thinking clearly, when the truth is that they generally want us to think in ways that support their interests. What if they aren’t nearly as interested in clear thinking as they are in validating their particular set of beliefs, values, allegiances and behaviors? What if they just want us to think that they are interested in teaching us clear thinking? What if our thinking isn’t clear and we just assume it is? Again, how do we know we are thinking clearly?

Why clear thinking is a module in the healing component of the IDL Curriculum

Clear thinking is foundational for self development and all other modules in the IDL curriculum. An amazing aspect of IDL is that dreams, which generally are not perceived as clear thinking at all, are shown to be consistent sources of considerable clear thinking, in the form of feedback and input from interviewed characters. If eliminating toxic scripting and aligning with the priorities of your life compass generates an authentic sense of who you are, and if eliminating toxic drama and learning to stay out of it in the three realms is emotional healing, then eliminating delusional and toxic thinking is cognitive healing. All three forms of healing, identity, emotional, and cognitive, together build a solid foundation for greater life balance and transformation as well as a life of more fulfilling service to others.

Clarity of thought also reduces mental strain and stress. When we can see things clearly we are less likely to feel overwhelmed or anxious, enabling us to approach challenges with a calm and focused mindset. Therefore, the clear thinking module contributes to our ability to meditate, observe our breathing objectively, and generate a clear statement of intent. Clear thinking helps us to set meaningful goals, develop effective plans to achieve them, and stay on track despite obstacles or setbacks. These are all ways in which clear thinking is relevant to the first module of the balancing facet of the IDL curriculum. Clear thinking develops objectivity, which is fundamental to finding and maintaining assertiveness and other forms of life balance. It fosters resilience and determination in pursuing objectives and is essential for personal and professional development. It enables us to learn from our experiences, adapt to changing circumstances, and continuously improve ourselves. If we learn the rudiments of clear thinking and apply them to the building blocks of healing, balancing, and transformation we are much more likely to find ourselves in the right place at the right time, with an enhanced ability to provide same to others in ways that are freeing and transformative. 

What are the elements of clear thinking? 

Everybody thinks they think clearly, but could that possibly be true? The problem is that we are subjectively enmeshed in our thinking and the assumptions behind our thoughts. Everything seems clear enough to us! However, that is only because we lack the objectivity to see where and how our thinking is not clear, or even toxic. Unless we are taught that objectivity we will go through our lives why what we say and how we think doesn’t generate the sort of life we expect. We remain victims of our toxic thinking and don’t even recognize that is the problem. 

Clear thinking is rational.  The thinking self says, “I have a body and emotions but I am my thoughts and ability to reason.” As we continue to develop, learning mediation and pranayama and accessing transpersonal perspectives, we first recognize, “I have a body, emotions, and thoughts but I am something, someone that can observe all that.” Then we can arrive at a further perspective of, “I have a body, emotions, thoughts, and a sense of self, but I am multi-perspectival; no one self definition can ever define me.” 

Clear thinking includes an ability to reduce and sort through confusion and conflicting claims with logical reasoning and the ability to analyze and evaluate information objectively. It avoids logical fallacies and ensures that conclusions are supported by evidence and sound arguments. Open-mindedness, reflected naturally in children as curiosity, is necessary in order to consider a multitude of options or possibilities, to be able to decide what explanation or approach is most plausible. All of this requires mental discipline, or staying focused on the task at hand, avoiding distractions, and persisting in the face of challenges or uncertainties. Discipline helps maintain clarity of thought and ensures that cognitive processes remain logical and effective. 

Perhaps the most important element of clear thinking is the ability to ask questions, to search for and question the assumptions underlying any point of view, belief, or behavior. This is why IDL interviewing is based on a set, structured questioning protocol. It is not that the protocols necessarily contain the best questions, and they certainly are not necessarily the only relevant or important questions to ask, but they provide a foundational structure for clear thinking about our life issues and our interpretations of the behavior of others, our mystical experiences, and our dreams. 

What are common barriers to the development of clear thinking? 

Most of us weren’t brought up in families that were models of clear communication that provided us with examples of critical thinking skills and logical reasoning. We don’t normally learn about toxic language, emotional cognitive distortions, cognitive biases, or logical fallacies when we are growing up. Instead, it is much more likely to have our thoughts and feelings either ignored, misunderstood, or misinterpreted. Many children grow up in environments where adults model toxic thinking. Generally, we only learn clear thinking indirectly, for example from a parent or mentor in the course of performing some specific task like cleaning or cooking, or learning some specific skill, like rebuilding a car engine or debate, rather than through any investigation of the elements of clear thinking themselves. More likely, we were provided with more examples of how not to think clearly. This is because most adults are identified with their feelings; they are confident they think clearly, but their thoughts are driven by their emotional preferences, which are feelings. How many parents know the difference between emotional cognitive distortions, logical fallacies, and cognitive biases? How many can provide examples of each of them? 

Instead of having an overall understanding of the uses, limitations, and abuses of clear thinking, at best most people develop one or two of its components and lack awareness or facility in the rest. We generally have to take a course in logic in the philosophy department of a university to learn about logical fallacies and study psychology if we want to learn about toxic language, emotional cognitive distortions, and cognitive biases. 

If clear thinking is so fundamental and essential to healing, balancing, and transformation, why is it not commonly taught to children and widely practiced as a core human competency? There is very little about formal education that prepares anyone to understand, much less deal with, groupthink. We will explore this important issue in some depth in Clear Thinking 106: Escaping Groupthink. But for now it is sufficient to point out that our families, friends, employers, ethnic, religious, and national groups all have a strong interest in our validating their beliefs, regardless of how rational or irrational they are.  These influencers are rarely malicious; they mean well and they are confident they are thinking clearly and communicate as they do to you for your own benefit. Unless your elders, teachers, and national leaders have learned clear thinking and make it a priority above gaining your allegiance to your worldview and interests, how exactly are you supposed to learn it? 

Strong emotions such as fear, anger, or attachment can cloud judgment and impede clear thinking. Emotional responses can override rational thought processes, leading to biased or irrational conclusions. In the second unit in this Module you will learn common toxic words and phrases that are pre-rational in that they are emotionally loaded and throw us into the Drama Triangle. In the third unit you will learn about how your thoughts determine how you feel and how you can change how you feel by changing how you think. In the fourth unit you will learn logical, or formal fallacies in thinking. These are rational errors that lead to irrational thought conclusions. In the fifth unit you will learn about the mental short-cuts, called “cognitive biases” that  distort perceptions, decision-making, and reasoning, leading to unclear thinking and our manipulation by others. For example, “confirmation bias” reflects our innate tendency to seek out information that confirms our beliefs and assumptions while ignoring or dismissing contradictory evidence. As a consequence, we easily resist considering alternative perspectives.

Clear thinking is often associated with intelligence, but I can cite you multiple examples of very intelligent people who do not think clearly at all, sometimes even in their specializations or fields of expertise. For example, consider the scientists on both sides of the covid debate. Which side is rational? Which side is thinking clearly? Both are confident that they are. 

It is also common to be brilliant in area A and dumb as a stump in areas B, C, and D. In addition, there is no necessary correlation among these various components of clear thinking: absence of toxic language, emotional cognitive distortions, logic, cognitive biases, and groupthink. For example, one can be very logical and still be very wrong, if they are arguing from untrue, non-factual premises. Finally, there is no necessary correlation between either intelligence or clear thinking and moral behavior. We can say that both make moral behavior more likely, but there always exist emotional, familial, health, social, and cultural circumstances that can shift us toward irrational conclusions, pre-rational beliefs, and amoral or even immoral behavior. Therefore, it is a mistake to assume that because you learn the skills taught in this module that you are a “clear thinker.” The best you can conclude is that you are perhaps less deluded than you were before. Because clear thinking requires effort, discipline, intellectual curiosity, and motivation, don’t be too surprised if you have to confront bouts of intellectual laziness along the way. So do I! All of these factors work to explain why clear thinking is only one of ten modules of the IDL Curriculum. 

Now let’s turn to an overview of the major elements of clear thinking we’ll address in this module.

Common scripted words and phrases that throw us into toxic drama in thinking and relationships

From early childhood most of us were exposed to words that generate emotionally-based toxic drama, that throw us into the roles of Persecutor, Victim, or Rescuer. When these are internalized, we become Persecutors, Victims, and Rescuers of ourselves and call it “conscience.” Those who are unaware of these toxic words become ensnared in the Drama Triangle without having any idea that is what is happening. That is exactly the condition of childhood, when we lacked the ability to reason out the pre-rational unreasonableness of what we were being told by our elders and family members. There is no reason to believe that at some age, say puberty or the attainment of legal rights, that we somehow, magically outgrew toxic language. Instead, most of us, most of the time, remain emotional children in adult bodies but with adult responsibilities, like raising healthy children. 

Toxic words and phrases are also important because they can interfere with your ability to learn the IDL curriculum, work with other team members, those you interview and who interview you. They can also interfere with your perception of events while you are dreaming, resulting in misperception, reactivity, drawing wrong conclusions, and unproductive behavior in your dreams. 

What emotional cognitive distortions are and why they are important

Emotional cognitive distortions, also known as cognitive distortions or thinking errors, are patterns of biased or irrational thinking that can lead to negative emotions and behaviors. These distortions often involve interpreting situations in ways that are inaccurate, exaggerated, or unhelpful. They play a significant role in perpetuating and exacerbating emotional distress, mental health issues, and relationship conflicts. They wreck our lives, relationships, and destroy our peace of mind in a multitude of ways. They are called “emotional” cognitive distortions to differentiate them from cognitive biases, which are inherited, and logical fallacies, which are rational, rather than emotional, cognitive errors. 

Recognizing and neutralizing cognitive distortions are important to IDL for the same reasons that stopping the use of toxic words are: they can interfere with your ability to learn the IDL curriculum, work with other team members, those you interview and who interview you. They can also interfere with your perception of dream events while you are dreaming, resulting in misperception, reactivity, drawing wrong conclusions, and unproductive behavior. 

What logical fallacies are and why they are important

Logical fallacies are errors in reasoning, debating, or problem solving with others that undermine the validity of your point or the conclusion you are trying to make. These fallacies can be deceptive because they often appear to be logical or persuasive at first glance, meaning that they typically fly under our radar, which means that others can use them to manipulate us to do what they want by making weak or faulty arguments appear convincing. Being able to spot fallacious reasoning will help you discern truth from misinformation and resist being misled by deceptive arguments. If we have learned to use logical fallacies as part of our childhood scripting, we can manipulate others to get what we want, but at the cost of intimacy, authenticity, and trust in our relationships. When you eliminate logical fallacies from your arguments, you can strengthen your reasoning and make your arguments more robust and defensible. This enhances the credibility and persuasiveness of what you are saying, making it more likely to be accepted by others.

Committing logical fallacies undermines intellectual integrity by supporting dishonest and manipulative reasoning. Similarly, when you recognize and avoid logical fallacies you will come across as someone who has intellectual integrity and honesty. Logical fallacies can also hinder effective problem-solving by leading to flawed analyses or conclusions. Understanding fallacies will help you avoid common pitfalls in reasoning and approach problems with greater clarity and precision, resulting in improved decision-making.

In addition to generating intellectual integrity, eliminating logical fallacies generates intellectual humility. Even well-intentioned arguments by well-meaning people can contain logical fallacies. In fact, in my experience, this is very often the case. Think of your average minister! Sincere, charismatic, and communicating from pre-rational beliefs that have little or no relationship to reason or logic. There is also no correlation between having a moral intent and our ability to think clearly. Clear thinking is a skill set that exists independently of both our intentions and our behavior.

Recognizing and neutralizing cognitive distortions are important to IDL for the same reasons that stopping the use of toxic words, emotional cognitive distortions, and cognitive biases are: they can interfere with your ability to learn the IDL curriculum, work with other team members, those you interview and who interview you. They can also interfere with your perception of dream events while you are dreaming, resulting in misperception, reactivity, drawing wrong conclusions, and unproductive behavior.

What cognitive biases are and why they are important

While emotional cognitive distortions are largely learned behaviors, picked up as part of our scripting in our childhood, cognitive biases are inherited. They involve errors in thinking that are human cognitive adaptations. Think of cognitive biases as generalized perceptual assumptions, called “heuristics,” that are right more often than they are not. In hunter-gatherers these approximations and mental short cuts are highly useful, and where they are wrong the consequences are not that significant. However, for humans today, who live in highly regulated collectives in which clear and accurate language is important, cognitive biases can lead you, as well as entire groups and nations, to make critical errors in judgment. Over a hundred cognitive biases have been identified, and for illustrative purposes we will describe a few of the most relevant and impactful ones in Clear Thinking Unit 105.

Cognitive biases can also be defined as systematic patterns of thinking that lead us to deviate from rationality or objective judgment. They affect decision-making, interpretation of information,including our dreams and our understanding of our life issues, and our perception of the world around us. While some biases may have evolved as cognitive shortcuts to help us process information efficiently, they can also lead to errors in judgment and decision-making.

By recognizing your cognitive biases you can make more informed decisions by taking into account potential biases that influence your judgment. Being aware of biases can help you critically evaluate information and make decisions based on evidence rather than instinctive or automatic thinking. Cognitive biases can also hinder effective problem-solving by leading to narrow perspectives or overlooking important information. Understanding biases allows you to approach problems more systematically and consider alternative viewpoints or solutions.

Advertisers and governments have learned to take advantage of our cognitive biases to influence our decision-making and shape both our preferences and world view. Learning about cognitive biases is not simply a matter of learning how we are prone to arrive at faulty conclusions that lead to bad decision-making; it is necessary to wake up out of groupthink, or programming by culture and society to think, feel, and act in ways supportive of priorities that may have very little to do with our own emerging potentials or life compass. This is where and how cognitive biases contribute to groupthink, which we will address in Clear Thinking 106.

Recognizing and neutralizing cognitive distortions are important to IDL for the same reasons that stopping the use of toxic words, emotional cognitive distortions, and logical fallacies are: they can interfere with your ability to learn the IDL curriculum, work with other team members, those you interview and who interview you. They can also interfere with your perception of dream events, resulting in misperception, reactivity, drawing wrong conclusions, and unproductive behavior.

What groupthink is and why it is important

While “groupthink” can be categorized as an emotional cognitive distortion (emotional reasoning) , cognitive bias (confirmation bias), or logical fallacy (the Bandwagon Effect), it is important enough as a barrier to clear thinking to deserve separate assessment. This is because “groupthink” is our prevailing Zeitgeist, metaphorically the air we breathe, like the water in which fish swim. We are normally submerged in groupthink, which creates the context in which we build our sense of self and justify our actions. Unless we recognize, objectify, and question prevailing groupthink and the assumptions on which it is based, we will act in accordance with it, all the time convinced that we are autonomous agents expressing our free will. 

Groupthink is very much like sleepwalking, Neo in the Matrix before he woke up, Dorothy dreaming The Wizard of Oz, or Alice, in Alice in Wonderland. IDL is a dream yoga that is focused on waking humanity out of its waking dreaming, out of varieties of groupthink that do not reflect the priorities of emerging human potentials or our collective life compass. 

While groupthink is a major barrier to clear thinking, waking up, healing, balancing, and transformation, it will not be addressed here, in the Coaching curriculum, but rather in the Practitioner Curriculum, as a way of understanding socio-cultural scripting. 

Changes to look for as you learn clearer thinking: How toxic words, emotional cognitive distortions, cognitive biases, and logical fallacies impact the other modules of the IDL curriculum

When you learn these skills in clear thinking, you are much more likely to question the assumptions behind your thinking, emotions, worldview and sense of self. What are they? Do they make sense? Are they helpful? “Are they in alignment with the priorities of my life compass?” “Is the content of my dreams clearer and more positive, both while I am dreaming and when I interview them?” “Am I setting and pursuing clearer, more realistic goals in closer alignment with those of my life compass?” “Am I better able to understand when and why I lose assertiveness and balance and what I need to do to regain equilibrium?”  “Is my problem solving clearer and more effective?” “Am I able to use clear thinking to objectify sensations, emotions, images, and thoughts when I meditate?” “Am I able use clear thinking to support higher order pranayama?” “Does my statement of intent reflect clear thinking?”

Assignments and Homework 


Under “Essays and Interviews,”  read:


In the IDL video curricula, watch:




As you look at your dreams, how clear/toxic is your thinking as you are experiencing them? Can you spot any cognitive distortions in your perception as a dreamer? Can you spot any logical fallacies in your perception as a dreamer? Can you spot any cognitive biases in your perception as a dreamer? 

Consider the answers of the characters you interview, both in dreams and life issues, both for yourself and others. Can you spot any cognitive distortions in your responses? Can you spot any logical fallacies in your responses? Can you spot any cognitive biases in your responses?

At a minimum, do one interview a week, getting experience with both dream and life issue protocols.

One week, interview yourself.

One week, interview a subject. It can be a fellow team member, a family member, friend, or client.

One week, be interviewed by someone else. 

Submit your written interviews to your supervising team member. To have your interviews automatically created for you, use the on-line interviewing format on this site.


  1. Write down your answers to the following questions. 
  2. Share your answers with your other study team members.
  3. Discuss.
  4. Submit your written answers.

What toxic words do you hear others around you commonly use? Which ones do you catch yourself using?

What emotional cognitive distortions do you find yourself most likely to use?

What cognitive biases do you find yourself most likely to use?

What logical fallacies do you find yourself most likely to use?

In what ways do you suspect you are sleepwalking in groupthink?

Setting Intent

What do you want to take away from this unit to improve your life?

How would you like it to influence your dreams tonight?

How can you format that as a statement of intention to read over to remind yourself, before you go to sleep, to incubate in your dreams tonight?

For more information, contact joseph.dillard@gmail.com. While IDL does not accept advertising or sponsored postings, we gratefully accept donations of your time, expertise, or financial support.