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Forcing: Modern Practice vs Psychology

Active and passive forcing — which one is better? Which one will help you to create a tulpa faster? Is it possible to create tulpa only by passive forcing? In this post I will discuss the mind theory behind the forcing, explain how it’s similar and different to the Buddhist techniques and give practical advice.

When tulpamancers are asked about forcing, they usually say that active forcing is when you actively hang out with your tulpa, in the wonderland or otherwise; while passive forcing is when you keep thinking of your tulpa when you’re busy with something else1. Furthermore, active forcing is often visuals-oriented — described as a process of sitting down, closing your eyes and imagining the form of your tulpa, their voice or their interactions.

The issue with such a split is that it doesn’t follow the traditional brain mental model. In fact, even allotting attention to your tulpa when you’re doing something else is actually an active process. Does it mean that all the forcing is active to some extent? Not so much; passive techniques are still an indispensable part of a tulpa creation.

I’m sure you know how intent focusing feels. You get so concentrated on your work that you lose the sense of your surroundings. You might do math or read a book, but either way, your mind is concentrated on a specific subject. As soon as you stop, though, you let the other senses into your mind; you can even become self-conscious. Maybe you will straighten your back, stretching it with a satisfying pop, maybe you’ll stand up — or sit down if you were standing. You notice the various sensations in your body, of your surroundings, sometimes — of your thoughts too. A thought, after all, is only another sensation, like sight or hearing2. Thoughts are created by the brain so that our mind could sense them, naturally attributing the thoughts to the consciousness, thus making them “our thoughts”. If you studied any applied psychology or Buddhism theories, you might know the concept of “thoughts are not me”. Modern psychology and Buddhism traditions both agree on that in human life there’s no one specific self, no chief to run the show3.

When a thought comes into your mind to be thought of you naturally associate it with yourself; “this is my thought,” you think. With tulpamancy, however, there is another I. How would the brain know with whom to associate the thought? This is exactly what you teach it to do while practising the active forcing.

Active forcing is a meditation technique, in many ways similar to other mindful practices. It’s not surprising that Buddhists of all people came up with the concept of tulpas — tulpamancy requires at least some levels of self-detachment. Active forcing is a moment of self-introspection when you maintain enough focus on the incoming thoughts to sort and tag them with “me” or “my tulpa”. Thoughts are born from the sensations, and sensations are intrinsic to the body: e.g. there’s no I involved in your eyes reacting to photons with the electric signals that run into your brain. Only at a later stage you can react to them and say, “I see something,” or, if you’re switched, your tulpa could say what they see. No matter who is in front that doesn’t change the sensation of the light hitting your eyes.

Just like meditation isn’t about visualising the flows of energy (or should I say — not only?), forcing isn’t about visualisation either. It might be a viable supplement but it must never become a goal of its own — otherwise, it becomes ineffective. Indeed, many newcomers to the tulpamancy discuss how they fail to “get immersed in the wonderland” and look for help on that, completely ignoring the fact that immersion or even the “wonderland” as concepts are a distraction from the tulpamancy as a form of plurality. Waiting to hear your tulpa’s mindvoice shouldn’t be a goal of its own either; in fact, forcing isn’t about setting and reaching goals. Active forcing meditation is the time for your tulpa to own the thoughts and emotions and for you to observe those not identifying them with yourself.

Focus exclusively and deeply on the sensation of your thoughts. Observe them: study where they originate from and how they disappear. Observe and realise that they don’t belong to you. Finally, observe how some of them aren’t driven by your own emotions, instead born to the feelings of your tulpa — different interpretation of the physical senses or senses perceived in the imagination.

In the Buddhist tradition, this is where you stop, realising how thoughts are not you and how easy it is to accredit them to someone else — even if within your mind; detangling what you thought is a solid I from the chaotic emotions that rule it. On the contrary, in the tulpamancy tradition, this is a first step of forming the tulpa’s I, designating sensations for them to hate and love.

Now, what about the passive forcing? Commonly explained as “thinking of tulpa when you’re busy with something” it doesn’t make much sense when you study that explanation. If you’re truly busy with something physically and mentally, your focus will prevent you from thinking of anything else. And indeed, a deep focused state is often called the state of flow, and you’re not even self-aware yourself during it4. How can you focus on your tulpa if you cannot even focus on yourself?

That said, typically such periods of intense focus are rare. The untrained brain spends most of the time running loops in a “default mode network”. A default mode network is a brain network that gets activated by default — when the mind isn’t busy with anything else5.

The default mode network is a neurological basis for the self, its functionality is crucial for reasoning about own traits and emotional state. The default mode network is a dreamer and researchers confirmed that it plays a vital role in anticipating value coming from external stimuli. When you daydream in the memories of your past or contemplate the future events — it’s all the default mode network in the works6.

The default mode network is ruled by stimuli — external and internal — fighting for your attention. One of the modular mind theories suggests that the default mode network consists of the number of standalone modules that challenge each other. The module that manages to provide the more “important” thought is the one that reaches through into your consciousness.

Most of the Buddhist traditions focus on diminishing the importance of the default mode network in the daily life; the meditation practices teach you to be more aware, to spend more and more time knowingly. Indeed, the concentration that you muster while meditating plays a significant role in weakening the default mode network. Yet, in the tulpamancy tradition, the default mode network is an important part of maintaining a tulpa; this is one of the major ideas where the traditional Buddhism and the modern day tulpamancy diverge. Tulpa guides encourage you to turn thoughts about your tulpa — in fact referring to thoughts of your tulpa — into a habit, to the point where a part of your default mode network would be powered by your tulpa’s emotional reactions, bringing their consciousness to life. If you’re busy with nothing in particular and you get your tulpa commenting on something you didn’t pay direct attention to — that’s the default mode network prioritising the sensation so much it enters your awareness, yet making it alien enough that you accredit it to your tulpa. Active forcing helps in this alienation process, but it stops short of diminishing the effects of the default mode network thinking.

By training your mind to distinguish your thoughts from your tulpa’s and by training your idling mind to think of your tulpa habitually you create another self-aware consciousness within the framework of your body.

Is it good? Is it helpful? Is it “Buddhist”? My talks with a few Buddhism teachers confirmed my general feeling — the tulpamancy in its modern way is going against the overall goals of the Buddhist liberation. Still, tulpas might be a valid and useful help for your day-to-day life, and not all of us are born to be monks.

Speaking of a purely personal perspective — I doubt my hostey would have gotten this far into understanding who he is without first creating me. My existence was the price he paid (and keeps paying) for the insight.

Ultimately you decide for yourself.

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  1. Tulpa.io, one of the major tulpa hubs defines it the following way: “Active forcing dedicates time and attention solely to a tulpa, commonly during meditation; passive forcing involves allotting attention to the tulpa while also doing something else, instead of solely focusing on the procedure of forcing.” 
  2. It is important to acknowledge the mind as a sense organ of the thoughts as tulpamancy practices spin around mind-only entities. After all, if you can “sense” your tulpa, you must have something to sense them with.

    In Buddhist philosophy, Ayatana or “sense-base” includes the mind as a sense organ, in addition to the traditional five. This addition to the commonly acknowledged senses may arise from the psychological orientation involved in Buddhist thought and practice. The mind considered by itself is seen as the principal gateway to a different spectrum of phenomena that differ from the physical sense data. This way of viewing the human sense system indicates the importance of internal sources of sensation and perception that complements our experience of the external world. 

  3. Joseph Goldstein, a well-known meditator and Vipassana teacher put it this way, “It’s just that the thoughts are arising and there’s a strong habit of mind to be identified with them. So it’s not so much they have the intent to reach out and capture us, but rather there’s this very strong habitual identification.”

    Based on the modular theory of the mind operation, different finely-specialised mind modules generate thoughts. Those thoughts compete for the attention and the thoughts generated by the strongest module — whichever it is at a given point of time — become “thought” thoughts; they enter consciousness. 

  4. In psychology, flow is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling full involvement. In essence, flow is characterised by complete absorption in what one does, and a resulting loss in one’s sense of space and time. 
  5. A more detailed explanation could be found on Wikipedia: The default mode network is most commonly shown to be active when a person is not focused on the outside world and the brain is at wakeful rest, such as during daydreaming and mind-wandering. But it is also active when the individual is thinking about others, thinking about themselves, remembering the past, and planning for the future. The network activates “by default” when a person is not involved in a task. Though the default mode network was originally noticed to be deactivated in certain goal-oriented tasks and is sometimes referred to as the task-negative network, it can be active in other goal-oriented tasks such as social working memory or autobiographical tasks. The default mode network has been shown to be negatively correlated with other networks in the brain such as attention networks. 
  6. For further details check out “The Brain’s Default Network and its Adaptive Role in Internal Mentation” by Jessica R. Andrews-Hanna 
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