THINKING AND FEELING
It is believed that the type of feelings and emotions that each one of us experiences is in some type of way, shape or form, influenced by external events, other people’s behaviours, and situations. For instance, we’re sure you’ve a number of times heard someone say, “My husband/wife made me so angry,” or “The delays made the trip suck,” or “My boss always makes me nervous,” or “That missed opportunity made him/her depressed.”
You can obviously see the underlying assumptions in all those statements, right? There’s always something or someone making us experience the feelings or emotions that we’re experiencing at that moment. And here’s the kicker; we always come to these conclusions without even thinking twice whether the assumptions are true or not. The fact is, if we just take a minute to stop and analyze the situation, we would all realize that there’s actually a step in-between that external situation, and the emotional response.
How Our Thoughts Influence Our Feelings
In our honest opinion, what really makes us respond or feel the way we do is not the words, actions, or even the situation that you have been placed. It’s actually the way we perceive that another person’s actions or the situation. You’ll only feel the way you do because there’s a way you see something or someone. In other words, our thoughts and beliefs are the main influences on our emotions and actions.
Here’s an example. Let’s say you’ve showed up to a party and the host of the event introduced you to Karen. While all of you are talking, you quickly notice that she rarely looks at you. Her focus is on other people in the room. How would that make you feel? You’ll think she’s rude, right? And if you’re the type of person who’s insecure about their looks, you’ll think maybe she doesn’t want to look at you because she doesn’t find you attractive. But what if you took the positive-thinking route? Instead of focusing on the negatives, you could be thinking maybe she’s waiting for a friend to show up and that’s why she keeps looking at the door. That will definitely make you feel a lot better, right? So, if you take a closer look at all those thoughts that we’ve looked into, you’ll realize that those are three very different emotions. And the point is, we rarely focus on our thoughts, but more on how we feel.
What Am I Feeling?
Knowing exactly what you feel is not always easy and even when you do, you probably won’t know how to put those feelings into words. Let’s look at some words that could help you describe your feelings. We hope this will be a useful starting point for someone looking to understand the connection between an individual’s thoughts, and their feelings.
Half of the time we drive a car or walk, we’re not really conscious. And that’s the same state that we’re in when thinking. According to psychologists, our thinking is so habitual to a point we rarely know when we’re doing it. Our brains will keep on changing these thoughts and ideas so quickly and we won’t have a clue of what’s going on. And we cannot slow them down because we’re not really accustomed to a slower pace.
Three Types Of Automatic Thoughts
Neutral Thought: “Today is a good day to have pasta for lunch.”
Positive Thought: “Mathematics is a subject that I can be really good at!”
Negative Thought: “I have a short concentration span. Wow! I must be stupid”
Most of the time automatic thought will be all about concerns or worries, but sometimes they are about the things that we once heard, saw, or learned. You can see from the examples above that negative thoughts are the kind of thoughts that usually caused us emotional distress. Depressed people will always think negatively about themselves. They’ll think negatively about the world, their future, and even friends or family.
Feelings Are Not Thoughts
We understand that trying to distinguish thoughts from feelings can be pretty confusing but you have to try harder. From time to time, you’ll find authors use these two terms interchangeably but they are more powerful when sued separately. For example, You’ll hear someone say, “I think I’m just nervous for no reason.” That’s a thought. But when they say, “I feel nervous,” that thought quickly became a feeling.
You’ll only understand what you’re going through if you’re able to differentiate your thoughts from your feelings. Thinking influences feelings. So it goes without saying that they only way you’ll be able to feel better is by changing your general thoughts.
Raquel Soteldo RP(Q), MA, ABA, PMP, CCC