Your feelings are not your thoughts, and your thoughts are not your feelings.
By Luis Alcocer, ACSW
At times, our resources can become easily overwhelmed to the point where we are just trying our best to make it through the day. As a result, we can forget to engage in the things that we like or the persons, places, and things that bring us comfort. However, our feelings and thoughts are not always representative of the current situation as much as they try to convince us that they are. When we allow them to direct us, it may influence certain behaviors which in turn will reinforce those same thoughts and feelings. We may eventually find ourselves in a positive feedback loop. Deeper than that, are our core beliefs, progressively programmed by family of origin, experiences, and the environment are changed, reinforced, or expanded upon. It happens to the best of us especially if we aren’t sleeping, eating, or feeling well. These may act as dispositions to negative thinking, feelings, or behaviors.
Where do I start? You may be asking. Well, that may not always be feasible due to the dynamic nature of interconnectedness in which all areas affect one another (Fenn & Byrne, 2013) It is helpful, however, to identify which came first. Learning how to “coach” yourself into asking the right questions can help prevent catastrophizing and other negative thinking patterns. -”What evidence is there for or against the feeling/thought/core belief that I have?”
-”Did my thinking lead to my feelings or did my feelings lead to my thinking?”
-”How would an outsider on the situation think/feel/behave in my situation?”
The next time negative thoughts make themselves comfortable without your permission, once more, ask yourself, “Would I say all of those mean/negative/hurtful things to my closest and dearest friend if they were in my situation”? It can sometimes to be helpful to put a title to some of the common negative thinking patterns we all experience. Often times, our thinking can lead to believing the worst possible outcomes or catastrophizing about a given situation, despite the lack of evidence for or against the possibility of that outcome (Rnic et al., 2016). Another common pattern of negative thinking is always believing you are personally the cause of someone’s discontent or feeling personally responsible over a given situation, without again, sufficient evidence for/against the thoughts/feelings. There is much overlap in these patterns of thinking, but awareness or mindfulness allows one to consider all variables before carrying forward a decision.
Fenn K, Byrne M.. (2013) The key principles of cognitive behavioural therapy. InnovAiT. 2013;6(9):579-585. doi:10.1177/1755738012471029
Rnic, K., Dozois, D. J., & Martin, R. A. (2016). Cognitive Distortions, Humor Styles, and Depression. Europe’s journal of psychology, 12(3), 348–362. https://doi.org/10.5964/ejop.v12i3.1118