Last weekend I was conducting a Communicate To Connect workshop and one participant told me that she has been mixing up thoughts and feelings and never knew that they were different. Once she could see the difference, she found that she is not so easily carried away by her thoughts and feelings.
Whenever something happens in our life (whether pleasant or unpleasant), emotions arise instantly and a stream of thoughts is experienced. For most people, the emotions and stream of thoughts are their fuel for their next action. In a way, they just unconsciously got on-board the runaway train of emotions and thoughts. Any action from this train is not beneficial at all. We keep trying to fix the event or the person who we think is the cause of our thoughts and emotions.
For example, when a friend who promised to meet us at 2pm did not show up and did not send any message to inform us, it can trigger feelings of anger or anxiety and thoughts like “He is so inconsiderate”. Based on our thoughts and emotions, we may send a message that goes “You are late, what happened to you? You should respect people’s time”. After 10 mins, if the friend still does not show up, we may proceed to leave carrying the emotion of anger and the thought of “He is so inconsiderate” with us. If the emotions are strong, the emotions will stay with us for some time and the mind will ruminate or continue to think negative thoughts about the friend and form negative judgments about him.
This is the pattern of how we live our lives when we are unaware of the true causes of our thoughts and feelings. In reality, thinking that the incident or person is the cause of our thoughts and feeling is really barking up the wrong tree and keeping us on the runaway train.
There are several ways we can get off the runaway train:
- Step back mentally and pay attention to the feelings only and not the thoughts. Only when the feelings are more settled, we re-look at the situation and the thoughts.
- Take some time to just notice breathing or body sensations or walking to divert the attention to something more neutral and to develop some calmness.
- Identify the needs (aka something we value) that is not met in the situation, acknowledge it and then identify some strategies to meet the needs that was highlighted.
- Learn about the true realities of the mind and how it works to get to the root of how emotions and thoughts arise.
Do come and check out some of WISE's upcoming workshops where you could learn how to finally get off the runaway train which is your mind right now.