Have you ever wondered why it is so difficult to have a logical thought when you get angry? It’s almost like your brain is hijacked, and someone has replaced it with a constricted version of itself. If you’ve ever had this happen, you are not alone.
An important aspect of thinking rationally is to know the difference between a “feeling” and a “thought”. Sound simple? Maybe, but for many, it is not.
Feelings Vs. Thoughts
Most of us are aware of the quintessential feeling words: happiness, sadness, anger, excitement, depression, irritation, etc. What we’re not so conscious of is how we interchange these words with thoughts. To make a long story short, we downright confuse ourselves. An example of this would be “I feel like that is the best thing we could do”. You see what I did there? I put “feel” in front of a thought, and tried to make it into a feeling. It’s so easy to confuse our brains, we don’t even recognize we’re doing it!
Separating Feelings and Thoughts
Maybe you label your thoughts as emotions. For example, you might react to an event with the words “I feel so betrayed.” In truth, betrayal is not a feeling but an action that you label in your thoughts. You may feel sad, angry, or hurt as a result of betrayal or even at the thought that you have been betrayed.
Thoughts and feelings are both part of the experience of being betrayed. Perhaps saying, “I feel betrayed” is a shorthand way of relating that total experience, but neither thoughts nor feelings are accurately expressed. If the thought is left out it changes your experience and makes coping more difficult. Being able to accurately label the emotion you are experiencing is part of managing that emotion effectively.
Here are examples of emotionally charged scenarios, and the thoughts and feelings associated with each:
Scenario: You get laid off because of company downsizing
Feelings: sadness, depression, hurt, humiliation
Thoughts/Beliefs: You have been betrayed, underappreciated, ignored
Scenario: You marry the love of your life
Feelings: love, exhilaration, glee
Thoughts/Beliefs: You are in love, this will last forever, you cannot live without this person
It’s easier to work with our experiences when we can distinguish the difference between a thought and a feeling. Mindful practices such as staying in the “here and now” and meditation can be helpful in the process of clearly defining a thought and a feeling.
Knowing what you are thinking can assist you in pinpointing automatic negative thoughts that are often antecedents for feelings such as sadness, depression, and loneliness. Knowing these differences, and the way your mental health may be affected is one of the first steps toward a stronger and healthier you.
As always, if you need help navigating this part of life, we are here for you! You can call us at 832-421-8714 or email us for an appointment.