Before we have any emotion, we first have a thought. It is that thought that causes our emotion. Events, people or things don’t make us feel happy, sad, angry, frustrated or any other emotion. It is what we think about the events, people or things that cause our feeling.
For example; we may see a large spider. Instantly a thought pops into our mind that “spiders sometimes bite”. and we will feel scared. It wasn’t the large spider that made us feel scared. It was the thought we had about spiders that made us feel scared. This is how it always happens; We have the thought first and then we experience the feeling/emotion. If we had seen the large spider and thought, “spiders are harmless creatures”, then our feeling would have been different. Perhaps we would have felt excited and enjoyed watching it.
This is true for any emotion we have. It will be caused by a thought. If we are anxious, we will be thinking something that is causing us to feel anxious. Maybe we are thinking about a situation at work, or about a relationship, or about a money issue. There are endless things that we could think about, that could cause the anxious emotion. Likewise, if we are feeling happy, we will be thinking something that is causing that emotion. If we are feeling angry, we will be thinking something that is causing that emotion.
Life experiences can affect what people think. Not everyone thinks the same thoughts about everything. For example, imagine there is a family gathering. One person is feeling excited because she is thinking about going to the gathering and catching up with family she has not seen for ages. Another person (who has just broken up with her husband), is feeling dread about the gathering, because she is thinking that everyone will ask how she is, and she will miss being part of a couple. This is the same event, but the two women are having completely different feelings, that are caused by having different thoughts.
This means that any time we recognise we are feeling an emotion about something or someone, we can stop and examine what is going on in our own mind. We can look for the thought that is causing that emotion. If we are not happy with the way we are feeling, we can start to work on changing our thought. And when we change our thoughts, we will also change our feelings/emotions.
Written by Lynda Timperley BTCH, dip psych, cert Life Coaching.
Member of ANZAL (Australia and New Zealand Coaching Alliance)