Thoughts, Emotions, And Feelings

Thoughts, Emotions, And FeelingsThoughts, emotions, and feelings… without paying attention to these things or lacking any level of self-awareness, quite often thoughts, emotions, and feelings often become one jumbled up mess. What are the differences anyway and why does it matter?

Thoughts, Emotions, And Feelings

Thoughts are just that… your thoughts are what you are thinking on a cerebral level. It sounds oversimplified but it really isn’t. Sometimes we think to little… sometimes we think too much. But what we think and how we think are what sets up what comes next…. our emotions.

Emotions are the product of thought, so what we think and how we think has a direct correlation with what we feel and how we feel. If you think something sucks… then you are going to experience the emotion that it does suck… if you think something is great then you are going to emote something more positive.

The problem with emotions is that they can either give us energy or take away our energy… and of course, it all comes back to what and how you are thinking to begin with. If you think someone has wronged you in some way, the corresponding emotion will more than likely be anger… and is anger ever a positive emotion?

Especially given the fact that anger is actually a secondary emotion where what we are really feeling might be fear, frustration, hurt, or some combination of these three. For example, if someone says something harsh to us we first feel hurt and then anger.

Thought leads to emotion – both the positive and the negative. If you want to change your emotional state, then change your thought. Again, sounds oversimplified but that is how it is.

If you carry the thought/emotion concept out even further then it becomes clear that what we think drives our emotions… and our emotions in turn drive our actions… see how that works? That is why changing your thoughts often yields different results as it drives us to do different things or maybe approach things differently.

But what about feelings? How do they fit into the picture? Some might argue that there is a fine line between emotions and feelings if there is even any difference at all but I believe there is. Where our emotions are the products of what we think, our feelings are the product of what we sense, feel, hear, or perceive. In other words, feelings are the result of what we observe. If you see a beautiful sunset, chances are you are going to feel something good or positive… if you are looking over a landfill; you are probably going to feel the opposite.

Feelings happen without thought… they just are and they are the product of living and witnessing life.

Thoughts, emotions, and feelings – I have to admit there was a time not too long ago where I could not differentiate the three. When I was getting my Masters in Counseling, I fulfilled my practicum at a domestic violence offender treatment center.

One day my supervisor/head therapist called me into her office and we were chatting, well I thought we were chatting but she had a different agenda, and she started asking me a lot of tough questions about my life, my work at the center, etc… some very direct stuff.

I answered the best I could but she kept asking me repeatedly, “but what are you feeling?” The reason that she kept asking me that is because my responses were rooted in what I was “thinking” not what I was feeling, not what I was observing or experiencing in my work there. She did not want to know my thoughts or my emotions were but what was my natural state of feeling about things at the time.

Eventually I caught on, stopped telling her what I was thinking, and began to express what I was feeling instead. It was an important lesson that I carry with me to this day when I am trying to “sort out” what exactly is going down in my internal world…

So the next time something is going on with you be it with your thoughts, emotions, and feelings – take a few moments to ask yourself what exactly is going on? What are  your thoughts doing? What emotions are your thoughts creating? Or maybe you aren’t thinking but observing and sensing instead and how is that impacting what you are feeling?

When you can break down these three things, thoughts, emotions, and feelings and begin to differentiate between them it becomes much easier to deal with whatever it is that you are dealing with in the moment.

And then of course, make changes if needed…

Andy Wooten M.A. Counseling – A Certified Life Coach In Aspen Colorado

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Photo By Andy Wooten 09 June 2001

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