A pervasive misunderstanding.

– Posted in: Psychology, Success

I don’t know why I am still surprised when people give me examples of extreme life situations that would horrify anyone. This often happens when I explain, a principal based understanding, of how Thought can have an incredible impact on a person’s confidence, happiness, motivation and creativity.

I know, with certainty, that any feeling I am experiencing – from moment to moment – is driven by what I’m thinking at that moment.

Why would I say that?

Here, to quotes a famous advertising campaign, is the science…

A ‘feeling’ is my conscious awareness of changes in my body chemistry (hormones; adrenaline, endorphins, etc.). I can feel a knot in my stomach; my stomach turning over; butterflies in my stomach; tightness in my chest; tension behind my eyes.

Along with these physiological changes, I also notice a single minded focus on a specific issue. This is because our brain function is usually a balance between our emotional centre (the limbic system) and our executive function (the pre-frontal cortex).

To use a science fiction reference, based on the Star Trek saga, the brain could be described as a battle between the logic of a Vulcan and the emotion of a Klingon.

Vulcans feel very little emotion: because they focus on intellect and logic.

Klingons, however, are prone to sudden bursts of emotion and anger.

I use this example of two extremes because, as humans, we’re capable of both reactions: given certain circumstances.

To give an example, I was once working through a shopping list, whilst at a local convenience store. I was scanning through the list so I could make my way around the shop in the most expedient way possible.

It was important for me to use my time in the most efficient way possible, so I could get home with the produce that I needed.

However, a violent altercation, across the road, spilt over into the shop – as one person tried to escape a beating by moving into an area that was covered by closed circuit TV.

At that point, any concept of an efficient shopping trip left my mind. Without any conscious thought, I reacted in a way that kept my daughter and me away from danger.

My neuro-physiology changed in an instant. I experienced, what psychiatrists call, an emotional hijacking.

I lost all analytical ability and just reacted, at an emotional level, to keep us safe.

If I had spent too much time evaluating my options, I might not have been able to move away from the danger as quickly as I did.

My initial analytical thoughts, and my sudden emotional thoughts, along with my the resultant body-chemistry, were a perfect neuro-physiological response for those two individual situations.

In both situations, my body chemistry was driven by the conscious, and unconscious, thought that I was having on a moment to moment basis.

Although the thoughts I had during the dangerous moment left me with feelings of fear, that I found uncomfortable, it was just the right thing for me to, unconsciously, think and the most appropriate body chemistry required for that dangerous situation.

We are always living in the feelings of thinking.

So, back to my original point.

When I talk about living in a thought based reality, I am often challenged by someone describing horrendous circumstances to explain that it is not thinking that causes us to feel bad. They tell me that our feelings come from our circumstances.

It seems that this misunderstanding, that we experience our circumstances and not our thoughts, is so prevalent that a person will often be so attached to the idea that they are unwilling to consider any other explanation.

This this leads to them using descriptions of incredibly outrageous, hypothetical, circumstances to try and justify that misunderstanding.

It is not our circumstances that we experience. It is not even our thinking about our circumstance that we feel. It is not the content of our thoughts that we feel. Unless there is an illness, or ‘dis-ease’, we can only feel ‘Thought’.

To some people, explaining that we are experiencing our thoughts, and not somebody else’s behaviour, seems like I might be absolving that person from their responsibility.

I am not saying that it is wrong to feel anger, frustration, and even hatred for someone who has perpetrated a heinous act.

What I am saying is that holding on to those thoughts will, in the long run, be detrimental to your own health.

I am reminded of a quote: “Hatred is like taking poison and expecting somebody else to die”.

Whatever you are feeling, it is a natural extension of what you are thinking.

Your thoughts can change from moment to moment, so whenever you are feeling bad you can rest assured that it is a transitory feeling – unless you consciously worry at those thoughts and perpetuate them into something that they need not be.

You are only one thought away from a completely different experience.

Forget any justification you may have for blaming somebody else for the way you feel and accept that feelings are a natural process of being alive.

An understanding of the nature of thought will enable you to have a resilience in life that will serve you well.

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