Someone once asked me what I mean by “the feelings you are getting are caused by your thinking”. I explained that when we experience a feeling it is our consciously awareness of feedback from our nervous system.
This could be touching something with our fingers, feeling the heat of the sun on our face, or noticing a change in the balance of our endocrine system (body chemistry). For instance, ‘butterflies’ in our stomach, or our stomach ‘turning over’, as we notice a dangerous situation.
The intensity of a feeling will vary according to where we focus our attention. We can notice the feeling of our clothes on our skin, but are not aware of the feeling until we focus our attention on it. In addition, we tend to notice changes in a feeling more strongly. Try putting a finger on a textured surface and hold it still; then move your finger about a bit. You will get a better idea of the texture from the changing feeling at your fingertip as it moves.
We have a range of descriptions for the feelings we experience; hot, cold, rough, smooth, pain, warmth, fear, love, frustration, pleasure, anger, excitement, anxiousness, etc. Some of these feeling we refer to as emotions, and the way we react to these emotions will be dependent on the experience of the moment, where we focus our attention and our current thinking. Fear, frustration, anger and excitement have the common elements of adrenaline and cortisol. If I think something is dangerous my neuro-physiology will trigger my ‘freeze, flight or fight system’ so the feedback from my body, as my heart rate increased, I would described as “feeling frightened”.
If I were to be caught in a riot, that feeling would be a perfect neuro-physiological response. I would have reduced cognitive function because I would just need to react. Considering options or consequences would just slow down my reactions.
However, if I get that same feeling of fear just before doing a presentation to 200 people, then my thinking is obviously inappropriate for that moment. It would be my lizard brain (limbic system) preparing my physically for some, unconsciously, imagine survival situation that will never happen.
So our emotions and ‘reactions’ are caused by our own thinking, and our ability to think will vary according to the balance of our endocrine system: how much sleep we have had, how much stress we have just experienced, the emotions that memories bring with them, if we are hungry of not (carbohydrate withdrawal), etc.
I have found it very useful to understand that my thoughts are my own creation. This ‘understanding’ enables me to let go of any ‘made up’ helplessness that I believed was true. So any “annoyance” and upset” I might experience are short lived, because I do not give those thoughts any unnecessary energy. Why would I put energy into trying to make myself feel bad?
I do not always manage it but I try to keep my thinking in congruence with my environment. I do this by using the way I feel as an inner guidance system – as long as I can remember the illusory nature of reality. The world of form is out there but my experience of it comes from within inside me.