Feelings & Thoughts, Thoughts & Feelings
I don’t think we can control how we feel, and that’s why feelings are complicated. And confusing. And frustrating. And hard to understand.
But I do think, with practice and patience, we can control our thoughts, and our thoughts can change our feelings.
Feelings at their core are just thoughts solidified, and a thought is just an idea, a story, an unconfirmed but nevertheless believed piece of information in our heads.
If our thought is, “Has this idiot ever learned to drive?” then our feelings will likely be those of anger and sharp, pointed frustration.
If our thought is, “Holy sh*t I will miss you and this is going to hurt slowly and for a long time, like burning your tongue on hot pizza," then our feelings will align accordingly and be those of sadness and emptiness.
But if our thought is, “Today is great just because it is,” then our feelings will once again fall in line and be positive and full of joy.
Our feelings do not rule us, our thoughts do, and we are the curators of those thoughts. The scary part is, it’s often our feelings, not our thoughts, that get sent out into the world and misinterpreted, taken offensively, and get us into trouble. It’s our feelings that make us act and speak. Our feelings, driven by our thoughts, are what determine what today will look like and who we will be.
How many times have you said, “I don’t feel like it.”
How many times have your feelings caused you to do (or not do) something?
Think about those questions for a minute or two.
We blame our feelings for so many things. We let our feelings decide. We give our feelings so much credit. We say about our feelings, “I can’t help how I feel,” and to a certain extent, that’s true, but it’s actually just easier than admitting that we can help it, we just don’t. We can’t control how we feel, but we can control how we think, and because of this, we can change the way we feel over time.
I was recently crying to Michael, my boyfriend, about his upcoming move to Charleston, SC for work. I said through tears (a physical display of feelings), “I don’t wanna be sad.”
It’s true. I don’t want to be sad. I don’t want this feeling, and that made me wonder, “Can we control how we feel?” It feels pretty out of my control, honestly.
But the great thing about accepting that you are in control of your thoughts which determine your feelings is that it is entirely in your control what you feel. When I examined my thoughts behind my sadness, I realized that they were all rooted in selfish (albeit legitimate) reasons: I don’t want to be lonely. I don’t want to be left. I’m jealous.
And then I decided to change my thoughts from “I don’t want to be lonely” to “I can’t wait to hear about everything he’s about to experience.”
And voila, my feelings changed, too.
I’m not saying it’s easy, but for me, it’s worth it. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like being sad. Or scared. Or nervous. Or uncomfortable. And I don’t think you can just toss a feeling out the window, but a thought is different.
What are the feelings you have but don’t want? What thoughts are giving you feelings you don’t enjoy? It can be painfully messy work to examine your thoughts, but consider the alternative.