More about Thoughts, Feelings and Actions
In a previous article, "Thoughts, Feelings, and Actions," I presented some basic information about how thoughts, feelings and actions interact with each other; and how understanding this interaction will increase self awareness and ultimately improve quality of life. This article provides some additional information and resources, and can be used as a helpful guide toward more rational thinking and living.
Learning to recognize thoughts and patterns of thinking that can lead to pain, loss, relationship problems, destruction, anxiety, fear, depression, trauma , criminality, and addiction is a first step. Next, you'll want to know how to replace those thoughts with ones that can lead to more of what you DO want. Our brain is like a child in that it doesn't respond well to being told what NOT TO DO without also being re-directed to an alternative TO DO.
It is sometimes helpful to think of an opposite. For example, instead of thinking, "I'll just find the easy way out of this problem," I might think, "I've examined my 'fast and easy' pattern of thinking and where it leads, and have learned that it is more responsible to put some daily effort into solving problems and not to expect instant results." Take a minute to consider how different my feelings and actions will be in response to these opposite patterns of thinking.
Other times thinking in opposites can be problematic, and lead to "all or nothing" and "either/or" thinking. Instead of positive and negatives, I can have neutral thoughts about events, people or circumstances. So, rather than to think in extremes of all good and all bad, I can learn to think more neutrally and in a more balanced way.
It can be helpful to remind myself to look for the "3rd choice" and to remember there are an infinite number of points on the line between -1 and +1, and the closer to neutral or zero I am, the more rational and responsible my actions will be.
If I tell myself, "He's a complete jerk for what he did, he shouldn't have done it, I hate him for it, and now everything is totally ruined" my feelings and actions will be closer to -1. If I think, "He's the best person I've ever known and it doesn't matter what he does, I'll always love him completely," I may feel more positive and closer to +1, but my actions will not be any more effective and could even lead to harm for myself.
A more neutral and realistic or rational response would be, "I didn't like his behavior and will definitely express that, but it's not the end of the world, he is human and fallible, and we can find a way to work it out so it doesn't happen again." Or, "This is the second time this has happened, I have expressed that I don't like it and how it affects me, and he has done it again. I love him, and I love myself, and I am going to keep my promise to myself that if it happens again I will leave. I still love and respect him, and I am moving on."
Most people are not so aware of their thoughts, feelings and actions - or internal processes, and just continue to do what they've always done without much reflection. In Twelve Step Recovery Groups, this is known as the definition of insanity: to keep doing what I've always done and expect to get different results. Reality is that If I keep doing what I have always done, I will keep getting what I have always gotten. Nothing changes if nothing changes.
The Serenity Prayer is another part of Twelve Step Recovery that is a reminder to control only those things we can control, to stop trying to control things that are out of our control, and to know which is which. We can control our thoughts, feelings and actions even if no one else is controlling theirs! It takes some time and effort to learn. The videos below will further explain how to think and live more rationally.
The ABCs of Emotions by Dr Aldo R. Pucci
Five Common Thinking Errors or Cognitive Distortions
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2010 Kim Harris