By and large the people we interact with on a daily basis are living reactionary lives. They are responding to stimuli without thinking about where the stimuli came from. Most often I see people reacting to the emotional parts of their lives as though those emotions demonstrate absolute truth. I am sure you have witnessed this in your own life. Perhaps you have a friend who verges on paranoid and tells you stories about how everyone at work is out to get her. Or maybe you know a guy who projects his insecurities onto his partner, causing arguments, which leads to his partners attention being solely on him. This sort of thing is not uncommon but it is incredibly destructive. This behavior comes from our lack of consciousness and understanding surrounding our very self. By and large the consensus tends to be that our thoughts cause our emotions which then influence our actions. I am here this week to challenge that idea. I postulate that emotions happen first, long before our rational mind can organize thoughts. I suggest that because we relegate emotions to the realm of illogical we try to subdue their effect and by doing this we are out of balance. To correct the imbalance we become masters of justification, we wrap thoughts around our emotions and present them to the world as truths. This week I want to share how this is happening and some ways to combat over-thinking.
Someone asked me recently if the goal of mindfulness and awareness was to silence all emotions and be disconnected from responses. I am a combination of amused and horrified by that idea. Often it is more complicated than that, mindfulness first tackles the mind. It wiggles into that part of you that worries, makes lists and over thinks. This is why when we begin addressing inner work to be done that people tend to panic. Who you perceive yourself to be is all wrapped up in your thoughts. The ego is is something that lives deep in the psyche, below thoughts and rationality. Ego lives just underneath our emotions, so an emotional response if often the first way we can react to something. Ego is an old world defense system tied to our limbic system that tells us when we are in danger. But we have become higher level mammals who operate machinery and aren’t afraid of the dark anymore, we no longer recognize the voice of the ego for what it is. Instead we use our prefrontal cortex to invert a story, a WHY behind our phobias, desires and pet peeves.
All of this becomes very complicated when one comes to a point in their life where they want to sort out some of the unproductive habits and beliefs they have created. We are told over and over that to change how we feel we must first change the way we think. The trouble comes when no one provides a second step and people get stuck in a cycle of thought vs emotion. The thing is the mental world is not meant to overpower emotional or intuitive world nor the other way around. Those two are part of the same phenomenon, they are the way your body and mind communicate to you. If you stifle one you are out of balance. If you are cut off from your body awareness then working with your head is the only place to start. This is because, your thoughts may be the only area you really have awareness of. You can’t work with something that you cannot see, so people often find it easiest to begin with changing thoughts to shift behavior in a more productive direction.
This does not mean that all emotions are true and all our thoughts false. Both are creations. They are part of an inner world we are creating. Sometimes, they are very accurate. Other times they are things we picked up from other people. The purpose here is not to swing into imbalance in the other direction but the bring our focus to the idea that they are the same thing experienced in a different language. So what is the next step then? I suggest we have to give ourselves a safe space to practice and learn to work with the intuitive and emotional worlds. The body and mind are connected and are communicating with you constantly, so your challenge this week if to find out how. What senses do you normally process information through? Do you lean more toward visual and kinesthetic? Are you really in touch with how thoughts feel in the body? Notice how you conventionally process the world around you and then experiment with using other senses that are not so conventional to you to experience stimuli. Remove the expectation that emotions will conform to your thoughts about reality or your view of self. They are different languages, one cannot expect them to use the same syntax or grammar. So when you allow your emotional world to have it’s own space to exist without living them labels of thoughts to wear, I am curious what kind of things come up for you? How is this different from your normal way of processing and functioning? By bringing your awareness to the differences between thought and feeling, what do you begin to notice about your behavior?