The three things I deal with most all day are thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. These seem like straightforward parts of our lives, but it is often difficult for people to know where one ends and the other begins. Thoughts can typically be expressed through a phrase or sentence. Feelings can typically be expressed through a single word like “happy” or “afraid.” Behaviors are different because they can be observed by others. In this series, we will be taking an in-depth view at thoughts, feelings, and behaviors and will also discuss how they overlap with one another.
We will discuss these three constructs in order from least to most control. We will begin with feelings and end with behaviors because we have the least control over how we feel and the most control over how we behave. Our thoughts fall somewhere in the middle of the control continuum. Ironically, it is emotions that people most often come to my office wanting to change and we have the least ability to change them.
Also, I think you will learn from this series that many people do not know the difference between a feeling and a thought. Oftentimes, when I ask a client what they were feeling, they will respond with a sentence or a phrase. Spoiler alert: that’s not a feeling, that’s a thought. I find that this confusion is compounded by people’s difficulties with labeling emotions. They don’t know exactly how to express the emotion they are experiencing, so they shift into their thought-focused or rational mind. People also often become paralyzed by fear that their emotions will dictate their actions. This fear is usually supported by embarrassing memories of acting out of intense suppressed emotion. My hope for this series is to increase understanding of these three constructs. I think a solid grasp on thoughts, feelings, and behaviors enables people to move toward the life they want to have.