Our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are all intertwined and they have an inextricable impact on each other. If we want to shift the experience we are having in our lives, we can create a shift in one of these three and it will have a ripple effect on the other two. In Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT, this trio make up what is known as the Cognitive Triangle.
As humans, we are emotional beings. However, we live in a culture that trains us into living much more as cognitive beings, placing the emphasis and attention on our thoughts alone with little training on how to appropriately feel and regulate our emotions. Our thoughts influence our emotions and our actions, but our thoughts do not always cause our emotions. We may experience an emotion before we have thought about the situation.
Our thoughts are sentences we tell ourselves about ourselves, others, and the world around us, or images that represent our past, present, or possible future. Those sentences make up the stories in our minds and influence our emotions and our actions. Our perception and interpretation of what we are experiencing through the lens of our history and our beliefs about ourselves and the world around us will influence our emotions and our actions.
We can get stuck in unhelpful thinking patterns that, in turn, reinforce unhelpful emotional patterns and behaviors. If we do not have the skills to change our thinking patterns or to regulate our emotions, we may find ourselves stuck in numbing behaviors. When we create a shift in our thinking patterns, we can experience a shift in our emotions and actions as well.
Shifting our habits or actions can also be an effective way to experience different thoughts and emotions. What we do everyday informs our identity and how we show up in the world. We can trigger new behaviors to experience our days differently. Because thoughts, emotions, and actions are linked, changing our behaviors can bring up cognitive resistance and/or uncover emotional patterns we may be stuck in. The resistance and discomfort of doing something different is a sign that we may have been stuck in a pattern that would not allow us to grow.
When it comes to emotions, it is most helpful to get curious and to feel into the body when emotions come up. If we can start to recognize what physical sensations we experience with different emotional states, we can tune in to those sensations as a warning system and be better prepared to feel our emotions as well as choose our actions in response to those emotions.
Finally, we must recognize that our beliefs drive all of these components. When we do uncover an unhelpful pattern in our thoughts, feelings, or actions, it might be helpful to ask ourselves what the belief is that is driving the pattern and if the belief needs to change. At that point, we may choose to dig into deeper work.
This week, I invite you to observe how your thoughts, emotions, and actions are all related and how if you shift one, you can experience a shift in all three.
I will be observing right along with you.
Chat again soon,