Whether we like it or not, we’re all affected by the events in our external world.
It’s how we interpret events that dictate how we respond to them.
We can’t control the external events, but we can control our actions and reactions.
In my previous blog article, Changing Your Thought Patterns – Part 1, we looked at breaking the vicious cycle of negative thoughts at the first stages by bringing our awareness to the thought.
This becomes difficult because how we interpret a specific event that triggers a specific thought, is hugely based off beliefs we developed at a very young age.
But when you stop a thought, become aware of it, and observe it, it’s only then that you can take control of your emotions and respond in a way that ‘s either neutral or beneficial to your wellbeing.
Emotionally out of control
When we’re not in control of our emotions, we act impulsively and maybe even sporadically.
Like with the initial stages of becoming aware of our thoughts, in the next stage is to become aware of how that thought makes us feel.
When we’re able to read, engage and control our emotions, we’re able to pause and reflect before we react (to the event that’s occurred,) in a much more useful way.
Taking control of every area within your life.
Beliefs and Values
It’s incredibly important to appreciate the differences in people. We all have different beliefs and values which mean we will see a specific event from our own personal perspective.
This perspective isn’t wrong, it’s just different, and understanding that means you’re able to take steps in seeing it from the other persons point of view.
We use our beliefs to interpret an event/ situation.
For example, each person reacts to stress and adversity differently. Some people become anxious, others angry and other people are able to stay absolutely calm.
So what do we do to begin to understand why we feel a certain emotion when we have a specific thought about an event?
Ok, so let’s start with the fact that we’re all born with a clean slate.
As we grow, and begin to communicate (listen and speak) we are influenced by opinions, beliefs, perceptions and views of our family, friends, peers, classmates and even colleagues.
Overtime the experiences we have, develop into our beliefs about ourselves and the world around us.
So as I said earlier, we use our beliefs to interpret what is happening to us.
To understand our emotional response, we need to take a look at what is it that we believe about this thought (triggered by the external event) that is causing the emotion we feel.
The crappy thing is that due to our negativity bias, we’re much more prone to follow a path of pessimism. Creating negative thought patterns. And, you guessed it! Negative thought patterns lead to unhelpful emotional responses.
If we’re able to flip that negative thought on its head, to something more true and likely, it can switch our emotional response to something much more helpful, or at least neutral.
Depending on what the individuals beliefs are, depends on the individuals response. But the good news is, beliefs can be changed, which helps you to respond to events in ways that neutralise or benefit your overall wellbeing.
Here’s a simplified example of what I mean. These are two responses to the same situation:
Event: My boyfriend has left me.
Thought: What am I going to do? I can’t live without him. I’m going to lose all my friends. My entire life is over. I’m going to have to move away and find new friends.
Emotional response: Feels overwhelmed with fear, anxiety, pain, becomes depressed and has no desire to eat or socialise; doesn’t want to do anything she previously enjoyed.
Event: My boyfriend has left me:
Thought: Well I’m sad it’s over, but I’d much prefer to be in a relationship where we’re both happy. And it’s his choice to walk away. It will take me time to get over it, but it’s not a reflection on me and I’ll be okay as time goes on.
Emotional response: Feels sad that the relationship is over, but continues with the life she enjoys.
The truth is, that this person will be able to survive without her boyfriend. It will be sad, and they will feel hurt, but it isn’t a reflection on them. As hard as it may seem, looking at an event and thought as an observer, means you can see the situation with more clarity.
Remember earlier how I said the only thing we can control is ourselves. AND that peoples perspective of the same situation is different.
So in this simple example, the individual can only control how she responds to the event of her boyfriend leaving her.
When we are able to respond in a way that’s neutral or benefits our overall wellbeing, we feel more peace within. We’re not punishing ourselves for something that is out of our control. We’re not saying to ourselves “If only I did/didn’t, was/wasn’t… he’d still be with me”. We accept it for what it is.
If we take the first steps to stop the thought, bring our awareness to it, identify what belief we’ve attached to it, and why we have the emotional response, we’re able to adjust our behaviour accordingly.
How we feel about ourselves, then emanates back out into the world.
event (external) > thought response (internal) > emotional response (internal) > behavioural response (external).
Completing the cycle.
So, an event occurs in the external world, this leads us to s specific thought based on a belief, the thought triggers an emotional response and then that response leads to an external behaviour, and back out into the external world.
You may not be able to control your thoughts, but you can control how you respond to them. It becomes your choice as to whether the cycle is neutral or optimistic, or if it is pessimistic.
What insights have you taken away from today's blog?
Do you have any techniques you use to stop negative thought patterns? I’d love to hear them, so be sure to comment below.
Sharing helps us all to learn and grow.
Peace & Punk