Updated: Sep 27, 2021
A mind is a powerful tool.
Through the ages, the mind and thinking have been revered. There are many tests today that measure how much people think - it has become an obsession.
I am not suggesting that thinking is unnecessary or shouldn't be appreciated; however, I advocate for a different way to look at thought. When done with the right amount of intention, the most beautiful leaps forward can be achieved.
The truth is that humans have come to overthink. This overthinking has led to an epidemic of unacknowledged feelings. The modern human spends so much time rationalizing why, how and what the feeling is, they miss important information that the message of emotion conveys.
Emotions are the starting point of everything, whether you acknowledge it or not. Emotions can be looked at as energy in motion, and that emotional energy begins to flow. Before there is a thought, there is a feeling.
The way you feel can substantially dictate how you think about something that has happened. When emotions are strong, they will overpower thoughts and lead to a reaction. When emotions are subtle, just under the surface, they can lead to a way of thinking that may not be productive.
As a student of my emotions, I have noticed this play out positively and negatively in my life. It is essential to keep the perspective that feelings are never good or bad; they are information.
My partner and I are passionate about the human experience. We take an extreme amount of care in our relationship, specifically around our emotions. We are on the journey of creating something extraordinary, and we know our emotions are the starting point for that journey. Yet, even with this amount of intention in the relationship, our feelings still run away in moments.
Last week I was feeling subtly stressed out. A new cohort was starting in a leadership series that I was facilitating. In addition, I had imposed some deadlines on myself that were quite aggressive regarding getting my book to the editor, and it was my daughter's birthday. As singular events, there were no issues. But, tie those all together in three days, and the subtle stress began to influence how I was thinking.
Despite having some awareness around how I felt, my strategy (which comes up occasionally when stress arises) was to withdraw and deal with it independently. I turned into a victim of the situation, and my inner dialogue was influenced too.
My partner felt avoided and unseen in the relationship. She felt like there was something 'wrong' and started to ask questions that only made me work harder at my strategies of withdrawing and dealing with things independently.
Everyone's strategies look different. For example, I have worked with clients who would get angry and blame the situation in an argument. Others project the stress onto the other by persecuting them for not doing enough. The patterns that emerge are as individual as fingerprints.
Finally, after two days in the dance of subtle stress, I noticed how I created what I didn't want - distance, avoidance, lack of presence in the relationship. I have committed to being loving, supportive and communicative. My maladaptive patterns started when I ignored my feelings and thought I had to do everything myself.
It was time to hit reset.
My reset involves paying attention to something other than the thoughts racing around in my mind, dropping down into my body. By connecting with my heart and allowing the emotions' energy to settle down, it can be heard and sensed. I noticed a fluttering feeling in my chest, which is indicative of the internal pressure I put on myself to perform. Also, I felt heavier than usual, which happens when extra cortisol (the stress chemical) has surged through my system for a day or two.
Then the epiphany happened. I needed to communicate what was going on for me so that a new understanding could emerge. Then, we could move through the situation without an argument and any strong emotions getting the best of us.
My partner's narrative and curiosity about "There is something wrong" and my story about "No one helps me, I have to do it all myself" were given enough space to change. The result is a greater understanding of one another, and an opportunity is created to support each other.
Examples like this play out in most relationships multiple times a day, and the issue is that the thinking mind gets free reign. The mind is a pattern creator, recognizer and implementor. The dilemma is that the mind doesn't care if the pattern is good or bad; the mind cares only that we follow the pattern.
Getting in touch with your emotions can speed up pattern identification.
When I started reconnecting with my emotions, I sought help. I noticed the need for help when I was asked, "How do you feel?" I saw that I didn't know. I had locked away all my feelings for a reason. The strategy I realized with some support was that it was not safe to express myself.
That became the ideal starting point with my coach.
The journey is slow, and I have learned so much about being human. The human experience is the most unique, awe-inspiring and incredible journey one can be on. I also learned that there are times when it can be challenging. Being fully present to the experience is the essence of the trip, and I know that my emotions are the starting point.
Like in my example, my emotional experience is never about the situation or person I am engaged with. Although at times, I try to make it that way. My experience is about me and my ability to express what I am feeling. I am still learning to do that every day and embody that life is not a race to be won or lost. At the end of it all, it is all about how we feel about ourselves and others that matters. For me, that is the essence of loving life.
Friedrich Nietzsche said, "Thoughts are the shadows of our feelings – always darker, emptier, and simpler." This leads me to my closing question, "How will you use your emotions to enrich your life and create more of what you want?"