How I Realized That Thoughts Create Feelings


Posted by Jill Whalen | Posted in Spiritual Teachings, Spirituality, Things I've Learned, Thought | Posted on 05-14-2014


[Jill’s Note: If you prefer to listen rather than read, please scroll to the bottom of this post for the audio version.]

Bad Thoughts Equal Bad Feelings

Bad Thoughts Equal Bad Feelings

A few months ago I finally grasped a concept that I had been grappling with for quite some time:

Thoughts create feelings not the other way around. The difference between generally happy people, and generally sad (or mad, or whatever) people is their ability understand that simple concept.

While I heard this over and over again watching Michael Neill videos, it wasn’t clicking for me. What he talks about resonated with me, but I wasn’t grasping it. One day I listened to him doing an interview where he was discussing the same general stuff he always talks about (you need to hear it lots of times!) and I still didn’t get it. But I decided to investigate the concept further. At that time I didn’t realize that what he lectures on is based on the “3 Principles” of life uncovered by the late Sydney Banks.

In researching the 3 Principles further, I came across the “Three Principles Movies” website and watched a few videos of this young couple explain things to a small audience. It was great because while it was similar to what Michael Neill says, they were putting things into their own words and experiences. At one point one of them said something about how your thoughts create your experience of life, and suddenly it clicked! The more I thought about it, the more it made sense. In fact, I realized that a situation I was in the prior night showed exactly how my thoughts created my feelings.

Here’s what happened:

I was cooking dinner and when it was ready, I looked over at my husband who was on his laptop and asked if he was ready to eat. He didn’t respond, so I assumed he didn’t hear me and asked again. After a few seconds he said “okay.” However, he didn’t say it in a way that sounded like he really was ready to eat. It was more like how a kid might say it if you asked if they were ready to leave the playground when they really weren’t but knew they had to. I even replied back (although I’m not sure if he  heard me) “that doesn’t sound very convincing.”

At any rate, we had dinner, but it wasn’t the most pleasant experience. My thoughts kept going back to his “okay” (one word mind you!) wondering what it was all about. Did he not like my cooking? Was he sick of eating at home? (We used to go out most nights, but I’ve been making an effort to cook more.)

Was he not hungry? Was he just not ready to stop checking out Facebook? I suppose I could have just asked, but I didn’t, and he didn’t mention it again. He  seemed to enjoy what I made, helped clean up and went back to his computer. Meanwhile, I was still in my head angry and/or hurt. (Because he said okay!)

A bit later he was on his way out, and left without saying goodbye. While that’s not all that unusual, I don’t like it when he does it. (Not sure if he knows that or not.) So now, I was doubly mad. In my head was “Why didn’t he say goodbye? Is he mad at me? Does he think I’m mad at him? Doesn’t he know I hate it when he doesn’t say goodbye? Did he want me to come with him, but knew I wouldn’t?” All this without him even saying a word!

So basically, I got myself in a tizzy completely through my thoughts.

And in fact, it ruined most of my own night as I just kept thinking about it. These thoughts all night long were causing me stress. I could feel the tension in my jaw (even just thinking about it as I’m writing it is causing a little tension), and I’m pretty sure my blood pressure was probably some points higher than usual.

Thinking about the incident with the new paradigm, it’s easy to see that it was my thoughts that were making me unhappy. Now some of you are probably thinking, no, it was your  husband who made you unhappy! But that’s not true. Sure, my husband may have triggered the thoughts that made me unhappy, but he didn’t (nor can he) make me unhappy himself.  Only my thoughts can do that. And whether or not he knew I was unhappy or whether or not he purposely did anything to make me unhappy, is irrelevant.

It’s only my thoughts that can make me unhappy.

Letting Go

Here’s the interesting thing that further proves the point. For awhile I was holding onto it saying things to myself like “when he comes home I’m not going to even talk to him. That’ll teach him! He needs to know how unhappy he’s making me.”

Eventually, though, I was tired of feeling unhappy. And I also logically knew that being a jerk to him when he came home would likely only cause more unhappiness, probably for both of us. Instead I decided to just be normal (what a concept 😉 ). I do believe that we need to pick our battles, and certainly the saying of one word is not really a battle worth fighting. I took my mind off of the whole thing (not purposely) by listening to one of the nutrition podcasts I like, and played a game on my iPad.

When he came home it was fairly late. And while I could have been watching Netflix on my iPad with the earphones in (which wouldn’t have been unusual) I decided to wait until he came up to bed so that we would interact rather than me being engrossed in a show. And so we did. He told me about his night, and all was back to normal. What I didn’t realize at the time (or I guess I did unconsciously) was all that I did was change my thoughts. I took them off of the things that made me mad, and put them onto other things that made me happy (the podcast and the game).

I’m not sure if recalling that experience while hearing the video about how thoughts create our feelings made a difference or not. But I think it did. The fact that I had a very recent experience which seemed to go right along with what they were saying gave me something to relate to and an insight occurred.

Since then, I’ve watched a ton of videos and read a zillion things about this topic and have had many more insights. In fact, I’m hosting a local Meet-Up on the topic today. I’m starting to see the power in this understanding and know that it’s really the secret to living a happier life!

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Jill is the author of Victim of Thought: Seeing Through the Illusion of Anxiety

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For the past 20 years, Jill has consulted with companies big and small, and spoken at conferences all over the world. She is currently a transformational speaker and mentor to businesses, individuals, coaches, leaders, groups and organizations. She helps them uncover their natural well-being and happiness so that they can operate from a clearer state of mind and take their lives and businesses to a higher level.

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Another example is what an interruption will do when you are having angry thoughts. I remember one day in particular when my husband and I were having an argument and we were really upset with each other.

Then the doorbell rang. Some friends had dropped by, so we dropped the quarrel to interact with them normally. By the time we left, our anger toward each other was gone, and we couldn’t even remember what we had been arguing about.

The trick is, I believe, that we can’t think about two different things at the same time. We can’t always help which thoughts pop into our heads, but we can control how long we entertain them. We can also learn that when we are experiencing negative feelings generated by those thoughts to make ourselves do or think of something else that requires concentration. That’s what you did with listening to the podcast and playing your game.

I think too, Barbara, even more than trying to purposely interrupt our thoughts or doing other things specifically to change them, just knowing that our feelings are ONLY coming from our thoughts helps new thoughts to spontaneously appear.