Often when I ask clients what they are feeling, they will tell me what they are thinking. This is more common in the early stages of counseling. Responses like, "I feel that he should be treating me with more respect", might be relatively common. Although the response is not a feeling, it is a thought that does generate feelings. Many emotions are generated by thoughts, however, some emotions are generated by experiences. If I were to walk out into the street and suddenly see a car coming toward me, I might feel fearful. In this situation the fear is likely generated by the experience itself and not a thought. In this situation I might not have time to think before, my body would react by getting out of the way quickly due to the "startle Pattern", or fight or flight reaction. If someone lost their job, the thoughts related to the loss would likely generate their emotional experiences. Emotions can usually be expressed in one word. I feel angry, fearful, sad, anxious. excited, happy, etc. It is important to be able to label these experiences. Labeling emotions can actually help us to deal more effectively with them. Children often have difficulty putting their feelings into words, and it is very helpful when adults help them to label what they are feeling. This is also true for adults, however, adults generally have more experience labeling and understanding their emotions. This does not mean that they are always aware of them, or accepting of them. If someone asks us what we are feeling, and we respond with a sentence, we might be sharing our thoughts. When we are in conflict, too often we share our thoughts about why the other did something, or their motivation. This might escalate the conflict. If we are sharing our feelings with regards to some action or inaction taken by the other, they might be less likely to feel attacked when we express our concern. We might have a chance to move more toward "repair", and have the possibility for a more positive outcome in the conflict.
Relationship between Thoughts and Emotions
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