Thinking vs feeling

Thinking vs feeling is an interesting topic, as both are integral aspects of the development of mindset and the choices we make in life. The comparison between thinking vs feeling is often portrayed as the triumph of head over heart, or vice versa.

thinking vs feeling - when thinking wins

Clearly there are times that it makes more sense to use reason over emotion, such as when choosing a car to buy.

No matter how amazing it feels to sit in that gorgeous vehicle, those good feelings won’t make up for being continuously stranded on the side of the road with a beautiful but unreliable car.

following heart over head

In other situations, it can be wise to value feelings more highly than logic.

When it comes to romance, a person can check all the right boxes when you evaluate their suitability as a partner.

However, if being with them doesn’t make your heart sing, this is an instance when I would be following my heart more than my head (or the opinions of other people who are telling me what a “great catch” this person is!).   

thinking vs feeling - which is more prevalent?

With few exceptions, such as during meditation, which is a deliberate quieting of the mind, most of us are thinking something most of the time.

We are also usually feeling something, whether this emotion is a mild one such as satisfaction, boredom or irritation, or more intense like rage or passion.

It is interesting to note that a moment of not thinking or feeling can actually be very uncomfortable.

Most people would rather be feeling negative emotion, than the unfamiliar experience of feeling nothing.

This “nothingness” can seem like a void that needs to be filled with chatter, activity, or distraction of some sort.

thinking vs feeling - which do we have more control over?

Sometimes it may seem that we have more power to choose our thoughts than our feelings. Thinking can seem like a more active experience, whereas feeling can seem like an automatic reaction. This being said, thinking is not always that easy to control. Who hasn’t felt like their mind is running away with them from time to time?

An important thing to realize is that it is within our power to choose both our thoughts and our habitual emotions. We need to be aware of the difference between habitual emotions which determine the way we generally tend to feel, day in and day out, and situational emotions which are a reaction to a specific event.

handling situational emotions

With situational emotions, such as sadness over the end of a relationship or fear, anger, and frustration over a job loss, simply ‘thinking positive’ is not going to shift the emotions. These emotions need to be felt, heard, and expressed before they will be able to release their hold over us. It is at that point when the feelings have been processed, that we can bring our focus back to lifting our moods by improving our thinking.

changing thoughts to change emotions

When it comes to changing habitual emotions, we need to become aware of the thoughts and beliefs that are behind them and work at changing those thought patterns.

Changing our thoughts is a relatively simple process, although it can take a lot of awareness, effort and persistence. To change a thought simply requires being conscious of what we are thinking, and deliberately replacing the thoughts that are not helping us with new and positive thoughts.

One of the keys to being able to successfully change our thoughts is to pay attention, as frequently as possible, to what we are thinking. Often it is the way we are feeling that can give us an indication something is amiss with our thinking.

question your feelings

The next time you notice yourself feeling grumpy, out-of-sorts, or miserable for no clearly apparent reason, stop and ask yourself ‘why?’

There is always a reason for a mood, and the reason is almost always based on our thinking. Very often you will find that your feelings are a result of negative thoughts that spiral out of all proportion when left unquestioned. Often, we are not even conscious of these thoughts, they just buzz around under the surface of our days, pricking at our minds, and stirring up our feelings.

an unwanted situation

Perhaps you really dislike the job you are doing and feel you are underpaid and unappreciated. You would love to find a job that brings you satisfaction and more money. While the physical action of going to a job that you don’t enjoy every day can definitely present a challenge to keeping in a positive frame of mind, the biggest culprit of your unhappiness is your thinking about your situation.

Some common thoughts in this situation include, ‘this job is a waste of my time,’ ‘I am never going to find a job I like,’ ‘there is nothing that I am qualified for that would bring me the enjoyment and money I want,’ ‘I am stuck in this job forever,’ ‘I’m a failure in my career,’ and on and on.

Wow! Is it any wonder you feel terrible? The job might not be great, but the thoughts you are allowing to control your mind and influence your feelings are enough to make anyone miserable! And what’s more, as well as making you unhappy, these thoughts are going to make it hard if not impossible for you to make clear decisions and take positive steps to finding work that is more in line with what you want.

changing thinking vs feeling - start with the thoughts

The way to turn this situation around is to start with improving your thoughts, and subsequently your feelings.

Try focusing your attention on the things that you do want to experience rather than wallowing in the misery of what you don’t want.

Look for what you can gain in your current situation, and put most of your energy into building a picture of what your dream job is going to look like.

Start replacing the negative thoughts with some affirmations along the lines of: ‘I am now finding work that is truly right for me,’ ‘I have many skills and talents to bring to doing work I love,’ ‘I deserve to be challenged, fulfilled and rewarded in my work,’ ‘I am learning new things and gaining valuable experience every day,’ and ‘I am an intelligent and valuable person with so much to offer.’

thinking vs feeling - feelings get our attention more easily

It is such a common habit to allow our thoughts to run amok unnoticed, and only to notice the feelings of discontent, irritability, or anxiety that result from uncensored and unconscious thoughts.

An unfortunate fact is that very few of us have a natural tendency to think positively. Statistics show that about 80% of the 12 000 to 60 000 thoughts that an average person has in a day are negative.

Now obviously, there is no way that you can stop and notice each one of these thoughts as they arise. They are often background chatter that occurs while we are involved in various activities.

focus on the big picture

What is important is to notice the negative patterns of thought that we tend to have, and make a conscious decision to start replacing them with patterns of thought that uplift us rather than drag us down.

Rather than trying to change each individual thought, we can work on increasing our inclination to think positively.

a final word

In contemplating thinking vs feeling, it is clear that the two are inextricably connected. Our thoughts play a big part in creating our feelings. Our thoughts and feelings determine our actions, and our actions shape our reality. By training yourself to have more consistent positive thoughts and feelings, creating the reality of your dreams is simply a matter of time.

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