Which Came First?

© Steve Whiteford 2021

Learning Emotional Self-Awareness and being mindful of feelings and thoughts can present a “chicken or the egg” dilemma. Which will be my first cure. the thought or the feeling? There may be some very precise neuroscience I’ve not read, but from personal experience, I’m moved to say it really doesn’t matter. It’s a very subtle point of awareness and the important thing is to experience the insight.

It may be that you’re working very hard and in the split second of an imperceptible pause, you notice the buzz of anxiety. It’s possible a related thought, judgment. or flash of memory occurs in a millisecond.

  • “I’m very tense, I need to relax!”
  • “I shouldn’t be this wired. What’s wrong with me?”
  • “Wow. I just flashed on how I felt when Dad criticized me whenever we played ball.”
  • Now take a brief period to feel the sensations in your body. Breathe into the feeling.

Or the opposite happens. You notice your thought, self-talk, or internal video replay first, and then notice the sensation that accompanies it.

The good news is you’ve had an insight you can use. Now you can remember the feeling-thought connection and respond to it faster next time. It becomes an automatic cue. You can realize that the construct is not “who you are” (this will eliminate the self-judgment). It’s just a passing thought-feeling, and possibly a habitual one.

The next skill is to label it as accurately as possible. For instance: “Anxiety.” Labeling will intensify your ability to recognize the feeling. You’ll begin to catch it earlier.

And you can decide how to work with it. What to do to relax. Use self-talk to reframe it, and many other options. You may develop freedom from an emotional pattern you assumed was just the way you were wired.


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