Thoughts create feelings. Feelings create our behavior, response and experience. Behavior reinforces thoughts. The illustration above gives an example of how a scenario can play out from thought to feeling to action to result/experience. Another useful example is this one.
Negative thought...I don't have any friends
Negative emotion/feeling...Experiencing sadness or depression
Negative behavior...Acting gloomy and having no fun
Negative response/result/experience...Being avoided by others
As writer Debbie Hampton explains, "Your emotions and feelings play a powerful role in how you experience and interact with the world because they are the driving force behind many behaviors, helpful and unhelpful. It’s possible to react to emotions and the feelings they evoke which are guided by unconscious fear-based perceptions which you may not buy into anymore, yet you’re living your life, making decisions and behaving according to these out-dated tendencies. Living unaware like this almost always leads to problems and unhappiness in the long run."
Being aware of this cycle allows us to be able to respond instead of simply react to a situation. This allow us to remain in a state of peace, of balance and of integrity. By choosing your feelings and behaviors according to who you want to be and how you want to live your life versus reacting to them and then not being in alignment. In the gap between our thoughts, our feelings and our actions we have powerful opportunity to design the direction, the course, the path that our life will take for the better or for the worse.
Finding the underlying thought pattern is critical to being able to resolve problematic reactions. By shining a light on the cycle of our thoughts, feelings and behavior we can take a moment to pause before responding.
The following is an excerpt from an article written by Peter Shepard, a spiritual teacher and psychotherapist. It explains and gives a nice example of the thought, feeling, action, result cycle.
You are not responsible for everything that happens to you (although often you may contribute to it.) But you are responsible for how you react to these events, how you experience them and move on from there. Your reaction has three facets:
- A mental reaction, how you interpret the situation, which is often a replay of old stuff you've attached to as part of your identity.
- An emotional reaction that results from your interpretation, so you feel happy, angry, sad, or frustrated.
- And a behavioral reaction: based on your feelings you act in a certain way, such as jumping for joy, getting away as soon as possible, or punching the other guy's nose.
So you created your own reaction with what you told yourself. It may have been instant and below the level of your consciousness but there was your voice inside telling you these things. Actually, though, you did have other choices. You could have actually listened and understood her viewpoint - you would then still have a girlfriend and have learned something useful. And your girlfriend would have renewed respect and love for you.
Your inner voice can talk you into a lot of trouble or it can create a positive outlook that changes your life experience. The secret is to stay in the moment, to stay conscious, and spot your voice when it is replaying old tapes and talking nonsense, when it is being intolerant, exaggerating or over-reacting.
You are made of love; when your thoughts are judgmental and resisting what is, then you can recognize that is not the real you. So my advice is: if it's not love, STOP, gather yourself in the moment and reconsider.