It’s the Thought That Counts
By: Robert Cassman
Which comes first, our emotions or our thoughts? Most of us, when asked why we’re so upset, will explain it by saying that a certain situation happened. Or we’ll say a certain person did something to get us upset.
The truth is that our thoughts lead to our emotions. This is how it happens: A situation occurs, we then think about that situation, and this leads to an emotion. Here’s an example: While driving, someone cuts me off. I then think “that jerk! He did that on purpose!” I then become angry or agitated. When I’m asked why I’m so upset I say “because some jerk cut me off!” But did the cutting off cause my anger or what I thought about being cut off cause the anger? What if I thought differently about being cut off? What if I thought “maybe he’s in a hurry. Maybe he’s having the worst day of his life and is not paying attention to what he’s doing. I’ve had bad days too so I’ll give him a break.” If I think that I certainly will have a less negative emotion than before. I may simply be “okay.” But being “okay” is much better than being angry.
Here’s another example: Let’s say I am planning on taking my children to the park today. But when it starts to rain I get upset. But the farmer across the street is happy. Why? The farmer also sees the rain but thinks to himself “great. My crops need watering.” This is very different from me saying “the whole day at the park is ruined.” In this example if the rain caused me to get upset, then why didn’t it cause the farmer to get upset? The truth is that the farmer is happy because of how he thinks about the rain. I am mad also because of how I think about the rain. If I don’t want to be angry I need to think differently about the rain: “oh well. We’ve needed rain for a while. Maybe the children and I can do something else fun today.”
It’s not what happens to us that causes problems but what we think about what happens to us that causes the problems. We can all challenge how we think. We can choose to think more realistically about situations. And in doing so, we change our emotions for the better.