Understanding the Difference between Thoughts and Emotions Using the New Healing Connection

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There are 52 lessons in 7 modules with video, audio, and transcripts for all the lessons. And in addition to having access to all the lessons, you can also join my Facebook group. Click here for more information!

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Here is an excerpt from Lesson 1 in the Emotions Module:

To help you understand the difference between thoughts and emotions, I’ll use an experience I had when I was gardening.

I wasn’t always a gardener. When I first started, there was a lot of trial and error. Early on I realized that I loved starting seeds inside. I’d plant the seeds in little pots and grow them under shop lights in my basement. When it got warm enough, I’d transplant them into the garden.

The first year I did this, I learned a painful lesson. When it was time, I transferred the seedlings into the garden. Then the next morning, I went out to see how they were doing. The first thing I saw was a bunny rabbit grazing. I spent a few seconds feeling warm and fuzzy as I watched the cute bunny rabbit. As I looked at that rabbit, I thought about how lucky I was to have such a sweet visitor in my garden.

I was feeling blissful about having this beautiful garden with this beautiful bunny rabbit visiting me. Then I looked closer, and I realized that this rabbit wasn’t just eating grass or a dandelion. The rabbit was eating my seedlings! I ran through the garden and saw that it had eaten at least half of my plants.

All of a sudden, my bucolic garden bubble burst. I became incensed. I was so mad at that rabbit. My body became intense with anger. I chased the rabbit out of the garden. I hate to admit it, but for a moment, I even thought about how I’d like to kill it. That sweet rabbit had become Peter Rabbit, and I was Mr. McGregor, the farmer who wanted to kill him. I huffed and puffed as I thought about what I should do.

Luckily this story has a happy ending. I found a way to protect my seedlings with little hardware cloth cages. I planted some more seeds and the new crop survived. I even started planting extra seedlings so that the rabbits would always have some plants to eat when they came into the garden. We’ve been coexisting for years since that fateful day, and now I just laugh when I think about that morning when I discovered my inner Mr. McGregor.

In my Peter Rabbit experience, my morning started with bliss, progressed to rage, and then after I solved my problem, it finished with happiness. The situation wasn’t a life or death one. The world didn’t stop because of my damaged seedlings. But I still felt intense emotions.

When we think about emotions, we tend to think about the very intense ones. Have you ever had a time in your life when you were overflowing with emotions? Maybe someone close to you died, and you were feeling incredible sadness and just couldn’t stop crying. Or maybe you were in a car accident and you were shaking with fear. Or maybe you had an experience like my Peter Rabbit one, that wasn’t so life changing, but that triggered intense emotions anyway.

As you think about times when you’ve felt deep emotions, do you remember the way your body felt? Your heart might have been pounding, and you might have been breathing fast. Tears might have been coming out of your eyes, and your body might have been shaking. You might have been huffing and puffing, like I was in the garden. When you feel deep emotions, your body is actively engaged in the process. It’s almost as if your body gets a life of its own, and your thoughts can’t control it. Even if you’d like to stop your body from doing the things it’s doing, it won’t let you. You can feel out of control and uncomfortable because of the intensity of the sensations in your body.

In this course, I’m going to help you understand your emotions in a new way. Your day-to-day experience with them will change. You’ll be able to feel your emotions when you need to, and they won’t feel so out of control. When you do feel intense emotions, you’ll understand them, so they won’t be so stressful for you.

As we’re talking about emotions, it’s important to understand exactly what we’re talking about. Specifically, we need to differentiate between emotions and thoughts. There’s a lot of confusion about these two parts of us. People talk about emotions as though they’re thoughts, and they talk about thoughts as though they’re emotions. But really, these two parts of us are like apples and oranges. You can’t compare them. You can’t define them or work with them in the same way.

Let’s define emotions first. The word emotion is a hard one to define. According to Oxford Dictionaries Online, an emotion is “a natural instinctive state of mind deriving from one’s circumstances, mood, or relationships with others.” According to Dictionary.com, it’s “an affective state of consciousness in which joy, sorrow, fear, hate, or the like is experienced, as distinguished from cognitive and volitional states of consciousness.”

These definitions are helpful although they don’t quite get it right. Or maybe I should say, they don’t quite go far enough. For our purposes in this course, I’ll define an emotion as “the natural, physical, affective state of being, in which joy, sadness, fear, anger, or the like are experienced.” The most important part of my definition is that emotions are something we experience in our bodies, they’re not part of our minds. They’re physical experiences, not intellectual ones.

Thoughts, on the other hand, are cognitive, and they come from our minds. According to Oxford Dictionaries Online, a thought is “an idea or opinion produced by thinking, or occurring suddenly in the mind.” Your thoughts are all the words running through your head about the situations in your life. They’re the basis for all the words you say out loud. They’re your worries, plans, regrets and judgments. If you can spell it and write it down, it’s a thought. We put thoughts together to tell stories. We use those stories to describe everything that happens in our lives.

It’s important to understand how thoughts and emotions are different. You can’t expect to analyze your emotions and work with them on an intellectual level, like you work with your thoughts. And you can’t expect to feel your thoughts and work with them in a physical way, like you work with your emotions.

Let’s use the example of my experience in the garden with Peter Rabbit to differentiate between thoughts and emotions. When I first got into the garden that morning, I was feeling the physical emotions of bliss and joy. I felt a lightness in my body. I was probably smiling and humming a happy tune. While I was feeling those emotions, my mind created thoughts like: Isn’t this a beautiful garden? Look at that adorable bunny rabbit. It’s such a beautiful morning.

Then as I realized that the rabbit was eating my plants, I started to get angry. My anger was the intense physical sensation in my body that caused me to huff and puff. As I got an intense rush of physical anger, I probably tightened my muscles. At the same time, my mind created thoughts like: What’s going on here? That rabbit is eating my plants! I’m going to kill that rabbit!

After I solved my problem with the rabbit, I got back to a sense of peace and joy. My body felt a sense of calm and happiness. I was probably smiling again, and I had a warm sense of peace and security. At the same time, my mind said something like: Everything’s going to be okay now. That rabbit isn’t so bad and was just doing what rabbits do. It has to eat to survive, and I’ll bet those tender seedlings were delicious.

Emotions and thoughts are two separate parts of you. They are totally separate, but they’re equally important. They work together in an intimate way to help you create your life. By understanding how they’re different, you’ll be able to work with these two parts of your inner self in the most effective way. You’ll find that this work will help you create a healthier life.

Learn more about the difference between thoughts and emotions and how to work with them to change your life in the New Healing Connection course! Click here for more information.