We are complex beings. Many parts of us interact to produce “who we are” or “what we do” or “how we feel”. There are also many areas where we can intervene in these interactions to bring more satisfying outcomes. The more we observe ourselves and the greater awareness we have of our own inner processes, the more possibilities we have to influence or change those processes.
This diagram is commonly used to illustrate how our thoughts affect our feelings, which in turn affect our behavior. Our behavior can also affect our thoughts and feelings.
This diagram is more comprehensive and accounts for the reality that our experiences also affect our emotions and thoughts (beliefs).(Retrieved from https://www.emotionalintelligenceatwork.com/resources/behaviour-cycle/, on 6/3/2020)
In the above-referenced article, Jeremy Marchant states that “…the feelings and the beliefs also have causes: they arise from the experiences we have had. … Things happen to us (at any age) and we create ideas about ourselves and about the world as a result. We create feelings about ourselves and the world.”
Marchant’s answer to the question of how to change our behavior: “… in order to change our behaviour, we have to have a (new) experience. This adds to, or changes, our beliefs and feelings, and these changes in turn result in modified behaviour. Finally, we discover that we get more new experiences as a result of doing the modified behaviour (for example, we notice that other people react differently to us). That tends to reinforce the new beliefs and feelings and that reinforces the new behaviour in a virtuous circle.”
As we learn to correctly identify our feelings, this can lead us to realize that sometimes there is a disconnect between current happenings and the type, or magnitude, of the feelings that are influencing our behavior. We may realize that some experience or belief that we are not even aware of has triggered the emotion. In this situation, not only do we need rational thought—we need “new experiences”.
In You Don’t Have To Control Your Thoughts To Change Your Life. You Just Have To Control Your Actions., Brianna Wiest states that “…you can’t rationalize your way out of fear”, and gives a practical example of creating “new experiences”: “… the next time you’re sliding into the pattern of anxiety, you complete a task. You see a friend. You behave just a little differently than you did before, and it initiates a ripple effect.”
It should be clear at this point that our vicious or virtuous circles are not just simple linear equations! At the same time, there are many points of intervention we can use to insert a new variable into the equation to help us “live better.”
Let’s move on from the realm of thoughts and thinking to emotions and behavior.