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There’s a lot of debate in and across the fields of psychology, sociology, theology, philosophy, physics, neuroscience, and chemistry as to the relationship between our feelings and our environment. Can emotions be predictably triggered by present or past circumstances (including genetics, the weather, abuse, job loss, health, etc.), or do they occur independently? Does our environment dictate our feelings, or are we in control? If so, what is this “we”? What is it made of? How is it separate from our environment?
As fascinating as I find that conversation, I’m not here to weigh in on it.
Because the answer to the question, “are our feelings dictated by our environment?” is a resoundingly ambiguous, “Yes, and no.”
On a fundamental, big-picture, universal level, everything is a singular formless energy. This might mean that on the one hand, everything influences everything else. On the other hand, nothing can be influenced at all because separation does not exist.
Perhaps both and neither of these are true. I don’t know that any human being can be certain.
One thing is for certain, and that is that our feelings come from our thinking in the moment. I’ll say that again:
Our feelings come from our thinking in the moment.
No matter the subject matter, the first response I always get when I say that to someone new is, “No, my feelings are coming from _____________,” Fill in the blank with “the rain” or “the mean thing my husband said” or “my awesome new promotion” or “my shitty childhood”, it doesn’t matter — folks always attribute their feelings to something other than their thinking in the moment.
It’s as if they think I’m saying that the outside world isn’t causing their feelings. When I’m not really saying that at all.
Because you know what? Sure, maybe if you hadn’t had a shitty childhood, if it weren’t raining, or if you hadn’t just gotten promoted, you wouldn’t be feeling the way you do now. I don’t know.
What I do know is this: your thoughts play a crucial role in your feelings. If not for our thinking, we cannot have feelings. Heck, we can’t have an experience of life at all.
If you’re not thinking about your shitty childhood, you’re not feeling sad or angry. If you’re thinking that rain brings life, then you’re not feeling miserable. If you’re not thinking about how great your husband is, you probably don’t feel that much love for him in that moment.
You get the picture.
Things in our world may or may not have an influence over our feelings. But our thinking completely dictates our feelings, 100% of the time.
Of course you already know this to be true. So why does it matter?
It matters because when we know where our feelings truly come from, we start to see that our thinking is the thing that needs changing if we want to feel better — not our husband, our schedule, or the weather.
And luckily for us, when we look in this direction, we discover that we don’t have to change our thinking. We start to see just how quickly our thinking changes all on its own. We don’t fear our feelings as much, or take them so seriously.
We find we don’t need to blame the world around us for our feelings, because our feelings have shifted before we can get out an angry word. We find much less that needs changing, and that needed changes are much easier to make.
Your thoughts are always a factor in your feelings, dear friend.
Let your thoughts flow like the fast-moving river they were designed to be. Let your brain be the wildly plastic gift that was built to make you thrive.
You might just start to see how resilient you can be.