That Little Voice Inside Your Head By Dr. Monique Reynolds, PhD and Georgia C. Ferrell Share +

Posted by: coronadosafe 2 years, 9 months ago

Our thoughts wield a great deal of power over our emotions, our moods and ultimately our behavior.  Last month we talked about how important it is to recognize and acknowledge emotions as a first step in maintaining good emotional health.  Tuning into your thoughts is the next step. 

One of the most important lessons we can learn is that thoughts, emotions and behavior are intricately connected.  When we feel scared, we’re going to have scary thoughts.  Stewing on angry thoughts is going to bring on more feelings of anger and resentment.  Thoughts are subjective and can come and go depending on our mood, emotions and our situation.  In other words, that little voice in your head isn’t giving you “truth”, it’s giving you stories based on situations and memories that are connected to what you are already feeling. It’s creating stories to make sense of your feelings.  

Thoughts are Subjective

Most of the time, our thoughts are helpful.  They help us organize the world and interpret our relationships with others.   They scan for danger and keep us safe.  Sometimes, however, our thoughts make things more difficult.  Here’s an example:  Suppose you write an email updating your spouse on what’s going on back home while he or she is on a business trip or deployment.  You wait for the response…and wait…and wait.  And when the response comes, it’s a quick one liner, “Super busy.  All is well.  See you soon.” 

How might you respond to this email? Research tells us that our brains contain intricate webs of thoughts, feelings and behaviors that cluster together in easily accessed bundles.  That means that if your thoughts jump to “I’m never the priority in his/her life. Work always comes first”, you will probably feel resentment and anger and shoot off an angry email.  That little voice in your head will start to connect you with all the moments when you felt slighted by your partner, fueling your resentment and prompting more memories of being slighted.  All of a sudden, you’re lost in a sea of thoughts and emotions circling the same difficult moments again and again, stalling the process of problem solving and moving on. 

Bringing Awareness to Thoughts

One of the best ways we can maintain our emotional health is to be aware of when we are stuck in a web of negative thoughts.  When we recognize that the little voice inside our heads is just the story we tell ourselves, we can start to break up those webs and focus on a situation with a fresh perspective.

Take the Challenge

  • Notice the difference between thoughts and emotions. An emotion is a normal state of feeling.  Thoughts are the stories we tell ourselves to make sense of our emotions.  If we can assess the difference between a thought and feeling, we can avoid getting stuck in a web of negative thinking.
  • Break up the thought pattern by using your five senses. When you feel caught up in that web, push yourself to take an action to break out.  Focus on what is really going on right NOW…the curve of the road, the words of a song playing in the background, the flavor of your meal, or the softness of a pet.  Developing this skill now will help you remain grounded when you’re being pulled into a web of negative thoughts.

For more tips and tools on tuning into your thoughts, visit our website at www.coronadosafe.org.  And keep an eye out for our column next month as you build your Skills for Life.