One of the interesting books that I’m reading for my practice class is Thoughts & Feelings: Taking Control of Your Moods and Your Life (Workbook) by Mathew McKay, Martha Davis and Patrick Fanning. Cognitive behavioral therapists argue that thoughts cause feelings.
In other words, an event in of itself has no emotional content but rather it is one’s interpretation of an event that causes one’s emotions or feelings about that event.
Event: Just missed the subway train.
Thought: You interpret the event by saying to yourself: Oh, no, this is awful. I’ll be late.
Feeling: You experience an emotion appropriate to your thoughts. In this instance, you feel anxious and worried about being late.
But by changing the thought, you can change the feeling…
Take the same event, but now:
Thought: You interpret the event this time by thinking: That’s ok. There will be another train in a few more minutes.
Feeling: You no longer feel anxious; now you feel relaxed and mild annoyance at most.
We are constantly judging and interpreting the events around us and these thoughts, in turn, create our emotions. According to cognitive theorist Aaron Beck, this internal dialogue is referred to as automatic thoughts because we tend to have these thoughts almost by reflex and they feel valid to us.
To gain control of unpleasant emotions, it is helpful to try to listen to your automatic thoughts. One way of doing this is to try to remember the thoughts you had just before the start of a painful feeling and those that occurred during the unpleasant feeling.
Keeping a Thought Journal in which you are noting down the situations (such as staying late at work, missing train, eating dinner w/family), the feelings (such as anxiety/anger/depression) and automatic thoughts that you are having (just before and during the unpleasant feeling) may be a helpful tool for you to see the important role feelings play in your life.
Moving onto another book, The Secret by Rhonda Byrne, the law of attraction seems to have a different, albeit similar theme. Byrne essentially argues that you may control your entire life/fate via your thoughts. If you are thinking positive thoughts, you will attract positive events. Conversely, if you are thinking negative thoughts, you will attract negative happenings into your life.
I’m not sure how true or not the law of attraction is but it seems to me that cognitive behavioral therapy seems to argue for the existence of the law of attraction.
If your thoughts cause your feelings and your feelings cause you to behave in subsequent ways to reinforce your original thoughts/feelings, this would seem to substantiate the whole self-fulfilling prophecy of the law of attraction. Please share with me your thoughts…
Photo credit: Mckay Savage