Should I listen to my mind or my heart?
This is a question that any thinking and feeling human being would have asked himself/herself at least once in his/her life.
It is puzzling to understand why situations can exist in which one’s mind (their thoughts) and their heart (their feelings) would say, or want, different things… What causes this duality? How should we deal with this internal conflict?
This blog is about the process you can follow to systematically analyse and process your thoughts and feelings and to come up with a decision that you think and feel is right for you.
First, let’s clarify how you can discern between your thoughts and feelings. Let’s do this by applying it to a real-life example. Think about an issue that you are wanting to resolve. Take two sheets of paper, and on one of them write “I think:”, while on the other sheet write “I feel”. Then, write on each sheet all that you think and, respectively, that you feel about the issue. Compare the two sheets. Is one sheet suggesting a certain line of action, and the other sheet a different line of action? If ‘yes’, then you have an internal dilemma or conflict.
It is very hard to make good decisions when part off you wants one thing and the other part wants something different. You might feel pulled in different directions or you might make a decision just to find yourself soon regretting it and wanting to change it back.
So, how to you decide what you should do?
Before I give you the answer, we need to put a few things in perspective.
Research shows that people have some 50,000 to 60,000 thoughts per day. That is about 3 thoughts every 2 seconds. Most of them happen at random, and without any important consequence. You cannot possible pay attention to each and every one of them, or you would become mentally unwell.
Also, scientists estimate that people experience at least one emotion 90% of the time. That is a lot of time feeling emotions. And we know that not all the emotions feel nice and not all the emotions are helpful.
So, with all this amalgam of thoughts and feelings, how do we make sense of what thoughts and feeling are worth paying attention to?
Well, think about your thoughts and feelings as automatic neural ‘firings’ taking place in the brain, based on the ‘data’ that your brain has at that particular moment in time. The data is all the information available from the external environment and internal system of the person.
The more data (i.e. quantity), and the more accurate the data (i.e. the quality), the better informed/equipped our brain is to be able to come up with adequate automatic ‘firings’ (i.e. thoughts and feelings).
The reality is that we are rarely in a position where we have absolutely all the data needed to make our decisions. So, what does our brain do when it doesn’t have large quantity or good quality data (which is most of the time)? It IMAGINES things. It FILLS IN THE GAPS. We all do this, every time there are gaps, or unknowns, in the data that the brain has available to make sense of the reality around.
This is a normal human adaptive behaviour, which we have ‘sophisticated’ over hundreds of thousands of years. These days, we are so good at filling in the gaps, that we are able to dream and imagine things that do not exist, and sometimes we are even able to make them become real. For example, every invention has started with an idea or a dream. Our brain’s capability to dream/imagine has resulted in all that we have around us today.
But, the same capability of our brain to dream and imagine is also responsible for creating imagined scenarios, or internal ‘stories’, that we fail to recognise as ‘just imagined’, and we start relating to them as if they are actually real. We start believing in them.
Think about a situation that you might have had, where you might have got a certain look from someone, which suddenly got you down the path of trying to understand what made that person gave you that look. And since your brain did not have all the information needed, you found yourself assuming that they probably do not like you, or that they have some hidden agenda. And you might even feel a bit of contempt for that person, or you might remember ‘that look’ every time you see them again.
An un-verified belief that all our imaginings are true/real is the cause for every mental or emotional distress.
How do we verify if our imaginings are real?
First, what does ‘real’ mean? Something is ‘real’ if it actually exists “as a thing or occurring in fact; not imagined or supposed” (Oxford Dictionary) . In simpler words, something is ‘real’ if it exists regardless of me observing it.
Given this, how many of our thoughts or feelings are real and how many are imagined, or assumed? How do we distinguish between what is real and what is imagined?
The simple answer is that we look for evidence. The complex answer is, also, that we look for evidence. Looking for evidence is, both, simple and complex because looking for evidence is easily confused with confirmation bias. Basically, we might look for evidence, but our assessment of what constitute evidence is blurred by our perceptual filters, our pre-conceived ideas.
So, to clearly identify the evidence upon which we distinguish between what thoughts/feelings are ‘real’ we need to be open and to let-go of our own bias. It the evidence is verifiable, if it can be proven or confirmed or by others, chances are that it is real.
So, now that we know how to identify what thoughts/feelings are real and what thoughts/feelings are not, what do we do with them?
The obvious answer is that we follow the real thoughts and feelings, and we let go of the ones that are imagined. Many people find it hard to let go of their thoughts and feelings which are not valid/real. This is because, when we let go of something certain (even if it is not real) we get more uncertainty. And most people find it at least uncomfortable, if not difficult, to live with uncertainty.
This is where hypnotherapy can help.
What is difficult at a conscious level can happen quite naturally at an unconscious level. If a change takes place at an unconscious level, it is more likely to be long-lasting or permanent.
Hypnosis is a tool than helps people make the changes that they want to make, when they are not able to make the change by themselves.
Contact us for a Free 20-minutes “Hypnotherapy-Discovery” session.
Online sessions available.