The concept that there is a direct relationship between thoughts, feelings and behaviors is not new. This concept underlies many of the psychological interventions practiced in therapy. It is strongly supported by thousands of scientific findings.
What else is known is that more and more people become overly focused on their thoughts (also known as overthinking) paying less attention to equally important feelings and behaviors. One of the biggest psychological traps people fall into is overthinking or over-analyzing. There’s a belief that if we think about something long enough we will identify exactly what’s wrong and solve the problem.
Where did we learn to overthink?
Problem solving is accomplished by resolving everyday troubles and achieving goals. Our problem solving skills serve us well most of the time! Focusing on thinking, or solving problems, often pushes away the feelings (or emotions) related to the situation. Moreover, people often complicate a situation because they spend more time thinking about it than just accepting their feeling(s) about the situation.
For example imagine you experience the loss of a friendship because you and your friend no longer hold the same values and struggle to respect each other’s opinions. Naturally any loss results in feelings of sadness, grief, and in this example some anger. Losing the friendship, even though it was a conscious choice, leaves you feeling sad and angry. However, it is too painful to sit with these feelings and you begin to overthink (or ruminate) about why the friendship ended. You replay in your mind all the statements made by your friend. You overthink in hopes of “finding the reason why it ended.” In reality, you know exactly why the friendship ended. What you’re not doing is acknowledging the sadness and anger, and allowing yourself to fully experience the loss of relationship.
Why is the connection of thoughts, feelings and behavior relevant to being therapy?
Therapy helps people to balance their thinking with their feelings and understanding their behavior. Even those who prefer to problem solve and have a tangible solution to a situation can benefit from focusing on the feelings, or emotions, of a situation. Likewise those who spend a lot of time “stuck” in the emotion can benefit from engaging in a more thoughtful process. Essentially the client works to strengthen the relationship between thoughts and feelings to a more equal type of relationship.
Dr. Erika McElroy
Smooth Rock Psychological Services, LLC