I’ve been doing some mindfulness work over the progression of energy in my body into thoughts and emotions.
Physical sensation/energy -> thought interprets -> emotion created and experienced
As I bring more awareness to the physical sensation, I find I have more space to choose thoughts consciously to interpret it. I’m wondering if the same can happen with emotions. As I think a thought, can I play with and choose different emotions to feel when thinking that thought?
So far as I play with this in my meditation practice, it seems like what’s happening is I’m thinking the same thought, but changing adjacent thoughts to create a different emotion.
Thought A -> Feeling Z
Decide to feel X instead
Thought A + thought B -> Feeling X
I’ve see this with stress. Using Kelly McGonigal’s mindset interventions in her book The Upside of Stress, when I feel stressed at work I say “Good.” The thoughts are: this is hard. I’m not sure I can do this. I’m stressed. Then I say, “good.” And I feel empowered.
I think what’s happening is that while I think this is still hard, and stressful, and I’m not sure I can do it, I’m also believing that this will build me up, make me more resilient, and according to the science, actually make me physically stronger. I no longer believe stress is bad for my health or makes me weaker (persuaded by science on this).
So I can watch the emotion and interpretation of the physical sensation change as my beliefs change, but I’m wondering if I can watch the emotions change in reaction to the same thoughts. How much control do we have over emotion formation? Or is it inevitable that certain thoughts/clusters of thoughts will create certain emotions?