What you See is Not Always What you Should Believe. How Your Brain Can Trick you, Guide you and Motivate you. Part 2.

When we feel down, angry, or frustrated other people may respond by saying, “Get over it,” “move on,” or “pull yourself up by the boot straps”. Although these statements may be there to help encourage strength, I have learned these statements can only increase hurt feelings. Feelings are not so easy to get over. However feelings can be controlled and they can be overcome. 

I have had hundreds of clients tell me they just “can’t help” the way they feel. They feel their emotions run and control their lives. They feel like they are victim to their feelings. Feelings are quite powerful. I have learned that feelings are not wrong or bad. Rather they are adaptive, necessary, and even helpful. 

  • Feelings warn something is wrong. The emotional reaction is the body’s way of alerting you to attention; to tell you “hey look out”. This cues you to evaluate your situation and respond. 
  • Feelings are helpful. The emotional reaction is the clue to what is going on. For example, if you feel mad perhaps you were wronged or betrayed. If you feel sad perhaps you were disappointed or had your feelings hurt. 
  • Feelings are natural. The emotion you feel is your body’s physical response to the situation. You are on alert to evaluate your situation because your body has physically alerted you. The University of Matyland Medical Center explains that stress causes the body to respond by tensing muscles, elevating heart rate, increasing breathing, and focusing vision and thinking. This is so the body can “go” and either get away or deal with the stressor. This is why when people feel stressed they experience headaches, soreness, fatigue, and complain of heart complications. 
Feelings are a natural, biological reaction. Therefore it is hard to control the emotion. But it is easier to control the mind. The brain is the control center for all things. As last weeks post discussed the brain views everything that comes into perception (sight, sound, touch, taste, hearing) and makes a decision. This decision is not always accurate because the brain can be confused, misguided, and tricked. Dr. Adrian Furnham with Psychology Today suggests the factor that tricks the mind most of the time is you own thinking. 
When you encounter a situation, a person, or an experience you have thoughts about that. This is your self-talk. Self-talk is that voice in your head that narrates for you. Sometimes your self-talk is skewed. Let’s say you once encountered a small dog that you perceived as cute and friendly. You pet the dog but the dog attacks you and leaves you shocked, scared, and injured. Your brain stores this experience away. Next time your brain perceives a cute and small dog it is reminded of your last encounter. You start to think this dog will hurt you, you think the dog is scary, and you think you are in an unsafe situation. Then you start to feel scared and you want to do whatever you can to avoid the dog. 
Cognitive psychologists refer to this process as the Cognitive Triangle. Essentially researchers found that what we think determines how we feel and how we behave and how we behave and feel affects our thoughts about that situation. 
Let’s take the example of the cute, little dog from above. You see the dog and think, “this dog will hurt me,” “this dog may look cute but it could really hurt me”. This will cause feelings of fear and anxiety. You feel fear and start to think, “this is a dangerous situation, I need to get out of here”. So that causes you to behave by running away or finding a way to avoid crossing paths with the dog. 
This thinking keeps us safe in a potentially dangerous situation. But the cognitive triangle will harm us by holding us back. Perhaps at some point in your life someone scared you. Someone harmed you emotionally and physically. Whatever they did to you caused you to develop thoughts about yourself that you are less than you truly are. Their words to you were implanted in your brain. Even though you try to ignore this hurt you encounter situations and these thoughts creep up on you. Often they are subtle. In fact most people are not paying attention to the thoughts that are driving their behavior or influencing their emotions. All you know is that you feel upset and uncomfortable. This harms you in the following ways: 
  • You miss out on opportunities for love, growth, and fun!
  • You have self-doubt and do not believe you are capable of doing things. 
  • You have decreased confidence and self-esteem because you think you are not good enough. 
  • You think you deserve hurt, pain, and failure. 

All of these harmful thoughts (plus many more) are lies!  Even though you believe it for various reasons they simply are not true!  You can take control of your life by controlling your thoughts. I understand this sounds difficult but it really is as simple as reminding yourself your negative harmful thoughts are lies and convincing your brain to think another way. 

What you think determines how you live and experience life. You can take control of your mind!
  1. Identify what you are feeling. Just name it. 
  2. Note how you wish to respond to that feeling. This will help you discover what you thinking
  3. Now think about the thoughts you have. Get some paper and a pen. Think about the situation and write down all thoughts, even fleeting ones, you have on the paper. Don’t fret if you cannot write down all the thoughts. A lot of times when we feel upset we have flooding thoughts, this means a lot of thoughts at one time. Just write down the ones you can.  
  4. Determine which thoughts are helpful and which are hurtful. Keep the helpful ones. Write them down. Say them aloud. 
  5. Challenge the negative thoughts. (This is the hard part).  Simply write the exact opposite of the hurtful thought. 
  • For example: if you are thinking “I am not strong enough”. Write down, “I am strong” then think of a time you were strong. 
  • Or if you are thinking, “I am too overweight for that, I cannot do it”. Write down, “I can control my weight and I am doing things to improve my physical health and I can do all things”. 

These thoughts will feel unnatural, so writing them down and saying them aloud every time you think this way will help you feel better. Self-affirmations are helpful to overcome negative and harmful thinking. Daily self-affirmations will improve harmful and negative thinking. You can change your feelings and your behavior if you change how you think. The good news is the brain is 100% ready to change, adapt, and learn. It’s all about how you talk to yourself. 

*For more on affirmations see: 




The Only 100 Positive Affirmations You Will Ever Need

*As a licensed professional counselor I have helped hundreds learn to take control of their mind and learn to think and feel more positively. Please contact me if you need help and want to feel better about yourself, your relationships, and your life. 



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