Saturday, December 6, 2014

Interplay between Thoughts, Emotions, and Beliefs

     I think that it's about time to struggle through the trinity of experience explainers.  This trinity, is, of course, thoughts, feelings, and beliefs.  To some degree, I think that behaviors should be thought of as part of that system, but behaviors don't explain, they are the explanations.  Better said: behaviors are the end result of feelings, beliefs, or thoughts - they are the effect to thoughts', feelings', and beliefs' cause.  I think that there is very little that can be described as "pure behavior."  One could cite reaction as pure behavior, but something started or informed such action - some previous thought, deep feeling, or belief.  The experience explainers are precursors to all behavior as action cannot occur without thought or due to some deeply-rooted feeling or belief.
     So what is the difference between these three states?  Where do they come from?  How are they linked?  How/why are they so easily misunderstood or mislabeled?  First, I'll try to define each one.  1) Thoughts:  Thoughts are reason in electrical form.  A true thought is complete, meaning that its very reason for existing is known.  It exists in order to explain, or help explain, something.  A thought is refined.  Thoughts are created when problems are introduced  and a reasoning chain is used to overcome it.  Logic can be used to develop a thought, but there are indeed many that are formed without its consent.
     2) Feelings:  Feeling are  much more primal than thoughts.  The previously-mentioned reactions have more to do with feelings than they do with thoughts.  Just as thoughts are refined through some kind of process, feelings most often aren't, or, perhaps, can't be.  To think through a feeling strips it of its raw, primal nature, and transforms it, by definition, into a thought.  In this way, we can say that feelings are precursors to thoughts.  Whereas thoughts are a very cerebral ornament, feelings are less so.  I very much hesitate to say that they are reptilian, as I do not know for sure if reptiles or similarly "un-evolved" animals have the capacity for higher-order feelings.  Feelings can be based on the old adage of "mad, sad, bad, glad."  Most feelings can be added to one of these headings.  Feelings are created when an experience upsets or supports previously-held beliefs.
     3) Beliefs:  I think that beliefs are some of the most interesting constructs we know about.  Beliefs are thoughts without evidence.  One believes something only when a thought is impossible because reasoning cannot adequately occur.  One must take a belief on faith.  I don't really mean the same faith as religion, but a similar one that requires adherence without proof.  Beliefs are inherently illogical.  Logicality is the domain of thought.  Violating a belief normally causes a negative feeling.
     REBT would tell us that when we experience something less than savory, a belief is called into question, leaving us with a bitter feeling.  It is only through complete and logical thought that the healing process can occur.  I think that this makes sense, but that the CBTers are speaking to their boathouse on this one.  OF COURSE thought would be the end result for a cognitive therapist.  Emotion-focused theorists think that the examination of feelings (rather than the interplay under REBT) are the true path to understanding the self.  Beliefs, it seems to me, are the jurisdiction of none (at least in the sense of this post).
     I think that beliefs have no part in therapy or in everyday life.  Beliefs are abstract, not thought through, and due to a lack of evidence, can really get a client into trouble.  To some degree, I think that it is a therapist's job to help a client explore their beliefs and discard those that are so illogical that thought is not permitted and feelings run rampant.

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