What comes first? Thought or emotion? A difficult question to answer. I have a few theories on that, and maybe you will agree. It is my thoughts 🙂 on how we can use our mind to heal and recover our health. Or better, how not to use our minds.
I believe that most of the time, thoughts come first. This means that our body feels and experiences an emotion, after we think something – whether it is pleasant, bad, frustrating, etc. The thought stems from a belief or judgment as to what we are experiencing in our environment. We then feel the emotion associated with that belief or judgment.
Some people say, I don’t know why I feel the way I do, I just feel that way sometimes. This is sometimes described as your mood. In other words, you experience a feeling or emotion, without an obvious cause, but the cause if you! Namely, you have a thought, and usually the thought keeps going over and over in your mind, usually unconsciously, until it creates the emotion. If the emotion is negative, then it creates an uncomfortable emotion that signals to you, hey something is not right here….either you have to change something or figure out what thought, belief, or judgment has high-jacked your mind! This is what I term as internal stress. Your unconscious thoughts create a negative emotion that high-jacks your primitive brain, the limbic system, that keeps you in the fight-or-flight mode. This signal tells your adrenal glands to release cortisol because you are under stress, and there begins the internal feeling of being overwhelmed.
Cortisol is healthy to a large extent, however in either excess or too little, it affects your body and the ability to heal and feel nourished. It affects blood sugar (high cortisol increases blood sugar), suppresses the immune system, and aids in the metabolism of food.
Coming back to what comes first….thought or emotion… there are times when emotion comes first, and you hear things like « the emotion just came over me, and I felt it in my body » – there could be sadness or some tears, but the person does not describe it as a negative feeling. In fact, usually they are smiling when they say this. In this instance, it is the entire nervous system responding to the environment, or the energy of something, that is actually positive. Some people may experience this when they are appreciating an art form, or are engaged in art, since art is largely a reflection of emotion, both to reveal what we all seem to feel and the human condition that we are not alone. The mind stops to think, and the intelligence of the body tells you what is going on. In some ways, this body intelligence may be more important than the mind.
While the mind is great to execute tasks, and establish the necessity to monitor an intervention, it may not always be the best for survival. In our society, that is something to think about….
In Chinese medicine, emotions are linked to organs, which tells us that the mind may be the master controller, but may not be what makes us feel better and helps us to recover from suffering.