Kim is licensed in mental health and addiction counseling. Her education is in business, counseling, and health administration.
Thoughts, Feelings and Actions
The Keys to Self Awareness and Personal Growth
Our thoughts, feelings and actions are the keys to understanding ourselves. When we understand ourselves we make better decisions, have healthier relationships, and can lead more effective and fulfilling lives. Understanding how our thoughts, feelings and actions interact with each other can help us overcome problems with depression, anxiety, addiction, relationships, trauma symptoms and criminal behaviors. When we understand ourselves, we empower ourselves.
Our brain is constantly thinking, whether we are aware of it or not. It can't not think! Thinking is what brains do. If we are unaware of our thinking, we are living an unconscious and unexamined life. We perceive that we have little control over the events in our lives or our response to these events.
The first step toward increasing self awareness is to begin to pay attention to your thinking. Using a journal to write down thoughts can be helpful. When journaling, simply allow your thoughts to enter your awareness without judging them or trying to change them. The goal here is to increase awareness of your thinking. You may notice as you write that you are having thoughts about your thoughts! That's ok. That's your brain doing what it does best. For example, I may notice myself thinking, "He's an idiot" or "I'm an idiot." Then I begin thinking, "I shouldn't think that." Rather than avoid writing the thought because you judge it as wrong, DO write the thought as well as your thoughts about the thoughts.
Once you have increased awareness of your thinking, you can begin to notice some patterns in your thinking and some common "thinking errors." You may notice your "self talk" - the way you talk to yourself about yourself. Self talk can be affirming or derogatory, such as "I'm ok" v.s. "I'm no good." You may notice patterns in your thinking, such as a pattern of blaming others for your problems or making excuses for yourself or others.
Once you have achieved some awareness of your thought processes, you can begin to learn how thoughts can be rational or irrational, responsible or irresponsible, uplifting or depressing, angering or soothing. With practice and over time, you will come to recognize how your thinking influences your feelings, behaviors and mood states. You will learn how your thinking can improve or worsen symptoms of depression and anxiety, how "stinking thinking" can lead to a relapse to substance use, how some patterns of thinking can lead to criminal behavior and lifestyles, how your thoughts can lead to ongoing trauma and victimization or recovery from trauma and victimization, and how your thinking affects your self worth, success or failure, and day to day decisions.
We all have feelings. It's part of being human, and it's perfectly normal. We experience feelings of pain, anger, sorrow, joy, love, grief, fear, happiness, frustration, satisfaction, dissatisfaction, contentment, peace, sympathy, emptiness, loneliness, helplessness, hopelessness, guilt, despair, bliss, terror, etc. We often label these feelings as "good or bad' and go to great extremes to increase "good" feelings and get rid of "bad" feelings; sometimes to our own demise. Substance abuse and dependence is often the outcome of our efforts to experience pleasure and avoid pain.
When we are able to accept our feelings and know that it's normal to have them, we are better able to cope with them effectively. For example, when I lose someone close to me and I know it's ok to feel sad, I am better able to cope with my grief. If I believe that it's a sign of weakness to show sadness or to cry, I will attempt to hide my feelings and will have difficulty coping with my sad feelings. Many people are socialized to express only happiness and anger. No matter how they are feeling, they will only show happiness or anger to others and will deny having feelings of sadness, guilt, pain or fear.
Coping with feelings involves being able to identify and name the feelings I am experiencing, the ability to accept that I am experiencing them, and knowing effective ways to express my feelings. It is important to note that other people and events do not "make me feel" a certain way. For example, rainy weather doesn't make me depressed and my friend doesn't make me angry. Those depressed and angry feelings are mine and I am in charge of them.
I may choose to feel depressed when it rains or angry when my friend is late, but the weather and my friend are not the causes of my sadness or anger. It's actually the thoughts I am having about the weather and my friend's behavior that determine how intensely sad or angry I feel. For example, if I tell myself that my friend shouldn't be late, that her lateness is a sign of disrespect , I can't stand when people disrespect me, and now I hate her for disrespecting me; I will probably feel intense feelings of anger and pain. If, on the other hand, I tell myself that she is probably late because she had a good reason and will be here soon enough, I may still be bothered or annoyed by her behavior and communicate my displeasure with having to wait, but the intensity of my feelings will be much more neutral and manageable.
My actions or behaviors are the things I do. They are separate from my being or personhood, and result from my thoughts and feelings. I may do a stupid thing without being a stupid person. I can make mistakes without being a failure. I can do something wrong or bad without being a bad person.
It is important to separate a person's actions from their personhood or personality. When I define myself by some past choice I made, I am limiting my ability to change. If I am a bad person, then I can only do bad things. That is an example of permanent thinking, and how permanent thinking effects my behavior and my feelings about myself. If I am a person who made a bad choice, I can make a better choice next time and will feel more hopeful about the future.
When my thinking is rational and responsible, my feelings are more stable and my actions are more effective. I am more likely to get what I want and need, and less likely to get what I don't want and need. It takes some time and effort to learn to recognize "faulty thinking" and how to replace irrational and irresponsible thinking patterns, but the rewards outweigh the effort by far.
With a basic understanding of thoughts, feelings and actions, and how they interact with each other; you are now equipped to focus on the particular patterns of thinking that are driving your feelings and actions. There are specific patterns of thinking that are known to contribute to depression, anxiety, substance abuse, delinquency and criminality. There are thinking patterns that contribute to domestic violence, anger problems, and trauma as well. The next step would be to find self help books and workbooks on the particular problem you are having or books about cognitive behavioral and rational emotive behavioral therapy. Links are provided that might be helpful. If you are experiencing a sense of urgency or desperation, consider using therapy rather than working alone. For addiction, consider 12 step recovery groups, rational recovery, or entering treatment. Stay tuned to this site for additional articles as well.
- The Client\'s Guide to Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy
by Aldo R. Pucci. The Client's Guide to Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy is a companion manual for people receiving cognitive-behavioral therapy. #Pucci01 - The Client's Guide to Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy
© 2010 Kim Harris
Bill Tollefson from Southwest Florida on July 01, 2019:
Really like this HUB article.
My beliefs are that it is our core beliefs which have so much power to dictate, direct and influence how we act, think and fell. Change your beliefs and the rest fall in line.
Kim Harris (author) on June 30, 2019:
Thanks Bill:) ... and Khaledu.
Bill Tollefson from Southwest Florida on June 18, 2019:
Thank you for your comment!
Khaledu on June 17, 2019:
Kim Harris (author) on September 20, 2011:
Thanks naturalsolutions. It sounds like you have experienced the power of thought. The ultimate to me is when thoughts, feelings and actions are all lined up and working together. Nothing worse than feeling one way, thinking another and doing yet another!
naturalsolutions on September 20, 2011:
I am more to thoughts, for me there's no other thing can compare to a brilliant true to life thought that really make us feel inspired;) Nice job you've done a wonderful hub.
Kim Harris (author) on September 09, 2011:
Thanks, Happyboomernurse:) So, you didn't see the humor? LOL. Seriously, I love the way you summed it up.
Gail Sobotkin from South Carolina on September 09, 2011:
Great hub with practical suggestions on how to work with our thoughts, feelings and actions so that they are aligned in an effective way. I agree that: "When we understand ourselves, we empower ourselves."
Thanks for sharing this concise primer with a clear plan for how to become conscious of how our thoughts, feelings and actions are impacting the quality of our lives.
Voted up across the board except for funny.
Kim Harris (author) on July 29, 2011:
Thanks Dr Bill Tollefson. I think we all can benefit from being mindful of our thoughts and thinking..... but not obsessed:) There's plenty of self help available. Sometimes a guide is helpful though. I once had a group member report some success after 1 wk of journaling about his anger. He identified that he needed to work on listening more to others and being more patient. After discussing the situations though, he actually needed to be more assertive about setting limits with others. His pattern was to think that what he did wasn't sufficient or adequate - and that he needed to do more of what he was already doing....and he would consequently get less of what he wanted. He also had a low tolerance for conflict that he worked on. Anyway, it was an eye opener for him, and may have helped him stay sober.
Bill Tollefson from Southwest Florida on July 28, 2011:
This is a very good HUB! You cover all many concepts needed to be focused: knowing yourself through learning first about one’s thoughts, and feelings. Then the next big step is taking action. You talk about them very well. Too many people with these conditions think negatively and can get caught up in a thought addiction. Keep informing others.
Kim Harris (author) on April 03, 2011:
Thanks for reading and commenting ACSutliff. I think we all need reminders! I had an opportunity to practice what I preach yesterday. Thank you for the reminder.
ACSutliff on April 03, 2011:
Great hub, I totally agree with you on this. I've always been a person who could separate my thoughts from my emotions, like the example you have about waiting for a late friend, but I really needed a reminder, so thanks for that.
Kim Harris (author) on January 29, 2011:
Great! Thanks Kimberly.
kimberlyslyrics on January 29, 2011:
Kim Harris (author) on November 14, 2010:
Hi Tony. Thanks for the feedback. I'm all about what works!
Tony DeLorger from Adelaide, South Australia on November 13, 2010:
Great hub Kim. Good practical and informative. Thanks
Kim Harris (author) on September 11, 2010:
thanks easylearningweb, for taking the time to read and comment. I really appreciate it.
Amelia Griggs from U.S. on September 11, 2010:
Very interesting and informational hub!
Kim Harris (author) on September 08, 2010:
Thanks Brightforyou! I appreciate the comment and your time. Nice to meet you as well and look forward to "seeing" you around hubpages.
Helen Lewis from Florida on September 08, 2010:
Excellent. Well done. Lots of very good information here, its is a pleasure to meet you!
Kim Harris (author) on August 30, 2010:
exactly e-man. free style journaling is one of the best ways to not only get in touch with thoughts, feelings and actions, but to get them all on the same page at the same time! I almost always use it to find my poetry muse. thanks for reading and sharing e-man. I appreciate your thoughts and ideas.
epigramman on August 30, 2010:
..a lot of my thoughts, feelings and actions come out in my writing - a kind of therapy if you will - but the one thing about the epigramman he never personalizes his poems - you will notice certain things about his heart and his mind - but when I write in first person pronoun (I) I distance and detach myself ......
....my advice to you is just to start writing (poetic thoughts into words) about anything and everything - even if it's just free association, or disjointed, or doesn't make any sense - and get these thoughts down on paper/screen! And you will find your niche/style from this - with my subject material, as you know, I'm all over the place.
The people I admire most at these pages of Hub are the ones (brave, daring, free) who are inventing their own written language .....
...you are already at that point in the sense you are getting your readers to react, think and feel!!
Kim Harris (author) on August 22, 2010:
Thanks for stopping by to read and comment tonymac. I see you've been busy with a lot of hubtivity lately, and appreciate that you took the time. I'm a big believer in congruence of thought, feelings and actions. Humanistic appoaches play a role in that.
Tony McGregor from South Africa on August 22, 2010:
"When we understand ourselves, we empower ourselves." - I really like and totally agree with this sentence, and with the rest of the Hub, though I'm personally more into the humanist psychology than RET or cognitive. But I do recognise their value.
Love and peace,
Kim Harris (author) on July 20, 2010:
Thank you vocalcoach....and thanks for the link with your Seven Steps to Loving Yourself hub. I read it and it is exceptional! (https://hubpages.com/hub/7-Steps-to-Loving-Yoursel...
Audrey Hunt from Idyllwild Ca. on July 19, 2010:
An excellent hub on thoughts, feelings and actions. I have linked your hub to my newest article "7 steps to loving yourself". I hope you like the article. Thumbs up!
Kim Harris (author) on June 01, 2010:
Rafini from Somewhere I can't get away from on June 01, 2010:
nice hub from 2 months ago...
Kim Harris (author) on April 20, 2010:
Thank you Micky Dee.
Micky Dee on April 18, 2010:
Great thoughts Kim! Thanks!
kimh039 on March 25, 2010:
good point! I also wanted to talk about the distinction between angry feelings and violent behavior, and just left that part out. did you also catch my addendum hub https://hubpages.com/health/Kimh039 ? There are a couple videos - one with Dr Aldo Pucci and one that I think is adorable with some common distortions. There's even a brief quiz at the end!
laranyosi on March 25, 2010:
This is such a great article. I will totally make this reading as one my assignments for my clients.
It is very consistent with the rational living therapy approach. One thing to note though. I believe that the neutral thought (neither good nor bad) does exist. So when people think that the "A", from the ABCs of emotions, is neither good nor bad for that person, the person will feel the emotion of being calm, thus calmly accepting the "A" that we do not have complete control of.
Thank you for this great article, Kim!
Kim Harris (author) on March 23, 2010:
I look forward to reading that one, Vern. Thanks for the feedback.
Vernon Bradley from Yucaipa, California on March 21, 2010:
Thanks for getting it right!! We often say "I feel he's an idiot," but it's actually a thought or judgment. So I shouted, "right on" when I saw your example, "I think...."
Good stuff. Will look forward to more of your blogs. I'm working on one right now regarding the neurobiology of depression and again that whole interplay between our thoughts and our emotions.
Robert Link on March 18, 2010:
I learned much of this on my own but only in my 30s---wish I had known more about this in my teens and twenties... :)
Baker on March 14, 2010:
Hey nice first hub!!NIce writing.
billyaustindillon on March 14, 2010:
Great first hub Kim. This is a wonderful article on thought and actions and a reminder everyone has feelings