Episode 163: How to Observe Thoughts and Feelings

invokes so many memories

In this episode Jackie talks about the skill of developing an inner observer as a way of increasing personal awareness and slowing down our automatic response process.  Developing an inner observer helps us increase our emotional intelligence and make sense of behavior.

TRANSCRIPT: How to Observe Thoughts and Feelings

Hi everyone, welcome to Thanks for Sharing. I’m your host, Jackie Pack. Today’s episode we are going to talk about the inner observer. So a common question that I get from people, both clients and then just people I come in contact with outside of work, is how are thoughts, feelings, and behaviors related? So simply put, a situation arises, sometimes we call this the event or a trigger or a triggering event, so a situation arises and we have feelings about this. Now when I’m talking about this with clients, I will usually say oftentimes we use the terms feelings and emotions interchangeably, and I want to start thinking about feelings as kind of a physiological response, so something happens in my body. I may or may not be aware of it, so my heart rate my increase, I might kind of get kind of a churning in my gut, I might feel anxious in my chest or my breathing my go more shallow, so a situation arises, we have these feelings, physiological responses to this, and then this is closely followed by thoughts about the situation, and those thoughts trigger emotions, so maybe I’m embarrassed, or maybe I’m nervous, or maybe I’m afraid, or I’m sad, or the numerous emotions that we can have, and then based on those thoughts and emotions, we engage in the behavior, which in turn impacts the situation, either positively or negatively, and the cycle continues. So if we want to change or redirect this cycle, I’ll often say, where do you think it’s possible, where do we start to have some choice or an ability to impact this situation differently than just allowing this cycle to continue? Well, we can’t really control the triggers, and we can’t control events. If I’m talking with a partner who’s experienced betrayal trauma, this is one of the things we have to talk about often is because they do get triggered, and those triggers are legitimate, and they can’t necessarily be… we’ve got to work on lessening the sensitivity to the trigger because they live in a world and we’re not really going to change the world so that these triggers aren’t there. Anything can trigger us, and so… and we’re going to notice things, so the goal is not to eliminate triggers, so we can’t really have control or an impact on that, and we can’t really control physiological responses. I can’t choose to not have my heart rate increase. Now if that happens, I can notice that and I can take some deep breaths and get my heart rate back down, but I can’t say to my body, don’t do that in the first place. I can’t keep my eyes from dilating, my pupils from dilating. I can’t control maybe that gurgling gut feeling that I get or the hair on the back of my neck that stands up. That’s not something that I can control.