It can be hard to separate our thoughts from our feelings about a situation, especially an emotionally charged conflict situation. We can be quick to feel, quick take offense, and quick to respond. All feelings and emotions are reactions to things that we think. The graphic below illustrates how we typically respond to stimuli, and how our responses can be convoluted accordingly:
It is important to note that sometimes the preceding thought is fleeting, almost unconscious, so we may not even be aware of it. But never doubt it: a specific, identifiable thought is present before we react emotionally. After both thinking and feeling, we respond to the situation at hand. Unfortunately—and this is key—because we are often unaware of the thoughts that precede our emotional reactions, we frequently respond based on our emotions rather than logic. This is where conflicts frequently arise.
So, when we get flustered and find ourselves reacting strongly, we should try to backtrack. We must recognize what it was that caused the thought that made us feel the way that is causing our reaction. Only then can we try to make sense of it before we say or do something we may regret.
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