Humans are neither thinking machines or feeling machines. They’re feeling machines that think.
I was panicking.
I had a feeling in the pit of my stomach. A tight ball of black wire wool was scratching away my insides.
My mind jumped into action.
You’re feeling this way because...
You didn’t eat much this morning, maybe you’re just hungr....
What if it’s the weather?
Maybe you miss Ollie?
When was the last time Ash hugged you?
Oh. It was yesterday. So… That must be it!
You’re feeling this way because you want Ash to hug you more.
That’s it. It’s hugs.
Phew. Thoughts to the rescue. My mind came up with the answer. Lucky I’m so smart and logical. Those fucking hugs, why won’t Ash hug me more?? I started to feel upset and a little lonely. The tight ball of black wire wool was still there, but I was distracted by how upset I felt that Ash didn’t hug me more.
This makes no sense. I have no idea where that answer came from. All I know is that I felt a sensation, likely attached to an emotion, and my mind sprayed a bunch of thoughts at me until I accepted one as the truth. It didn’t even address the ‘black wire wool’ sensation I was having - instead I created a distraction out of thin air… I thought it, I was able to come up with logic around the thought, so it seemed true.
If my emotions and my thoughts were people having a conversation it would be a very one sided conversation. My thoughts would be the kind of person who interrupts constantly, finishing sentences, not listening, just waiting until the next moment he can jump in and explain how it really is. My emotions would be the person being talked over, not being listened to, meekly saying “oh, no... that’s not what I was trying to say at all...” while the other person takes over the conversation.
My thoughts aren’t necessarily any truer than my emotions. And yet, something about me causes me to believe them over and above any other kind of signal I experience. Even though they’re mostly a random spray of ideas and general mind junk, my thoughts seem the most true.
Not everyone is like me. You might be convinced that your emotions are the truth. You’ll tell me that if you feel it, it must be true. You’ll accept your emotions as truth and do all sorts of mind tricks to fall in line with the truth.
You and I are not so different. I assume my thoughts are the truth and bend my emotions to fit and you assume your emotions are truth and rationalise to fit. What each of us tends to accept as reality obscures reality.
Emotions, thoughts, and sensations are just signals. The only thing that is ‘real’ is what we do. Barring a big philosophical discussion about what 'real' means. Let's do that another time.
Don’t get me wrong - I’m not asking you to ignore your signals. They’re incredibly important parts of the way you perceive the world and work out what to do. But they’re not reality - they’re trying to tell you something about reality. I want you to see them for what they are and perhaps free yourself from the belief that your negative emotions or oppressive thoughts are real. For many of you, the starting point to this is the third signal - sensation.
These three signals; emotion, sensation, thinking; make up a nice neat triangle. I know that this triangle is much neater than you or I will ever be but this sort of simplification is a great start to understanding what goes on inside the complexities of your brain.