The 5th Way:
In this post, I will explain the 5th of 6 ways to discover for yourself that your unwanted emotions are created by thoughts and not by circumstances.
We generally don’t realize it, but we constantly form thoughts about circumstances and then unknowingly consider these thoughts to actually be part of the facts. For example, we may think, “I am ugly”, “He is mean”, “This situation is terrible”, “Her actions were inappropriate”, or “He doesn’t appreciate me”. We generally consider these thoughts to be no different from facts such as “her name is Amanda”, “that is an apple”, “my house is red”, or “I am six feet tall”. We innocently and often unknowingly think these thoughts as if they are facts and then conclude that our emotions were created by these “facts”. However, the thoughts mentioned above are not facts. They are thoughts about facts.
Lets break down the difference between the facts and our thoughts about the facts
Imagine you are waiting in line for a cup of coffee, then a man says to you, “Get out of my way!”, as he tries to cut through the line to get to the seating area. Now imagine that this incident leaves you a little angry at the man. What would have caused your anger in this situation? Most of us would naturally think, “His disrespectful words caused my anger”. In other words, it seems as though the facts themselves created our anger. But the key question to ask ourselves in this scenario is, “What were the facts and what was my thoughts about the facts?” The only facts were the words “get out of my way”. It is not as though his words were factually disrespectful; his words were just his words, completely neutral. Therefore, he didn’t speak “disrespectful words”; we just had a thought about his words that says, “That is disrespectful”.
Our thoughts have nothing to do with his words (the facts). They are two separate things. They exist in two completely separate places. His words were spoken in front of us and detected through our senses, whereas our thought “that is disrespectful” only exists as a concept in our mind. Our emotion is created by the concept (thought), not by the facts. Our emotion is caused by what is going on in our minds, not by what is going on in front of us. Our anger is caused by the thought “that is disrespectful”, not by the words “get out of my way”. If we didn’t have this thought about his words, we would experience no emotional reaction to them.
We constantly confuse our thoughts about the facts to actually be a part of the facts
We consistently label people, actions, words, situations, and events as “bad”, “not good enough”, or “wrong”. We say, “She is annoying”, “She is boring”, and “She is ugly” as if they were facts. Then we experience an emotional reaction to these labels, and we treat ourselves and others according to them. But what are the facts and what are our thoughts about the facts? A girl can’t be “annoying”, “boring”, or “ugly”. These concepts are not part of the facts. Someone can only perform actions or speak words, which our thoughts then label as “boring” or “annoying”. “Boring” and “annoying” can’t be seen and can’t be touched. Any concept that certain words or actions are “boring” or “annoying” only exists as thoughts in our own minds.
It may seem as if “ugly” can be seen and touched. Think about it, though: a face, eyes, a nose, and hair can be seen and touched. These are not “ugly”, these are only body parts. After we witness a body part through our senses, we then have the thought “her nose is ugly”. Her nose can’t be “ugly”, her nose can only be her nose. “Ugly” is just a thought about her nose. Our thought is completely separate from the facts.
“Should” thoughts are made-up rules that only exist as concepts in our minds
Similarly, we tend to believe thoughts like “my life shouldn’t be like this”, “he shouldn’t have done that”, or “I should be different”. We believe these thoughts as if they are true, so they tend to run our lives and create a lot of shame and anger. But where does “should” exist? Can you see it or touch it? Is it really a rule written in stone somewhere that must be followed? The whole idea of “should” is just a concept that only exists in our minds. It is not a fact that we really should act a certain way, our life should be a certain way, or they should act a certain way. Our actions and our lives are just what they are. Any idea that they should be different doesn’t exist anywhere but as a thought in our own mind.
Facts can’t be “good” or “bad”
Facts are what we know to be true. What we directly experience through our senses are the facts. The facts are reality. Then we superimpose our ideas of “good” and “bad”, “right” and “wrong”, “should” and “shouldn’t” onto reality and claim those ideas are facts. Facts are completely neutral. Reality just is. Reality doesn’t have a perspective. Nothing can be factually “bad” or “not good enough”, and nothing “should” be a certain way, because facts don’t contain perspectives within them.
Why this distinction matters
Once we can see that part of what we considered to be facts is actually just our thoughts about the facts, then we can begin to recognize that our emotions are created by our thoughts and not by facts. But, on top of that, once we see that our emotions are created by thoughts about the facts, we can stop blaming our emotions on ourselves, our circumstances, and the people in our lives. That can free us from a lot of anger, anxiety, and pressure. Only then does it become possible to start questioning whether these thoughts are really true. Only then does it become possible to address the cause of our unhappiness. Reality itself is freedom. It’s only our thoughts about reality that create all of our suffering and discontent.
Exercise: Please take a moment now to pick an unwanted emotion that you think was creating by something “bad”. For example, you might think that your shame is created by a “bad” personality trait, your anger was created by a “bad” action, or your sadness is created by a “bad” event. Then you can ask yourself the following questions.
The Questions: What are the facts and what are my thoughts about the facts? Does “bad” exist as part of the facts, or is it just part of my thoughts about the facts? Can I see, hear, or touch the “bad” of something or someone, or is the “bad” of something or someone just thoughts about what I see, hear, and touch? Is “bad” physically located outside or only in my own mind? Does the idea of how things “should” be exist anywhere other than as a thought in my own mind? Is my emotion being created directly by the facts or is it created by my thoughts about the facts?
If you would like to disbelieve the thought that is creating your unwanted emotion… you can click the following link to try The 5 Steps to The Present Moment … or you can contact me for help.
Thanks for reading and engaging with this post! Please let me know how it went for you either through the comments area, an email, or even a phone call.