Accusations, flying coffee…and a Pop Quiz!

OK, I hope you’ve read the first three blogs because here comes a pop quiz:

Fifi says to Biff, “I feel like you’re seeing my sister Gigi on the side.”  Fifi is angry and crying and is ready to throw a coffee cup at Biff.

What should Biff do?

  1. Tell her that she is crazy and doesn’t know what she is talking about?
  2. Tell her “that is really a thought and it is not a feeling so because you are so stupid I don’t have to listen to your lies”.
  3. Say, “Wow, I didn’t realize you were afraid I would do that to you.  How can I show you I’m faithful to you so you never think that again”.
  4. Say, “Well, if you really believe that, I might as well do it.  On top of that, I should probably sleep with your other sister, Mimi, too.”

Go through each option and predict what Fifi’s reaction will be.  What is her thought or interpretation of Biff’s statement? Then, based on her thought, what does she feel?  Mad? Sad? Glad? Scared? Does the fight escalate or deescalate? Which would you prefer? 

Really take a close look at option B.  Biff would be correct that she is describing a thought, but pointing that out will lead down a road you might not want to travel.

Look back at the other blogs to better understand the difference between thoughts and feelings.  You will see that C is the best answer for the question. Biff does not correct Fifi, but understands she is afraid.  Then he knows what to do. He takes care of her heart by responding to the feeling. Yes, Fifi could state her fears better, but there are times that you have to respond with caring to poorly structured comminicatins.

In the correct response, Biff worked the communication cycle backward.  He understood the feeling Fifi was trying to communicate instead of responding to a false accusation.  This is better than defending himself and this situation can be resolved more easily.

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How thoughts can become feelings

Last time I talked about the difference between thoughts and feelings.  Let’s take a closer look at how thoughts can become feelings.

 

I will give in and agree that there is something to be said about intuition, but that usually involves some form of evidence or evaluating (thinking about) something that just happened, not just a feeling you have that your spouse has done something wrong.  There could be some change in your spouse’s behavior that you noticed and now you suspect cheated. After that you start looking closer for something negative or more evidence that he/she is cheating. Typically, you will end up finding evidence that confirms what you were looking for.  

 

To illustrate this, go out to any busy road near you and count the red cars going in one particular direction (north).  count the red cars for 30 minutes. So after the 30 minutes, go tell someone your findings. However, this person asks you how many green cars you saw.  You won’t have any idea because all you were looking for was the red ones. In this example, the red cars represent the flaws your husband or wife have. The green cars represent their good qualities.  If you look only for evidence of their flaws, cheating, you will find evidence of it.

 

To expand on this example, what if a car passes you that is maroon, do you count it?  Most would or at least consider it. We tend to do this with people, also. “You almost flirted with that waitress, so if I wasn’t here, you would have gone to a motel with her.”  I know I am exaggerating, but I hope you see what can happen if you look only for the bad qualities we have and don’t look for the positives.

 

All of these observations will lead our thoughts/evaluations to become ‘feelings’ or strongly held beliefs.  So, be ready to question yourself, your interpretations, and your ‘feelings’, especially if you do enter counseling, unless you really want the relationship to end.  

 

Your thoughts about your spouse will not change unless you look for things that are contrary to what you are looking for.  Nothing changes unless something else changes first. And both have to make a change if you want to save your marriage. To understand the difference between a thought and a feeling, you have to listen to yourself and hear your own words and acknowledge when you mistake your thought for a feeling.  You can change your mind, your thought, with new evidence. When you have the courage to look at new information, your feelings may change with your new conclusion.

 

To be sure, it is more likely that you will notice your spouse mixing the thoughts and feelings before you noticed yourself doing it.  When you notice your spouse doing this, don’t point this out in the middle of an argument. That will make it worse. You have to pretend that they said “think” rather than “feel”.  This will move you closer to understanding and, thus, a resolution. Later, when you both are calm, you might point it out, but you do not have to make accusations. If it is pointed out to you, please just agree and say that you will get it right the next time.

Thoughts and Feelings

First, ask yourself if there is the difference between thoughts and feelings. Well, there is a distinction between feelings and thoughts. These are not the same. Thoughts and feelings happen in different parts of the brain. The thinking portion is activated when we perceive something or receive information from the environment. This could be seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, or touching something. Then, depending on our thought or interpretation of what we sensed, about a 1/100 of a second later, the feeling portion of the brain is activated. Our feeling is based on what we think or how we interpret what we perceived. 1/100 is not a lot of time, but it can make a vast difference in what we do with our feeling. If we misinterpret what is being sent to us, what we sensed, our feeling will not match the intended message.

Our thought is the interpretation of anything we perceive. This is when we add meaning to our perceptions. If we see something long and slender on the ground, it could be a stick or a snake. We don’t know what our feeling will be until our brain tells us what he have seen. If we interpret the input as a stick, not much happens in the feeling department. If we interpret the input as a snake, we will likely have some kind of fear or startle response. To keep this simple, our thoughts will trigger our feelings which are emotions. We have four basic feelings: mad, sad, glad, and scared. You can usually cram what you are feeling into one of those categories.

Some people will argue that thoughts and feelings are the same. These people will glue together thoughts and feelings to become one thing. They say things like: “I feel that you’re wrong.” “I feel that you’re a jerk.” When people say this, they are really talking about a thought or an evaluation/interpretation of something, not a feeling. But still some insist it is a feeling. “I feel that he cheated on me” and they emphasize the word ‘feel’ trying to make their statement truer. When this happens there is less of a chance of changing their conclusion.

The definition of the word is important. A thought is a thought and a feeling is a feeling. This is important because when you put thoughts and feelings together, they become one strongly held belief. This belief is almost impossible to change and you are locked into only that one credence. You become 100% convinced in your ‘truth’ that someone cheated on you. This perception/belief about the person who you believe was unfaithful will forever remain negative. You will forever evaluate that person in a negative manner no matter what they do in the future. The only thing you will see is their flaws. And we all have many flaws.

When you believe 100% that your spouse has cheated, no change in your perception is possible. This becomes a real problem if you ever enter counseling because talking therapy is about making a change you want to make. Thus, your spouse must admit to something they did not do and have to forever try to make up for it. They will always be one-down.

Of course, because all humans are flawed and make errors in judgment and do bad things, all of us will do something that will be similar to the behavior you interpreted as cheating, like talking too long to a waitress at a restaurant. Then that becomes more evidence of cheating and your belief about the cheating will become stronger. You will only see evidence to support what you already believe. You will not notice any positives, like acts of love and the relationship will become worse. At least for therapy the distinction between thoughts and feelings needs to made. You can change a thought or interpretation with evidence.

Learning the concepts of ‘Becoming One’

By Dr. Russ Rasmussen

“Homework never ends when you’re practicing the art of love”

Michael Franks

If you have read the first book in the series, ‘Becoming One as Husband and Wife’, Jeff and I want to say that we are grateful and honored that you took the time out of your busy day to go on a journey with us. To not only read the first book but take the time to learn more about the things that Dr. Ken talked about in the counseling sessions.

These series of blog posts are a workbook, for lack of a better description, with homework assignments that you can do alone or, preferably, with your spouse, fiancé, boyfriend, or girlfriend.  Basically, this is homework for the rest of your life.

All of the concepts in these posts are about general communication, the sending, the receiving and the understanding what was said to you.  The ideas presented here will apply to every relationship you have. Communicating clearly and understanding what is communicated are the main topics.  It is impossible to have any relationship without some kind of communication.

I believe face to face communication is, by far, the best way of transferring thoughts and feelings to another because you see facial expression, body language and you hear the tone of voice.  Some studies have concluded that up to 80% of communication is by these non-verbal means.

I reluctantly agree that texting has its place.  Email, voicemail, phone conversations, and even social media are all part of our lives now, but they can’t compare to the actual physical presence of the person with whom you’re communicating.

We all learned our communication skills by what we experienced when we were growing up.  We learned from how our parents communicated with each other and with us. To a lesser extent we learned communication skills from what we watched on TV, the movies we watched, and how our friends and their families communicated.  What we learned about communication is, at least somewhat, dependent on our family’s structure. There are blended families, single parent families from divorce or death, alcohol and drug addicted families, abusive parents or siblings, the presence or absence of siblings, grandparents living in the home, and the traditional two-parent families.

All of these family systems can create different dynamics in communication and, therefore, what we learn about how to talk to others.  Changes in how we communicate are possible. We can achieve a change only if we really want to change.

Counseling can help bring about a change and so can watching movies, interacting with others apart from those from out childhoods, reading books, attending lectures, new experiences, being insightful, having the courage to look at ourselves and how we hurt others or were misunderstood, and learning more about the Bible.

The Bible is a very good book about psychology and will teach us how to treat others, how to live our lives, and how to value and believe in the right things.  We all can learn what hurts others and heals others and our roles in doing both.

The main lesson in these posts is about communication.  It always comes back to communication. There are two basic parts of communication.  The first is sending the message and the second is receiving or interpreting what we received.

Good communication involves your focus being directed toward someone else, not yourself, trying to really understand what the other person really means.  This could be very different from what you believe they mean. If both of you do this, you just might be in love forever, ‘till death do you part.

We hope these blog posts will help you live your life well.