by Skye Thomas
Are feelings and attitudes the same thing or different? Does one cause the other to happen? Which one has more power over how we respond? Does the person experiencing them have any choice in the matter? What if they are in conflict?
Feelings are what they are. We canít force them. The phrase ďI canít help how I feelĒ keeps rattling around in my head as I write this. There is no magical way to change how we feel. They arenít right or wrong, they just exist. Feelings are very powerful and definitely have a control over how we make choices and how we move through life. We will do almost anything to avoid feeling bad. Think about the money, time, and focus we put into trying to feel good and avoiding feeling bad. Thatís not a bad thing, itís the nature of feelings. It goes against human nature to want to feel bad.
Feelings are based in emotions. Emotions come from the heart. Therefore, I donít think we can change them from within our logical minds. If your favorite pet dies, then you feel sad. You cannot be expected to simply stop feeling sad. You will feel some level of sadness until you have finished feeling sad. It is possible to distract yourself for awhile, but the feelings will just lay dormant until you allow them time to fully run their course. Thereís nothing wrong with wanting to distract yourself from the bad feelings of missing your pet, but it will slow down the process. There are constructive things you can do to aid the processing of your feelings. Regardless of how you handle your feelings, youíre going to feel what you feel until it works itís way through your heart. You might always miss that pet and feel a slight tug at your heart when you think back, but the overwhelming sadness will eventually pass. It always does. Thatís why they say Ďtime heals all wounds.í You canít maintain any one feeling indefinitely. Emotions by nature are shifting and uncontrollable. They simply are what they are.
What about our attitudes? An entire multi-million dollar industry has been built around the power of a positive attitude. The industry wouldnít have survived and thrived as it has if it wasnít a valid and real concept. Our attitudes are rooted in our belief systems. Our belief systems are chosen by our logical minds. Therefore, it is possible to make a conscious decision to change it. Our minds have complete and total control over what we believe. I donít think I need to bore you with another longwinded speech about the powers of a positive attitude. If youíve ever tried it, then you have proven for yourself that it is possible to make an internal adjustment regarding your attitude.
So, which is stronger? Which has more influence over our choices and behaviors? Does one overpower the other? Letís say that you find yourself falling madly head over heals in love with someone. Thatís a feeling, an emotion. It comes from your heart. However, at the same time, you are entertaining a very pessimistic attitude towards love and relationships in general. The attitude comes from your mind. Which will win out, the feelings of falling in love or the dark attitude? It's hard to say. If you change your attitude, then the feelings of being in love can grow and perhaps become a wonderful source of joy for you. If you hold on tightly to your attitude, then eventually it will wear on the loving feelings and you will eventually stop loving that other person. What if the feelings of love were so amazingly powerful, that they caused the attitude to change and your core belief system about love and relationships changed too? Your feelings can definitely have an effect on your attitude, but your attitude wins out more often.
Your attitude is not more powerful because itís more important than your feelings. Itís more powerful because itís more stubborn than your feelings. Letís look again at our example where the feelings are positive and the attitude is negative. Weíve seen people fall madly in love with someone who loved them in return. These same people had bad attitudes about love and relationships in general. Their feelings were not able to overpower their attitude. They believe Ďitís never going to work out anywayí and create a self-fulfilling prophecy. By not believing in love, they destroy their good relationship and then feel hurt by the failed relationship. Their minds take that as evidence to further continue with the negative attitude regarding love. The same dynamic holds true regardless of topic. The reason the attitude wins the battle more often then our feelings is because feelings are ever-changing and flexible while attitudes are often locked into place and become an unmovable force.
What if the feelings were bad and the attitude was good? If you felt afraid that you might fail at your goals, but you had a positive attitude and deep down you believed in yourself, then you could choose to keep moving forward despite your feelings of fear. Your attitude would win out over your feelings once again.
If your feelings and attitudes match, then you have an inner balance and harmony within yourself. Isnít this the age-old battle between heart and head? Attitude comes from your head and feelings come from your heart. When the two agree you are able to focus and move forward with confidence. When the two are at war you have to decide which is rightÖ the heartís feelings or the headís attitude? Perhaps in sitting quietly and looking inward at our feelings and attitudes from a detached perspective, we can evaluate and chose for ourselves on a case-by-case basis which one should lead us, our feelings or our attitudes.
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