The Amazing Ups and Downs of Being Human

No-one promised that our experience of life would be a bed of roses all the way. It’s more like a roller-coaster at times! The fact is, it’s impossible to just be here for the good times and honestly, wouldn’t that be a bit boring?

Hear where our thoughts come from and the incredible link between what we think and what we feel. This link is where our experience of the world around us comes from and gives us the power to take control and change things if we want less time feeling the less comfortable emotions.

The true nature of our experience

Humans experience feelings and emotions; the good, the bad and the ugly. That’s the nature of being human because our feelings act as a barometer of how we interpret the thoughts that pop into our head.

Thoughts just keep coming, day and night and whether we are awake or asleep. They are transmitted energy that we interpret using our filtering and belief system. This all happens in an instant and without us even noticing. The first thing we may know about it is a feeling in our body. Feelings that build up and hang around for longer are often referred to as emotions.

If we are awake (conscious) we may tune into a feeling or the thought behind it. The brain notices that we are giving it attention (more energy) and may then keep it going – building it’s strength.

So what I’m saying is that what you feel only ever comes from a thought that you think – not from anything outside of ourselves.

Are you shocked to hear that? Many are, and before I understood what I’m going to explain, I thought other people, situations and all manner of things were the direct cause of how I felt. If this happens, I’ll feel like that. Cause and effect. The grumpy boss ruining my day, the car not starting, the kids misbehaving when it was time to leave the house…..whatever. All WRONG!

So what’s happening?

Our brain is a complex and powerful organ that manages our body systems and is designed to keep us safe from the inside and out. Inside it is monitoring and balancing our body chemistry, maintaining systems, overseeing growth, repair and more. We don’t have to even be aware of any of this unless we need to assist – for example if we get too hot and need to open a window, dehydrated and need a drink, then a thought will pop into our head to make us aware of feeling hot or thirsty.

Our brain also monitors the external environment.

As it’s enclosed in our skull, our brain has no way of knowing what is happening outside of our body except from data it receives from our senses (sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell). We don’t need to be aware of any of this data transfer, in fact, if we were we’d be overloaded and have no capacity for deliberate thinking.

The brain interprets the data and when it assesses something is of interest or relevance, it sends a message into our conscious thinking in the form of a thought.

Events outside our body may be of any scale, from trouble brewing in our immediate proximity, to something like a message popping up on our computer screen. In an instant, our amazing senses detect it, we receive a thought and we feel a feeling related to it. It can be so quick that we don’t even notice the thought!

Generally we like and welcome the feelings that we interpret as being positive such as:                                    

  • excitement,
  • happiness,
  • passion,
  • joy, and
  • love. 

And we don’t like feelings we consider to be negative because they feel uncomfortable or even painful. These often result in the stress response being triggered such as:

  • fear,
  • shame,
  • guilt,
  • anxiety,
  • disappointment,
  • anger and more.

In fact, there can be long term health implications if we experience a high proportion of stress-triggering feelings and emotions.

Unfortunately, because our brain is biased towards keeping us safe, it’s more likely to present things that it thinks are a threat in some way and may trigger the stress response so we are ready to deal with it. This means that we are pre-disposed to notice the negatives rather than the positives unless we become more aware of our thoughts.

The stress response

This is where it gets fascinating. The thoughts the brain ‘serves up’ can be directly relevant to the situation and something we should pay attention to immediately (DANGER! RUN!), or they may be completely out of proportion or even irrelevant. Unfortunately, the brain doesn’t know the difference, and it also doesn’t know what’s real/really happening or completely made up – like if we’re watching a film that is upsetting.

Our brain hasn’t evolved as quickly as our culture and society so it’s out of date. It only has one option for keeping us safe and it’s generally the same for all. For example – an email isn’t life-threatening, even if its content isn’t welcome, and it really doesn’t warrant the full effects of the fight or flight response – that familiar adrenaline rush! It’s just words on a screen which cannot physically harm us.

Man at desk deep in thought

If we are constantly experiencing thoughts that trigger the stress response, our internal systems don’t have time to stabilise and the chemicals designed to save us when in immediate danger instead build up to health-damaging levels – physical and mental.

For some, these negative feelings are experienced so frequently that they become the normal state. We can become almost addicted to the heightened levels of adrenaline and cortisol flying around in the body.

If we don’t take action then stress can build up to chronic levels resulting in anxiety, panic attacks, depression and other mental health conditions.

What can we do?

We can take back control by becoming aware of our thoughts. It sounds so simple, doesn’t it!

We don’t have to give our attention to every thought and feeling we experience. Instead, we can recognise the feeling and thought and decide whether it is relevant in that moment or not. If it is, take the required action. If it isn’t, let it go.

Similarly, if we detect that the thought is carrying a ‘negative feeling’, we can stop giving it our attention – just let it pass. All thoughts and feelings are transient so we can trust that this feeling will go.

Less positive feelings often come from giving attention to:

  • memories of past events,
  • worries about future events or
  • feelings of inadequacy, of not being good enough

so not dwelling on these and staying present on the here and now is really powerful. I’ll cover more on worries, anxiety and not feeling adequate in another post.

Of course, if we are already in a highly stressed or anxious state it can be more challenging to stop this cycle of thoughts and feelings. With triggering thoughts coming thick and fast it’s essential to calm things down. Techniques such as controlled breathing, mindfulness, focusing on the present, meditation, deliberate thinking and identifying anchoring thoughts can help.

It’s in your hands

I hope you now understand that the power is in your hands as you experience the emotional roller-coaster of life! “Inside Out” thinking gives you the opportunity to take responsibility for how you feel in any moment.

You can choose where you focus your attention which influences how you feel. This gives you the ability to reduce or eliminate stress and anxiety, no longer at the mercy of your brain to dictate how you feel and avoid the debilitating consequences of long-term stress or overwhelm.


Getting support

If you want 1:1 support with any of the above, especially reducing worry and stress and gaining inner confidence,  contact me to discuss how I can help you concentrate on ‘being’!

Working with a practitioner such as myself with an understanding of the Inside-Out approach can help you to identify what is going on and come back to a calmer way of thinking very quickly. A focused programme of coaching might just transform the rest of your life.

What are you waiting for?