The Thinking Feeling Loop
From Breaking the habit of being yourself:
“The Neurochemical relationship between the brain and the body dictates that as you think certain thoughts, the brain produces chemicals that cause you to feel exactly the way you were thinking. Once you feel the way you think, you begin to think the way you feel. This continuous cycle creates a feedback loop and your ‘State of being’.”
“To change is to think greater than how we feel”
Story A) the mind starts the cycle.
If you are driving and thinking about a negative interaction you had with a person that angered you your brain will create chemicals that will rapidly circulate through your body and you will quickly feel exactly the way you were thinking and your body will then say “Yup I am feeling angry and due to the constant communication between the mind and body you will start to produce more angering thoughts. This can become a closed loop and continue on without much awareness. This is not reality. Actually you are driving. That is the actual happening at this moment so be aware that this is all fantasy and not real. Thinking back on past experiences will fire the same patterns and create the same chemicals as the actual experience so your body can experience the whole event all over again.
“Repeating the same thoughts and feelings you’ve courted for more than 20 years has conditioned your body to remember the feeling of suffering without much conscious thought. This seems so natural and normal now. It’s who you are.”
From Breaking the habit of being yourself:
The above example started with thoughts. This morning my thoughts started with a difficult conversation I had yesterday where I needed to be clear with needs and boundaries and I immediately felt fear of being disliked or abandonment thinking the person is going to be upset ortalk about me behind my back and then everyone will be talking behind my back and then I will be cast out. This is a familiar pattern for me. I start with the conversation and my body immediately sends me signals of fear so then my fearful state-of-being starts to make my mind think more thoughts about rejection and being less than and laughed at and so forth and so on. This pattern is what I have been chemically conditioned for. It’s a well worn path and sometimes it feels no easier to handle than the first time I noticed it.
When Monkey mind starts to take over I employ different types of thought stoppers. Though stoppers are a monkey-wrench in the monkey-mind gears that can distract my brain just long enough to allow me to shift my focus on my breath and body. Sometimes it also helps to focus on actual items I can see, sounds I can hear, and smells I can smell. Actual happenings.
Popping popcorn (Imagine your story popping away like popcorn)
Etch-a-sketch (turn your mind over like an etch a sketch)
And now i am going to think of….(I just say this a few times until i….
Thinking thinking thinking. (I recognize the monkey mind and just repeat this)
“95% of who we are by age 35 sits in the same subconscious memory system, in which the body runs a programmed set of behaviors and emotional reactions. In other words the body is running the show.”
Fear is great example...
Story B) The body starts the cycle.
I used to be so physically tense while I was shaving. I was not breathing and rushing through what could be a wonderful pleasurable experience. My shoulders would be up high and tight and my mind would be racing and already doing something else. I used to get up at 5am every morning for work and basically was always pressing myself to run and move quicker. Be on time and do more. I did this as far back as I can remember.
I carried this energy my whole life and when I started to become more body-aware I started to notice it. It has taken me years to learn to calm myself while I am shaving in the mirror. The patterns run so deep that I have to become fully present every day to calm myself so that I can enjoy my shave. Even though there is nothing about to harm me, I carry deep fear. Rushing around in fear my whole life with my body in a tense state is how I operated.
I remember feeling scared every morning. All day for that matter. I still wake up almost every day with my mind telling me scary stories and my physical body feeling scared but it has gotten less and less over time. Deep breaths and releasing my physical tension is my method of choice to down-regulate and become present.
It could be so easy to just stay in fear all day and never even know it. The negative effects aren’t always obvious.
Your mind wants to feel joy but your body has been programmed to feel otherwise.
Because your body is a big chemistry set that has been programmed to operate a certain way, when you decide to change something it doesn’t know what to do. It will try hard to get back onto the old patterns. Your body gets so used to operating a certain way that it will actually send signals back to your brain, specifically the hypothalamus, saying “ Hey we need more fear chemicals. We are running low”. Since you have a bunch of big juicy cell receptors that have been strengthened over time that are needing their fix of fear chemicals your body becomes like an addict needing their next hit. These are powerful chemical forces at work and it takes mindfulness and practice to reprogram. Your chemical body will try to drive the bus but you can be greater than your feelings and decide to do something different.
For example, Some people were socially conditioned to feel guilty and spent their whole lives bathing their cells in guilt chemicals desensitizing them and making High levels of these chemicals seem normal even pleasurable on a chemical level and the absence of them creates discomfort because your body strengthens the receptors that coincide with your past chemical patterns ensuring that it runs the same programs.
Sometimes these states of being have been practiced and performed for so long it starts to become part of our self-identity. We start to describe who we are by how we are thinking (feeling) in the moment. “I am angry, I am suffering, I am inspired, I am insecure, I am sad. These are memorized states, and when we declare an “I am” statement as an absolute, we are at the point of defining ourselves as the state of being. This is the hamster wheel of patterns and labels. Rather than “I am” we can start to say “I Feel”. This is a good step in separating yourself from this feedback loop. It can draw a line between you and your feelings reminding you that you are not your emotions.You can start to develop your second consciousness as the observer. This is a Practice that can bring you more and more peace illuminating the fact that you can change your state.
Feelings Matter too. Keep your body calm by breathing slow and deep and being with whatever sensations you are experiencing while remaining the observer and detaching the stories
This is why we practice Full Awareness, which is Awareness of Breath, Sensation, Stories, and Actual happenings. This is the point when we realize we are in the loop in the first place and then we can choose the exit out of the round-about.
You don't know what you don’t know
It can be easily learned to start to notice these body states that are extreme or outsized for the actual happenings. Like hey why am I so tense and anxious? All I am doing is making tea. Maybe if I take a deep breath and relax my shoulders and jaw slightly I can down-regulate my body into a less tense, less fearful state. It is much more difficult to spot the baseline operating state that is driving many of us.
This is where daily practices are so important. These practices will teach you to be aware and present
. When your body is energized and aware and present while letting go of fear and labels and stories on a daily basis you will start to create a strong self knowledge that can be used in place of your old baseline operating system. The more you practice being in this state the stronger it will get. This will be a new state that all others can be compared to in real time. And this chemical system will start to become who you are. Practice, Practice, Practice
I think the ritual is less important than being fully present with yourself for a period of time. Unlike the pause which can be practiced in an instant and should be, this is something more tangible. A gift of time for yourself, to yourself. Whether it's a few minutes of deep inhales or a full hour of yoga, being with yourself without distraction is an important piece of the puzzle for long term growth and healing. While thought stoppers and breathing can help with overwhelm, Daily practice can start to balance you in a more global way.
Short list of daily practices:
5 minute morning meditation
10 Minute stretch with breathing
10-15 min exercise followed by laying on your back for 5 minutes while staying focused on your breath
Wim hoff breathing 30 deep inhales (just release for exhales) after 30 exhale hold till you need to breath then inhale hold 15sec. (3 rounds)
30 minute deep stretch focus on sensation and breathing through discomfort
Qui gong, Yoga, mindful, movement, (really get into your body and create sensation while staying calm and balance
Hard workout. (not a fear based neurotic workout) be present and take 5-10 minutes at the end to lay down and be with yourself with compassion.
Anything that can be categorized as self love or self care can be added. Be a loving parent to yourself and start to teach the little one that he/she is cared for.
You are safe, You are Loved, You are worthy