Friday, September 05, 2008

Reality Alchemy #2 - Understanding Cause and Effect

What Came First, The Chicken or the Egg???

You know what it’s like to get caught up in an emotional downward spiral. One moment you’re feeling absolutely fabulous and suddenly you’re aware that you’ve somehow spun into a negative funk. You realize you’ve become angry, irritated or self deprecating; thinking thoughts that are perpetuating the mood. How did you get there so fast?

Some experts would suggest that a thought, triggered by an external event resulted in an emotion and it spiraled from there. While others would suggest an emotion, triggered by an external event, then triggered thoughts aligned with the emotion. It’s a matter of cause and effect, but what’s the first cause? Kind of like trying to figure out which came first, the chicken or the egg (figured that one out yet?)

Consider that:

Before a thought is a cause, it’s been an effect… every thought causes an effect.
Before an emotions is a cause, it’s been an effect… every emotion causes an effect.

Both emotions and thought are the cause and the effect and until we determine “original cause” in the world of chaos (good luck! :) ) we need to realize this.

As we respond to events, moment by moment, trying to figure out whether a feeling came before a thought or visa versa… well that takes a sort of mental discipline that most of us don’t yet possess. A more effective approach to start with is; the moment you start noticing how a thought is causing an emotion and how the emotion is causing the next though – you can intercede. Shift the current flow of cause and effect of your current stream of thoughts and emotions by choosing either a thought or an emotion that will start altering your current course.

For example – I’m upset at my boyfriend for not noticing, the moment he came home from work, that I’ve cleaned the floor and washed the car. I feel hurt that he hasn’t noticed and start thinking that he doesn’t care. Then I feel sad and start wondering “what does he expects of me?… is this not enough earn his appreciation?” Now I’m feeling angry, I worked so hard all day and got a bunch of chores done…I think you get the point.
The moment I become aware of how my thoughts and emotions are sending me down the stream into an emotional and mental frenzy, I stop… I take a deep breathe and choose a new thought. I choose to remember all the times he has expressed gratitude for something
I’ve done; like the last time I did our laundry. Immediately the emotion shifts to a feeling of calm. Then I become curious as to how his day was so I ask. He shares the many challenges of his day. Now I’m feeling compassion for him. I start wondering about what I can do to help him release the stress of the day. Next thing you know, he looks around, takes a whiff and says “mmmm…. it smells so clean in here, did you wash the floor?” “Thanks honey….”

To summarize, here are the steps to getting back into a more desirable stream of cause and effect:

1. Awareness – notice how your thoughts and feelings are flowing in the moment
2. Accept that you are the one participating in this current flow and you are the one who can change it. Take a deep breath in.
3. Alter your course by choosing a thought or feeling that you know will cause a more desirable emotion or thought.
4. Awareness – notice how your thoughts and feelings are flowing now


So what came first, the chicken or the egg? It you figure that one out, please let me know!