“Do I hurt myself? … No Way…”

As a coach, I often ask my clients if they ever hurt themselves… Most of the time the answer is: “NO WAY”!

But the reality is different…Most of the time we are the ones that hurt ourselves the most. And how do you think we do it?  It is very simple but complicated to understand: We hurt ourselves through repetitive negative thoughts. Let me explain.

If you have a tool (name it whatever you want…) and use it over and over again, what is going to happen to it? It will be strained to the point that becomes useless.  Or if you are a sportsman/woman and train daily, what do you think is happening with your muscles or tissues? They will probably suffer an injury due to repetitive strain. Let use the same analogy for the brain: what will happen if you keep thinking the same negative thoughts over and over again? This will generate the same feelings and repetitive behavior by switching ON the PAIN.

How does this happen?

Before proceeding any further, let me talk shortly about emotions, feelings and thoughts… Why do I want to talk about them first? People in general (but also experts in psychology or neuroscience) confuse these terms often.

So, let’s start with emotions. Most of people believe it is clear to them when you ask them about emotions or naming it differently, about their “Non Verbal experience”. It is crucially important to be aware of our emotions simply because most of our behavior is driven by our emotional experience. There are several core/basic emotions as Panksepp, the most well-known neurobiologist describes, such as FEAR, RAGE, CARING, LUST, PLAYFULNESS AND SEEKING, known as primary emotions. All other “emotions” that we experience in fact are secondary emotions or feelings called with different names.

An emotion happens at the present moment and we just experience it but it gets registered in our memory. If you simply recall that memory in the future, what you experience are not emotions but the memory of the emotions or feelings. Such feelings are a product of our thoughts that might be real or fantasies.

The problem is that most of the time we don’t realize if our thoughts are real or fantasy. We believe they are true and our brain automatically generates feelings that make us feel good or bad.

If thoughts are negative and repetitive they create an “injury” in the form of pain. I am not talking about physical pain but emotional pain that makes us feel: stupid, silly, fool, not good enough etc. etc.

After several repetitive negative thoughts, the pain starts to feel in the upper part of the body such as in the neck, shoulders and low back or wrist, thighs or head. Most of our pains are created by secondary emotions/feelings while we are not aware.

We create pain through self-sabotage, by repeatedly doing the same thing over and over again.

The first and most important step is to become aware of what is happening in our brain. How do we do this? Observe how you feel. The feelings are our GPS system. When we feel bad that means some negative thought repetition is happening in our brain. Observe and distract yourself. Do physical exercises. Move your body, stretch, yawn or walk. There are many simple exercises that we can do to relieve ourselves from pain.

This article is the first of a series of short articles that will help you first to understand, then observe and take simple actions about managing emotions. Until then, OBSERVE if you want to become aware about what is happening inside you. But don’t get obsessed. Consider it as a game.


Photo courtesy: Pixabay

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