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What to Do with Thoughts and Feelings


Many people don’t know what to do with thoughts and feelings. A thought pops up and produces a reaction—aka a feeling—and they’re off and running. But what if we were to think about these internal processes differently: as sensations which are simply there for us to give meaning to and tell us what, if anything, to do? 

For example, what if you were to consider thoughts and feelings as gifts? When someone gives you one, do you automatically know what to do with it, or do you sometimes need to ponder and decide: keep it, give it to someone, or toss it away? 

There was a time back in the seventies when I loved wearing neck scarves and, because of my obvious craze for them, I received many as gifts. At first I wore them all, but when I accumulated too many and as my life and fashion taste changed, I stopped wearing them. Now they’re stored in a box and someday I’ll take them to the thrift store.

What if you were to think of ideas popping up—“I think I’ll give Jocelyn a call cause I’m lonely though she’s not very nice to me” or “I’m totally full and dinner was delicious, but when I get home I can’t wait to finish off the chocolate cake in the fridge”—as gifts that you can keep or reject? You don’t have to act on them. They’re only thoughts. What if you recognized that and put yourself in charge of their disposition?

You could do the same with feelings. Say, you’re angry at your sister for not thanking you for the birthday bash you put on for her. Your anger may seem a strange gift, but you can still decide what to do with it. Are you hurt? Do you want to stay hurt? Do you want to express it? Or is this just self-centered sis who’ll never change so who cares? Your goal is to choose to do something or nothing with every feeling or thought. 

You also could think of thoughts and feelings like a doorbell. You might peek out when you hear it and see your chatty neighbor who’s the last person you want to invite into the house and, therefore, back away from the door. Similarly, some thoughts and feelings are ones you may want to acknowledge having (without judging them) but not want to entertain. Alternately, you might hear the doorbell, open the door and find the Amazon package you’ve been waiting for, and scoop it up. Some feelings and thoughts are like that, they excite you and you want to embrace and explore them.

My point here is for you to view thoughts and feelings in a detached way. You don’t have to do anything with them. You can explore or ignore them. Consider what your life would be like if you were in charge of them and not the other way around.