Thoughts Cause Feelings? Or Feelings Cause Thoughts?

Thoughtful landscapes
Creative Commons License photo credit: kevin­doo­ley

A ques­tion I have explored for years, per­son­ally and pro­fes­sion­ally, is this: do feel­ings come from thoughts or do thoughts come from feel­ings? Or does it work both ways, with thoughts and feel­ings both prompt­ing a response from the other?

An online friend wrote and put forth the widely upheld argu­ment that thoughts come from feel­ings. He said, “You (may) … feel an intense surge of depres­sion or you (might) begin to laugh — these states are not caused by think­ing they are emo­tional com­mu­ni­ca­tions that over­ride any thoughts.”

For a long time I shared a sim­i­lar logic. I agreed with such evi­dence as my friend pre­sented when he said, “You see a spider/snake/lion and you feel fear — instantly — there is no think­ing about it.”

That sort of logic made sense to me for a long time.

In more recent years, how­ever, my think­ing has shifted. As a result of exper­i­ment­ing with the idea that feel­ings cause our thoughts, I have con­cluded the oppo­site; it is thoughts that deter­mine our feelings.

In John 1:1 we read, “In the begin­ning was the Word.” What is a word, if not spo­ken thought? In the begin­ning there is thought, which is the men­tal energy that gen­er­ates an elec­tro­mag­netic energy field that makes all man­i­fes­ta­tion pos­si­ble. In other words, thought cre­ates the ener­getic pat­tern, or basic struc­ture that brings the thought into form. Thought comes first.

Here’s how it works:

We adopt a set of beliefs from the thoughts we think. These beliefs coa­lesce into a story about life (And believe me, we have sto­ries about every­thing!). For exam­ple: we may have a story that spiders/snakes/lions are dan­ger­ous. Per­haps that story comes from s pro­gram we saw on TV about a lions attack, or per­haps we once saw our dad kill a rat­tlesnake, or maybe we remem­ber hear­ing our mother scream when she saw a spi­der once and, as a result, we have a story in our minds about that par­tic­u­lar ani­mal being dan­ger­ous. Of course, if, and when we encounter that ani­mal our story about it is trig­gered in our mem­ory and we react accord­ingly. This all hap­pens auto­mat­i­cally accord­ing to the fol­low­ing for­mula: Thoughts believed gen­er­ate feel­ings that prompt behav­ior. WE DON“T HAVE TO THINK ABOUT IT. The ener­getic imprint is already in place!

What we notice first how­ever is not the thought, but the emo­tional or phys­i­o­log­i­cal response and so it is easy to think they are what comes first. But in real­ity, our response is part of an ener­getic pat­tern held in place by the men­tal con­cept (as in the exam­ple above).

I believe that the mind is the cre­ator — always. The first by-product of the mind is thought, When the thought becomes a belief, it sets up an emo­tional energy field that informs our behav­ior. (Think of the mind as a gen­er­a­tor that cranks out emo­tional energy in the form of feel­ings.) When we encounter someone/something that trig­gers one of our sto­ries or beliefs, we auto­mat­i­cally feel the feel­ings that go with that story/belief and we behave accord­ingly. This is what makes sense to me.



  1. Nicky Love says

    Thank you Lynne for that post. I have known for a long­time that thought (con­scious or not) is the cause of feel­ings and emo­tions.
    We are respon­si­ble for our thoughts and emo­tions, our feel­ings and inter­pre­ta­tions.
    We are not vic­tims to such things.
    Thank you again

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