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Thoughts and Feelings

“The abstraction that we call “thinking,” etc., in the contemporary world is a diminishment of what it means to be human. We have learned to focus on a very narrow stream of information, and, in turn, have come to be possessed by the information on which we focus.” (Father Stephen Freeman)

“…one of the fundamental traps of the spiritual journey: identification with our thoughts and feelings. If we think we are our thoughts and feelings, we go through life simply reacting to what is going on around us, with little awareness that we are even doing this or that life could be otherwise….Sometimes we tell ourselves the narrative we’ve been taught. Then we come to believe that’s who we really are. The narrative we tell ourselves is not unlike reality television, a script of reality that is contrived and made up. These thoughts are merely thoughts, not the authentic us. There is a larger picture. The unreal narrative of me can be a mixture of past experiences from others and a self I’ve made up to get along better in my world. Gradually I come to realize that many of these thoughts are simply not true.” (Martin Laird, Albert S. Rossi, PhD)

“The thinking error of emotional reasoning occurs whenever we allow our feelings to lead our thoughts into error, or when we treat our emotional reactions as if they were self-authenticating.…emotional self-awareness is not the same thing as treating our emotions as self-authenticating. It may seem obvious, but it is still worth pointing out that just because something feels true does not mean that it actually is. Often we need to check first to see if our feelings are rooted in fact.” (Robin Phillips)

“So what do you do with the bad thoughts? You ignore them. You don’t fight them or argue with them, you ignore them. One Desert Father said that arguing with a thought is like trying to drive a dog away by throwing biscuits at it. You are actually feeding the thought by arguing with it. If a nasty thought is so persistent that you can’t ignore it, then confess it to a priest, or a counsellor or a trusted spiritual friend (not to the person the thought is about!). It might be a bit shameful to confess, but confessing a persistent bad thought is one of the surest ways to deprive it of its power over you.” (Fr. Michael Gillis)

“We feel radiant when we think about something good, and then we become dark and gloomy when we entertain somber thoughts….The change is volitional and within our own power.” (St. Theodore the Studite)

“This thinking mind that “whirls about” is constantly concerned with thoughts, concepts, and images, and we obviously need this dimension of mind to meet the demands of the day, to think, to reflect on and enjoy life. But the thinking mind has a professional hazard. If it is not engaged in its primary task of reason, given half a chance it fizzes and boils with obsessive thoughts and feelings…Our normal response to an afflictive thought-feeling is to pounce on it with a commentary. In fact much of what pop psychology calls “feeling your feelings” is precisely this. When we “feel our feelings” what we feel is actually not our feelings but our commentary on the thought-feeling (plus whatever chemical responses take place in the body to produce sweaty palms, a knotted stomach, a racing pulse, etc).” (Martin Laird)

“People often comment that this growth in awareness of thoughts and feelings, simply letting them be, is something their therapists have been trying to get them to do for years. They could not do this before, because they were too caught up in reacting to thoughts and feelings and acting out of them. They had not cultivated the interior discipline that enabled them to make this shift from victim to witness.” (Martin Laird)

“Anger, fear, joy, confusion, delight, wonder, frustration, a hunger for meaning, a thirst for revenge - all these emotions, and more, are observable in the Book of Psalms. The psalm writers did not choke down these very real emotions or pretend they did not exist. Rather, they acknowledged their experiences, but, importantly, they acknowledged their experiences within the context of laying it out before God. Because the psalms are inspired poetry, they unlock a door within us usually sealed off to texts of strict logic. They are songs from the heart for the heart, and did not merely float down from the sky to maneuver the pen of a disinterested author. The Psalms flow from life experience, and they flow in one direction - toward God, and not away from Him. This is important, for it indicates that the emotions that sometimes drive us away from God - anger, for example, or desire - do not have to. The full depth and breadth of the human experience is pliable in the hands of God.” (Fr. John Oliver)

“It is very difficult for most of us to grasp, even as a mere concept, much less as a working principle of our spiritual lives, that real and effective prayer is not measured by how I feel about it. We read of saints finding consolation in prayer and expect ourselves to find that same consolation without also going through the same experience of withdrawal of Grace or dark night of the soul (as a very rough western equivalent) that the saint we are reading about went through both before and after he or she experience consolation in prayer, we nonetheless expect to experience consolation in prayer. Rather, the fight to continue in prayer despite distraction and unsatisfactory feelings is, often, the beginning of the struggle for real prayer in the sense of union with God.” (Fr. Michael Gillis)

“To distinguish between our own feelings and thoughts and the guidance of the Spirit requires regular prayer, long practice in discernment, and the counsel of a spiritual advisor and wise pastor…it takes time to allow Christ to come and dwell within our hearts to the point that we are constantly trying to stop relying solely on our own emotions, reasoning, and feelings, and instead relying on the Holy Spirit who guides us.” (Sacramental Living, Dynamis 7/4/2015)

“The heart of man is deep, and it entertains many thoughts. But these thoughts are useless and harmful unless they are grounded in the counsel of the Lord.” (Orthodox Study Bible, Proverbs 19:21)

“Thinking is among the most misleading things in the modern world, or, to be more precise, thinking about thinking is misleading. For a culture that puts such a great emphasis on materiality, our thinking about thought is decidedly spooky. The philosophy underlying our strangely-constructed modernity is called nominalism (of which there are many formal varieties). Its imaginary construct of the world consists of decidedly separate objects, united only by our thinking about them. There are things, and then are thoughts about things. But the thoughts have nothing to do with the things, except in our heads.” (Father Stephen Freeman)

“Modern society tells us to listen closely to our thoughts and feelings, because that’s who we really are. But this psychologized model of anthropology squares neither with how humanity has understood itself throughout time nor with our daily experiences, in which we cannot always understand our thoughts and feelings and in which they often contradict from moment to moment. It also does not take into account the thoughts and feelings may be coming from the outside, i.e. demonic influence…You don’t have to live at the mercy of things you think and feel, no matter how deep they seem to go. Christ has called you to take every thought captive to rise in holy obedience to Him, to become like Him.” (Father Andrew Stephen Damick)

“There are some people who just go by how they feel in almost every situation. There are some who scoff at these type of people, thinking them simply emotional. These latter type of people value logic and critical thinking about all else as their guide. Whether you use logic to reason your way through a situation or problem, or emotion and feeling, if you are not in union with Christ, your mode of perception and action are not going to be completely reliable, and your particular giftedness in intellectual or emotional intelligence will not reach full bloom. More importantly, the peace He promised in all situations (John 14:27) will elude you.” (Sacramental Living Ministries)

“Pray that God will bless you with patience and wisdom to help you negotiate your way through the many toxic, potentially destructive thoughts and feelings you will encounter.” (Rev. Fr. Charles Joanides, Ph.D., LMFT)

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