The diagram below shows that, for every person, behaviour is driven by their emotions and feelings, and by their thoughts and beliefs. One cannot act unless one has premises on which to initiate the action, and a context in which to do it. There is always a reason why we do what we do: actions do not just spring up, completely without cause. The causes are our feelings and emotions, and our thoughts and beliefs. Of course, sometimes we are not conscious of some causes, but that doesn’t invalidate the description.
So, if we suddenly feel angry, we might react in a particular way. If we feel sad or hurt, we respond from those feelings. Or if we have a belief that someone should or shouldn’t do something—for example, people should say ‘excuse me’ if they bump into us—then our behaviour may well be triggered from that belief. And, again, sometimes we might be aware of the feelings or beliefs and, at other times, we don’t consciously realise what we are reacting to—these may be more hidden, unconscious feelings or beliefs.
But the feelings and the beliefs also have causes: they arise from the experiences we have had. This process goes right back to before we were born. Things happen to us (at any age) and we create ideas about ourselves and about the world as a result. We create feelings about ourselves and the world.
For example, a child may be playing in the garden and, for some time, has been trying to climb up and get onto the wall without success. Then, one day, they manage to scramble up and get on top of the wall. They feel great! They’ve succeeded, they are having fun. They feel safe and triumphant. Then suddenly their mother comes out of the house and pulls them down and tells them they are not safe. They are being naughty. “You must never climb up there again, because you’ll hurt yourself”.
In that moment what does the child decide? It could be any number of things, especially if the child is young and doesn’t yet fully understand the world and the people around them. They may think:
As the months and years go by, they forget they made the decision and the belief they formed as a result. But, although they bury them, they’re still there and thereafter the child builds upon them.
So, the same child might later be out having fun with their friends, but start to feel uncomfortable about the situation. They withdraw a bit and just watch the others. Unconsciously, the previous decision or belief is now driving their behaviour. They don’t even know or remember why they are feeling or behaving the way they are.
Later on in life, whilst they are not conscious of the feelings and beliefs, they somehow don’t trust themselves to extend themselves. And all this from a misunderstanding of an experience in their younger years that they have long since forgotten.
Or imagine that the person comes across the saying “the higher they climb, the harder they fall” and it resonates with their much older belief. Unconsciously, they take on this as a new belief. Imagine what it does to their career. Consciously they are doing all the right things, but unconsciously this belief is acting against them in some way.
So, in order to change our behaviour, we have to have a (new) experience. This adds to, or changes, our beliefs and feelings, and these changes in turn result in modified behaviour. Finally, we discover that we get more new experiences as a result of doing the modified behaviour (for example, we notice that other people react differently to us). That tends to reinforce the new beliefs and feelings and that reinforces the new behaviour in a virtuous circle.
Importantly, it’s truer to say that our current thoughts and feelings are driven by our current memories of past experiences. Interestingly, many of our memories are inaccurate—or just plain wrong—which makes for a rather tenuous basis for some of our beliefs and behaviour.
An experience tends to get us into our feelings, and research shows that we make all our decisions when in our feelings. We may well do rational research and investigation before the decision, and complicated rationalisation afterwards, but the decision itself includes a component of emotion.
© 2014 Jeremy Marchant Limited . by Jeremy Marchant . last updated 25 january 2015 . image: Free images