I’ve been thinking about thoughts and I’ve been thinking about feelings.
For years I’ve wrongly categorised those two things. I’ve always seen them as two separate entities controlled by two different systems.
I’m adjusting my thinking.
‘Thoughts’ is the umbrella term for the movement of ideas and actions around my head.
Feelings I often associated more with the heart, in a very literal sense. Many feelings seem to come from the chest – heart beating faster, shortness of breath, that deep ache when you miss someone – but of course they don’t. They’re thoughts too.
We start with thoughts, and then we can separate them into conscious thought, unconscious thought and feelings.
Feelings are thoughts that bypass our consciousness. They skip the cumbersome decision-making and arduous reasoning. They go straight for the throat and demand an immediate reaction.
I’m no expert. I mean really. I’m no expert and I’m probably mangling theory. I haven’t looked at the balance in brains in Autistics versus everyone else. I’ve read articles. I’m just throwing ideas around, because that’s one of my favourite pastimes.
I have an excellent brain when it comes to reasoning. It’s logical and dispassionate when I need it to be.
I also have brilliant feelings. When I write, my words are feelings, numbers too have feelings associated with them, far more closely than what they represent. When I can’t use my sight and brain-calculations to work out if something should work or not, I often know by whether or not it feels right.
When I’m driving through a small space, if I let my conscious mind decide, then it usually adds too much of a margin for error, so instead I switch it off. If the space feels big enough, then it invariably is.
If I can’t remember where I’ve put something, forget “where did you last have it?” I rely on “where does it feel like it will be?” It works, time and again.
I consciously rely on my feelings to tell me which words to use, which methodology should I employ, where, how and when should I be doing things.
Conscious thought is an overlay, it’s used to double-check that my feelings are feasible and logical. It’s not my primary driver.
Feelings are my sophisticated computer, working in the background.
Sometimes they’re too reactive. They offer me fight or flight, when I just want to buy a pint of milk. They’re looking for predators and pain, when I just want to watch the birds.
Often they notice something that I haven’t. They send me a feeling of discomfort or unease to nag at me and let me know there’s something not right. They’re the answer to a complex maths question, without the workings out. They do not show me their thinking, even though it’s mine.
I have this amazing system that helps me in everything I do, and the price of that system is that it’s too good. It reads too much into things that other people don’t even compute.
My feelings are not made up, just because they react differently to other people’s. My feelings are not hysterical or ridiculous. I’ve noticed most people aren’t able to even read that I’m having them at the time unless my conscious brain has caught up and actively translated them for the viewer.
My feelings are sophisticated, intellectual, computational. They are capable of abstract thought in a fraction of the time that my oh-so-clever conscious brain can manage.
Sometimes it can feel as though my feelings have a mind of their own. That’s because they do. They share this brain of mine and are held back by the sluggishness of me. Always running to catch up with why my feelings think this or that is a good or a bad idea.
There was a time that I fought my feelings. I told them that they were a lie. I told them that they were hurting and misleading me. The result? I was miserable and wrong.
Feelings aren’t always appropriate, but they are rooted in reason. Find the source and you can manage the feeling; whether that’s trying to get rid of it, or encouraging it to happen more.
Feelings are thought in its most efficient capacity. They are more than “stimulus/response” they are highly attuned shortcuts trying their best to keep us safe despite our mischievous consciousness.
My feelings can be my cautious adult, my consciousness a curious toddler, it’s often better to listen than argue, but that doesn’t mean I don’t.
Equally they can be my impulsive child. They say “You need to express something! Let it go!” And my boring consciousness asks, “Is it appropriate? Will they laugh?”
My feelings are a shortcut to my needs. They know, when I don’t, that I need to be careful or to spend some time doing something that pleases me. The more I listen, the more rational they clearly are.
Except when they tell me I should flick rubber bands at people. Then they’re just experimenting with consequences in different contexts. The little gits.
That’s what I think, anyway.