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Breaking down "The Model," Part 2: Thoughts and Emotions

We previously talked about feeling stuck in your circumstances and what to do about it (you can read that blog post here). We started with the difference between our circumstances and the way we think about them.

Today we’ll take you one step further: thoughts and emotions.

Our emotions can be a funny thing. Just the other day I was coaching someone and they used the term “catching feelings” referring to a romantic interest. I thought “how funny that people think they can just catch feelings.” As if feelings are like a contagious cold or something that just happens to us.

The truth is that we feel our emotions, in our own bodies, and our emotions originate in our minds. In the thoughts in our own minds, not anyone else’s.

The Catechism tells us that “The passions are natural components of the human psyche; they form the passageway and ensure the connection between the life of the senses and the life of the mind.” (CCC 1764)

Simply put, it’s how we experience our thoughts in our bodies. How we think is how we feel. So, we cannot “catch” feelings. Our emotions come from the thoughts in our minds that we are choosing to think.


The next thing to know is the difference between a thought and an emotion. Remember that thoughts are your interpretations, judgments, opinions, perspectives, and stories about a specific circumstance. They come from our prior experiences and judgments of what we think is good or evil. Put simply, thoughts are just sentences in our minds.

Here’s an example: Our thoughts about our job might lead us to think that we’re stuck in our career, that there’s nothing new we can learn, and that there’s no fulfillment or enjoyment we can gain from it.


Emotions are the feelings that come from our thoughts. When we have a thought, a reaction happens in our body — a kind of physical reaction to the thought. The brain releases chemicals that cause a sensation of pleasure or pain, happiness or anger.

Here’s an example: The thought that we’re stuck in our career and there’s nothing we can do about it causes us to feel bitter or resentful toward our co-workers and employer.

We tend to think that our emotions just happen to us. But that’s not the real story. Whenever we’re in a certain circumstance, we have a thought first, which leads to an emotion. But the thought happens so fast that we don’t notice it — and boom! — we find ourselves feeling the emotion.


This is good news! It means your thoughts are optional and, therefore, so are your emotions. When you learn to recognize the thought that happens between your circumstances and your emotions, you can start changing your thoughts. This will lead you to freedom in your emotions, your relationships, and your sense of purpose in life.


The Metanoia Catholic “Model” is the process we use to analyze our mindsets, bring them to the Lord, and find greater freedom. Here we’re going to begin breaking down the second part of The Model on “thoughts and emotions.” If you want to know more about our Model, check our podcast episode on The Model and its roots in Aquinas!