The Thought Triangle

The Thought TriangleThe thought triangle is quite simple. The idea is that there are three points: emotions, behaviours and actions. They are all interconnected.

When a trigger event occurs (these are often out of our control), one of these elements becomes fired up and, in turn, ignites the others.

The best way to describe this is with an example. Take driving along a road. A car speeds past, overtaking you, the driver looks in at you as they whizz past. The FEELING bubbles to the surface and it's anger. The anger triggers the THOUGHT, 'that driver is an idiot', 'they're just trying to prove themselves', 'I'll prove something, that they can't beat me!', 'I'm the best driver'. Thus the BEHAVIOUR changes and the accelerator takes a bashing. Very soon we may find that we are out of control of a situation and our mood for the following moments/hours/day has changed for perhaps something we would have preferred not to have experienced.

In this example we began with the feeling but it could be any way around, yes, even our behaviour and body sensors can change our thoughts and feelings (to prove it, smile now and try saying "I feel sad", it's very tricky indeed and the smile in itself can heighten your mood).

How is this helpful? Well, if we can become more aware of each element, we can decide if that is really the way we want to continue. Easy! Well, not at first but the more we practise awareness, the more we identify our own patterns, the more we can decide if we want to keep things as they are or just instead make some changes. And to practise, all you need to do is to stop at any second and look at what is going on inside and outside of yourself. Write it down if it helps, talk it out loud (if you don't mind quizzical looks), and train yourself to observe yourself. Very soon, you may well notice an increased ability to make small of large tweaks in your life that you want to make.

The Thinking, Feeling, Behaving Triangle (Melnyk, 2003)