Do you really want to know the reason you can’t get over your affair?
The ‘Think-Feel-Act’ Series:
Part 1: 5 ways your affair started in your thoughts.
Part 2: The real reason you can’t get over your affair.
“What’s the reason I can’t get over the affair?” & “When’s it going to get better?”
“I just can’t stop thinking about my affair partner.”
These are some examples of questions that I get from many different women.
The questions may be phrased differently but they all share a common theme:
Their inability to get over their affair.
Or, they wonder WHY they even had the affair in the first place…the very thing they thought they’d never do.
My answer might sound simplistic. I’m sure you might wonder if there’s more to it- and there is.
But my answer is a very important first step in your affair recovery plan.
So, if you’re struggling to end contact with your affair partner, you still feeling shame and guilt everyday, if you want your marriage to be healed, but
you’re still thinking about your affair partner more often than you care to admit…this is the post for you.
My friend, your affair began in your thoughts, and it’s your thoughts that are still keeping you stuck there.
Your thoughts are the real reason you can’t get over your affair.
But before you think it’s that simple, keep reading.
Understanding how the think, feel, act cycle is affecting your affair recovery is your key to change.
Although the Think, Feel, Act concept has been around for ages (it’s also called cognitive therapy),
The Life Coach from The Life Coach School, Brooke Castillo, added a few other pieces that help it make more sense, which she calls ‘The Model.’
She added Circumstance to the beginning of the cycle, and Results to the end, like a sandwich.
So, the cycle really looks like this:
Circumstances- Thoughts- Feelings- Actions- Results.
But I like to call it the Bicycle Concept because it’s a great analogy.
As far as I know, I’m the first one to put this bicycle analogy to the concept; yea, I’m just crazy like that.
But I hope it helps you to picture the concept more…if not, ignore it.
1. The Circumstance = the whole bicycle.
It’s neutral. We can all agree if a bike was sitting in front of us, it’s a fact, there’s a bike there.
2. The handlebars are like your thoughts that will steer you in whatever direction you’re telling yourself with your thinking.
3. The wheels, are like your feelings, and they’re just going to go wherever you steer them with your handlebars (thoughts).
4. The action is how you got the bike moving (putting our feet on the pedals).
5. The result is your destination. Where are you going to end up after riding this bike?
So,If you don’t like the destination (the result) which your bike is steering towards (your thoughts), and the wheels are leading you the wrong way,
(just your feelings following where your thoughts told them to go), you need to decide to stop (the brakes=another action).
and change direction of your handlebars (changing the thought-replacing it with something else for a better result).
I hope that makes sense.
Okay, let’s break down each one of these parts in this ‘bicycle concept’, because it’ll be so powerful for you, if you use it!
1. THE CIRCUMSTANCE.
The circumstance we encounter is the beginning piece of our think-feel-act cycle.
Because before you have a THOUGHT about anything, there’s a circumstance. Circumstances are just neutral events or situations.
Think of “Circumstance” as just facts that are happening in life, or of a situation, free of any judgment or opinion at the moment.
These are things that are out of your immediate control and neutral facts.
They don’t have a label of good or bad (although we often give them labels quickly), but they’re just neutral.
It could be the something happening right now like the weather, what our boss said about us, how our husband feels,
or how a friend reacted to something we told them.
But circumstances are also everything that’s happened in our past.
That can mean what happened to you last week, in your childhood, or even, for example, the history of how our country was founded.
Circumstances are just unchangeable facts in this moment.
You cannot change the weather. You can’t change your boss or what he/she says about you, how your husband feels in the moment, or how a friend is treating you.
We also can’t change the past, or what happened in our childhood, or the history of our country. All past is unchangeable.
They’re all things outside of our immediate control. Some of them you won’t ever be able to change.
But the great thing to remember is, you have circumstances that you may be able to change in the future, but maybe just not this minute;
your weight, your marriage, your job, how much money you have in the bank, etc…
Here’s the important commonality in most circumstances; they’re neutral, until you think a thought about them.
The exception to this (and this is where I disagree with some Life Coaches) is that there is an absolute of right and wrong
in the world. God as the creator of this universe gets to say what those right’s and wrong’s are.
But we still have a choice of how WE will react to those things that were done negatively to us;
and our reactions start in our thoughts.
Have you ever noticed how 2 people can react differently the same situation?
One person may say their cancer was such a life-changing event that helped them see what’s important, so they could change their life.
Another cancer sufferer may think that person is crazy, and believe that nothing good come from cancer. You see?
The circumstance is not creating your feeling, until you think a thought about it.
As a former cancer patient twice, I’m somewhere in the middle of those 2 thoughts- yea, I’m weird.
Thoughts are just a sentence in your brain that you’re thinking about a circumstance.
It’s your opinion; your assessment of whether something is good or bad, right or wrong.
We often think of our thoughts as facts, and unchangeable.
But it’s important to remember- your thoughts are optional.
They may be so ingrained in you that you don’t think of them as optional
(ex. “I’m so fat”, or “I’m not outgoing enough to have many friends”).
They might not feel optional right now, but they are.
(Remember my bicycle analogy in Part 1 of this series?
think of thoughts as the handlebars on your bike, steering you where you’ll eventually end up.)
Think of this like this: To determine if your thoughts are facts or just your opinion, assessment or your own judgment;
ask yourself this- does everyone would agree with that thought,
if there’s some who would disagree, then it’s an optional thought.
S0, What are your thoughts?
Are you continuously thinking about your affair partner?
Are you telling yourself you can’t live without him?
Do you keep having thoughts about how much you miss him?
That is one main reason you can’t get over your affair.
Your thoughts are keeping you stuck, like in quick sand.
And just like quick sand, those thoughts can eventually take you down into a affair relapse, if you don’t change them soon.
Yes, you can change your thoughts, because they’re optional!
This is a huge revelation because once you see that your thoughts are optional,
you realize you can change where your thoughts are leading you.
Circumstances can’t be changed, at least not in the moment, they’re outside your control. But your thoughts ARE in your power to change.
This doesn’t mean it’s easy, it takes practice to think about what you’re thinking about.
Most of us just let our brains control the directions we sail. But it takes practice.
Like a toddler learning to walk, we wouldn’t expect her to stand up and start walking without falling down right away.
It takes practice and a lot of falling, and getting back up, to try again.
It’s a lot like that with directing what we allow our brains to think.
Our feelings, or emotions, are directly affected by the thoughts we initially had about a circumstance we experienced.
So, feelings are the next part in the cycle of think-feel-act. (The wheels on the bike remember?)
Feelings are one-word emotional conditions: sad, mad, lonely, stressed, bored, jealous, happy, shame, compassion etc…
When we start to look at our emotions as physical sensations in our bodies that can’t harm you,
(especially the ones that are not pleasant, and even uncomfortable sometimes), then we can stop hiding from ‘negative’ emotions and face them head on.
Because if we can dissect our feelings to having started from a thought we had, then we can see that just because we felt something, doesn’t make it a fact.
Think of your emotions as a warning system.
We all have thousands of thoughts everyday, we can’t be aware of every single thought.
But when you experience an emotion, it’s a sign to pay attention to what’s happening in your mind.
We usually only want to go back to our original thoughts when we feel a negative emotion or one of discomfort.
But we can do this when we have good feelings (or moods) also.
Also, if we’re not aware of looking at our emotions as possible warning signs of a relapse, we’ll fall right back to old behaviors.
So, being led by our feelings is another reason you can’t get over your affair.
For example, when you find yourself thinking ANYTHING about the affair partner, stop, and recognize it.
If you don’t, your feelings for him will just be stirred up all over again, until you’re faced with the strong urge to call, text or visit him.
And that’s the last thing you want to do.
Let me give you an example from my own life.
I’m in the process of trying to lose weight. So on my weigh in days, I get on the scale.
The digital number that shows up on my scale is just the circumstance
(a situation that is reading back to me a factual thing that I cannot change at that moment).
But the thought that I allow myself to think, right after seeing that number on the scale, is what will drive my emotions afterwards.
So if I think “Oh my lord, I’m so fat, nothing is changing no matter how hard I try, I won’t ever be able to lose this weight, I’ll probably fail like I did before!”
What do you think my emotions will then be? I’ll be feeling pretty crappy right?
I’ll start feeling like a failure, and might even start feeling worse about myself for failing, (which often perpetuates the cycle if I used food to feel better).
As long as I keep thinking that way, what will my motivation be to continue my healthy eating habits to lose weight?
I probably won’t keep motivated for very long.
So that leads to the next part in the bicycle concept cycle, action.
This is what you DO in response to how you feel, (feet on pedals to get the result).
We either take action, or inaction, but our actions don’t just happen out of nowhere. They’re always influenced by how we feel.
So when we start paying attention to how we feel, especially if we’re journaling and getting our thoughts out of our heads,
we can begin to ask more important questions BEFORE we act upon our feelings.
Like asking yourself :
“what do I do when I feel angry or jealous?
How do I act when I don’t feel loved and appreciated?
Do I get lost in my thoughts, until I’m feeling so miserable and angry that I don’t know why?
What is my action or inaction when I feel these things?”
At the very end of the Think, feel, act cycle that Brooke Castillo teaches in her Life Coach school, is Result.
Results are what happens from the action you took (your final destination).
The interesting part is, you are creating the results just for you. Your results only ever applies to you.
Your results can affect other people’s circumstances, as our affairs did for our husbands.
But you don’t create results for others and they can’t create results for you.
The whole framework of Circumstance, Think, Feel, Act, Result cycle is about you. Each one of us has our own cycles going on.
They have their own thoughts, feelings and actions they’re working through, and you have yours.
The thing to remember is that the results you have now, is showing the original thought you held at some point. It’s a domino effect.
I love how Rachel Hart of the podcast “take a break from drinking” describes this part:
“The brain is always looking for evidence to support what it believes, so the best way to see this is to think of the results of 2 different types of people.
Somebody who goes through the world seeing the glass half empty will always be looking for, and finding evidence of, all the results that prove the
glass is half empty. But take somebody who chooses to see things as half full, they will find evidence and results for that everywhere they go
and in various relationships and circumstances. “
The thing is, both of those types of people can have the same circumstance, but see it completely different. It’s how they thought about it.
Finally, to review:
- The CIRCUMSTANCES in your life are just facts, completely neutral, and out of your immediate control.
They’re simply neutral situations that hold no other meaning than being unchangeable facts.
Remember, Circumstances can also be people or past events.
- We then think of THOUGHTS in response to the circumstance we’re encountering, giving it some type of label or meaning to it.
These thoughts are just sentences going through our heads, and how we define our circumstance.
We also can learn to have control over our thoughts by recognizing, and replacing, the thoughts that won’t serve us with good feelings and behaviors.
- As we process our thoughts, they then create FEELINGS; these are any one word emotions we feel in our bodies, such as lonely, sad, happy, depressed.
- These Feelings then cause us to take ACTION.
We often don’t realize it but we do have This is the part of the equation we can control also, but our actions are greatly influenced
by our thoughts and feelings first.
- Finally, our actions create the RESULTS in our lives.
We can see the results of many things in our lives and trace back to what our original thoughts were first.
Being aware of this cycle in your life is truly the first part of the equation to changing a behavior, habit or feeling.
Your brain will likely resist the change, and it takes practice to recognize and change our thoughts, but it’s vital in your affair recovery.
Back to my example about weighing myself.
So, what if I weigh myself and instead of beating myself up by the number staring back at me (circumstance),
but I don’t want to give up on my weight loss goal.
My thoughts would need to change.
So I could tell myself, “it’s okay, I know the weight will come off, it can be stubborn forever since
I’m eating healthy and exercising everyday. I’ve lost it before and I can do it again!”
What would my feelings be after that thought?
I’d likely feel more energized and determined to not give up. Which will eventually produce the weight loss.
You’ll notice part of this is self compassion and not thinking negatively about myself.
I’m not going to lie, this was my situation this very morning.
It was a struggle in my mind to not think thoughts of discouragement,
telling me to give up working so hard at eating healthy and exercising.
So I chose the last example, gave myself self love and compassion and recommitted myself to not giving up…..
And then I put my scale away for awhile. But that’s okay too.
If you know there’s a temptation to regress back to old thinking or old habits, then do what you need to do eliminate that temptation.
That’s where my No Contact Checklist comes in, if you’re trying to stop an affair-ending any contact with a affair partner.
The checklist works as a tool alongside this framework.
In my next post (part 3) on this subject I’m going to share HOW to take your knowledge of this framework and put it into action.
Because knowledge without action is just knowledge with no place to go. It’s like the bicycle being all ready to go but never leaving the garage.
If it feels weird and foreign to you, that’s okay. It’s not your fault you didn’t know this before.
But now you have this tool- so start asking yourself:
“what am I automatically and habitually thinking?”
If you can’t stop a certain habit, ask yourself “what is the message I am thinking, and keep telling myself, about that circumstance?” (that person, place or thing).
I’ll break it down to show specific examples regarding acting out in an affair and trace it back to what your original thought was.
How this applies to the Christian.
This think-feel-act cycle is not contrary to God or the power of God in our lives.
I know there are other Christians who might think I’m saying WE have all power over everything, taking God out of the equation.
I’m definitely not subscribed to that.
For me, God is the most important piece in this ‘bicycle framework’ because HE created our minds and He’s instructed us in the bible on how to use them.
He also tells us to pray, asking for His strength in every circumstance which gets your thought’s in alignment to His power and will.
2 Corinthians 10:5 says:
“For the weapons of our warfare are not [a]carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, 5 casting down arguments and every high thing
that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,
6 and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled. “
Also, Romans 12:2:
“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind,
that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
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