Cycle of Emotions and Behavior

By: Jonathan Wong, Psy.D.

Your emotions and behavior are linkedMuscle and joint pain of unknown origin is a common symptom experienced by those suffering from Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS).  When experienced on a chronic basis, physical pain can become debilitating and a major barrier to engaging in relationships, work, and exercise. Dr. Lam’s extensive writings on the Mind-Body connection, however, provide insight into the management of such pain through an understanding of our mind-body connection.  Understanding this dynamic allows for the application of helpful techniques that allow for the examination of how our thoughts can have either a positive or negative impact on your recovery from AFS.

One such technique is that of understanding the cycle of emotions and behaviors that can fuel symptoms of AFS such as anxiety, lethargy, and/or brain fog.  This cycle begins with an event and is followed by our thoughts, emotions, physical reactions, and behaviors (see figure below).  An eventcan be any experience that occurs during the day such as waking up in the morning with muscle or joint pain. Thoughts are the messages that we tell ourselves in reaction to events. Emotions arise from our thoughts and can be comprised of the whole spectrum from anger to acceptance.  Physical reactions are the different ways our body reacts to the thoughts and emotions we are experiencing. Lastly, our behaviors are the end result of the cycle in which the pattern of our thoughts, emotions, and physical reactions result in specific behaviors that can either help or hinder recovery from AFS.

Understanding this cycle enables us to examine how the same event can result in two diverse behaviors based upon the thoughts associated with their occurrence. For example:

Event:  Unexplained lower back/neck.
Thought: “I am never going to get better.”
Emotions: Anger/ Frustration / Anxiety.
Physical reaction: Trembling/ sweating/ heart palpitations.
Behavior: Stay in bed all day.

Contrast this cycle with an alternative one that incorporates realistic and informed thoughts regarding the event:

Event: Muscle pain.
Thought:  “This is a symptom of my Adrenal Fatigue.” / “Pain does not dictate my life.”
Emotions:  Acceptance / Hope
Physical reaction: Joint and muscles relax and open up.
Behavior: Engage in Adrenal Breathing Exercises.

The difference between these two cycle lies within the thought stage of the cycle in which the contents of one’s thoughts drastically changes the end behaviors associated with the experience of pain.  With more awareness of how our thoughts can affect our end behaviors, individuals with AFS will have one more tools to assist them in their recovery and deepen their understanding of the mind-body connection.

© Copyright 2012 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.

Your emotions and behavior are linked

1 Comment

  • Theresa Michelle Stricker says:

    I work at the DMV and this is what we call the ” Vicious Cycle ” . We just try to remain positive. Thanks for the info.