Sorry we did not succeed to have English subtitles for the video, so we decided to have the transcript translated. The talk is about thoughts and feelings, body perception, thankfulness and stress-reducing exercises.
Silvia: Hello, here is Silvia with an exciting interview partner: This is Lilli from Berlin. Lilli’s theme is: your thoughts create your feelings.
I’d like to thank you, Lilli, for sharing your thoughts with us here. Would you please talk about who you are and what you do when you work?
Lilli: Yes, hello Silvia. I am Lilli Höch-Corona, I live in Berlin and am the editor of the Gefühlsmonster® cards. These cards show emotions in a comic style.
I originally had the idea with students in school, who knew feelings only as “cool”. Nothing else. In the sixth grade. “Cool, not cool”, that was it. My son had been drawing these little monsters as a child, and he drew a monster for my mediation flyer, that is happy when people argue and scratches its heads when it comes to constructive talk. I asked my son, “Could you draw this monster with different emotions?” And then the children could say, “Yes, cheerful, sad…”, they knew the words.
Silvia: So with the pictures you have actually visualized emotions?
Lilli: Yes, by now there are 25 Gefühlsmonsters expressing different emotions. First I only used them in my mediation trainings, until I realized that they bring lightness and humor into a conversation and we decided to publish them. More and more I started to study emotions, reading everything about modern brain research, why we are suddenly overcome by emotions. I had students at school who were constantly involved in fights and then said, “Well, I do not know how that came about. I just started beating him up.”
We can all identify with the fact of saying or doing bad things in one way or another. When we are overcome by positive feelings it is pleasant. With challenging feelings it is quite different.
Silvia: Yes, I know that…. But how do thoughts relate to that? You said before “your thoughts create your emotions.” I think there is a lot of truth in this. But I still can’t understand in depth. What can this little monster tell me, this “Grrr, I’m so mad!” or maybe the happy Gefühlsmonster® ? What do they tell me?
Lilli: I would like to answer that on two levels. First of all, that quote is not mine. I read that about 15 years ago in a book by Gerald Hüther. It was called Instructions for the Human Brain. It suggested that we are not at the mercy of our thoughts, but that we can control our focus. In other words: if something really gets you mad right now it is probable that this experience has already happened earlier in your life and you are angry about that and not about the person in front of you.
I find that it’s very important to distinguish. You can learn to notice, “Why am I so angry right now? Does it have anything to do with my past or is it something that is about the present moment?”. Often we can’t immediately find an answer to that. If you perceive your felling you have a choice. You can say, “I’m angry because someone nearly ran me over on the sidewalk.” Or you can say, “Oh, it happened. And look what a beautiful bird is flying over there!”
Silvia: Yes, that’s how I would do it. I imagine that some of my colleagues at my job simply say something, not intending to be mean. Sometimes I realize: An emotion just pops up and I wonder why. Right?
Lilli: Yes. Or “He didn’t even say hi!”, right? If someone has an issue with being overlooked, it can happen that he gets very annoyed and withdraws and thus gets into a state that disables him to work well. And then his boss comes and says: “Hey, what’s going on?” and he replies, “It’s my colleague’s fault.”
And if the boss is smart, or if he has done mediation training, he can just sit both people down together. The person who felt overlooked might realize: “Ah, this colleague is a person who buries himself in his work. He just doesn’t notice when someone comes in. And I’m someone who enjoys when people greet me”. And thes differences are easily visible with the Gefühlsmonsters. So we ask, “How did you feel in this situation? And how did YOU feel?”
We do that a lot in mediation at work. We discover that there are lots of insinuations, that one thinks the other person…, and so on. And the other person does the same. We notice, “Oh, I see, there is a difference!” That those differences exist can be recognized even by kindergarten children. We have some awesome examples of how they resolve their conflicts by themselves with the Gefühlsmonster® cards.
Silvia: That’s wonderful, it sounds like a really good idea. Your thoughts determine your feelings, as you said. And that’s where your actions come from. Yes, sometimes you act out of a feeling, out of an emotion.
Somehow you say: “Krrhh.” And: “You can’t talk to me like that.” And then you get angry afterwards, because you realize: “Man, the trigger was perhaps just such a small thing.” That is, with the Gefühlsmonsters, you might be more able to separate your emotional from the rational side. Then you say: “Okay, I know now, what it does to me or why it upsets me so much?”
Lilli: I’d start even before that. If you have a violent feeling, I would always say: “Go into the body first. Pay attention to your breathing and look: what’s actually going on with me?“. That’s the first step: Body perception. You can get out of this “Oh, I don’t know what’s wrong with me”. With body perception, you realize: “Aha, my breathing is only very flat. Something is wrong with me.”
Mostly we don’t know immediately that we are angry. Some people only notice that because the other person says: “Oh, why are you so angry again?”
For me self-management means first of all to notice your feelings. I think that we are quite often in a sort of “automatic mode”. I have experienced this for myself. I used to have a lot to do with stress, I had several hearing losses, which are signs of stress. I just didn’t notice when something was too much. Then I had very good alternative practitioners who helped me to tell myself: “How are you doing right now? Do you feel yourself?”
And when you feel yourself physically, you can realize which feelings and which thoughts you have. Then you can decide: “Do I want to act according to this feeling? I this a feeling I am okay with right now?”
Because if I am angry, and there is no possibility to act, it is better to let go. But that is a decision. If I can make this decision, I am aware of myself and can control my behaviour.
Silvia: Yes. I very much work with parents, their roles in the professional everyday life, in the family everyday life. Sometimes they feel totally remote-controlled and say: “Okay, I have to do this first and then that before I take care of myself”. But as you say it could be better to pause for a moment and look. “Which mode am I in actually? Am I now in the Hassel mode that I do, do, do, do, do and don’t even notice?”
And what comes to my mind right now: In my profession I often see people with a poker face, they don’t want to show their feelings.
Interesting that it could help to work with the Gefühlsmonsters. And if I understood well, you very much worked on yourself. You were super active in former times. But now you are very, I say, satisfied and calm and seem to rest in yourself. What are you doing differently now, what you may have neglected in the past? Was there a point where you suddenly changed?
Lilli: Well, it’s really about this timing. I raised three children and just did too much with my job and so on and didn’t realize what was going on with me. I now meditate daily. I have more exercise. These are just the things that anyone can tell you: to rest once a day. Check in the evening, what was good today, what have you done well.
The feeling of gratitude is very important. That has a very powerful effect. I find this really exciting. What are you grateful for? We run and run and take no time to celebrate the beautiful moments we have experienced. Or simply ignore it very quickly. Maybe a nice moment. Or we meet somebody smiling at us on the street. Or whatever. We just don’t perceive this at all. And if you check in the evening you can see: that’s what I experienced today. Oh! And you feel comfortable, because you remember the things that worked well this day.
I rejected that for a long time and said: “Yes, yes. Beautiful idea, but I have no time….”
Silvia: That’s so important. My heart opens when I hear you talk like that. Because I think these little moments make your feelings. Well, sometimes I sit on the train, looking out of the window. And when somehow a sunbeam slips through, I think: “Cool, you can experience this right now in such an overcrowded train.” And I think it’s important that you value that accordingly. And if you write down again in the evening what was good today and what you are grateful for. Maybe the cashier just smiled at you.
Lilli: Yes, exactly. But you have to come to realize that. I just wouldn’t have noticed it before. I still remember, my alternative practitioner had said: “Where do you actually see beauty? What do you experience as beautiful?” And I said: “Hm.” Somehow that didn’t happen at all. And only today I experience it as a gift, that I perceive beauty. Well, there is a theory about that. You know I love collecting small useful tips.
Silvia: Great. What is your tip for us to have a take-home message?
Lilli: One which really reeducates the brain, that you perceive beauty, is to write down three things every evening for 21 days for which you are grateful. It manages to restructure the brain.
You learn to perceive more or at least every evening you think about, what you experienced that day. If there was a nice cashier today or what else you liked. And then after 21 days the brain got used to this and it belongs to your everyday life. I think, even a young mother can do this. Every evening, you can do that directly before falling asleep. You don’t even have to write it down.
The most comforting thing for me in this theory is, that you don’t have to do that forever and not every day for three hours, and that it still becomes part of your everyday life after 21 days.
And there is something else. A very useful simple exercise. Once again about gratitude: in stress situations simply pay attention to how you breathe, how the breath feels in your nose. Then inhale “thank” and when exhaling say “you”. Simply “thank you”. That’s something you can do when you are on the phone, you can do that anywhere. And it really makes it easy to get calmer.
Silvia: That’s wonderful. So simple. As my daughter always says: “Mama, you have to take a deep breath fast.” And I: “Yes, yes. I’ll do it.” I will try this out. That’s cool. When you inhale “thank” and when you exhale “you”?
Silvia: And you don’t have to say it out loud? You breathe and imagine the words?
Lilli: Yes, exactly.
Silvia: A funny idea to say “thank you” with every breath sitting in an important meeting…
This is exciting. Your feelings make your thoughts, is now even more tangible for me and how it can be built into everyday life.
Lilli: Well, I’d just like to say one more thing that I find so important about thoughts. They found out that the brain is designed to continue the direction of your thoughts once you begin with a certain thought. Maybe you have a difficult thought like “Oh dear, what will happen to our world?” You look in the direction of what goes wrong. Then the brain automatically produces more such thoughts….
If I know that it works that way, then I can say to myself: “Aha, I see. Right now I’m worried, about my kid. And this will go on until I decide to change direction of my thoughts.” Then I can say: “Okay. I understand. Is this helpful? No!” Then I can actively think about something beautiful. Because I know how my brain works.
Many people just feel at the mercy of it. And just say: “Oh, I always have to ponder so much. And then I can’t get away.” Yesterday I had a young woman who also has three children. She said she always thought about her work during her holidays. She didn’t get away from it.
So instead of being at the mercy of that, you can say: “Okay. And now I am making an active decision. I’m thinking of something beautiful now. Because it’s just my brain trying to keep going. That thinks that it’s important now to think about difficult things.
So you asked where you can find stuff like this. I once in a while write my “Feelings-Letter” about useful small tips for easier dealing with feelings, until now only in German. If you are interested, please just inscribe for our English “Monster-News” on www:gefuehlsmonster.de. There you get our latest experiences and news, and we will tell you as soon as we have the “Feelings-Letter” in English, too.
Silvia: Yes. That’s wonderful. I learned to look at myself again, how careful am I with myself right now. Thank you very much for taking the time to give me this interview for my Inspiration Channel. I wish you many, many good feelings today. And you people out there, don’t forget, your thoughts make your feelings. I wish you a lot of fun on Lillis website. Bye.
Lilli: Thank you and bye bye.