Which Comes First — Thoughts or Feelings?

4 facets of addiction

During our meeting this week, we read in the “Brown Book” Overeaters Anonymous that “it is our thoughts that precede our emotions, and it is our emotions that make us eat inappropriately and become physically obese.” (pp 194)

Part of our discussion was on the question: which comes first, our thoughts or our feelings? With respect to our compulsive overeating, I am not sure that is a useful question.

If our thoughts precede our feelings and our feelings lead us to overeat, then the implication is that if we can control our thoughts better, we could control how we feel and then fix our food problem.

This may be of therapeutic use, but, the AA Big Book does not follow this model of change.

The AA Big Book states:

“But the actual or potential alcoholic, with hardly an exception, will be absolutely unable to stop drinking on the basis of self-knowledge.

It also says in the AA Big Book “will power and self-knowledge cannot help in those strange mental blank spots.” Furthermore, we saw when we did our fourth step inventory that “self-reliance fails us.”

We are powerless over the food, we are powerless over our thoughts, and we are powerless over our feelings. We are powerless over EVERYTHING. Self-reliance fails us. But, there is a solution – a Power greater than ourselves – God. Just to the extent that we do as we think He would have us, and humbly rely on Him, does He enable us to match calamity with serenity.

The program offered by the AA Big Book suggests that once we surrender and experience the relief of the psychic change and conscious contact with the God of our understanding, the obsession for food is lifted and we recover from this seemingly hopeless state of mind and body.  The spiritual awakening as THE result of these steps produces a new set of conceptions and motives  (AA BB: 27).

It is not relevant which came first, our thoughts or feelings. It is not our understanding of our thinking, nor our ability to control our emotions that is going to fix us.  We are powerless over both our thoughts and our feelings. All we have is a daily reprieve contingent on our spiritual condition.

The only choice we have is to take responsibility for how we respond to our thoughts and feelings. Though the daily practice of Steps 10, 11 and 12, we learn how to differentiate between our thoughts, feelings and actions.  How we respond is dependent on how close we are to God and our willingness to do His will and be as He would have us be.


Overeaters Anonymous

AA Big Book

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.