Stimulus vs. Cause (KD 12)

This key differentiation can bring a lot of clarity in many situations in life, when I can be aware of it. I ask myself: Where is the focus in each side of this differentiation?

You cause my feelings with your behavior. or…
I cause your feelings with my behavior.
I am angry because you do not listen to me. I am fearful because you drive the car after drinking alcohol. I am happy because you give me a present.

If you are like me, this internal mode of operation is active in many if not most moments of my life.

When I believe that patten, I am in emotional dependency mode.

So in order to feel better when I feel bad, I typically want to change what the other or myself are doing. One focus is thus on strategies, on direct requests: Please stop doing this. or I will do what you want, in order to make you feel better.
And so forth…

This mode of operation typically is accompanied by moralistic judgment, that makes me or others wrong. And therefore deserving punishment.

Or making them or myself right, good ones, deserving rewards.

Often an obstacle to me being honest or doing something that is authentic, is the following type of thinking: It will cause you pain, make you sad, get you angry… if I say or do that… (fear of punishment, worsening of relationship)

And a motivation to do something, in order to make you happiness, joy, contentment… (looking for reward in better relationship)


When I view actions of others as stimuli for my feelings, my focus is on connecting to needs, to my deeper values in each moment.

When I am able to live from this consciousness, I am in (emotional) interdependency mode. We realize we have influence on each other, but we are not the reason/cause for the feelings that we have.

A stimulus is an observation (some action, words, even my own thoughts).

This is best understood by seeing that the same observation stimulates different feelings and needs in different people, so not people and their actions cause my feelings, but my needs triggered by an observation. Our needs cause our feelings.


A person asking for money stands next to the entry of a supermarket.

I notice this person.

The noticing stimulates the life in me.

Needs arise and various feelings point to these needs.

While the person asking for money expresses a PLEASE, the way people receive this PLEASE differs.

Often I say no to the request, which means that I say PLEASE too. It does not make life more beautiful for me to give money. I attempt to make life more beautiful by walking past, not responding in any way, at times even by ignoring.

My first nternal reaction to my noticing of the person asking for money is often discomfort, when I see a person asking for money. Something is closing up inside. For example when I receive in the observation a demand (my interpretation), my need for autonomy is stimulated. That is highly uncomfortable and I will go to internal resistance in a flash of a moment, likely.

I also notice fear. A fear-driven thought can arise to my awareness. If I give with getting nothing in return, is there enough for me, my family? I need trust in financial viability when I picture myself giving with getting nothing in return. What if I should give to all people asking, there are so many of them !! So a need for survival is triggered. Very unpleasant.

The CAUSE for my feelings are my needs. Can I connect to my needs in the moment?

It is not the person asking for money, responsible for MY FEELINGS – my internal needs are stimulated by my noticing.

And my NEEDS are responsible for my feelings.

Another person may have a need for contribution, enjoying the moment of giving and the grateful recognition of the receiver.

Another person gets angry, thinking that these people should work, needing perhaps understanding, how hard it is to go to work everyday.

The needs cause our feelings, not the actual actions that trigger them.

So I can say:

“You stimulated pain in me, when you said XYZ, but the cause of my pain was not what you said, it was my unmet need for honesty. You only stimulated my need. What did you hear me say?”


” Huh?”

This concept is hard to live in life, because we all learned to take responsibility for the feelings of others, especially close people. From child on this mechanism is implanted:

I am unhappy, because YOU did this.

Needs are absent from awareness and language. It is the language of domination, of right and wrong, violent and tragic.

Even expressing myself in giraffe, in less than 40 words, people mostly will hear jackal, they will hear blame that they did something wrong. For example:

Expressing in giraffe:
I am unhappy, seeing that you all decided this without me being present, because I have an unfulfilled need for sitting at the table when decisions are made. I need inclusion and belonging. What do you hear me say?
You always are unhappy about something, we had to move on this and you were not there!
Giraffe reply:
Thanks for letting me know what I managed to get across, I want to try if I can make myself more clear.” (trying another round of self-expression).

Even saying it in giraffe, people will hear blame. I want to check what they hear me say, by asking them. Asking for reflection, a tricky business!

My way of bringing this key differentiation into my life, is to raise my awareness when I live in the paradigm that I was brought up in.

Every time I experience: I/You caused this pain, I want self-empathy and connection to my needs.

I realize I am not connected to needs, when I operate in the normal consciousness.

It can act as powerful gateway to invite me to connect to my natural consciousness.

This key differentiation offers me the possibility of liberation and empowerment.