Updated: Jun 3, 2020
I have breaking news that might come as a bit of a shock for some of you…
and that news is… some of our feelings and thoughts are actually... NOT true... *gasp*
Have you ever stopped to contemplate whether your feelings are true or not?
If you’re one of us *big feelers* who’s super identified with your feelings you may not have contemplated this. This is because our feelings and emotions are how we navigate our lives. If something doesn’t feel good, it’s intolerable and we feel it SO strongly.
Similarly, if it feels great, it feels GREAT.
If the people around us don’t feel good we feel terrible, but if everyone around us is happy WE FEEL AMAZING.
Our feelings are our compass to determine which direction to go. They guide us towards more of what we want and steer us away from what we don’t want in our lives.
Negative emotions indicate that something might be off while positive emotions indicate that something is going great!
Except when… they don’t.
If you’re a big feeler you’re used to depending on how you feel about something to make decisions, create your beliefs and take action.
This goes for both positive and negative feelings.
If a feeling is bad, unwanted or painful we tend to think: something must be terribly wrong. I need to do something about this. I need to make it go away.
The reason we think we need to do something to make it go away is because we believe all of our feelings are true.
We believe that if we feel a certain way, it means something. Usually, what we interpret it to mean is that something is wrong. Either with the situation, or with us.
(If you’re like me you tend to believe that the thing that’s wrong is with you, not the situation or the other person).
What if… that wasn’t true?
What if negative feelings weren’t an indication that something was wrong with you?
Let me be clear for a second, I’m NOT saying that it’s never the case that negative feelings indicate something’s off in a situation or relationship. In fact, that often is the case.
However, sometimes, especially when we believe the negative emotion is coming from something we have done wrong, IT ISN’T. It actually isn’t indicating something is wrong at all.
Let’s flesh this out a little more. Just bare with me, I know it’s complicated!!
Let’s imagine for example that this morning your boyfriend left the house a little more abruptly than normal. Maybe he was frowning a little, and being shorter than usual. He didn’t leave with the big kiss and smile he usually says goodbye with, but instead seemed distant.
He says goodbye, wishes you a good day and is out the door.
At that very moment, a sense of dread so great it feels like a ton of bricks drops into your stomach.
You start thinking, “He hates me. Oh my god. He is breaking up with me tonight. It’s over!”
You work yourself into a tizzy, calling and texting your friends, even texting your bf some weird, baiting messages to check and see if he still likes you, maybe grabbing some snacks and starting to mindlessly graze.
You start running over the last 48 hours in your mind looking for signs and indications that things were going south.
You come up with a whole list of evidence of things he said and did, like the way he glanced across the room and the period at the end of his text message. It’s clear from all of these things that your conclusion that the relationship is over, is in fact, true.
You start listing the weird things you did and said that probably pushed him away. How you looked, the comments you made, the restaurant you chose for dinner that he probably didn’t like.
(LOL. I KNOW you feel me rn and it sort of makes me want to laugh at how hilarious this is!! We’ve all been there!)
Let’s get back to it and recap real quick.
In response to your boyfriend leaving for the day and not totally acting his usual self, you got this feeling of panic and dread.
In response to that feeling of panic and dread, you instantly interpreted that feeling to mean that something was wrong with the relationship.
In response to concluding that something was wrong, you tried to come up with a comprehensive list of all the things that could possibly be wrong (was it something with him?
Something with you? Was it another girl? Was it your outfit?)
Now you’re probably trying to figure out all the possible ways you could fix those things or validate whether or not they’re true.
Further, you’re acting based on these emotions and thoughts. Would you be texting your bf weird, out of character messages trying to see how he responds or eating a whole bag of chips if you weren’t freaking out? Probably not.
And all of these newfound fears and problems which now you have to figure out are causing you to feel a shitload more anxiety, stress and panic.
Yay!! It’s so fun being an emotional person.
JK…. (well it is fun being an emotional person, but not at this precise moment).
OK so let’s get back to the story. Your boyfriend texts you to meet for lunch. You meet up, and everything is totally normal. You can finally relax with this evidence that in fact, he’s not going to break up with you. He’s not even upset with you. In fact, nothing at all has changed.
His bad mood had nothing to do with you!! (wow!) Turns out, he was just stressed about work (or whatever the heck else, he’s allowed to be stressed or moody right, isn’t being a person stressful sometimes? YES).
Whew. Just writing through that scenario stressed me out a little bit!
What this example just illustrated is that the feeling you had (dread, panic, anxiety) was not an indication that anything (either with the scenario or with you) was wrong.
It was a response to the meaning you ascribed to the feeling, and to the evidence that you pieced together in your mind to support your conclusion about what was happening (a conclusion which was based on the FEELING you got when he left).
Does this mean your crazy? No.
It means you’re human.
The POINT is that our feelings aren’t always true.
However, we react to them as if they are.
Let’s just go through this one more time.
Your first instinct in that situation was to assume something was wrong because you felt off.
Then, you proceeded to think of all the things (external things, things out of your control by the way) that could potentially be wrong or fixed.
What COULD’VE happened instead is that rather than having a HEART ATTACK, you could have inquired into your initial emotional reaction and investigated whether or not it was a reflection of reality or just... fear (which is totally valid, by the way).
Because we are so used to automatically reacting to our feelings without consciously investigating them first, we repeatedly make an error that costs us so much.
And this error is focusing on things outside of our control in order to fix how we feel.
It costs us our peace, freedom and joy.
We rob ourselves of the ability to be happy because we’re so busy looking for the source of our fear (so that we can fix it) or trying to make the fear go away (by trying to illicit reactions out of others) that we never can be happy.
This is quite literally the opposite of freedom.
When we’re being held hostage by our feelings and automatically react to them without pause we do things that are out of character because it’s not really us who’s showing up in that moment. It’s fear acting through us.
When fear is guiding us, we don’t have control over our actions. We’re in a frenzy (our brain is literally acting as if we’re getting attacked by a bear).
And because we’re not choosing our actions (fear is) we are not choosing actions that empower us or bring us closer to our goals
(like, is eating a whole bag of chips or texting every friend in your contacts to vent RLY going to take you to where you want to go?) (Fine if the answer is yes, just KNOW where you’re trying to go!)
The point is, from this frenzied place, we’re not making the decisions we would make if we were coming from a calm place.
And because we’re not acting in a way that we normally would (that we know in our head would benefit us), we never reach the result we want.
Does this make sense??
I hope so. I know it’s confusing but the idea here is to start becoming aware of the fact that our feelings CANNOT always be trusted! (and that doesn’t make them bad).
Step 1 is to NOTICE and QUESTION the feeling after something triggers you before deciding whether or not it’s the absolute truth, BEFORE you go ahead and queue the breakup music.
P.S. Just a reminder that you are doing AWESOME!