Here’s a little tidbit to stir up some thought in you. . . feelings are not facts! It is very tempting to trust our very intense and overpowering feelings in the moment, but that can come at a big price. Here’s why . . .
Feelings are like waves in the ocean. Unpredictable. Strong. Overpowering. Out of control. Out of nowhere. Then gone in a flash. We might have an intense feeling in a moment. . . “I hate him!”, “I need to get divorced””, “I should quit my job!”, “I should leave my spouse for my lover.”, “I should move to a new city!”, “I should kill myself.”, but not realize that while the feeling seems so real and so valid in the moment, we can feel very differently the next day. If we act on the feeling in the moment, not anticipating that we might feel differently in a few days, weeks, or months, we can sometimes make a train wreck of our lives!
We talk a lot in counseling about paying attention to our feelings because they are trying to tell us something, but feelings are completely different than facts. We want people to validate their feelings, to allow themselves to feel whatever feelings are coming up, but when we trust those intense feelings prematurely and make major life decisions based upon them, we can make huge mistakes.
We see this all the time in affairs. A person is unhappy in their marriage. Someone comes into their lives and lets them talk about it, express their feelings, and they feel heard and understood (usually exactly what they are looking for from their spouse). They feel deep gratitude and connection to the new person in their lives and mistake it for love. They leave their “bad” spouse for the “good” lover, all based on intense feelings of love and contempt that will likely dissipate over time.
Please understand that I am not trying to tell you not to pay attention to your feelings. Your feelings are telling you something and I certainly want you to feel them, sit with them, and process through what is happening with you. I am encouraging you, however, to understand that feelings are rooted in many things, including our previous experiences, and they are inflamed by wounds we have sustained over the course of our lives.
When we feel intense feelings and are driven by a sense of urgency to act on them, we are at risk of making huge mistakes. I encourage you to question: “What is the urgency about?” “Does this situation mirror another time in my life?” “What will happen if I don’t following this urge?” “How long have I felt this way?” “Have I spoken to anyone else about it to do a reality check?” “Am I keeping these feelings secret/hidden? Why?” “Could this reactivity be coming from somewhere else?” “What am I not seeing?”
Feelings need to be respected as they are telling us something, but far too often we are convinced our feelings are facts and act on them causing irreparable damage in our lives! Think about it, sit with them, and bounce them off of other people to find out what your feelings are trying to teach you!