Trusting Your Feelings
I’m about to tell you something people never expect to hear from a counselor…
Your feelings are not to be trusted!
Many times feelings are impostors, and trusting your feelings and acting upon them could end up sabotaging relationships, marriages, and even life. I hear it all the time in my office, “I’m not happy”, “I don’t love him anymore”, “I am so angry at…”, “I feel like…(insert mildly destructive behavior here)”.
Often when we get a feeling, we run with it, and allow the feeling to make decisions for us. If we feel like we don’t like the guy we’re seeing anymore we break up with him. If we aren’t happy in our marriage, we’ll seek a divorce, or sometimes not as drastically, counseling. If we feel like breaking our diet or budget, many of us do. RARELY will we stop and challenge what we are feeling before we accept them as truth.
Most of the time, the negative feelings we are really feeling are too strong for us to handle, and our tricky minds shift those feelings so they come out in different ways. Guilt, shame and fear are among the number one feelings that will translate into other feelings, usually anger or sadness.
I was watching a TV show recently where one of the main characters was deeply in debt, the guilt and shame she was truly feeling was translated into anger towards a loved one. She never stopped and challenged why she was angry with that person, she simply acted on it.
Many years ago fear was a big motivator behind many of my own feelings, I feared failure, so instead I “felt” un-motivated towards certain areas of my life, and deeply sad. I’ve worked with a client who’s fear of rejection was so strong, that 5 months into a relationship she would truly feel like she no longer loved the person she was with. The fear would motivate her to end the relationship, always under the guise of “its not working”.
So knowing that our feelings can be impostors for other feelings, what do we do? How can we evaluate and figure out whats REALLY going on? I have 4 steps for evaluating yourself and digging for true feelings.
- Take inventory of your own life
If you are feeling a strong emotion towards anything stop and evaluate your entire life, be honest and look for areas which may be causing you anxiety, guilt, shame or fear, make sure you’re maintaining good boundaries. Often this is hardest for people to do. They want to focus on the OUTWARD object they have identified as the problem, not look inward. But this is an important step to understanding how you’re relating to the world around you.
Take time to spend an hour by yourself and ask, what ELSE could be going on? Writing helps us process from a different perspective than thinking or talking, it can be helpful in slowing down our brains and allowing us to think a little clearer. Pen & paper is a start to eventually trusting your feelings.
- Talk it through with someone you trust
Find a trusted friend or counselor and talk through your feelings, being open to whatever perspective they have for you, and ask them for honest feedback. WARNING, beware of those friends who tend to always agree with you and never challenge you.
- Give it time
This is probably the most important step, there is nothing that says you need to act on a feeling right away, give yourself some time to allow some of the emotion to dissipate and then look at it again with a clear eye.
Please know I am not asking you to ignore true feelings and not take action when your marriage is struggling, or you are sad, anxious or depressed, but I am asking you to evaluate your feelings before you give power to, or act on them.
Julia Jancek provides Counseling in Orlando and the surrounding Central Florida area. She’s a Licensed Mental Health Counselor working with people of all ages on a variety of issues.