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When Feelings Lie

Emotions are powerful and important things.  Along with our ability to think ‚Äčor reason, the capacity to feel emotions and express them is part of what makes us human.  Recognizing our feelings and allowing ourselves to experience them can be a very healthy thing.

Typically our feelings are prompts that provide important information about situations that we may encounter in our life.  If a man with a gun approaches us and tells us to give him all our money for example, our feeling of fear is understandable.  It's telling us that we are in fact in danger and need to act accordingly. 

What we sometimes forget though, is that feelings don't always tell us the truth.  Sometimes our feelings get out of sync with reality.  Think about it.  Have you ever taken a test and felt certain that you totally bombed it only to find out later that you actually did okay?  Or have you ever found yourself terrified by something fairly harmless like a bug? 

When our feelings are especially strong, they can make us believe things that aren't actually based in fact.  We get caught up in the wave of emotion, our thinking gets distorted, and we have a hard time staying grounded in the truth of the situation.  This is why it's really important to evaluate our feelings using some clear reasoning and self-monitoring.

Here are some questions to ask yourself when you aren't sure how much you can trust what you're feeling in the moment:

  1. What are the facts of the situation? List them out as objectively as you can.  For example, instead of jumping to, "my boyfriend and I are fighting and he's going to leave me and I'll never find anyone else and I'll be all alone," etc., take a step back and look at what happened.  "My boyfriend and I had an argument. We were both feeling a lot of emotions at the time and said things that we usually don't say." Separate the facts of the situation from the conclusions that you might jump to.
  2. What are you feeling?  Once you know the facts, it's important to identify what exactly you are feeling in the situation.  Sometimes we think we know what we're feeling, but it can be helpful to actually list those feelings out and name them clearly.  "I am worried, angry, sad, embarrassed."
  3. How do the facts line up with what you are feeling? What evidence is there to show that your feelings are actually telling the truth? In what way might your feelings be misleading you?   In the above example, the fact is that you had an argument. Arguments can lead to break ups, but that hasn't happened.  Perhaps the feelings you have are exaggerated and are causing you to worry about the worst possible outcome.
  4. What has happened before?  Think back to similar situations and how they have worked out.  In this relationship situation, you might say to yourself, "We've had arguments before and have always made up in the end." Or you might remind yourself that even if this relationship were to end, you survived without the relationship before you were ever together. 

Your feelings play an important role in how you process events in your day-to-day life.  It is also important to evaluate situations through a filter that can identify facts and reality.  Separating your feelings from facts will help eliminate un-necessary stress in your life and can also improve your relationships with others.


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