Your Feelings Are Lying to You
There is a statement I find myself saying to other people.
It goes, “Your feelings are real, but they aren’t always true.”
What I mean by this is that we all deal with painful emotions. And our emotions often communicate to us what is taking place in the world. We will often perceive our reality based upon what our emotions are telling us.
But when we are emotionally dysregulated, our perceptions are often off. They aren’t accurate.
For example, a person is not always aware or in their best frame of mind when they are feeling scared. The amygdala goes into overdrive and that can lead to harmful coping behaviors. Behaviors like:
· Debilitating Anxiety
· Panic Attacks
Most would agree that people tend not to make the best decisions when emotionally dysregulated. Our relationships suffer when negative messages enter our existence.
You Do Have Feelings:
Everyone has feelings. Those feelings can be very helpful. Feelings tell us when something is meaningful to us. They inform us of when something is wrong in our lives. Or when something is going very well.
We get excited about children being born. We celebrate when a couple gets married. And we get sad when a person who we love dies.
There are many people who try to shut down or withdraw from their feelings. There are many people who try to rationalize or intellectualize rather than feel. And there are those who tried to escape and numb out from emotions.
But that doesn't mean that people don't have feelings. More likely they are afraid of the emotion or feeling.
And then there are some who are overwhelmed by emotions or feelings. It may seem like the smallest thing can set them off into a spiral of harm.
Whatever the case, the emotions or feelings lead to a reaction or coping behavior. We may keep distance to feelings for fear of losing control. Or we may be overcome by the feeling.
Feelings Are Real:
“But you don’t understand! I asked him to take the kids to school, and he totally ignored me! He does not love me!”
This is a statement that I often hear in marriage counseling or couples therapy. One person feels that they really are not cared for when their partner does not respond in a way that was hoped for.
And, so, one person feels unloved. That emotion is absolutely real. In that specific moment, that person feels unloved. And it could be for very good reason.
Maybe he ignored her. Maybe he got angry at her. Whatever the case she received the message that she is unloved.
It is not helpful to tell a person how he or she should feel or not feel about any kind of action. The emotion is real for that person. We are better off honoring that emotion that is being shared than debating or arguing about whether they should have that emotion.
The feelings are real. That person is experiencing a real feeling.
And, at the same time, that feeling may not be true.
Feelings Aren’t Always True:
In the example statement above, the person is experiencing a real and powerful emotion. But there is also reason to believe that the emotion is not true.
For example, would the spouse or partner be in marriage counseling or couples therapy if they did not love the other person? That's pretty unlikely. Even if it is a “last resort” situation, that must mean there is some shred of hope to save a meaningful relationship.
There are times when a person may feel as though life is “out of control.” That is a strong emotion or feeling. And they may start experiencing anxiety and become angry or attempt to escape. The natural “fight or flight” response.
And, outside of some situations, a grown adult does have some control over their life. Even if it is just their own reaction or behavior to bad news. Even when a person is in the midst of a weather event that is out of their control, like a hurricane, that person still has control over how they act within that hurricane.
While it may feel like a person has no control, the truth is that they do hold some amount of control.
The feelings are real, but they are not always true.
How Restoration Therapy Can Help:
Restoration Therapy can help people learn how to lean into what is true, And self-regulate their emotions. And when a person learns to self-regulate, then that person can also choose how they want to act.
There is empowerment in being able to choose. Choose who you are in your work. With your friends and family. And in your marriage or relationship.
Therapy will help people do the work of discovering what is true. And then provide them with the tools to live into their true identity.
Jason Wilkinson is a Marriage Family Therapist Associate and owner of Wellspace Counseling in Tualatin, Oregon. He utilizes Restoration Therapy to help individuals & couples learn how to positively communicate with themselves & others. Wellspace Counseling serves the communities of Tualatin, Lake Oswego, Portland, as well as the entire state of Oregon through online counseling.