One could say that feelings are always right, especially considering how they often just “happen” despite our best efforts!
Sometimes, the context of certain feelings is messed up, yes indeed. You don’t want to burst out laughing when somebody is weeping, talking about a loss they’ve suffered. And yes, feelings can be beastly, overwhelming things that get in the way! They can be embarrassing, send the wrong message, give the wrong impression, and so on. And the actions people take because of their feelings are often misguided, inappropriate, or harmful.
But feelings themselves can never be wrong, anymore than the rising sun is “wrong.” Both the rising sun and our feelings simply exist.
It’s important not to see your feelings as “wrong” because you can’t help how you feel. You can study self-help books for months, meditate for years, do all kinds of confidence-building exercises and poker-face training – but you will still have feelings. You will always have feelings. And you’ll never have control over them. And there is nothing wrong with that.
So many people don’t want to feel certain things. They don’t give themselves permission to feel certain things. But this is a losing battle – because those feelings are still there, and often they will just “happen” anyway, despite our denial. And the longer the suppression of feelings continues, the more the feelings will get worse and fester.
Feelings can be a wonderful asset
This includes all the feelings, the bad ones as well as the good ones. In fact, the most valuable feelings are the unexpected ones: they are the ones that will teach you the most, that will help you to “level up” and understand something you need to understand but have not yet understood.
I’ve heard some people say “well, feelings are feelings, they aren’t wrong or right.” But, I believe that from a positive, forward-thinking point of view, feelings are “right” because they point the way forward when you’re not on the right track. Or rather, they point you in the direction of what is stopping you from moving forward; what you must deal with more completely before you can move forward.
When it’s overwhelming, it’s overwhelming, and it doesn’t feel right at all – we’ve all been there. Part of the reason I like to ascribe “rightness” to the feelings we have is because I want people to get out of a state of shame about their feelings! We spend so much time crafting this perfectly-tuned image of who we are that when we actually do have strong feelings, especially if they are unwanted and overwhelming, we are prone to bouts of shame about ourselves, which further compounds the overwhelmingness of it all: “I can’t control my feelings! I can’t trust myself! How can others trust me!?” and stuff like that. Well, the first step is to permit yourself to have whatever feelings come up for you – because you ain’t the master of that ship!
A friend of mine once told me that her approach to unwanted situations that she couldn’t stop from happening is to try to “act as though I had asked for the situation to happen.” That’s quite a tall order sometimes – but she learned through thinking this way that she is able to get back on track faster, because she spends less time and energy fighting with things she can’t control, wishing they would change.
The rationale behind letting go
You can’t help certain things. Most people don’t spend lots of time beating themselves over the head for things they can’t help. If a flood comes and ruins homes, it is a terrible tragedy, but we don’t tend to blame ourselves personally for something like this (unless you believe there was something you specifically could have done to help avert these homes being ruined).
Feelings are like that flood. They function mostly independently of the decisions you make (granted, there are things we do in our lives that better or worsen our chances of feeling good – but we often vastly overestimate the amount of control we have over such dynamics). Feelings change, often quickly and in ways you cannot predict – and while it is true that certain activities are likelier than others to lead to happiness and avoid undue misery (like saving money, taking care of your health, and not smoking, for example), there’s no guarantee about any of this.
Letting go doesn’t mean letting go of all responsibility or hope. It merely means re-orienting – that rather than fighting your feelings and holding on to the way you think you should feel, you kind of “go with it,” as though your feelings are a fact along with the rest of the things you don’t have control over. Because they are. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
Don’t blame others for their feelings
If you want to be a positive, likeable, trustworthy, approachable person, this is a big part of the deal. How is anybody going to want to trust you with the things they are thinking and feeling if they get the sense that you will judge them for it? Sometimes, the point when a person most needs to talk about their feelings are those moments when the feelings are inconvenient – when they don’t line up with what they “need to feel” or what is “expected” of them. Positive people are the kind of people you can talk to about stuff like that – stuff that doesn’t always feel right for the moment – or ever.
Some feelings can lead to harmful places when not checked – but what can we hope to do about these feelings if we can’t even let ourselves begin the dialogue about them, both within ourselves and with our families and friends? I’ve seen conversation after conversation degenerate into an awful war of words because of basic lack of respect for the feelings of another person. This “respect” is not supposed to be a forced kid-gloving, compassionate embrace, either. Nobody should try to forbid you to have your own feelings about what someone else feels, either; that’s the whole point, your feelings are never wrong!
What people feel and what they do are two separate things. By giving ourselves and others permission to feel whatever we need to feel, so much unnecessary shame can be avoided. We can find better, less harmful, more positive ways of expressing this feeling, and learn to trust and connect better.
- “Wrong” versus “unjust”
- You’re not feeling everything that you really feel
- The important difference between feelings and states of mind