Feelings… have you ever felt something so strongly that you’re sure you can predict the future, or what someone else is thinking, or when to make a decision one way or the other? We can be uncannily accurate about what another person is feeling and it’s what makes us empathetic individuals, which is great. We’d all be psychopaths without this ability.
However, feelings can just as easily lead people astray. You only have to ask someone who’s addicted to gambling, who’s sure that their luck is ‘just about to change’, to see how disastrously things can turn out trusting feelings alone. There’s something to be said for evidence-based observations and looking at the cold, hard, logical facts.
Which side do you fall on? Do you trust your feelings when push comes to shove, or do you look at the logic and put feelings aside? Knowing when to do each can be really helpful, so here are a handful of discernment tips for this week.
Trust your feelings but know that they can deceive you at any given moment. Allow room to ask your ‘inner scientist’, “If feelings were out of the equation right now, what evidence is there before me?” “In the past, what predictably happens in similar situations? Is it likely to happen again?”
Rather than sticking to a broad description, “I just know!”, take time to really articulate what you’re feeling to someone else. This will usually bring clarity and the feelings will either become stronger or start to get a little shaky.
Feelings are often mixed and conflictual. This is a sign of emotional intelligence. In fact, the more ambivalent the feelings are the more likely a person is to be flexible, adaptable and resilient. It’s okay to say, “Gee, I’m feeling really confused about this. On the one hand I feel strongly that… and yet a part of me also feels…”
Sometimes what you feel like doing and what is the right or best thing to do may be very different. Going for the delayed gratification and getting on with the ‘best practice’ will ultimately lead to feeling happier for longer, even if it means a momentary ‘downer’.
Ignore the feelings that catch you in a critical, judgemental or destructive loop. If feeling ‘guilty’ for example has you spiral into thinking of all the things you ‘should’ be doing and feeling like a ‘failure’, it’s best to find a way to be distracted or contain the feelings that trigger this. This is not the time to listen to feelings.
Hopefully this helps bring some balance into your week.
These discernment tips were adapted from Michael Yapko’s The discerning therapist book, 2016.