If there’s one part of our experience that we view as sacrosanct, it’s our feelings. While thoughts and behavior, the other two parts of the golden trilogy that composes our “selves” are as important, it’s our feelings that we’re closest to. Why else would so much of psychotherapy focus on them? With all do respect to the cognitive therapy boom, there’s more talk about feelings in therapy than thoughts. Why else would the most overused question in the history of psychotherapy be, “so how does that make you feel?”
Thoughts are in our head, a rather small space. But feelings are different, they take over our entire body, they’re bigger, more intense and consequently, more seductive. We’re easily seduced by our feelings, believing they represent an accurate description of our reality. WRONG.
I know it’s blasphemy to say it, but sometimes our feelings are obstacles to good decision making. In other words there are times when a feeling/emotion is “clean” (i.e., a legitimate response to a current situation). At other times, however, a feeling can be a part of an old programmed response pattern that “fires” under certain circumstances .
Take the current situation of Brett Favre, legendary quarterback of the Green Bay Packers. Brett retired months ago during a during a typical retirement press conference. At that moment in time he looked at his career, his life and his future and decided to call it a day. It all made sense and, at that moment in time, Brett knew it was time to go. Perfect. Then, five months later he says he made a mistake and wants his job back.
Anybody who had every played a seasonal sport knows that the “feeling” of wanting to play always returns as training camp approaches. It like Pavlov’s dog; ring the bell and he salivates. Brett Favre could no sooner stop those feelings than he could stop the sun from rising. He was at the mercy of classical conditioning.
Being able to step outside your experience so that you don’t get seduced is a very sophisticated skill. Good decision making is a critical component of wisdom. And being able to distinguish between real vs. illusory feelings is central to this process.
So right now…… as you slow down….way down…….and reflect on what you’ve read…………perhaps you can………when you’re ready………reflect on times when you were fooled by a feeling………a time perhaps not so long ago……..when you were absolutely convinced…….that the feeling was just so right……so perfect…..and then…….it all changed…….what appeared so solid,,,,,,turned out to be vapor…….an illusion…..but now as you reflect…..and think……perhaps you can think differently about your feelings………in a new and productive way………we all get fooled from time to time…….but now you know more than you did before.