Emotions are powerful and important things. Along with your ability to think or reason, the capacity to feel emotions and express them is part of what makes you human. Recognizing your feelings and allowing yourself to experience them can be a very healthy thing.
Typically, your feelings are prompts that provide important information about situations that you may encounter in your life. If a man with a gun approaches you, your feeling of fear is understandable. It's telling you that you are, in fact, in danger and need to act accordingly.
What you sometimes forget though, is that your feelings don't always tell you the truth. Sometimes your 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?
When your feelings are especially strong, they can make you believe things that aren't actually based in fact. When you get caught up in the wave of emotion, your thinking gets distorted, and you have a hard time staying grounded in the truth of the situation. This is why it's really important to evaluate your 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:
- What are the facts of the situation? List them out as objectively as you can. Separate the facts of the situation from the conclusions that you might jump to.
For example, instead of jumping to conclusions: "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."
…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."
- 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 about the argument we had."
- 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 actually happened.
- What has happened before? Think back to similar situations and how they have worked out.
You might say to yourself, "We've had arguments before and have always made up in the end."
Your feelings play an important role in how you process events in your day-to-day life. It's 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.