Recovery, the self-help group for people suffering from depression, has a catch phrase: “Feelings Are Not Facts.” In other words, what we feel is not always a reliable guide to what is real or true in our lives. Yet many of our day to day thoughts and actions are based on what we feel. When we’re caught up in emotion, our Awareness of what’s truly happening around us can be severely handicapped resulting in limited choices and poor decisions.
Some people are more prone to emotionality than others. The ancient personality mapping system called the Enneagram divides human beings into three groups: those whose primary mode of experiencing life is intellectual, those who have a gut, almost physical experience, and those who respond with emotion. The emotion based group can feel overwhelmed – as if their body has been saturated by the emotion and all of life is colored by whatever they’re feeling.
This can result in elation if the emotion is joyful. And if the emotion is fear, sadness, anger…it can lead to a sense of desolation and hopelessness. In between are a range of more sedate reactions. But even with a sedate, relatively low key reaction, emotions can influence our actions and the choices we make.
This is sometimes a good thing. Fear can be a great early warning system for danger. Anger can tell us our boundaries have been overstepped. But for people who chronically act out of emotion and find the results are not always in their best interest, the Recovery adage is extremely useful. Feelings do not necessarily guide us to the best choices in life because they can act as a muddy filter on our Awareness of reality. When in the throes of strong emotion I’ve found it useful to use the recovery adage as a mantra. In times of strong emotion, keep repeating: “Feelings are not Facts.”
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