I get really, really worried when people I’m working with say things like “I went with my gut on that decision”, “The heart wants what the heart wants”, or “I just did what felt right”, as if feelings were the primary arbiter for an accurate, wise, or favourable outcome being (most often not) attained.
The trouble with relying on feelings is that, well, our feelings can actually lie to us.
How many times have you wrongly taken offence when none was intended? Got the “wrong end of the stick”? Made a wrong assumption based on a “hunch”?
In my line of work, a common catch-cry is that people have to ‘get in touch with their feelings’, however I have found that not only are people in crisis often already marinating in their feelings; they are doing so to the point of risking cognitive and emotional asphyxia (which is one of the reasons they are so bloody miserable).
In 2015, a US Social Worker by the name of Amy Morin, a woman well-acquainted with an avalanche of her own personal grief experiences, penned a thesis about what fundamental mental and emotional wellbeing actually looked like – and ‘getting in touch with your feelings’ just didn’t make the cut.
Through her own personal recovery/discovery, conducting research reviews, and tapping into practice-based client experience themes, Morin identified 13 key principles that assisted people to ‘be in their right mind’ when journeying through their lives.
Have a look at the list below, and see which of these may apply to you (or not) in terms of how you operate in your world:
· They don’t waste time feeling sorry for themselves.
· They don’t give away their power to the opinions and perceptions of others.
· They don’t shy away from change.
· They don’t focus on things they can’t control.
· They don’t worry about pleasing everyone.
· They don’t fear taking calculated risks.
· They don’t dwell on the past.
· They don’t make the same mistakes over and over again.
· They don’t resent other peoples success.
· They don’t give up after the first failure.
· They don’t fear alone time.
· They don’t feel that the world owes them anything.
· They don’t expect immediate results.
Clearly, there is a lot more to attaining sound mental and emotional wellbeing than just how we feel, and a strong theme in the above list is one of decisional and influential limits: to know and accept our own.
Feelings are part of the package of human existence – however they are both unreliable and insufficient for living an ultimately fulfilled life.
If you are disappointed, angry, or upset at reading that last line – hey, it’s just a feeling.
Steve is the Director of Relationship Matters Ltd. He holds two applied Bachelor's degrees (Counselling & Addiction) and a P.G. Dip. in Applied Social Practice. Steve is married with two children and lives in West Auckland.