Are Your Feelings Irrational?

Have you ever been surprised by the intensity of your feelings about something? Have you been caught off guard by someone else’s sudden and intense anger, or overwhelming sadness?

These responses may surprise you because humans tend to bury uncomfortable feelings. Many of us were told as children, that it’s not nice to feel certain things. We were taught to label some feelings as bad or negative states and hesitate to acknowledge them. Happy, grateful, sad, angry, jealous or disappointed all are feelings. Feelings are neither good nor bad, feelings just are.

For example, when you see a painting, you usually know instantly whether you like it or not. But if someone asks you to explain why you like it, you may not be able to. You may not really know why you think something is good, but your logic is skilled at making up reasons. You search for a plausible reason for liking the painting and you latch on to the first reason that makes sense (maybe something vague about color, or light, or the reflection of the paint). Yet, these justifications are rationalizations or just superficial excuses to justify your personal taste. Many arguments are the same. Two people feel strongly about an issue, their feelings come to the surface and their reasons why, are invented on the fly.

Say you are watching a movie. Now if it is a scary movie and you hear a noise outside your emotions will motivate you to get up and lock the door. Your logic knows there is no ax murderer outside but your emotions do not know the difference. You will likely get up and lock the door. Or say you are watching a sad movie. Now your logic knows it is a movie and no one died, but you may begin to cry anyways. When you experience a painful feeling like fear or sadness, your attention becomes fixated. This forces the mind to obsess and plan on how to handle it.

Painful emotions like anger, worry or sorrow are warnings, which let you know, you or others are being wronged, hurt, or threatened. As such, they can be useful. They help you become aware that something is wrong. They open your eyes to the situation around you. Emotions bring things to the surface, rather than allowing them to smolder unnoticed. As a result, you ignore anything and everything else going on for the time being. The task of worrying is to come up with a plan for solutions. Yet, actions that originate in this way are not always in our best interest, but they carry a particularly powerful sense of certainty. The emotions are going to beat your logic every time.

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Shared by: Aaron Karmin, LCPC, Contributing Blogger

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