Why Don't We Trust Our Own Feelings?
This little blog is about feelings, but we’re going to get there by taking the scenic route. Let’s think about thinking for a minute. Are you a rational, logical sort of decision-maker or an instinctive one? And once you’ve made that decision, is that it, done deal, no going back? Or do you tend to waver a bit, rethink, and then start considering your choices? And how much of your decision making is influenced by others? Have all these questions panicked you a bit? Sorry.
It could be something as innocent as having lunch with friends. Although I am beyond buff and can enjoy everything on the menu that doesn’t have a little green smiley face next to it (this is a shocking lie), you might be limiting yourself to spiralised water. You’re my friend, and I know you will be happier if I have the same. So I make a choice that I haven’t really chosen.
Now we move on to feelings. How is it that we often end up so confused about them? We are all adults, we are multi-skilled multi-taskers and capable of all sorts of marvellous stuff. But when somebody in our lives is behaving in a particular way, we sometimes struggle to name how that behaviour makes us feel, and then respond accordingly. But it’s us, and our own feelings – how can we doubt ourselves?
But doubt we do – sometimes to such an extent that, over a period of time, behaviour that we would have originally considered a total deal breaker becomes less disturbing, then kind of acceptable, and finally, as if by bad magic, normal. What’s going on?
What’s going on started happening a long time ago. In our infancy and early childhood, we know what we need - it pretty much boils down to nourishment, comfort, sleep and attention. When we don’t get it, we let everyone know about it. Because, of course, we are the centre of our own little universe.
But, as we get older, suddenly it’s not all about us – parents and carers let us know when what we do displeases them. And, as our focus moves outwards, we want to please the people closest to us. It becomes important to have approval on many different levels. So we move slowly but surely into making value judgements…although I may want milk and a biscuit right this second, I know that it’s night, I’m supposed to be asleep, and nobody will be happy if I wake them up. So I weigh up the options and decide that it’s better to be hungry and not incur everyone’s wrath. Again, not really a choice.
And, if we think about it, far too often we drag this unhelpful, but sometimes necessary, behaviour with us into adulthood. And it can mess us up, big time. We push aside what is important to us so we gain the approval of others. Finally, we may not even be too sure what we really feel, because we automatically look to others to see what they’re feeling first of all.
What would our lives be like if we trusted in our own feelings? Very different, I think.