The following are some phrases that I have heard throughout my life: “You should feel lucky…”, “Don’t be so sensitive…”, “You’ve got it all wrong…”, “You are the only one that feels that way…”, “You have a problem…”, “You shouldn’t let it bother you…”, “You make a big deal out of everything…”, “You take everything so personally…”. What do all these things have in common? They are all ways that we invalidate each other’s feelings. What happens when we invalidate each other? Invalidating someone else doesn’t just mean that we disagree with another but that it communicates to the person that their opinions and feelings are irrational, selfish, and wrong.
I am sure from time to time everyone has used some of these phrases, I know I am guilty of using them. Typically however when these words and/or phrases are not used when someone goes through something significant in their lives. It is in those times of emotional distress or struggles when these words can be the most hurtful. This does not mean that we cannot empathize with others but stating that someone’s feelings are incorrect is just as hurtful.
One of my favorite sayings that I have learned is that “feelings aren’t facts”. Let’s break this down. What does this mean? This means that even though we may feel a certain way that does not necessarily mean that those feelings are “correct”. Meaning that just because we feel something does not mean those feelings are facts.
For example, just because we may feel uneasy, scared, distrustful or apprehensive does not mean that we are right or wrong. Feelings are feelings, those are not facts and we should not let ourselves be fooled. What we feel is just that, feelings, those feelings do not lead us down a path to truth or fact, they just simply are. What we feel is neither good or bad, it is simply just how we are responding and what emotional response that stimulus produces. We are not understand that our feelings have overridden logic or common sense, but it is just how we are feeling based on the current circumstances.
These phrases, mentioned at the beginning of this post, are phrases in which those feelings are being invalidated. That those who are expressing those feelings are wrong or somehow incorrect. When those phrases are repeated over and over throughout someone life, it means that from an early age that person’s interpretations of and feelings about the things around them were bad and wrong. The affect that this has on someone can be devastating.
It can kill someone’s confidence and has the potential to worsens psychological disorders and emotional problems. This can cause further feelings of self-doubt, feelings of inadequacy and create people-pleasers. We begin to second guess our emotions as if they are misleading us down a forbidden path. Our senses begin to mislead us and we begin to question ourselves as well as each emotion we have. The world around us is no longer something exciting but more like an entire experience to mislead and confuse us.
I have heard these words. I can remember second guessing my feelings and trying to figure out what feelings I should be feeling. It wasn’t until I went through therapy that I started to realize that it wasn’t normal to be second guessing my feelings. My therapist always told me, feelings aren’t facts. There are still times that I remind myself, that although I may “feel” a certain way, that does not make things into facts. It has been quite helpful over the last four years.
Remember the next time you “feel” something that just because we may feel a certain way does not necessarily mean that those are the facts. Our feelings are just that, feelings, nothing more and nothing less. Try to take an objective view of the situation or person and see if your feelings match the facts OR that the facts are different than your feelings.