We gotta resist the urge to judge our feelings.
I know, I know. The world teaches us to do a LOT of judging, about EVERYTHING— especially everything about ourselves.
The world teaches us to judge our, and others’, appearance.
The world teaches us to judge our, and others’, motivations and values.
The world teaches us to judge our, and others’, financial and career success— or lack thereof.
Turns out, we don’t live in a world that particularly values good faith or extending the benefit of the doubt. The world loves to judge, even in entertainment contexts.
I guess it shouldn’t be any real surprise that the world teaches us to judge our feelings.
We get into the habit of judging the “rightness” of our feelings— “am I having the ‘correct’ emotion in response to this thing?’”
We get into the habit of judging the proportionality of our feelings— “am I feeling too much? Am I not feeling enough?”
And we very much get into the habit of judging ourselves as people, based on how appropriate our feelings supposedly are.
The whole conversation that sometimes erupts over the “validity” of certain feelings and reactions stems from his impulse to judge our feelings.
The truth of the matter is, feelings aren’t “right” or “wrong.” They arise spontaneously. We don’t ask for them, and the don’t need our consent or approval.
They just show up.
It can be awkward when our feelings don’t seem to represent our values or the values of the culture or subculture around us— but that doesn’t mean our feelings are “wrong.”
Sometimes our feelings arise in response to a misunderstanding or a distorted thought or believe— but THAT doesn’t make our feelings “wrong” or “invalid.”
The reason why it’s important to validate our feelings is because if we accept the premise that certain feelings are “invalid,” we are inviting a conflict with ourselves that isn’t necessary or productive.
Even if we’re having a feeling that we don’t like, that doesn’t serve us, or that seems disproportionate to what’s going on right now, we’re not going to banish that feeling by labeling it “invalid.”
Dismissing something we’re feeling as “invalid” will only handicap our ability to get curious about it, examine it, listen to it, deal with it.
Many of us know what it’s like to grow up being CONSTANTLY told our feelings are “wrong.”
Many of us have had people try to control and shame us by telling us our emotional reactions were “wrong.”
That we were “overreacting.”
That we’re being “dramatic.”
If we don’t like something we’re feeling, the solution is not to deny and disown that we’re feeling it.
If we deny and disown an emotional reaction, it’s not like that emotional reaction goes away.
Sometimes we “stuff” it or even dissociate it— but it’s still there. And it WILL come back.
In recovery, we learn to accept our feelings as they come.
Even if they confuse us, even if they’re painful— we have to accept the fact that our feelings exist.
They are what they are, and we have to deal with them on their terms.
The good news is, when we accept and listen to our feelings, rather than denying and disowning them— WHATEVER they happen to be— we open ourselves up to actually being able to regulate and process them.
We can’t manage something we deny. We can’t regulate something we disown.
Our feelings don’t need to be wholly based in reality to be “valid” and worth exploring and examining.
Resist getting into the debate about whether certain feelings are valid or proportional.
Our feelings are what they are. We need to meet them where they are.
We’re interested in real world emotional regulation so we can get on with our lives— not some hypothetical conversation about which feelings are or aren’t okay to feel.