5 feeling myths debunked

Feelings are often labelled as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ and portrayed as ‘positive’ or ‘negative’, however, these judgements are often far from accurate. The purpose of feelings is to alert us to our reaction towards something; this could be a person, thought, situation or environment; for example. Feelings are our internal messengers. There is the age-old expression “Don’t shoot the messenger!”


However certain feelings are often minimised, denied or even pathologized when the purpose of them is simply to deliver a message to propel us to act or react. If you consider the role of feelings as messengers, there is no ‘good’ or ‘bad’. That’s just a value judgement placed upon them, that isn’t always helpful.  In this article, I’m going to explore and hopefully dispel, five common myths or beliefs connected to common feelings we experience as humans.

  • Myth: “If I feel angry, I’m an angry person and that’s bad!”
  • Fact: Just because you feel angry, it doesn’t make you an angry person.

It’s important to recognise, that just because you feel an emotion you do not become that emotion. So if you’ve been feeling angry a lot lately and acting out that anger - for example; road rage or snappy communication - this doesn’t make you an angry person. Judging yourself as such won't help you to understand what’s going on. Instead, approach with curiosity. What’s going on in your life at the moment? Do you feel frustrated about something? Are you being true to yourself? Sometimes if we are prone to people pleasing or not able to speak our truth, it can come out as misplaced anger. Sometimes people may express anger to hide feelings that they believe make them appear weak or vulnerable, such as sadness or fear - particularly if they have received this message through conditioning in childhood. 

Not all anger is destructive or toxic. Let’s remind ourselves that feeling angry about an injustice can give us the fire to complain, campaign or fight for injustice. When we feel angry and our body’s stress response is activated, we may flee, freeze or fight, to save our life or the life of somebody else.  Anger can give us the strength we need in a life-threatening situation. 

If you are constantly feeling angry and it isn’t in response to a life-threatening or unjust situation, choose curiosity over self-judgement to understand what is going on for you. You could journal about it or work with a therapist to bring some objectivity and clarity to the situation. Once you recognise what you’re truly angry about, you can assess what is within your control to change the situation and recognise what you might need to let go of. Opt for anger management rather than seeing it as something pathological that must be extinguished. Physical exercise and movement are a great way to safely release built-up anger from the body.

Remember you’re not an angry person if you feel angry, or a bad person if you lose your temper. You’re human. Once you understand this, you can own and make amends for any angry outbursts and focus on what your anger is trying to tell you. 

  • Myth: “I must avoid feeling stressed!”
  • Fact: Experiencing stress can be helpful.

This myth could almost be true if we changed the wording slightly - experiencing high levels of stress should ideally be avoided.  Though sadly the ups and downs of life often lead us to highly stressful situations and life circumstances. Experiencing high levels of stress regularly, can cause physical illness and negatively impact our wellbeing. However, feeling stressed about a situation can motivate you to act - for example, if you feel stressed about an approaching exam approaching, it may motivate you to prepare for the exam by revising.  

Stress is an indication that you care about something enough to want it to work out. This could be achieving a goal, getting something finished or meeting a deadline. If you are doing everything within your control to work towards meeting that goal and are checking that the expectations you are placing upon yourself (or that might be being placed upon you by others!) are realistic and achievable. Remind yourself that it is normal to feel a little stressed as you work towards it. This stress will alleviate once the goal or event has passed. 

Life is unpredictable and as humans, we often experience stress-inducing situations. This is unavoidable. You are not failing because you regularly find yourself feeling stressed about things, it’s a reaction to what’s going to in your life. Try approaching your stress levels with curiosity rather than judgment.

To start with, reflect on how you experience ‘feeling stressed’ - does it impact you physically? Whereabouts in your body do you feel it? What are you thinking about when you feel stressed? Does it impact your ability to take care of yourself? For example, impacting your sleep and appetite. Does it impact the behavioural choices you make? By assessing the overall impact of stress on you, this information can indicate whether the levels of stress you’re experiencing are too hard to manage; or if ‘feeling stressed’ is helping to motivate you to get something finished or to act. 

Reframe the way you think about feeling stressed. Rather than seeing it as something to avoid, which has the potential to make you feel like a failure if you start to feel stressed about anything; try taking the view that stress is something to be utilised and managed.  If you have identified that your stress levels are unmanageable and have a detrimental impact on your life and health. Make a plan to better manage your stress levels.

Reflect: how are you managing stress at the moment? What coping strategies are you using? Are they helpful, healthy coping strategies or are they making things worse? For example, if you are drinking excessive alcohol to cope with the feeling of stress, this can bring a new set of problems. Alcohol can be demotivating and is a depressant. Could you swap this for physical exercise or movement instead? Known to lower stress levels and increase energy levels. Feeling exerted from exercise can also tire you out, helping with sleep patterns and appetite. If you notice that stress causes you to worry as a way of coping - trying to make the unknown, known - could you try listing all the things within your control and making a plan for those, then working to let go of the things that remain unknown.  

  • Myth: “It’s weak to cry.”
  • Fact: Crying is a biological function that releases stress from the body.

The opinion that it is weak to cry often occurs as a result of conditioning. A message has been received from childhood and/or society that crying shows weakness and vulnerability. If you can relate to this, you may have been told to “be strong” when crying or on the verge of tears as a child, or told you “were brave” for not crying when hurt. Furthermore, you could have internalised gender stereotyping from childhood, such as “boys don’t cry”. You might not have been told anything verbally at all, but may have witnessed those around you hiding tears or never seen parental figures cry. All of this may have led to the formation of beliefs around crying being a sign of weakness. 

Crying is a biological function of the human body; just like sneezing or yawning. Imagine a pressure cooker, if the pressure build-up is too great, steam will release. It could even explode if pressure were to build with no outlet for the steam! Think of your body in the same way. Stress or emotional overwhelm becomes too much, then the body releases some of this through tears. Tears contain cortisol, the body’s stress hormone - so you are actually releasing stress from the body as you cry. This can be emotional stress or stress from being in physical pain. After crying for a long period of time, you may feel much better, as the body releases oxytocin to help you feel calm and endorphins, which are ‘feel good’ hormones. Understanding the biology and purpose of crying, may help you to reframe crying if you have beliefs around it being a sign of weakness. After all, we never hear somebody say “Don’t sneeze, be strong!” 

It’s not always the case that people don’t cry because they think it’s a sign of weakness or have been conditioned to have negative beliefs about crying. We are all unique beings, with different life experiences, characteristics and genetics. This shapes how we react to situations and our empathy levels etc. Be curious about what crying means for you. Understand what is normal for you when it comes to crying. By knowing this about yourself, you can understand if you’re suddenly crying more than usual for you, or if you used to cry quite easily, but have been feeling numb and not able to cry. This information can give you clues as to what is going on with you during times of difficulty, indicating whether you might need support.  

It’s often assumed that if you feel sad about something, you ‘should’ be crying; for example, following the death of a loved one. However, not all people respond to grief with tears. It doesn’t mean that you aren’t going through the grieving process or that you are stuck if you’re crying too much or too little. The important thing is to reflect on how you feel to ensure you’re not concealing tears because of a belief that you need to be strong and the myth that tears are weak.  

  • Myth: If I’m not feeling happy all the time, I’m not happy. 
  • Fact: Feeling happy is not a permanent state.

Happiness, like all the other feelings we experience as humans, is a temporary state. You may feel generally happy with your life; for example happy with your relationships, job, friendships or life circumstances. Feeling happy about these parts of your life doesn’t mean they won’t ever bring challenge or conflict. However, if you are content with them, then it’s likely you’re happy to continue with them, without feeling the need to make a change.  

The feeling of ‘happiness’ as experienced within our physical body and emotional state, is not supposed to be a permanent state. The message that we feel happy, identifies that whatever we are doing brings happiness and alerts us of this; to repeat this behaviour in the future. It’s nice to feel happy. However, it’s not realistic to expect to feel happy all of the time. Happy is just part of the story of your life, a feeling alongside sadness, anger, fear, excitement and many others. We don’t stay in these states of being, we flow in and out of them. 

If you can understand and accept this, it may help you reframe your expectations about happiness. To feel grateful for the feeling of happiness when it arises in your body and to note what it is that’s bringing joy and happiness, for future reference. Hopefully, this will help you to realise that the pursuit of happiness from external sources, is not permanent or sustainable. Happiness will come and go, just like all feelings do. Just because you don’t feel happy in this moment, doesn’t mean you are not happy in life. 

Be curious about happiness. Note what makes you happy and how happiness feels in your physical body. Be aware of where you seek happiness - is it a person, behaviour or activity? Fumio Sasaki explains; “Happiness isn’t a state we win by accomplishing certain criteria. Happiness is something that can only be felt in this moment.”  Remember, like all other feelings, happiness is a messenger for you. If you frequently feel numb or have a constant lack of happiness, monitor this and seek support if needed. 

  • Myth: “Shyness needs fixing.” 
  • Fact: Shyness needs understanding.

Shyness is often pathologized - that is seen as something wrong to be fixed in some way. However, society is made up of a variety of neurodiverse humans with different interpersonal characteristics: extroverts, introverts and ambiverts. We don’t all fit one mould or way of being and neither should we. Having a society that consists of different interpersonal styles, compliments and brings balance. In some cultures, being shy is viewed as something negative to be worked on, whereas in other cultures shyness is seen as a positive thing. As always, what is most important is how feeling shy impacts you and your life. If you decide you want to work on overcoming feeling shy, then you can choose to pursue this. Equally, if you are comfortable with accepting that you often feel shy in certain situations, that’s okay as well. 

Feeling shy is part of being a human and it happens to everybody. Seemingly confident extroverts can feel just as shy in certain situations, as a person who describes themselves as ‘shy by nature’. It’s important not to assume that all shy people are introverts, they may want to connect with others but fear judgement or rejection. Being characteristically shy often evolves from past life experiences and conditioning in childhood. 

If feeling shy is something you can relate to, be curious about the impact of shyness on your life. Does it stop you from doing things or make you avoid social situations? Does feeling shy escalate to anxiety? If this is something that happens consistently, consider if it’s shyness you’re experiencing or could it be social anxiety.

You could work with a therapist to explore this at a deeper level, with some objectivity. On the other hand, you may be comfortable with shyness as something you often feel and trust that you will feel able to be yourself when you know people better, or when an unfamiliar situation becomes more familiar. It can feel liberating to acknowledge and accept shyness as something you experience, without focusing on it as something that needs fixing. It is often from the place of self-acceptance, that we find change to occur (if desired). 

In conclusion, feelings are messengers. They are temporary states that humans experience, to give clues as to what is going on for us. They don’t need to be fixed or minimised but understood and acted upon if necessary. Managing big emotions such as stress and anger, is more realistic than expecting not to feel them.

Happiness is a desired feeling, but accepting it isn’t supposed to be a permanent state may lead to gratitude for experiencing it in the moment it occurs. You don’t need to fix shyness or feel weak if you cry, but be curious if you do have any judgements towards these experiences. Curiosity leads to exploration and increased self-awareness; which can help you make changes that you desire and accept things that you cannot change

If you would like to work on managing your stress or anger levels or explore the impact of shyness or pursuit of happiness on your life, please get in touch to book a session; online, by telephone or in person in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Leigh-on-Sea SS9 & Leigh-On-Sea SS9
Written by Katy Acton, BA (hons), MBACP Accred. Counsellor and Psychotherapist
Leigh-on-Sea SS9 & Leigh-On-Sea SS9

Katy Acton (BA Hons, MBACP Accred) is an Integrative Counsellor and Psychotherapist with a private practice in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, also online and by telephone.

Katy has been supporting clients for over 13 years and is particularly experienced in working with bereavement, stress, worry, anxiety, relationships.

Katy has published 3 journals.

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