What are feelings really?
I mean …..what are they really? To some they are an inconvenience, getting in the way of the rest of their lives like Fear for example. But how do we really know what they are? They are not tangible or touchable in themselves yet they influence our lives and choices down to the nth degree.
To me they are like a secret rite of passage into the world of another but do we ever really truly know what it feels like for that other person? Empathy may get close but…..
Many use language and actions to portray their feelings as best they can others use art and medium to express the inner self. For some expressing feelings is so difficult, they have never truly been invited to share. A client recently reminded me of the generational differences even in todays society of how feelings are viewed. It seems my generation of the 40 ahem something’s can be quite open with each other about how we feel, but it wasn’t that long ago that any sign of ‘feeling unwell emotionally’ may have been taken as mental illness and would have had you committed to an institution therefore people kept quiet. Clients share with me their difficulties of being brought up by parents with whom sharing feelings is a foreign concept. They talk of few tactile moments, being unable to express that they are struggling emotionally and feeling shunned if they try. This leads to sharp inner conflict for some, developing coping strategies of ignoring their own feelings or internalizing them in order to try to portray an orderly more socially acceptable form of the self that the world sees. In the extreme for some an ‘alien self’ is developed that is attached to the real self but has little or no connection.
Feelings are much more than fleeting moments to be ignored. They are our true inner self, the most powerful part of us, forming our core or our soul. They allow us to develop thought patterns, values and ways of being, but to me they are the foundation and the truest part of ourselves - so why ignore them? The Cognitive Behavioural Therapist could argue that they can be influenced by our thought pattern but it’s a bit of a chicken and egg situation as to which comes first. Certainly I believe that challenging negative thoughts can influence the way we feel and can be really useful for unhelpful coping strategies but I also believe it can be empowering to know how that feeling was developed in the first instance and where it came from. Who’s feeling is it – is it yours or one you inherited from someone?
Some theories suggests that we are all made up of moving matter, in my head I have an image that if you stripped away the layers of matter to get to the centre of each human being there would be a mass of energy. It would look a bit like those pictures you see of the sun or the centre of the earth lovely bright colours but moving, flowing, interacting, complex but with definition and life as we know it would be impossible without them – this is what I think feelings look like. How would you describe your feelings? Counselling can give you an excellent forum to explore this question.