Feelings Can Be Deceiving

Feelings can be deceiving

Feelings can be deceiving

In this week’s Success Newsletter, I would like to reveal the way that emotions and feelings can fool us, and how in 3 simple steps you can know the truth and when to say “Yes” and when to say “No.”

First a quick update:

“I lived in a cult until I was 18”
Imagine being raised in cult for the first 18 years of your life — and you can’t seek outside medical help and there is sexual and physical abuse. Elle Benet, cult survivor and Author of “They Made Me Do It”, reveals to the hosts of Emotional Mojo what it was like in a cult, how she was able to forgive everyone for what she experienced, and what her life is like escaping the cult. She is now an author and the co-founder of Girls United (www.girlsunited.us), a social fashion interactive site that encourages women to network and inspires unity through fashion. Watch the TV interview here.

Now, let’s talk about the way that emotions and feelings can fool us, and how in 3 simple steps you can know the truth – when to say “Yes” and when to say “No.”

“Human beings have a demonstrated talent for self-deception when their emotions are stirred.” – Carl Sagan, “Cosmos”

Carl Sagan was an American astronomer and popular science writer who also taught a course on critical thinking at Cornell University until his death in 1996. When Sagan wrote the above in his book “Cosmos” in 1980, he was specifically referring to the way humans would be stirred and respond to the possibility that there might be intelligent beings on other planets such as Mars.

Nonetheless, his observation has greater significance as it highlights the fact that our emotions are not always accurate or even reliable.

Feelings deceive us into thinking they represent reality
How often have you felt bad about yourself? Maybe you felt like you were a loser or that things were hopeless; maybe you experienced anxiety or fear. But those feelings don’t necessarily reflect reality: the situation might not be hopeless although it feels that way; feeling like a loser doesn’t mean you are an outright loser; fear is often based in imaginings which prove to be false or misleading. The majority of our fears, stem from worries which often never come to fruition.

Feelings drive us to do good and bad things – many of them stupid and detrimental to our health and wellbeing
It is feelings and emotions which drive us to take action or not to take any action at all. We feel angry because someone has slighted or wronged us and we respond by trying to hurt them in return. But that immediate emotional action creates even more problems; maybe we responded with violence or violent words.

We feel sad or hopeless and so we refuse to participate in life or certain activities or opportunities, only to learn later that we missed out on something that was significant and valuable. For some people, that could be missing out on a child’s important day or event or it could be a business opportunity.

We find out someone has betrayed us and we immediately react by sabotaging or spiting that person; the result is that it costs us our job, a relationship or even friends.

Feelings can lead us to pursue only pleasure with no real long-term rewards
We all experience the feeling of the desire for instant gratification. We see something we want and without regard for the long-term consequences, we immediately indulge or over indulge: food, junk food, recreational activities, alcohol, gambling or doing nothing at all.

Children pursue pleasure and instant gratification because they have little to no responsibilities. They also have a limited moral compass and a brain that has not fully developed and therefore they struggle to control their emotional impulses. Think back to childhood and an activity that you did which made you ill the next day. I recall eating fruit off the backyard tree till my stomach was so full it felt like it was going to burst; the next day I would have stomach pains because the fruit I ate excessively was not even ripe!

And yet, on the other hand, having fun is healthy and every scientific study shows that the single best thing you can do for your health is to have fun. In fact, belly laughs strengthen your immune system for months at a time.

Thus, our feelings can be confusing and misleading.

The cultural revolution of the 1960s proclaimed the rights and liberated the prerogatives of pleasure. “If it feels good, do it!” was the moral necessity or rule at Woodstock. But by the mid 1990s, as explained by David Shaw in his book, “The Pleasure Police – How Bluenose Busybodies and Lily-Livered Alarmists Are Taking All the Fun Out of Life”, the new motto was “If it feels good, it must be risky and bad, immoral and dangerous to your health.” Shaw promotes living and enjoying life to the fullest.

Again, though, if we are to simply do whatever feels good, how do we not end up doing the wrong thing? How do we safeguard ourselves from deceiving or sabotaging ourselves? After all, hurting someone who hurt us, does feel good in the moment; giving in to that extra drink or pleasure does feel good in the moment; not exercising early in the morning and choosing to sleep in does feel good in the moment. (Note: I am also excluding from this article – sociopaths and other people who lack empathy and compassion.)

The answer is beyond balance and self-discipline & control; the answer is to connect to your values and goals.

Delayed gratification equals long-term rewards
First, it is critical to understand that feelings and emotions are not wrong but they can be inaccurate or misleading. As I teach all of my clients (adults and children): you are allowed to feel whatever you feel. However, the way you choose to respond to that feeling and emotion will determine your long-term outcome and result.

Given that what feels good in the moment is not always good for us, and sometimes what feels bad in the moment is actually good for us (think of the struggle to exercise or to say “No” to peer pressure) the key is to be authentic and live with integrity. This refers to self-knowledge: become clear about your values, morals, beliefs and purpose.

When you do this, you can actually connect with what really feels good at a deeper level: staying true to your core values and goals for life which in turn creates satisfaction, fulfillment, contentment and happiness.

Here are 3 simple steps:

  1. List your goals
  2. List your values
  3. Make time to have fun

When you know your values and goals, you can decide in each situation whether or not this momentary pleasure is good for you – your purpose, your values, your health and your soul. Thus, the phrase “If it feels good, do it!” is valid unless it goes against or undermines the above.

Finally, the missing links to staying true to yourself are: discipline and self-control. You still need the power and ability to say “No” when the tempting feeling presents itself and you know that if you give into it, you will be deceived or it will sabotage your life. One simple tip is to imagine the pain that will be created if you give into the feeling of the moment and also imagine the pleasure that will be derived from the long-term benefit of aligning your actions with your values and your soul.

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I wish you the best and remind you “Believe in yourself -You deserve the best!”

Patrick Wanis Ph.D.
Celebrity Life Coach, Human Behavior & Relationship Expert & SRTT Therapist

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