We continue the series by Kevin Flood sharing wisdom he has gained on his journey of healing.
Feelings Aren’t Facts
by Kevin Flood
This month we borrow another saying from AA, (Alcoholics Anonymous), “Feelings Aren’t Facts. Feelings are a reaction to the facts of our abuse.
Your boss, who normally smiles at you, passes you in the hallway, you smile but he doesn’t recognize you. You immediately feel like he changed his mind about you, you are no longer important to him and you no longer have his support for your work. These, and many more feelings may come to your mind as you walk on. Perhaps you stop at a bar on the way home and have a few drinks to calm down, or perhaps many drinks. You wake up the next morning with the same feelings of dread, and once again realize, the drinking didn’t help.
Before the dread sets in let’s identify a few facts of the situation: you don’t really know why he walked past you without smiling, he may be on the way to the hospital to see his sick mother, he just got bad news from his boss and is upset, the burden of his workload may be weighing on his feelings, he’s headed to a meeting that is critical to his success, and other possible reasons.
Feelings are a reaction to the facts of our abuse.
The emotions you have are real, and can convince you that your future is ruined. But let’s do a review of the “facts of the moment” and see what they tell us. The biggest fact to hold on to is that you do not know the reason for his behavior. Allowing in all the negative feelings and reasons you suddenly have may seem natural to us but they are not factual. Given our trauma experiences we’ve had, we can quickly go back to how our old experiences made us feel. While it is not the same trauma, your boss’ action triggers the same feelings: rejection, fear, shame, powerlessness and other feelings. If you rely on your feelings in these circumstances to be your reality, you will likely feel down, if not depressed, as you did before. Using your trauma recovery tool-box you might ask yourself:
Six Questions for Your Recovery Toolbox
1. What facts do I actually know about his behavior?
2. How was I feeling at that moment?
3. What mood was I in?
4. What just occurred before seeing him?
5. Was your conclusion based on other events or similar moments?
6. What other reason might there be to explain a distracting moment?
After some careful reasoning, you might arrive at the fact that he didn’t ignore you, he was having his own issues. Make these six questions routine and carry them with you as you go about your business. They’ll come in handy over and over.
So what do you do if you keep having lots of feelings, and most of us in recovery do. You keep using your recovery tool box and remembering that facts aren’t feelings. To do this work you need to tell the difference between the feelings we generate from our imagination and those that reflect your reality. The more you can focus on facts instead of feelings the more likely you are to lighten your load of weighty, negative feelings.
Feelings have to be processed by you because feelings are good and bad and heavy and light and sometimes all at the same time, and they’re real. When the trauma happened we felt we had no control over ourselves, we weren’t in charge of ourselves. In recovery, rough as it can be, you have the opportunity to grow strong and realize that you are the manager of your recovery, you are in control. Recovery takes hard work and constant practice in all the areas we need to change. Your feelings can’t and shouldn’t be ignored, but must be understood for the benefit of your peace of mind.
AVOID THE WRECKAGE OF OUR FUTURE
Don’t try to ignore or push down the feelings, your memories won’t let you.
When we let emotions control our behavior, we can catastrophize and create what we call “the wreckage of our future”. When we don’t stop and work out our feelings we can imagine all sorts of terrible situations in our future. These situations are our imaginations at work, not reality.
Separating feelings from facts is important in so many moments in our lives. The more you believe your negative feelings the more likely you are to not engage with your partner or with friends and co-workers. Staying as positive as possible can have a big impact on your emotional well-being. Taking time to identify the ways in which you are worthwhile can give you a more balanced view of your reality. The more you sort feelings from facts, the more you will have space to grow and engage with your world.
I was always looking outside myself for strength and confidence but it comes from within. It is there all the time. -Anna Freud
Remember recovery is measured in progress, not perfection!
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Be well. Stay safe. Take good care.