Why You Can't Always Trust Your Feelings
When I was in graduate school for psychology, our rallying cry was "Go with you feelings."
When somebody got up in front of class to give a presentation and we were in a rowdy mood that's what we said.
When one of our gang hesitated over a project, whether it were conducting some original research or figuring out how to get a date, that's what we said.
And when we were in a session with a client, that's what we said, too.
The reason we passionately believed in this idea was because it was quite obvious to us that the cause of most psychological disorders, whether they were the garden variety or the serious ones, were due to emotional suppression.
We equated "feel more" with "be more."
On the surface, this seems correct.
After all, if you want to try something new that will eventually empower you, feeling it more will empower you more.
And, if you want to help someone pull out of a stuck state, feeling it more will flush it out.
Or, if something doesn't feel right and you shouldn't go along with a person or situation, it may be your intuition ringing a loud alarm.
In such cases, it's wise to trust your feelings.
But there is a shadow side to trusting your feelings and going with them.
Let me explain:
This is when you should do something, but you don't feel like doing it. So you don't do it.
You probably want some examples.
You should clean up the kitchen, tidy your desk, or go to bed early because you have a busy day ahead, but you don't feel like it.
The result is that your kitchen becomes a health hazard, your desk the source of your habitual inefficiency, and your late nights, the reason for your low energy and bad moods.
You went with your feelings alright, and had to pay a price for it. Was it wise to trust those feelings?
Now let's dig a little deeper.
Why do we have feelings that we shouldn't trust in the first place? Where do they come from? Is a part of our mind deliberately out to wreck our little world?
The answer to the source of these feeling is the subconscious mind. In particular, past associations of pain associated with the necessary activities.
It's not fun cleaning the kitchen, washing and rinsing dishes, wiping down the counter, putting away dinner, and taking out the trash. It's a lot more fun to watch T.V. So pleasure wins.
It's not fun tidying up your desk, filing away old documents, finding a place to put your calculator, and wondering what to do with all the excessive pens you've collected. It's more fun to fire up your computer and check your email.
It's not fun going to bed early when you feel the need to watch T.V., chat on the phone, or do something else that you consider pleasurable.
Pain, pain, pain.
Why opt for pain, when it can be substituted for pleasure?
It's because the pain you avoid today will only get worse tomorrow.
The 15 minutes it takes to clean the kitchen will one day prevent a 3 hour attempt to create sanity (and sanitation).
The 10 minutes it takes to tidy your desk will one day prevent a frantic search for that overdue bill that you're now paying a late fee on.
The 5 minutes it takes to go to bed will prevent you from dragging through the next day feeling like death warmed over.
Ideally, you can flip the switch and change associations of pain into those of pleasure and make the clean kitchen, and the tidy desk, and the early bedtime sources of pride.
But it does take some work, and you may not feel like it.