Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Feelings sometimes feel like facts

I hear the statement that feelings aren't facts at meetings frequently.  But as was shared in the meeting last night: “Feelings aren’t facts, but it’s a fact that I’m having my feelings”.  And that surely is okay because for so long emotions are often repressed around alcoholics.  They are repressed until they boil over in anger and resentment.  So feelings are a good thing.

But where does the phrase "Feelings aren't facts" come in?  To me this means that some of my thoughts are really fabricated projections and aren't based on reality.  It is easy for me to relapse into the old way of thinking that involves blame, judgment, obsession, and even dislike. My thoughts can either be ones that are distorted, based on unfounded assumptions and negative projections or they can be ones that bring me pleasure, comfort, peace, and acceptance.

The feelings that I have had which were counter-productive to recovery were those in which I blame myself for what I perceive as a slight by another: "If only I had said something different, the person would like me."  And usually if I stay in that frame of mind long enough, I get around to twisting those thoughts of blaming into having angry thoughts about others:  "I don't deserve to be treated this way.  This person is a royal pain."

I have to smile at these little internal rants that so quickly can take over if I am not careful.  And these can occur whether I actually know the person or not.  It may be a perceived snub from someone on line.  Or it may be someone I know who was busy and didn't say Hello.   These thoughts happen instantaneously based on the old fears of abandonment, rejection, and criticism that happened in the past, mostly in my family of origin.  It is the child within raging against all kinds of perceived slights.

So when these unhealthy and negative thoughts come up,  I take time to sit with them and look at them from an adult perspective.  Are these thoughts really true or are they some dregs from the past that can poison my present?

What I have learned in Al-Anon is to speak my true thoughts to myself.  I see if they are real, based on the facts in front of me.  If they are just something that I have invented based on the old painful stuff from the past,  then I need to look hard at whether I want to believe that these emotions fit the current situation.

I don't want to live in emotional drama in which my thoughts are based on hating others or myself.  I believe that I have a choice about what thoughts to accept as true and which ones are fueled by my past experiences that go all the way back to childhood.  I am glad to realize that not every thought that comes into my head today is valid.  Not everyone is out to get me or be a jerk.  In fact, I think the opposite of that by thinking that most people are truly good and well-intentioned.  If I take the time to think clearly without reacting,  I get along with my fellows better, am more mature in my outlook, and see other points of view that I might not have even considered.

Thoughts are the shadows of our feelings - always darker, emptier and simpler. ~F. Nietzsche


  1. I have to tell myself that feelings aren't facts a lot because I tend to jump to those instantaneous negative thoughts. Thankful that I have tools to use today to recognize that I'm letting some "dregs from the past poison my present". Well said, Syd.

  2. well said Syd...

    I have always had difficulty not being ruled by my feelings. Then men in AA taught me that my feelings aren't necessarily facts. However, that doesn't discount the fact we have feelings. It merely enables me to remember that I have a choice in how I deal with my feelings.

  3. You know this is one of the hardest things for me. But it's not feelings as in how I perceive others feel about me. That, I do not care so much about. It is, as you said, the "fabricated projections" and I know that when I am having them obsessively, it is time to step back and do something because they lead to anxiety and panic.
    It's a hard one.

  4. Well, Syd, I heard some people were out to get you.


    Good post, you're saying "it's not all about me;)"

  5. Well, there are the objective facts and then there is the way I interpret those facts and how others interpret them differently. And that is all bound up with our expectations and fear and how we unscramble our reactions or responses in order to get some balance --

  6. some great thoughts syd...for me the quote reminds me to not make decisions based on my feelings...feelings change...and decisions are best made on facts....

  7. I spent some time the other night having those circling thoughts in my head while Jeckyll was out at a comedy club. It was late and I wanted him to be home and i was projecting all my fears and insecurities. I was having imaginary scenarios and imaginary arguments and future problems. I think that's part of what is not based on fact. My feelings were real, but the play-out of different outcomes had absolutely no basis in reality. It was just me imagining all kinds of bad things.

  8. I remember when my old counsellor, who was by far the best one I ever had, told me Feelings are Irrational. They are by their very nature not rational so don't be bemused by that; don't try and rationalize them. Sounds stupid but it was a big revelation to me.

  9. After living with alcoholism and dysfunction I learned pretty quickly to keep your feelings to yourself or be attacked. After living like that it has been hard to speak up. I do it anyway even when my heart is racing. I do it for myself to keep things current and my resentments low. I am entitled to have feelings even if they aren't always rational.

  10. Wonderful post and very well said, Syd. This program has helped me mature in my thinking, as you said "... take the time to think clearing without reacting." It's a process, but it's a good day when I can acknowledge my feelings and chose whether I reach to them or not. Thank you for sharing.

  11. So well said, Syd. I believe that feelings are a gift from my HP, to act as a guidance system for me in the world.

    I've also been working to have tolerance for a newbie in my primary program, who is challenged in accepting the powerlessness of our first step.."Admitted we were powerless over our emotions and that our lives had become unmanageable."

    Here is my latest understanding: Do my emotions fit the current situation in a way that creates right action? If not, then I am powerless over them and my life is about to become unmanageable....

  12. I'm with you on this one. Being able to self-examine is a gift that has set me free from the tyranny of my emotions. It really has revolutionized the way I live, because I no longer stew in the misery of stinking thinking.


Let me know what you think. I like reading what you have to say.