Feeling Not Fact

There's a saying in the therapy world, "Feeling, not fact". It’s the idea that we often have thoughts and feelings we confuse with facts, and doing so can get us into trouble. Here's some examples: “I feel like it’s never gonna end.” “It feels like he hates me.” “My body is tense so I must be in danger.” “I'm anxious so I should avoid this.” “Feels like if I start crying I'll cry forever.” “Feels like there's no hope.” “Feels like I gained weight.” “Feels like I have to drink or I’ll go crazy.” “Feels like she's out to get me."

I could go on, but I think you get it.

Brains are magnificent, but they are also quite limited. Often they confuse thoughts and feelings for facts. They also try to be efficient and make snap judgements and assumptions based on the past. If we act on every thought or feeling we have, we will be stuck, have small lives, or be chaotic.

Instead of believing everything you think or feel, I suggest two things:

  1. Practice observing your thoughts. Observe and label. Write them down if it’s helpful. But become unstuck from them. See them as a thought or feeling not a mandate or absolute truth.
  2. Get curious. What evidence do you have to support this thought. What would happen if you acted on the thought. Is it possible you could look at this another way? If your friend was thinking the same thought, what would your response be? How does this thought line up with what you know in your gut to be true?

"Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom." - Victor Frankl

If you are still having issues distinguishing belief from your thoughts, please reach out. I would love to help you.