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  • Angel Boyce

Feelings Are NOT Facts

Updated: Jun 13, 2022

To understand the concept that feelings are NOT facts, I always use a visualization exercise with my clients.

I begin by saying:

Imagine you are on line at a store, by the register, you start taking items out of your grocery cart and place them onto the conveyor belt. All of a sudden you get hit in the back of the ankle with someone's cart. To avoid confrontation, you try to ignore it, after all, maybe it was an accident, so you do not turn around and continue putting items on the belt.

It happens again! You get hit in the ankle with their shopping cart!

Then I ask a series of questions:

"What would you be thinking?"

I often hear responses such as: this person is rude, people need to pay attention, UGH!

"How do you feel?"

You can imagine the emotions, including, anger, frustration, annoyance, etc.


Lastly, I ask, what do you do?

Turn around to roll my eyes, "tell the person off" or even yell

Now, you finally turn around, prepared to give them a piece of your mind! But, you see an elderly person, who is having a difficult time holding their cart. Almost immediately, your thoughts change. You may begin to think "wow, this person needs help" "they did not do this on purpose", and you may feel empathetic, concerned, considerate, and instead of "going off" you may be inclined to help them out.

This illustrates the concept that our feelings are not FACTS. Before turning around, there were a ton of feelings, based on the information the brain had at that time. However, just because you felt angry, does not mean that the thoughts of the person being rude and inconsiderate were true. In fact, when the brain received new information, that the person was not rude, they were elderly, the feelings shifted.

If how I felt was a fact, how could new information cause a change in my feelings?????!!!?!?!

How we feel is often generated by what we think. The brain uses these thoughts to create emotions and feelings, which often dictate what we do. If my brain says "I am not safe" then I may feel scared, and my body may tense up. Think of a scary movie, although you are actually safe, you may feel fearful.

So, why is this important? The more we understand that our feelings are based on the thoughts we have, the better able we are to regulate our emotions and behave in an intentional healthy way. Create space to observe the feeling, process why am I feeling this way, and use reality testing to understand if this feeling is based on past experiences, unhelpful thinking styles, trauma, etc.

How to use this in real time:

If someone is speaking to you and you feel anger rising, begin to ask yourself why am I feeling this way? You may realize they remind you of someone in your life who hurt you or made you feel inept.

Cognitive behavioral therapy focuses on how to manage unhelpful thinking styles that may contribute to various disorders including anxiety and depression. Learn what ways my thoughts may be contributing to "feeling bad" and begin to work on changing those thoughts so you can live a life that is full and happy. Just because I feel worthless, does not mean I am. Therefore it is essential that we take inventory of how we feel (because all feelings are valid), but not solely allow how we feel to dictate who we are or what we do.

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