There is a phrase that is often quoted among those who are interested in personal growth and healing – feelings aren’t facts. I’m not sure where it originated, but it’s been around a while and I believe it’s helped a lot of people. That’s reason enough to keep repeating it.
However, I don’t really agree. I actually turn it upside down and say, “Feelings are just facts.” In order for this to make sense, you’d first need to know that I’m not that impressed by facts. There are probably hundreds or thousands of facts that make up any reality, any moment, any situation. But those facts, singly or in combination, are never quite equivalent to the truth of the matter. And I think truth is ultimately so much more important than any fact could ever hope to be. So, it’s a fact that I’m sometimes grumpy and it’s also a fact that I’m sometimes easy-going, but neither of those facts represent the truth about who I am, which is both of those and everything in between because I’m a complex, complicated, ambivalent human with a wide range of moods and aspects and an ever-changing flow of feelings – just like every other human being.
So, a feeling is a fact. It’s a fact about now, this moment, and one I’d be well advised to pay attention to. Our feelings are there for a reason. They arise from a deep, ancient part of ourselves that only wants the best for us. Though often misguided in terms of their response to this present situation, they are always true and real and meant for our good. And they always have a message for us. Sometimes the message is factual about the present situation – if that lion is chasing us, it’s our fear that tells us to run. If our sweetheart smiles, it’s our tenderness that smiles back. And sometimes, the feeling doesn’t fit the situation at all, but it still carries a message that we need to hear. And that message is about who we are and where we’ve been and also about where we may need to go.
And that message is the one we most need to hear regardless of its relationship to the “facts” of the situation. My fear tells me that I’m feeling unsafe. It may or may not describe accurately the current situation, but it’s impeccable in its description of my inner state and that’s the information that will help me most. Of course, I do need to make some discriminations about how well my feeling fits with the external realities and base my response and my decisions within a context that contains both my feeling and the realities that my good rational mind observes, not one or the other.
To deny my feelings is to deny myself. And the practice of self-denial, carried out day after day over a lifetime, leaves me disconnected from myself and thus disconnected from life. The only possible route to wholehearted participation in life lies squarely in the path of self-awareness. When I can know who I am and accept who I am and work hard to become the best of that, then and only then can I fully receive the gifts on offer and make my contribution in return.
So when I feel something, it’s a fact! And I can take that new information and use it to learn and grow and become the best of myself. Isn’t that wonderful?