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Your Feelings May Betray You.

July 21, 2014

Many people enter into therapy advising of a whole host of feelings. Then on the basis of those feelings, they rationalize their behavior. For some of these people, having a feeling creates a sense of entitlement and excuses inappropriate behavior.

“I deserve xyz” is a common refrain, as is “I felt like it”, or even “I was angry at the time”; or simply, “that is what I felt”… therefore it legitimizes whatever I have done.

In these circumstances, we speak of poor judgement. What is meant by this is when we allow a feeling to dictate or legitimize behavior where the behavior hasn’t been thought through and in particular when the behavior, on the basis of that feeling creates further distress for self or another.

Unfortunately some people’s feelings actually betray them. Their feelings may be disproportionate to a triggering event; their feelings may be based on a misperception of the triggering event; or in the case of some people, their feelings may not be of a sufficient intensity to appropriately register and respond to the triggering event.

Past traumatic experiences such as exposure to violent events (childhood or otherwise, intra or extra-familial), shock, neglect, family dysfunction, parental alcoholism, are all known to skew feelings.

The person subject to those kind of events may have a heightened sensitivity or alternately be desensitized such that when feelings occur, the feeling may not be truly representative of the experience. Hence, people may overreact, under-react and even inappropriately react. Interestingly, this is true even of persons who do not recognize themselves to have been subject to traumatic events, yet have been.

The role of therapy is to help put past events into a more realistic perspective and understand the role of those events on how we feel and then by extension, how we behave. By understanding the connection between past events affecting feelings upon present experiences, the person can then think about the feelings and more realistically appraise the current situation before responding. This is really what is meant by seeking good or better judgement.

If you find yourself in ongoing conflict with others, where your actions are accused as contributory, you may want to explore your feelings and where they come from with the view to determining if your feelings are betraying you in any manner. Thereafter if your feelings are betraying you, you can learn more cognitive strategies for reappraising your feelings and determining an appropriate course of action.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker.

Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

(905) 628-4847

Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.

If your relationship is faltering, then set it as your priority.

Read: Marriage Rescue: Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationships.

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