All our knowledge has its origins in our perceptions.Leonardo da Vinci
Often there may be a distortion, be it big or small, regarding how we see ourselves, others, or our lives in general. This distortion, or as I call it, the story we tell ourselves, frequently leads to emotional pain, increased anxiety, and potentially depression. That is because feelings aren’t facts.
The phrase, feelings aren’t facts, is commonly used in 12-step programs, yet it is profoundly true for all of us. This phrase uses the term, feelings, in such a way that it is not about emotions such as sadness, grief or anger. Instead it refers to our beliefs, perceptions, interpretations and thoughts. It speaks to the ways in which we experience ourselves, or others, in a subjective way.
Perception is Reality
When we say, for example, “I don’t feel good enough.” How could this statement not create further unease? Although others in our world may perceive us as amazing, or more than good enough, it is what we tell ourselves, even if it is not a fact, that emotionally distresses us.
This may be further exacerbated by making comparisons based on our assumptions about other people. We may tell ourselves, “That woman has got it all together. Look at her. How come I don’t?” This story may also not be a fact, yet because we believe it is, it may further exacerbate, or contribute, to the wearing away of our self-esteem.
Fact or Fiction
When we operate from a place of misconception, distortion, or fiction, then we walk through the world from this place. This can produce a distortion of ourselves, of other people in our lives, or the world in general. If we function from a place of fear, anxiety or anger our perception of reality can be tainted with negativity. These painful feelings, although triggered by non-facts, can still ultimately affect us.
Another person’s comment may remind us of something that occurred in our history. Accusations and judgements that occurred in our childhood, or adolescence, that were not resolved may influence our interpretation of circumstances in our current lives. The other person, and even ourselves, may have no idea this unresolved issue has influenced our perception unless this interaction is explored or clarification is sought.
We Believe What We Perceive
Our internal process, or how we internally experience or interpret something, is often more about our history as opposed to what the other person may truly mean. The stories we tell ourselves about what the other person means may negatively affect the relationship.
Often we use the word feeling for what is not a feeling. For example, I feel that you are accusing me of lying. It is important to differentiate this thought from the feelings that are triggered by it.
For more tips on separating feelings from facts, please click on the link below for my complete article.
My wish for you today is for a positive perspective that enables you to appreciate the good, true, opportunities the day might offer.
-Kathleen Dwyer Blair, LCSW, BCD
Director Nassau Guidance and Counseling