Psychology: 5 misconceptions about feelings that can make us unhappy

Our emotions are an important part of our personality, but it is not always easy to understand them properly. According to an American psychologist, these misinterpretations are particularly widespread.

Our emotions can fundamentally help us to cope with our lives and find our personal path. However, the prerequisite for this is that we have some idea of ​​how to understand our feelings. This in turn is sometimes much more difficult than we might expect. In the online magazine “Psychology Today,” psychologist Alice Boyes describes five common misunderstandings that can arise when interpreting our feelings – and recognizing and avoiding them can sometimes make us happier and healthier.

5 typical misunderstandings when dealing with our feelings

1. We think our feelings are triggered by our current situation, but their origin lies in our past.

As adults, we can hardly perceive and experience a situation completely unbiased and for itself. We associate memories of previous experiences with most situations – sometimes we are even aware of this, but more often we don’t even notice it. That’s why it can happen that a situation in the present triggers feelings in us that are actually based on an experience from our past. For example, in an inherently healthy and stable friendship, under certain circumstances we may suddenly feel insecurity and acute fear that we will be dropped because we have experienced rejection and loneliness in the past. Most of the time, our emotional memory wants to protect us from having to go through pain that we have suffered in the past. However, this often makes it difficult for us to feel the present. Even if we think we do. (You can find out more about this in our article Emotional Triggers)

2. We think that another person’s feelings are about us.

Just like our emotions, the feelings of the people around us are shaped by their past. And about many other factors that we don’t know about, for example their physical well-being, worries about their father, their dreams and desires and, and, and. So when a person reacts angrily or indifferently or in some other way to something we do, it doesn’t necessarily mean that this reaction is really directed at us – just that we get it.

3. We believe our feelings are a signal that we need to do something to make them stop.

Many people interpret unpleasant feelings such as fear or frustration as a signal to avoid situations in which they experience such feelings. If you’re afraid of small spaces, you won’t take an elevator. Anyone who is frustrated when colleagues make mistakes prefers to work alone. However, according to Alice Boyes, the problem with this interpretation is that this way of dealing with emotions means that the feelings become bigger and bigger and take up more and more space in our lives, so that they ultimately cost us our freedom. For example, avoiding elevators can at some point turn into avoiding subways, basements, certain restaurants, and working alone can turn into an addiction to control or a lonely life.

In fact, our feelings are not there to imprison us or block our path. In this respect, this understanding of emotions is usually a misinterpretation.

4. We evaluate our feelings as rational or irrational, as justified or unjustified.

Most people tend to evaluate their feelings, for example by comparing them to what other people are feeling. For example, if I’m afraid for my mother because she’s sick, but everyone around me, including my siblings, stays cool and doesn’t seem to be worried at all, I might tell myself that my worries are exaggerated, that I don’t have myself under control and am far too scared and insecure. But does that give me security and trust? Does this help me decide how to act in the situation? Probably not.

Instead of judging our feelings or those of other people, the psychologist recommends that we can try to adopt an accepting, open-minded and interested attitude. In this way, our chances of deciphering the true messages of our emotions and acting on them would be significantly better.

5. We fixate on a feeling.

According to Alice Boyce, many people have a dominant emotion that they are particularly used to feeling and can therefore identify most easily and clearly. For some people this may be fear, for others it may be anger, for others it may be overwhelming and for some it may be sadness. We then often concentrate on this emotion, while we neglect and ultimately hardly notice other feelings that we may also feel in parallel. For example, while I focus on fear for my mother, I may miss the love and connection and need and sense of ability to care for her that is arising within me.

In many situations we feel more than one emotion and the more feelings we recognize and identify, the broader our perspective on a situation becomes and the more impulses we get to act. So instead of holding on to our dominant feeling, we can try searching for other sensations in our feeling.

Do we always have to interpret every feeling correctly?

It is certainly not necessary or even beneficial in every life situation to trace all our feelings and question every single emotion and identify its origin. We can simply have a bad day and be in a bad mood without being able to explain which childhood experiences influence our mood – and we can even find that irrational. However, since our emotions can have a great influence on our lives and our actions, it can be fundamentally useful and enriching to be interested in them, to deal with them and to beware of hasty interpretations. Misunderstandings usually lead to conflicts. And the better we understand ourselves, the more (self-)confident we can live.

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