NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Saturday, November 4, 2017

Discovering That Your Thoughts and Feelings Aren't Facts

There are many clients who begin psychotherapy believing that their feelings are facts--whether it's their feelings about themselves or others.  For those clients, psychotherapy offers an opportunity to develop an ability to self reflect so they can stop confusing their feelings with facts and develop emotional intelligence (see my articles:  Developing Emotional IntelligenceCreating Time For Self ReflectionGaining a New Perspective in Psychotherapy About Yourself and Others, and The Benefits of Psychotherapy).

Discovering that Your Thoughts and Feelings Aren't Facts

Intuition and gut feelings are certainly important, and this isn't what I'm referring to when I say that feelings aren't facts.

I'm referring to believing that distorted feelings and thoughts are facts and the need to develop an ability to take a step back from your feelings to question whether what you feel is objectively true.

When you don't self reflect and question whether you're being objective, you run the risk of attributing meanings to yourself and others that are false, which can create problems in your life.

Examples of Feelings Not Being Facts:
  • Tom noticed that his supervisor had an angry look on his face when he looked in Tom's direction.  As a result, Tom assumed that his supervisor was angry with him, and he avoided his supervisor for the rest of the week.  At the end of the week, Tom's supervisor told him that he realized that Tom was avoiding him and he wanted to talk to him about it.  During that same conversation, his supervisor told Tom that he was angry because their director was making unreasonable demands of him.  At that point, Tom realized that his supervisor's angry look had nothing to do with Tom and that Tom's original feeling about the situation was inaccurate.
  • Lynn had a feeling that the new woman, Jane, in her book club was arrogant and standoffish.  One day one of the other women in the group invited Lynn and Jane for coffee.  During their conversation, Jane mentioned that she tended to be shy and quiet, especially around people that she didn't know well, and this often caused people to think that she was standoffish.  Jane said she welcomed the opportunity to join them for coffee to get to know them better.  After that, Jane was much more friendly in the group, and Lynn realized that she misinterpreted Jane's quiet demeanor for arrogance.  She realized that her original feelings about Jane weren't true.
  • After her boyfriend ended their relationship, Rena had a strong feeling that she would never be in another relationship.  She assumed that she would be alone for the rest of her life because no one else would want to be with her.  This made her feel lonely, sad and hopeless.  But a few months later, Rena met a man at her friend's party and they began dating.  As their relationship developed, Rena realized that, even though her feelings had been strong that she would never meet anyone else and that she would be alone for the rest of her life, these feelings weren't objectively true because she was now in a new and wonderful relationship.
As in the examples above, feelings--even strong feelings--are often disproved by life's circumstances.  But a change in circumstances doesn't always occur, and people who believe that their feelings are facts remain convinced.

Discovering That Your Thoughts and Feelings Aren't Facts

When people have strong feelings and beliefs that make them unhappy, they often come to therapy to deal with their unhappiness.

One of the goals of therapy is to help clients to step back from their feelings, reassess their feelings objectively and develop insight.  By developing the ability to step back to self reflect and stand outside of personal feelings and beliefs, clients in psychotherapy can develop emotional intelligence.

This can be very challenging for clients when their beliefs that feelings are facts has been longstanding.  They might have learned to identify with their feelings so strongly that it becomes difficult to see beyond these feelings.

It's easy to confuse feelings with facts, especially when you have strong feelings about yourself or others.

Rather than being swept up by feelings and taking action based solely on your feelings, you can learn to become more self reflective.  By being more self reflective, you have an opportunity to be more objective.  And by being more objective, you can see yourself and others in a more accurate way.

Developing this ability on your own can be difficult, especially if you've been in the habit of believing that your feelings are always objectively true.

A skilled psychotherapist can help clients to become more aware of their feelings and beliefs so that they become more self reflective and objective.

Getting Help in Therapy
Most people come to therapy because they feel stuck in some way.

People who believe that their feelings are objectively true have an opportunity in therapy to develop more insight into how they think and how their feelings and thoughts are affecting them.

If you feel stuck in your life, you owe it to yourself to get help in therapy with a skilled psychotherapist who can help you to overcome the obstacles that are getting in the way of your having a fulfilling life.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist who works with individual adults and couples.

I have helped many clients to develop insight into their thoughts and feelings so they can change their lives.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.