Good feelings, bad feelings, and everything in between. Feelings are a constant companion and they pretty much shape the overall tone or mood of our lives. But why do we have feelings? Where do feelings come from? Why do we need feelings? Given the enormous role that feelings play in our lives, answering those questions might literally change your life or at least provide a road map to dealing with your feelings.
What Are Feelings?
The definition is not as simple as it might seem. When we say feelings, are we referring to the psychological experience or the bodily sensations? The actual definition of feelings is quite complex. Feelings as the psychological
experience is when we feel emotions like fear, joy, happiness, etc. Feelings as bodily sensations include things like feeling cold or hot, physical pain, etc. However, that still leaves many questions. What is the correlation between the psychological and physical feelings? Is one influenced by the other? Well, let’s dig deeper and see if we can answer some of the questions.
Why Do We Have Feelings?
It is quite obvious why we have the bodily sensations feelings. They exist to protect our physical structure – our body. When we get cold, it is a signal to action to protect the body. When we get hot, thirsty, or feel pain – all of these feelings are designed to bring our attention to the body in order to protect it.
Feelings as the psychological experience (love, appreciation, anxiety, etc.) are not as obvious. Their function is more complex and not as self-evident. Furthermore, psychological feelings, when not addressed and properly dealt with can and will eventually express as physical sensations. For example, if someone lives in a state of emotional fear and anxiety, overtime those feeling will intensify and eventually manifest as physical illness. To answer the question of why we have psychological feelings, first we need to look at where do feelings come from.
Where Do Feelings Come From?
“A person will be just about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”– Abraham Lincoln
Feelings, come from our thoughts. Our beliefs, perspectives, world views form our feelings. This is not very obvious at first but after contemplating and observing your life and your mind, this is the conclusion. I really wish we were taught that at school or at a very early age by our parents. Even in today’s world, most people are unaware that their feelings are the results of their thoughts. Not understanding that, we frantically and desperately look around in the physical world for a relief. Furthermore, often we take rapid and impulsive actions based on our feelings. But you cannot change the effects (feelings) without changing the cause (your thoughts). As a result, we try all sorts of things (medication, drinking, obsessive following of goals, disassociation, etc.) just to painfully realize that’s not the answer.
Why Do We Need Feelings?
We all enjoy the pleasant feelings of joy, happiness, appreciation, but when it comes to the negative feelings, whether psychological or physical, this is when we sometimes start questioning why do we need feelings in the first place. Most of us have untrained minds. We are not aware of our thought and we let them roam free. Most of the time we are not conscious of what we are thinking. Our thoughts produce our feelings. We can tell what we are thinking based on what we are feeling. They are signals pointing us to the state of our mind. They are our guidance system. Unfortunately, when we are not aware of that, instead of fixing the real cause of the feelings (our thoughts) we focus on trying to eliminate or change the effects (unpleasant feelings). Feelings are extremely necessary. We just need to learn what they really are and how to use them to create the life we want.
How To Change Our Feelings?
“Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.”– Thich Nhat Hahn
We all enjoy good feelings: happiness, bliss, optimism, laughter, elation, etc. When we are talking about changing our feelings, we are referring to the “bad” feelings (depression, misery, bleakness, sadness, despair, etc.). We have all tried running away from those feelings. You can temporarily avoid them by all sorts of activities like drinking, drugs, and other activities designed to distract you from the feelings, but the relief will not last. Our feelings are the results of our thoughts, therefore the only way to permanently change our feelings is by changing our minds.
This is a hard truth to swallow as it seems quite hard to do. But the first step to permanently change anything is understanding the process correctly.
become aware of your feelings
search your mind for your thoughts
see if you can make a connection between a specific thought and your current feelings
feel the feelings but don’t identify with them
this might be painful but do not resist
if you follow the steps correctly, the unpleasant or painful feelings will pass very quickly like the clouds just floating across the sky. Imagine your feelings are the cars passing by on a highway. If you just let them go, without assigning any meaning to them or identifying with them, they will be gone in a blink of an eye. Don’t worry if you are notable to master this at first. This takes great practice, but the relief you will feel when you can follow the processes will be worth the effort.
The Guest House – by Rumi
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
I would love to hear from you. Your comments, suggestions, and questions are welcomed.