Emotions are at the core of our motivation: they are our muses and they are why we continue on with life even in the face of disappointment or disaster. You may know many emotional people, and you may be one yourself. Being emotional is not a bad thing. As a psychotherapist (and a human being), I believe that emotions are a good thing.

Over the years, many of us learn to accept, enjoy, understand, and trust our feelings. After all, it worked for Luke Skywalker. And who would want to give up all those warm fuzzies? The problem is that sometimes we only feel the cold prickly emotions, those that are scary or painful. It helps to understand that sometimes our emotions may not be telling us the truth.

Upon occasion, every now and then, some people get a feeling that isn’t real. They may think that it’s real, it may feel very real, and they may truly believe it’s real, but it’s just a feeling. It is wise to remember that, as important as emotions are, feelings aren’t facts.

Many things may produce an emotional response. Some are in the moment, others are from our past, and many people get destabilized worrying about the uncertain future. Still other emotions may be a response to mere fantasies, lies we tell ourselves that make us needlessly unhappy. They may also be a result of misunderstandings. There is no end to the amount of feeling (both positive and negative) that flows through our lives on a daily basis; the trick is to learn how to differentiate between feelings that are born out of our imagination and those that are real and verifiable.

Just because your boss or your partner looked at you in a funny way, or spoke with a sharp tone, doesn’t mean that he or she is mad at you. Sometimes people are rushed or even having a bad moment, and it’s also possible that you are misinterpreting the message. Unfortunately, in the process, you could be feeling horrible about an imagined negative outcome. Then you can walk around for days thinking that you are in trouble or that your life, as you know it, is over. It doesn’t have to be that way.

The best thing to do when you are feeling like something isn’t right is to check it out. Don’t sit on it, push it down, or try to ignore it; your emotions won’t cooperate. Sometimes the only way out is by getting into the feelings and first looking at how you might be creating them. Combine that with some gentle (not accusatory) questioning of the person or people who you believe may be the cause. Look for truth and be open to see how it’s possible that your feelings may not be accurate. It also can be helpful to get an outside perspective from someone you trust.

This process isn’t an easy one, but it is far less painful than living your life feeling like your world is crashing in on you.

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