Can Your Feelings Be Wrong?

Can your feelings be wrong?

Posted May 18, 2010

This question comes up so often in my therapy sessions. The greatest source of invalidation comes from denying our feelings—whether we do it ourselves, or others do it to us.

People really struggle with the question of whether their feelings are right or wrong. Wrong question! Feelings are neither—they just are.

Imagine saying that you feel hot. Can someone tell you that you're wrong? That you're not feeling hot? Of course not. They might argue that it isn't hot, particularly if you're sharing a bed together. But indeed, if you feel hot, you feel hot.

Now if you're overdressed, or the thermostat is set too high you might make an adjustment and no longer feel hot. In that case, what you're feeling changes. Similarly, if you feel angry, unloved, or disrespected, some meaningful communication might assist you to reconsider what you're feeling. Learning not to be reactive also helps in re-framing what we're feeling. But this doesn't suggest that you weren't feeling what you were.

Some people invalidate their own feelings by not trusting their emotions. In such cases, they are particularly prone to having others further this invalidation via their comments. This is a source of relationship conflict and damage.

The goal is to affirm and acknowledge what the other is feeling and to better appreciate their experience. Once you join with them, they are then affirmed and, not coincidentally, better prepared to reflect on what they're feeling.

Our feelings are generally informed by our thoughts, and it is helpful to explore what thinking may have triggered what we are feeling. Ordinarily, when our thoughts shift, so do our emotions. They tend to act in concert with one another.

Don't judge your feelings—note them and then self-reflect. They can't be wrong, but they can be reconsidered.