Don’t Confuse Feelings With Reality
When we speak about reality, we are referring to that which we can objectively perceive through our senses. It is not our subjective interpretation. The difference can determine how we feel and it is very important to keep it in mind.
Therefore, faced with a situation, what happens is not the same as how we may feel or think about it. We have to keep this in mind if we want to maintain a certain well being before different realities that we may have to face…
The thought and emotion relationship
Thoughts and emotions are related in a determinant way. The way we feel depends on how or what we think. The way in which we interpret and process external facts is largely responsible for the physiological changes and bodily reactions that take place inside us. We call these reactions emotions and we can evaluate or interpret them as pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral.
We often do not know how to distinguish correctly between an emotion and a thought. Even if they are very closely related, they are different entities. It is worth knowing how to differentiate if we want to exercise greater and better control over our own mood. The difference goes beyond their definitions, as it is going to affect the way in which we recognize and treat them.
In psychology, there are many cognitive biases or errors in thinking that are very common, but that we do not take into account when it comes to dealing with bad situations. An error in thinking could be defined as a biased interpretation of what is really happening. That is to say, I am living my construction of reality, more or less distant from what is happening, as a function of my beliefs and not according to my five senses.
These mistakes normally cause us dysfunctional emotions. He who looks at the world in a more realistic way and maintains a more rational dialogue with himself will have much healthier and more functional emotions than he who tells himself unrealistic, fantastic, or illogical things.
The snow is not red
In therapy, it often happens that people tell you, “I know and understand what you are telling me, but this is how it is and this is how I feel, I believe that is real.” This is a very typical error in thinking: confusing feelings with realities. This argument can end up holding great misguided threads of thought and dysfunctional behaviors.
The truth is that reality is what it is, nothing more, nothing less. However, if I make an effort, I can end up creating a subjective reality according to what is convenient for me – for better or worse – even if this may end up costing a great price. Often when people have told me things like, “If I feel it, that’s how it is,” I have given them the example of red snow, though any other example having to do with color is just as good… few people can argue about color!
I tell them then that the argument that they are using is like me telling them one day that, “I noticed that snow is red and not white, because I feel like it is that way, I feel that it is red, and since I feel it, that’s how it is for me.” Obviously everyone who hears me say this would tell me, colloquially, that I am crazy. So, as much as I “feel” like snow is red, the truth is that it is naturally white.
So this same thing is what we are doing with the facts that take place in our lives. Sometimes we have a naïve outlook and others an overly hard one, but it is hard for us to observe reality as it is.
We can see it clearly in anorexia nervosa. The patients feel like they are carrying more weight than they really are, yet their height and stature, when compared with the normal population, tell us that this is not the case. However, they stand by their way of feeling and act accordingly.
Being alive means going through good times and not-so-good times. It is helpful for us to notice what is happening in our lives and to “force ourselves” to look beyond, cleaning the lenses on our glasses often. Otherwise, we will get used to see things in a biased way and we will stop appreciating the difference between what is and what we think is.
For this, you have to see those errors in thinking that appear in your mind from time to time. Today, we have spoken about confusing emotions with reality, but there are many others: personifying a situation, thinking we are a fortune-teller, generalizing a concrete fact, etc.
Once you have seen them, you are going to have to make a conscious effort to no longer apply a bias to reality that is going to make you see a distorted version of it. A filter that you used to apply to most information you received from the outside, which acted in a subtle and silent way, and that you adopted as your own out of habit.
An example could be: “It is true that due to my accumulated experiences and beliefs, right now I am feeling like I will fall into a depression if he rejects and leaves me. However, I understand that the fact of harboring that feeling does not imply that it absolutely has to be this way. In fact, what I do is going to be much more important for what happens to me down the road.”
Little by little, as we go on practicing, we will start noticing that we are becoming more realistic and that we are adapting to the world like water adapts to containers. The result is a more calm life, more fulfilling and happy, where the realities that you see are much truer than before and not a life plagued with pathological emotions that end up blocking us and holding us back.