“I can’t help how I feel,” my mother used to say.
Even at an early age I found something inaccurate about this statement. I asked, in my adolescence, “If we can’t help how we feel, who can?
Feelings are in the most unchecked category. We are moved by what we feel. Feelings lead us to repetitive behaviors, methods, consequences, and rewards. What we feel is not a viable designated driver. Some would have us believe that feelings lead our thoughts. I contend, it is the opposite.
A Force of Nature
One of my love interests when I was 13 years old, was a girl named Sorry. (name changed to protect the innocent – me). I had one of those magnified puppy love things going on. I found her to be beautiful. Irresistible. I was hormonally inclined to be intrigued. She wasn’t a very nice person but, I couldn’t seem to help how I felt.
I was never her pick. She toyed with me. Manipulated my affections. Played me like a fiddle. I was weak in the knees, in her presence. Silly Putty in her hands. I was absent of the intellectual property required to walk away from the sour heart-throb. I ran into her at the roller rink. Her known boyfriend wasn’t there. She gifted me her attention for the night; Giving me kiss.
The next day I got a phone call saying her boyfriend heard about our romantic interlude. He was coming to my house, expecting me to meet him outside. The message included his intention to kick my butt. I had not been in a fist fight. My stomach did a 360. He had a reputation. I actually shook. I made the decision to face it… Him!
A mutual acquaintance knocked on the door. Told me I was wanted outside. I took my trembling self through the doorway; Not knowing what to do or expect. Much to my surprise, Miss Sorry was with him, along with some other kids I knew. Uncertain of what that meant, I would soon have my introduction to betrayal. She was there to cheer him on.
Lessons in Life
He was standing in the middle of my yard. Legs spread apart. Pounding his fist in his hands. I walked toward him without feeling my legs. In fact, the only thing I felt was fear. After I got close enough, I stopped in front of him. He said he was going to beat me down. (his literal words were a bit more poignant) I had my hands in my pockets; A sign of my inexperience. He squared off. Putting his hands in a boxing position. I took me hands out of my pockets and did the same thing.
As he took a swing at me, I moved instinctively, and took a swing at him. His punch barely touched the side of my head. My punch, landed directly on the end of his nose. He stepped back, holding his face; Yelling, “You broke my nose. You broke my nose!” Looking into his hands, they were full of blood. I don’t know what came over me. But, when I saw that blood I consumed the kind of adrenaline that destroys many a man. I doubled up and hit him again.
And just like that the world championship bout was over. I don’t remember, precisely, what was said; He was trying to save face. Something like, you stay away from my girl. I do remember thinking, “I won.” Ms Sorry will be the prize. She wont stay with him. NO WAY! They all walked off and I went back into my house. Proud that I stood up for myself. Celebrating my victory!
Some minutes later the phone rang. Ms Sorry was on the line. Hey, congratulations were certainly in order. I said hello, anticipating great things. Instead, I was granted condolences. Informed that she declared her boyfriend the winner, And, she never wanted to speak to me again. I had more questions than I had ever had before. What kind of person, place, or thing does that? These are the antics witnessed on the playground of developing adults. Most of us grow up, thankfully!
Wisdom from the Inside
I changed my opinion of Ms Sorry. Formulating a more error-free conclusion. I changed my mind before I changed my heart! When I answered the dictates of my feelings I couldn’t capture the right thought. But, when I clarified my thinking my feelings line up. If maturity does anything, it most assuredly teaches us the power of a thinking, objectively.
Emotions have a dramatic design in our lives. I want to feel. I like to feel. I need to feel. But, the first thing a feeling looks for is a thought to connect to. Thoughts that don’t stay put cause drift. We can’t anchor. Feelings alone move to much to provide a foundation. To sustain what is virtuous feelings need the security of competent thoughts.
Feelings provide questions that thoughts answer. Ordering our private worlds requires an understanding of the relationship between our thoughts and feelings. When we are mixed up, confused, and looking for resolution it’s time to get alone with our thoughts.
Our emotions often appear as the bully intending to intimidate our thoughts. When you are worried, are you concerned about what you feel, or what you think? We use thoughts to describe what we feel. Most of us have been betrayed, but, betrayal isn’t a feeling. We might feel upset and angry because we identified the act of betrayal but it’s our thoughts that define why we are feeling what we are feeling.
Feelings need a leader and thoughts are a good candidate for the job. Many decisions based on feelings end up with a prolonged period of contemplation. When we think it through we are safe to allow ourselves to feel.
I have thought about it and that’s the way I feel!
What is your experience with thoughts and feelings?