One of the most amazing realizations I had about the human experience came long before I overcame my anxiety. It came in early college. I had a crush on this young lady that had recently broken up with her old boyfriend. They had been together for several years, but he had been emotionally distant through most of them and slightly verbally abusive, and, like often happens between high school and college, they had grown apart.
She and I were starting to get very close, and both of us expressed our intention of taking it further. We even went on a date that went very well before she went on two week trip with her family. We kept in touch throughout that trip, until near the end she suddenly grew very distant. When she came back, she asked me to have coffee because she needed to talk.
She sat me down and looked very sad. She said to me “we were having a great time. But while I was on my trip I started to miss my ex-boyfriend. I realized that missing him must mean I still cared about him so I am going to call him soon and try to get back together.” That was the end of it.
Emotions Are Irrational
While I’ve never come across anyone since that put it so bluntly, in my work with people living with anxiety and in troubled relationships, I’ve seen this type of logic used in a roundabout way to justify decisions that go against logical thinking. Someone experiences an emotional reaction to something, and they assume that the emotion has more meaning than it does, which indicates to them something about themselves that it may not actually be indicating. Such as:
- I get angry around this person so I must not like them.
- This person can make me cry so they must be very important to me.
- I feel alone when this person isn’t around me so I must need them.
Many of these feelings are very real. But for many, the feelings are not real, and are simply a result of your mind and experience telling your body something incorrectly.
Let’s look at that last one, as it’s a great example. If you spend every day with someone, it doesn’t matter how much you care about them – you’re bound to build a connection to having them around. You’re used to them there, and they’ve become a part of your surroundings, so when they’re gone, you’re going to notice their absence and feel more alone.
It’s why people still experience discomfort when a bad roommate moves out. It’s the same reason that people get upset over throwing away an ugly lamp that they’ve had for years that didn’t even work properly. Change – and other life situations – cause emotions that are incongruous with what the logical reaction should be, and valuing these emotions over logical thinking can cause poor decisions that make your life worse.
Emotions Are a Part of the Equation
None of this is to say that emotions have no role. For example, if you’re with a partner that makes you happy, then it doesn’t matter if logically you don’t expect them to make you happy. Happiness is happiness. It’s just that all emotions should be part of the scale in the decision making process, along with an acknowledgement that emotions can lie to you.
Whether you’re dealing with anxiety, life change, relationships, depression, or something else, emotions need to be looked at through a skeptical lens, because you may find that the emotion you experience is something that doesn’t represent the way you truly feel, or the best decision for your mental health and happiness.
About the Author: Ryan Rivera used to find himself consistently justifying his anxieties as a way to avoid fixing them. Now he writes about ways to cure anxiety at www.calmclinic.com.
Image Courtesy of : Stuart Miles /Freedigitalphotos.net
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