Life is truly a feeling experience, and our quality of life depends utterly upon how we feel about it. But are our feeling states reliable indicators of what is objectively true? The short answer is, probably not.
We tend to fixate on the stimuli for our emotions and attribute our emotional response to the stimulus itself, but emotions are not nearly as straightforward as they might seem. In the highs of bliss or the lows of despair, it is easy to forget that there is a lot going on in our brains that produces what we think of as our feelings.
Not all stimuli for our feelings are external or about the now-moment. If you want evidence of this, recall a bad memory and watch the impact it has on your feeling state. Now, consider how often the feeling states of past experience occur when you are interpreting new challenging experiences. If you catch yourself thinking, “I’ve felt this way for as long as I can remember,” then it’s a good bet the feeling is not coming from your current circumstances, but rather from your memories and how you interpret them. This is a big red flag that your interpretation of the present is being seen through the lens of a distortion from your past.
In every moment, your brain is influencing the way you feel and respond to what is happening. It may surprise you to learn that when you recall something, your brain actually reproduces the neurochemicals that were secreted when the memory was created. This is a revelation, especially when you consider the fact that this process can occur even when you are not actually recalling the event consciously. This means your brain can recreate the feeling state from past experience and tie it to the present circumstances, without your direct awareness.
Memory has an enormous influence on the way you respond emotionally in the now-moment. A study conducted by Cornell University concluded that our memories of events change over time. They also proved that entirely false memories, introduced by the researchers during their experiments, were believed and trusted by subjects as if they had actually happened.
So the next time someone tells you to trust your feelings, you might want to consider this advice carefully before you take action on what you feel. Whatever you do, never confuse your feelings with your truth.