What to Do When Our Feelings Are Lying to Us

My youngest son is a lot like me—he pretty much organizes his life around avoiding physical pain and discomfort. So, when he got pink eye, and the doctor ordered us to put antibiotic drops in his eye, I wondered if we could just lock him in his room for a few days until the pink eye resolved on its own.

Don’t judge me. I only wondered for a minute. Or two.

I took charge of the drops, because I can empathize a little better with his theatrics.

As he lay on the couch, writhing, eyes clamped shut and screaming, I realized his feelings were preventing him from receiving a healing balm. The drops were medicine—they would be soothing and they would cure him. But my son’s feelings were lying to him, telling him the discomfort would be immense.

And there was nothing I could do to change his feelings.

When Feelings Are Deceptive

Our feelings are important—we need to listen to them, to become intimately familiar with them, to learn their depths. But that doesn’t mean they’re always honest with us. Sometimes, our feelings lie.

Anxiety is a sincere and good feeling when you hear footsteps behind you in a dark parking garage. It’s a horrible, life-ruining lie when you are walking down the street and scared to death of what everyone thinks of the size of your waist.

My feelings lie to me every Tuesday night. When I push the “schedule” button on a blog post, setting it to publish at 3:30am, my heart jumps into my throat. I get terrified of what people will think. So, every Tuesday night, my feelings tell me it’s not worth it. They tell me to go to bed and forget this whole writing thing.

I think many of us have gotten used to swallowing the lies our feelings whisper to us, and I’m afraid it’s shutting down our lives—we are missing out on the healing elixir of life and love and grace and creativity and wonder.

Listening to Something Else

My son rocked to and fro on the couch, and I could relate to it. So I asked him to listen to my whisper and when he had stilled, I asked, “Can you find the place inside of your heart where you can do anything?”

One eye peaked open. “Huh?” he asked.

So I said it again, “Can you close your eyes and find the still, quiet place inside of you where you know you can do anything?”

My son closed his eyes. I watched his face get placid and his chest begin to slowly rise and fall. Then his eyes opened, and he looked at me, and he said, “I’m ready, Daddy.”

And I dropped the healing medicine into his eye.

When Feelings Lose Their Power

We have a still, quiet place inside of us. I could confidently encourage my son to find his still, quiet center, because as a therapist, I’ve learned we all have it. And when we call upon it, our fears lose their power to limit us, our anger loses its power to devastate, and our sadness loses its power to devour us.

Our feelings lose their control over us.

When we call upon it, we trade in our resentment for the quiet whisper of, “Go apologize.” We trade in our fear of condemnation for the quiet whisper of, “Go create.” We trade in our regrets about the past for the quiet whisper of, “Live this. Now.” We trade in our surge of shame for, “Be vulnerable, make yourself known.” We trade in years of “You’re a mess, you should be embarrassed,” for the quiet whisper of, “You’re a mess, join the club and start to live.”

On my WordPress dashboard, the “schedule” button will set this post to publish at 3:30am tomorrow morning. My feelings tell me to scrap it. My feelings tell me people will think I’m arrogant to speak so boldly. My feelings tell me people will think it’s all just a bunch of psychobabble.

But the quiet whisper from the still place says, “Schedule it, put it out there, your words matter, Kelly, and even if you get it all wrong, you are worthy.”

The whisper is like a drop of medicine, and I will push “schedule.”

Our feelings are keeping us captive. Killing our creativity. Stifling our love. Undermining our redemption. But what if we all stopped listening to them, and started listening to the still, quiet place inside?

I think it would be like a drop of soothing, healing medicine. I think our shame would dry up and our love would explode and the world would never be the same again.

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In his debut novel, Kelly weaves a page-turning, plot-twisting tale that explores the spiritual depths of identity and relationships, amidst themes of healing, grace, faith, forgiveness, and freedom.

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About Kelly

Dr. Kelly Flanagan is a psychologist, author, consultant, and speaker who enjoys walking with people through the three essentials of a truly satisfying life: worthiness, belonging, and purpose. His blog writings have been featured in Reader’s Digest, The Huffington Post, The 5 Love Languages, and the TODAY Show. Kelly is the author of Loveable and True Companions.