Myth#2: If it feels bad, it is bad.
Today’s myth is taking the feelings are not facts truth discussed yesterday to the next level. We are debunking the myth that if something feels uncomfortable, different, or difficult then it must be wrong. Said another way, I don’t feel like it equals I don’t do it or I have to feel like it to do it.
There is a mental discomfort called cognitive dissonance that tells us that, as humans, we like to have “same-ness” between our thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and actions. In order to change, heal, and grow we often need a new healthy thought or belief which will then spur a new healthy feeling and behavior. The trouble here is that while we are planting a new healthy thought, belief, feeling, or behavior pattern the new stuff has to co-exist with the old unhelpful stuff and our minds can get jumbled and confused by this. Again, the brain wants “same-ness” so when we feel like something is “too hard” and we think “I’ve never been able to do it before.” then trying to do whatever it is becomes really difficult because cognitive dissonance tries to tell us if it feels bad it must be bad. The mind is essentially taking a short-cut to reasoning without considering all of the evidence.
Let’s put this into action. Say you are anxious about social interactions and you believe that others are judging you negatively. You also desire having more of a support group and friends to spend time with. Do you see the competition here? The mind wants to get “same-ness”. For some people they have repeatedly, over a long period of time, avoided socializing in this situation because it allows same-ness; the thinking says that people will judge so you avoid and that seems to match and lead to you feeling better……for a little while….until the next time you wish you could reach out to a friend.
THE GOOD NEWS——We can counter cognitive dissonance. We can learn not to let our feelings, including our mental discomfort, lead! By learning the truth that feelings are not facts and discomfort does not always equate to something being bad we can begin to break down the old thinking pathway that leads to giving up on what is good for us simply because it does not feel good.
There are so many things that are good but don’t always feel good: eating healthy, exercise, meditation practice, drinking water, going to bed early to get 7.5 hours of sleep, nursing your baby, choosing not to have a 3rd cookie at 9 pm, waxing your upper lip…..there are so many things!
Sure, we have an intuition, a gut feeling, that we can consider but our FEELINGS ARE NOT FACTS…even our thoughts are not always facts and we are much healthier if we can consider this and act accordingly.
What does acting accordingly look like? Let’s use the example above of the person that is anxious and fears judgement. In that situation we can observe that we are having a thought that we will be judged, we can notice the feeling of anxiety and the desire to avoid, we can also notice the desire for connection. The next step….. PAUSE instead of REACTING! When we notice the conflict we can tell our mind “Mind, I know you want same-ness but that is not always what is healthiest for me”. Nearly always, it is most helpful to go back to the original thought. In this situation we go back to “They will judge me.” We then ask, is this 100% true and certain? If it is not then we have to consider the alternative…..what if they don’t judge me? This alone begins to create the “same-ness” the mind wants. If they don’t judge me then there is not a conflict with connecting and beginning to grow a relationship. We begin to let truth reign rather than feelings and automatic thoughts.
Learning to debunk the myths that are easy to believe can help us adjust the patterns of coping…of living…that limit us and keep us from being our best self. Don’t be held back! Start challenging cognitive dissonance when you notice it and teach your mind to do what is healthy instead of what is easy.