In one-on-one therapy or 12-step recovery group meetings, you may hear the phrase “feelings aren’t facts.” If you’re new to recovery, this saying’s meaning can be hard to grasp. When you view emotions as facts instead of transient states, you can get in the dangerous mindset of letting your emotions dictate what you view as true or false from one day to the next.
What Does It Mean to Say “Feelings Aren’t Facts?”
When a counselor or AA group leader says “Feelings aren’t facts,” they aren’t suggesting you should sweep complicated emotions under the rug or dismiss them as invalid. Instead, they mean there’s a delicate balance between acknowledging that your feelings are legitimate and assuming everyone thinks the same way you do.
For example, think about a time when you got into a disagreement with someone. Maybe they misinterpreted something you said and felt hurt, even if that’s not what you meant at all. Their experience didn’t align with yours, leading to a misunderstanding. However, if you’d had that conversation on a different day, your roles might have been reversed, or you could have ended on a positive note. That’s because emotions are temporary, changeable states of mind, not set in stone.
The Problem With Conflating Feelings and Facts
Mistaking emotions for facts is an unproductive pattern that can drive counterproductive behaviors and cause significant internal conflicts. For example:
- Someone who struggles with their self-confidence might not apply for a job because they feel inferior to others, even if they’re overqualified for the position.
- People with eating disorders put themselves on restrictive diets and obsessively count calories because they “feel fat,” even though they might be dangerously underweight.
- A person living with generalized anxiety disorder might avoid specific activities that make them feel unsafe, even though their fears are illogical.
Managing Emotions in Recovery
If you relied on drinking or drug use to escape from daily realities, you may have stunted your coping skills as your tolerance increased and your addiction progressed. Once you have freed yourself from this vicious cycle, you’ll need to learn new ways to manage your feelings so you can grow your emotional intelligence.
Recovery can involve many ups and downs. Recognizing that feelings aren’t facts can help you process your experiences when you’re having a rough day or struggling with a negative internal dialogue. A professional therapist who specializes in treatment techniques like cognitive behavioral therapy can teach you how to recognize unhealthy responses to feelings or situations, and replace them with positive processing and coping methods.
Meditation is another excellent strategy for separating feelings from facts and helping you realize that there’s no way to hold onto emotions. Mindful people are in closer touch with their thoughts, feelings and perceptions. When you meditate, your goal is not the absence of thought, but a greater awareness of what you’re experiencing – moment by moment. Observe and accept your feelings, then let them go and move on.
Treating Substance Abuse in Young Men
At Spearhead Lodge, we believe young men struggling with substance misuse or a dual diagnosis deserve a world-class treatment program. At our extended care facility in Austin, clients will learn essential life skills and relapse prevention strategies while they work on breaking the cycle of addiction. To learn more about our treatment philosophy or our single-gender environment, reach out today.