Feelings Are Not Facts
I was waiting for him to come back inside after taking the dog out, and I was starting to get impatient. I had already gotten the pizza out of the oven, I had the movie ready to go and placed on pause, and he had been outside for at least 15 minutes.
Finally, I hauled myself off the couch, peeked out the window, and just around the corner — almost out of my sight but not completely — I could see my husband smoking.
I knew he was smoking again!
For weeks I had been asking him why he smelled like smoke, why I could taste it on his breath, and why he was spending so much time outside. I had repeatedly and outright said “I know you started smoking again,” but as usual he would just tell me that I was crazy.
Even when I found a pack of cigarettes in his pockets as I was getting ready to throw his pants in the laundry, he still held steadfast to the story that they weren’t his.
When nicotine showed up on his life insurance blood test and caused his rate to skyrocket, he emailed me some crazy article written by some crazy doctor about false positive nicotine tests.
And when I walked into his work and saw him standing there with a lit cigarette between his fingers, he went above and beyond to “assure” me that he was just holding it for a co-worker who was in the bathroom.
It was absolutely maddening.
Not because I cared if he were smoking or not (hey, if he wanted to die faster, I was not going to try and stop him), but it was maddening because of how easily he was lying to me. It didn’t bother him a bit and it scared me to think about everything else that might be lying about (and oh boy, as I learned later, it was a lot!)
But then that night, with the movie on pause and a pizza quickly getting cold, I finally saw with my own two eyes that he was indeed, actually smoking. From roughly 25 feet away I watched as he went through the cycles of lifting the cigarette to his lips, inhaling, and then exhaling smoke into the crisp night air.
“I have no idea what you are talking about” he replied as he went about taking his shoes off and unleashing the dog.
“Man, come on” I said, clearly annoyed. “This is absolutely ridiculous. I know you’re smoking, why the hell are you lying about it? You smoking is the very least of my concerns these days, so I don’t understand why you’re choosing to lie.”
“And I don’t understand why you are doing this to me” he said, topping my annoyed voice with one that clearly expressed how angry he was. “How do you think I feel when my own wife doesn’t even trust me? I should be able to come home and know that you have my back, but instead you’re sneaking around behind it and trying to find ways to drive us apart. I was really looking forward to having a nice evening with you, but do you think I want to spend time with someone who is always accusing me of things? Geez Eden, this isn’t what a marriage is about! I thought you were my teammate, but all you do is try and take me down all the time. I don’t even want to come home from work anymore because I get worried about everything you’re going to accuse me of. It’s not even relaxing when I have to be on edge with you all the time. I can’t believe you decided to pull this shit tonight. Thanks for ruining our evening, I hope you’re happy.”
He then threw his coat on the floor and stormed out of the room.
So I sat there… and I started to think. “Geez… do I really make him feel that way? Wow I do sound kind of awful. He’s right, we should be a team, and if he’s smoking and not wanting to tell me why, then maybe it’s because I’ve been too hard on him. I just don’t know why he is lying to be, but maybe I should try and be nicer. Yes, I should definitely try and be more understanding. I mean, I guess I could be wrong. Could I be wrong? Maybe he wasn’t smoking before, but I accused him of it so much that he gave up and started smoking. Maybe tonight was his first night! I guess there is a possibility then that everything he said could be true. It doesn’t seem likely… but… he was really upset, maybe before the cigarettes really were his friends. In fact, maybe he wasn’t smoking tonight… maybe I really did just see what I wanted to see. Wow, did I really see that, or do I just think I saw that? Oh my gosh, what if I’m wrong!? Oh my gosh I feel awful.”
Do you see what happened here!!! GAAAAAHHH!!!!
That right there was pretty much our entire marriage and it was infuriating, but even that wasn’t as bad as dealing with my mother.
My mother is the perfect combo of legitimately mentally ill, permanently brain damaged from having electric shock therapy that has stolen much of her short term memory, and devious enough to always try and pull one over on you.
We would have an argument, and then later when we would talk about it, it would be a COMPLETELY different version of what I thought had happened. She would claim that she never said what she
screamed at me said, and would then turn around and claim that I said things I was pretty sure I had never said.
It became so bad that after a while — due to her unwavering insistence that I was always wrong and she was always right — I started to write down our arguments and what took place as soon as it happened. Not because I was planning on using the notes as proof against her in the future, but because I was legitimately starting to wonder if I was losing my marbles and I wanted to be able to compare my notes with the version that she was sure to spew back out at me later.
She was driving me so crazy, that I started to truly wonder if maybe I was actually crazy.
Then, when I realized that I was not indeed crazy, that I was in fact correct in my memory of the situations, then I couldn’t tell if she were becoming even more mentally unbalanced, or if she was purposefully messing with me.
WHICH MADE ME FEEL EVEN MORE CRAZY.
And that my friends, is called gaslighting.
We’ve talked on this blog before about gaslighting, which is a tool that abusers use to manipulate their victims. It is when someone twists and turns reality in an attempt to make someone else doubt their own version of events, which in turn makes them feel crazy.
It’s a very real phenomenon and unfortunately it’s pretty damn effective.
So effective in fact, that we sometimes gaslight ourselves.
Not on purpose of course, but just as effectively.
We gaslight ourselves when we let our own feelings become our facts.
Feelings are not facts.
Feelings are not facts, and yet often times we allow them to become facts:
“I know he said that he was really tired and going to bed when he got home, but he didn’t even call me to say goodnight… I hope I didn’t say something wrong. Wow, maybe I did. Maybe I should call him. No, I shouldn’t call him, clearly he doesn’t want to talk to me. He must be really mad. He probably doesn’t even want to be with me anymore!”
“I can’t believe I didn’t get a raise this year. I know the company said that they were on a salary freeze because of the changeover, but still, didn’t they notice all my hard work? Am I not doing a good enough job? Maybe they are unhappy with my work. Wow, are they unhappy with me? Should I start looking for a new job? Am I going to get fired? I had better start looking for a new job!”
“He broke up with me and I really liked him. He was the best boyfriend I could have ever had. I’ll never find anyone else like him, I’ll be alone forever! This was the worst thing that ever happened to me! Is something wrong with me? Something is definitely wrong with me. My life is basically over. No one will ever want me again, because clearly something is wrong with me.”
“I know he is lying to me, but I don’t know what I would do if he really were cheating on me. I’ve found enough evidence to know he is cheating… but wow that hurts. I thought he loved me. He says that he loves me and that I’m just jealous, that he isn’t cheating. Why would someone who loves me, hurt me? He says he loves me and I’m so scared of losing him that maybe I am just jealous and over protective. Now that I think about it, I am jealous, maybe I need to relax a bit. I don’t want to be the jealous girlfriend. Oh gosh, I am the jealous girlfriend! What if I’m pushing him away and I’m not even right? Geez I’m awful, I need to cut him a little slack or he will leave me. I’m going to stop accusing him of cheating. I had better stop or he will leave me for something that’s probably not even happening. He can’t be cheating on me, he loves me. It’s not him, it’s me.”
Do you see what happened there?
In all these situations, feelings manipulated the facts of what was actually known to be true.
Here’s the thing, just because you are gaslighting yourself, doesn’t change the fact that what you are feeling is just as unrealistic as what a manipulator makes you believe when they gaslight you. And while you may not feel as crazy as when someone gaslights you, that doesn’t mean that you aren’t acting a bit crazy.
Feelings are not facts.
Feelings cannot create facts.
Facts on the other hand, are facts.
Feelings are not facts.
When you let your feelings become facts, that’s when you become your own worst manipulator.
Feelings are emotional representations of what we perceive to be facts. They bring attention to things that we should be thinking about, alert us to underlying issues, and are good indicators of our mental health. They shape our likes and dislikes, help us to set goals and experience everything from happiness to empathy, and give us insight into how our decisions are going to affect our futures. You need feelings and you need to listen to your feelings, but you cannot do is to allow your feelings to be accepted as facts, because feelings are not facts.
When you allow your feelings to become facts, you give away the power to remain in control of your logical thinking.
When you become gaslit by another person, they have taken control of your feelings and turned them into facts; facts that support their position. When you gaslight yourself, you hand the power of logical reasoning over to your imagination. Do you really want your imagination to be in control of your logical thinking?
Of course not!
Emotions are the #1 reason why people jump quickly in and out of relationships, angrily quit jobs, make impulsive financial decisions, and hang onto bad friendships. It’s especially hard if you are someone who is recovering from a trauma because our sadness, fear, anxiety, and suspicion often scream so loudly at us, that they are much harder to ignore than the silent and impartial facts of a situation.
“He cheated on me, so they will all cheat on me. They cheat on me because I’m not good enough. I’ll never be good enough. I’ll settle for someone sub par because I don’t deserve anyone better. In fact, the guy I’m seeing now, he’s probably already cheating on me. I shouldn’t trust him. I should break up with him before he hurts me. He is going to hurt me, they all do.”
Validate your feelings.
Validate them, allow them to be heard, and then weigh them against the facts. Do not discount your feelings, but do not let your feelings void out the facts.
“He says he isn’t smoking, he looked hurt when I accused him, and I really want to believe him, but if someone else were telling me this same story, which person would I believe? What do the facts support?”
Your brain and your heart, they are team, but it’s easier to listen to your heart because it speaks the loudest. It’s not your brain that feels, it’s your heart, and it’s not your brain that hurts, it’s also your heart. We let our feelings cloud out our rationale thinking because the facts are easy to ignore when they don’t resonate in our hearts as much as cold, hard facts do.
Do not allow yourself to be manipulated by other people, but even more than that, do not allow yourself to be manipulated by you.
Do not base your logical thinking on your current frustrations, anxiety, fears, hurt, happiness, and excitement. Give credence to your emotions but only if they are supported by the facts.
If they aren’t supported by the facts, then it’s time to look for the underlying issue. Your feelings aren’t wrong, they are often just misplaced. Do not discount them, but do not give them credit in situations that they don’t deserve.
It’s you against the world love, so you had make sure you’re all in it together; mind and soul.
Emotions are a tool that we use to either build up the future of our dreams, or a weapon we use to cloud out the reality of truth.
This is your life from now until it no longer is. Emotions will fade away and change over time, but the facts will remain even when you stop believing in them. If you want the future of your dreams, then you had better make sure you are building it on a foundation of reality.
Validate your feelings, but don’t count them as facts.