Where do feelings come from?

When I was a lowly undergrad, I volunteered at a peer counseling hotline. We had extensive training that makes all other job training I’ve had look like playtime at okay corral. One of the things we were never supposed to say on a call was “how did that make you feel?” because one of our prime directives was “nothing makes you feel. Your feelings come from you.”  At the time, I got around this rule by saying something like “how did you feel after that happened?” or “what did that feel like?” and by openly mocking this rule to friends outside of our office – “hey hey! nothing makes you feel anything. these feelings are your response!” (yeah i wasn’t the most belly showing coworker, even then). It didn’t make sense to me that someone could dump you, or you could get rejected in some other way, or some attack could happen, and you were still wholly responsible for your feelings. I was young.

There’s some kind of magical (or at least intricate) process by which we take the events of our life and turn them into feelings.

After my not very bad week, I came to work today and immediately started crying. What happened? Honestly, nothing. Nothing happened… well, nothing caused the feelings.

Last week in therapy my therapist suggested that, like my last not very bad week, perhaps life didn’t have to be painful. That just maybe we could go about our days and not have horrible pain in our bodies and minds becuase of the world around us and how we interpret that world.  That seemed completely foreign to me. The world is horrible. How can we not feel horrible? But… organizing, doing nothing, reading, writing… none of those have seemed to impact either the horribleness of the world or how I feel about it. So what is the cause? Is it all in my head? Yes, no, and yes and no.

 

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