“The Dangers of Emotionally Feeling Good”
by Kelvin Chin
Meditation Teacher & Spiritual Coach
I just watched a documentary on Netflix about a religious group where members would do wild meditations jumping around in apparent ecstasy.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Feeling good is generally a good thing. But is it everything? And is it the best metric to use to assess something’s value in our life?
Merely judging our sense of happiness and well being against whether we emotionally feel good is the norm in our world culture. There is no doubt about that.
Just look at most best-selling self-help books, workshops and gurus, TV ads (“buy this and feel good”), the pharmaceutical and mental health industry (“take this pill and feel good”), religious teachers (“believe this whether it makes sense or not because it’ll make you feel good “), and even our educational system (“read this version of history because it’ll make you feel good about your country”).
Basically any sector of our society. They all preach this “feel good” notion of happiness.
But is it accurate?
Is it foolproof?
What can make us feel good?
Many things can…
High self esteem
Good physical health
All those are arguably good for us.
But what about…
Drugs — prescribed and “recreational”?
Groups that support our beliefs, whether religious, cultural or political — at the exclusion of others?
Hmmmm…maybe not so great for our short or long-term health. Alcohol is a neurotoxin, drugs have negative side effects, and exclusionary groups and cults limit our thinking to “their” thinking.
But…wait a minute, they make us feel good, don’t they?
The Power of Emotion
It is indisputably powerful.
All emotions whether positive or negative are strong moving forces in our psycho-emotional daily life. Excitement. Joy. Serenity. Love. Anger. Sadness. Fear.
So it’s no wonder that we all gravitate towards them. However, not only do we naturally experience those feelings — I mean you cannot prevent it — but — and here’s the rub — we also have a tendency to place more weight, more credibility in them as metrics, i.e., as a yardstick, to measure many of the choices we make in life.
Because the feeling of feeling is so intoxicating. So alluring. Even if it’s not just feeling good. Even the feeling of feeling badly can be intoxicating to some. Or the feeling of feeling fear — look at how popular death-defying rides at amusement parks are…
And when the feeling is so intoxicating, we sometimes shelve our thinking — yes, even our common sense — in the hope of continuing that enjoyable feeling. Sometimes even well past the point when we “knew better.”
Ever experienced that in, let’s say, a relationship? “I knew I should have left him months ago, but it was so thrilling to be with him…”
The Power of Thinking
I know that some people put thinking and feeling in the same category. After all, they’re both mental experiences, right?
But at least for the purposes of our discussion here, I think it’s helpful to separate them and look at them individually.
“Thinking” I’m defining for our narrow purposes here as “thinking rationally, analytically, clearly without cognitive dissonance.”
I think we all understand what thinking rationally and analytically means. In layman‘s language I think we would call it “using our common sense.”
What I mean by “thinking clearly without cognitive dissonance” is not coming to conclusions or making statements that do not make logical sense with our thinking process or prior statements. In other words, coming to conclusions that just don’t fit with what we are saying. Without cognitive dissonance means thinking free from stuff that doesn’t make sense, or said another way, it’s without contradictions.
For example, telling our kids: “Stop playing video games for hours on end! You should give your brain a rest and go outside and get some exercise!” — while we sit on our couch day and night watching hours of TV. That’s cognitively dissonant. In layman’s language we sometimes call it “a mixed message.” We should more honestly call it “a wrong message.”
Or, the health coach or healthcare professional who treats patients and advises them to exercise regularly, and make healthy food choices — yet himself eats at fast food drive-through windows and smokes cigarettes.
And of course all of these examples affect us individually, personally, when we are the “dissonant actor.” We are not immune to the ill effects of thinking and acting dissonantly. It can cause inner confusion, relationship problems, and can even negatively affect our physical health.
So we can all probably agree that thinking clearly is important. Not only for good parenting, but also for our own individual health and well being.
The problem is that for most people “thinking clearly” is a big, giant snooze. It’s boring. It just ain’t sexy!
It does not “juice us.” Where’s the tingle, the chills, the shudder?
I know. I know.
An Emotional Need
What if thinking clearly became an “emotional need”?
What if you somehow found a way to become “juiced,” uplifted, even excited by thinking? And then even more excited by thinking more clearly about yourself, your life, your surroundings, the world, the universe…
That’s what I’ve come to realize about myself. You could call it a self-realization. Something that I’ve learned about myself in my eternal quest for responding to my inner voice — “Know Thyself.”
It makes me happy to understand more fully and to be able to think more clearly about myself and life’s issues. And even more so by sharing that to help others. I find that emotionally fulfilling. Ok, you may say I sound weird…and you wouldn’t be the first to think that!
Final Thoughts — Buyer Beware
But here’s the main thing to consider.
I don’t think emotions and emotional needs are — at all — inherently bad. But relying solely on “feeling good” as our yardstick in life can be risky and potentially dangerous. It can lead to blind action and blind following. That is, acting blindly by yourself, say in a toxic relationship. Or blindly following others without regard for one’s own common sense. Without thinking clearly.
And their self-interests may not align with yours. They may even be totally opposite to yours without your knowing it.
But again, it’s not the feeling that is bad. It’s the blindness that can often result.
So caveat emptor (“buyer beware”). Or perhaps “thinker beware.” Our thinking mind needs to beware of being overshadowed by its feeling side, at the risk of our real happiness.
Ignoring that balance
can be dangerous to one’s health and well being.
Kelvin H. Chin is a Meditation Teacher, Life After Life Expert, and Author of “Overcoming the Fear of Death.” He learned to meditate at age 19, and has been teaching Turning Within and coaching others in their self-growth for 40 years. He helps people understand their life challenges through their individual belief systems, and helps them find their own solutions. His past life memories reach back many centuries, and he accesses those memories in his teaching and his coaching in the same way all coaches draw on their own available experiences for perspective and effective analogies. He can be reached at www.OvercomingTheFearOfDeath.org or www.TurningWithin.org.