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On Feelings

Updated: Jan 29, 2021

Putting feelings first is destructive. Yes, I said it.

In this modern age feelings have never been as much of a priority. Perhaps, it’s the burst of freedom as feelings have finally been given a chance at releasing from the collective suppression of emotion we are coming out of. But it must be just that: the burst of energy that happens when an energy build up is released. Powerful and forceful and fleeting.

I think that we tend to confuse respect with making other’s feelings a priority but that is not what respect is. Respect is to hold someone in high esteem. It has to be earned and can can definitely be lost. Respect does include being considerate of others, to consider their feelings before you act. But, that consideration does not mean putting other's feelings first. If you always did that you'd likely find your life going nowhere with a ton of chaos around you. “Putting people’s feelings first” is not the way to healthy progress. Putting the well-being of the collective first is.

Feelings are just personal signals that give us information. I feel angry (a boundary has been crossed), I feel scared (I may be in danger), I feel happy (I am safe and secure in my environment). They give us clues and cues in our decision making and how we relate to ourselves, others and our environment.

Our feelings are no one's responsibility but our own. A healthy and well person is not controlled by their feelings. They acknowledge it, allow themselves to feel it, ask themselves why they are feeling that way, learn from it and then let it go.

We aren’t meant to hold on to them and make them a permanent guest in our life. It disrupts the flow, distracts you, dims and blocks new feelings (aka new information) that is trying to get to you. They are impermanent, fleeting. Making them the first priority leads to bad decision making, illness, unease, lack of progress and, often, conflict.

Humanity tends to work in extremes. We tend to collectively swing from one pole to the other. We overcompensate in an effort to get the momentum going. You can see this in so many of the social movements taking over our feeds. Things swing out of balance when feelings take over. The fight for justice and true equality becomes a battle for vengeance and superiority.

The goal is to find the balance. As Buddha taught: the middle path is the path to enlightenment.

If the primary focus is on feelings, logic gets put to the wayside. Manners and respect are forgotten. Compassion gets squeezed out. The focus is now solely on the individual and the self and the collective suffers.

I would be a terrible parent if I put my child’s feelings above her well-being. As parents, sometimes we have to do things that hurt our children’s feelings. We have to say, “No you can't have that” or “I know you are upset but you can't hurt your friend”. “Just because you are hurt doesn't mean it’s ok to hurt others”. Their feelings get hurt, they feel like you’re taking sides, they don’t understand why you “don't care” about their feelings. And that’s ok. They’re kids They don't have the tools to understand and control their emotions yet. That’s part of growing up.

As long as it doesn’t infringe on the rights of others, you have every right to own and express your personality, feelings and thoughts. But you have to understand that your feelings, thoughts and decisions are your responsibility and no one else's. You are free to express yourself but no one is obligated to listen, agree or participate. You have zero control over other people and trying to control and change them is a complete waste of time and energy. Strive for self mastery. Honour and learn from your emotions and take responsibility for them. When it’s time to move forward the guiding principle needs to be: what is best for the collective.

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