Mel Schwartz, LCSW

Can Your Feelings Be Wrong?

This question comes up so often in my therapy sessions. The greatest source of invalidation comes from denying our feelings — whether we do it ourselves or others do it to us. People really struggle with the question of whether their feelings or right or wrong. Wrong question! Feelings are neither — they just are. Imagine saying that you feel hot. Can someone tell you that you’re wrong? That you’re not feeling hot? Of course not. They might argue that it isn’t hot, particularly if you’re sharing a bed together. But indeed if you feel hot, you feel hot.

Now if you’re overdressed  or the thermostat is set too high you might make an adjustment and no longer feel hot. In that case what your feeling changes. Similarly, if you feel angry, unloved or disrespected, some meaningful communication might assist you to reconsider what you’re feeling. Learning not to be reactive also helps in re-framing what we’re feeling. But this doesn’t suggest that you weren’t feeling what you were.

Some people invalidate their own feelings by not trusting their emotions. In such cases, they are particularly prone to having others further this invalidation via their comments. This is a source of relationship conflict and damage. The goal is to affirm and acknowledge what the other is feeling and to better appreciate their experience. Once you join with them, they are then affirmed, and not coincidentally, better prepared to reflect on what they’re feeling.

Feelings are generally informed by our thoughts, and it is helpful to explore what thinking may have triggered what we are feeling. Ordinarily, when our thoughts shift, so do our emotions. They tend to act in concert with one another. Don’t judge your feelings — note them and then self-reflect. They can’t be wrong, but they can be reconsidered.

More from Mel Schwartz

Podcast #115: Being True to Yourself

Podcast #128: Awakening Your Relationships

Find Mel on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and LinkedIn.

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I have really enjoyed reading your articles. I have read your book the Art of Intimacy several times. Thanks for that. I am married for the second time for about a year and one-half. My husband and I have had difficulties from the start. He is a retired military “man who in his mind” feels that truth is revealing everything. I know this is what you deem is the answer to true intimacy. However, I think he uses it for control. I have tried to forgive him for past hurts; but they lasted so long I became depressed and anxious. I had to fight this man to be able to take medication that eventually did help me some. We have been separated several times; but I would get panicked, feel trapped and leave again. About 3 months ago I vowed to try differently and give my all to working out this relationship. My husband has changed; I have always treated him with affection, non-anger, and loving attitude. My problem, I can’t fully commit and don’t feel happy about the stability of this relationship. I do love him but my trust has not come back. Please tell me it is possible to love again if we try hard enough.

Sorry for the long dissertation, I believe this in my mind, but my heart has yet to buy into it.

Matthew Selznick

Hi Jayne,
The hard answer is it all depends..It is possible, but that requires two people working toward a common goal and trying to eacg get out of their own way, taking their individual responsibility.

[…] What we need to ask is why someone becomes angry in the first place, and whether or not it can be justified. The answers to these questions may give us an insight in to managing our relationships a little better. So, what drives someone to anger? The answer is simple; a feeling that something is wrong. Now your sense of whether or not what they believe is wrong is wrong in your opinion is not the point. The person that is angry feels something is wrong. [See here ]. […]

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