About Your Feelings


Feelings are important because they tell us what matters. Feelings are like a compass because they orient us to what we need, to what matters to us. Going through life without access to one’s feelings is like flying a plane without an instrument panel. It’s hard to know who one is, what one needs or where one wants to go.

Given the importance of feelings, it is best to accept all of our feelings, to feel entitled fully to them rather than judging them as rational or irrational, right or wrong, acceptable or unacceptable. Even if we are puzzled or disturbed by a feeling such as anxiety, it is best to embrace it and to reflect on it knowing that we are feeling it for a reason.

Also, it is best to extend the attitude of acceptance of all of our feelings to the feelings of others. For example, while it is okay to differ with one’s partner’s opinions or point of view, it is unhelpful to convey that one’s partner should not feel what he or she is feeling. Regardless of what one’s partner is feeling, it is best to validate the partner’s feeling by saying, “It makes sense that you feel disappointed…” or “I get that you are feeling frustrated…” For an example of how I validate partner’s feelings in couple’s therapy, see the clinical case, or visit my Emotionally Focused Therapy page.

This article is the first in a series of articles about feelings which draw heavily on Dr. Geoffrey Carr’s book, Making Happiness. I hope that you will find these articles helpful in your journey.

Dr. Paul James is a psychologist in Vancouver.