Someone once wrote that feelings cannot be disputed because they are experiences. Whereas beliefs can be disputed because they are how we interpret our experiences.
I completely agree with this sentiment. I believe its very important to understand the distinction before we try to understand life, we must first seek to understand how we make sense of life. Before we can understand that, we must our own thought processes. We must understand how our own thinking works.
Dr. Robert Lehman, a man who has been very influential in how I view these issues, once delineated three ways of thinking that I'd like to share with you here. I believe understanding these views will help us to better understand our thoughts and feelings.
- Reactive or emotional reasoning. Reflective or emotional reasoning is just pure reactions. I feel it so it must be true, whatever true is. So the wife caught in a marriage she doesn't like will convince herself that "it will always be this way." This person makes decisions based simply on how they feel about a situation. If a person is caught in this mode of thinking they are usually all over the place emotionally. Almost everything is about how they feel. They have very little impulse control and rarely think about the consequences of their actions beyond the short term.
- Reflective thinking. This person considers the consequences of their actions. They will consider what will happen from what they do. This person will even consider how their actions affect other people. They consider the consequences in the short term and the long term. Sometimes, this person will weigh the risk of the negative consequence against the potential positive of doing whatever they are considering. I knew a nine year old girl who would do this. When threatened with a vague "punishment" for not doing her room, she ask for specifics on the punishment. She was deciding if she was willing to pay the price or not. This is reflective thinking but it is incomplete.
- Moral Reasoning. Moral reasoning is when someone decides what they are doing based purely on what is right. Their moral compass is put into play with decisions. These people do the right thing because it is the right thing to do not necessarily because it will get them anything. It goes beyond reflective reasoning because it asks the question of "what is the right thing to do?" It is not only concerned with the outcome, it is actually concerned with the morality of a decision.
This is important because a person who is stuck in the first category of reasoning will not be able to debate their beliefs about their feelings. They will be ruled by their feelings. Relationships will be short or tumultuous or both. So many things happen that impact our feelings. Those feelings are real. Debating them is pointless. It's an experience that the person has lived. The person's beliefs about those feelings can be debated.
Think about marriage. Successful couples don't always feel like being faithful or kind or gentle but they can be all of those things all the time. They can chose to do something about their feelings.
Think about individuals. They don't have to be ruled by their feelings. They don't have to give up hope that life will always be the way it is today. They don't have to live the same bad story line over and over again. They can see change in their life.
Think about parenting. Think about how these three different levels of thinking affect parenting children. The techniques used to shape the child. Think about how often parenting is about instilling fear. Fear of the parent, fear of the consequences and about how rarely, in my opinion, it is about instilling the desire to do the right thing because it is the right thing to do.
Tomorrow I'm going to write about the woman who made her son wear a sandwich sign about being a drug dealer and making bad choices. If you haven't read that article yet, be sure to find me on Facebook and like my page. You can click to it on the right sidebar on my webpage.