Imagine how life would work if we realized that feelings don’t have inherent meanings. If the only meanings they carry are the ones we assign them. We would soon realize that a lot of our unhappiness and discomfort is a result of the work our mind does, not our actual sensations or feelings.
Nick Miller on “New Girl” once wisely said that, “if we were supposed to talk about feelings, they would be called talkings.” Although it may sound stupid at first, this line has application to my life. If I reinterpreted Nick Miller’s statement to be my own, I would say, “if feelings were supposed to mean something, they would be called meanings.” But they are not. They are simply feelings.
Now, I’m not suggesting you should ignore or suppress your feelings. That’s clearly unhealthy. Rather I’m saying you should notice but not act on them, at least not right away. My quote of the day is one that sounds counterintuitive but actually makes a lot sense: “Don’t act based on how you feel.”
The truth is, we can’t always act on our feelings, because often our feelings are just plain f*cked! Feelings are so unreliable. They’ve led me astray so many times. If we always acted based on how we felt, it would make it very difficult to control our actions, because we would have to wait for specific moments to act, when we felt the “right” way. And even then those moments would be transient, because feelings constantly change.
In a world where feelings have no meanings, it become much easier to suspend judgment. This outlook is similar to Jon Kabat-Zinn’s mindfulness approach of being “non-judgmental.” The idea is, when a particular feeling comes up, you don’t need to assign a meaning. Rather than spending our energy labeling feelings as good, bad, hot, cold, nice, not nice, tired, lazy, focused, unfocused, feelings should be experienced without being judged. Feelings should be recognized as just what they are, a feeling. You may judge the quality of a feeling or notice how it manifests, but you want to avoid assigning to assign any meaning to it. Doing so is inefficient and stress-inducing. Besides, the feeling may not be around that long. Feelings are transient and constantly changing.