Do Feelings Count As Facts?

Image courtesy of Stockvault.

This question gets on my mind constantly, since it’s relevant to my time spent recovering from Christianity and coping with mental illness. My emotions have been used against me in the past, and there are times when I can’t control them anymore. During those times, I feel things that are terrible, and they desperately want to be counted as true. I can’t give into them as a matter of survival.

Often, feelings do get treated like facts.
According to a lot of places, the world is ending, or in trouble, or there’s some kind of international emergency that needs solving right now. Urgency is a great way to get people to stop thinking and start acting. In theory, it can get people to do acts which will help them and others in the long run. But I’m not sure it’s okay in practice.

Over the years, I’ve met tons of people who will swear that nature can be secretly manipulated, nothing real is as it seems, and even fabled monsters actually exist. A lot of those people didn’t have any diagnosis of mental health problems; they’d probably be considered normal except for their eccentricities. We live in a free society, so these eccentricities are tolerated.

What concerns me is that people will demand I share their eccentricities, and they can get pretty bent out of shape if I don’t do it. This is true of people from all walks of life, not just skeptic conspiracy theorists or religious spiritual warriors. Dig deep enough, and there will be some kind of irrational belief that persists for no other reason than feelings about a thing are accepted in place of evidence.

The solution is discipline, but that’s hard to do.
Many times I fault myself for when I’m not able to maintain an objective and rational stance on views. Sometimes, I’ll read something particularly stupid and not resist the urge to say something. I feel dangerous and exposed at those times, because I feel like I’m losing my self-control. Like I said earlier, self-control for me is a survival mechanism.

Ultimately, I think I’m not fully at peace with the idea that feelings are not facts. I understand the thought, and I don’t want to contribute to anyone’s impression that they can go through life determining reality by whether they like it or not. Such a thing is reckless at best, and it can leave scars on unintended victims. I’ve lived my life around people who use their feelings as facts, and I’m not the better for it.

Logic, reason, and discipline are not things that come naturally to anyone. They have to be taught, and they have to be fully accepted in order to be of any use. These things help us cope with the chaos of life without being fully beholden to it. Not everyone has the same perspective that I have, though, so they can’t fully appreciate this.

Feelings aren’t facts, but they do exist.
I can’t always control them. I can try to habituate myself to them. Being comfortable in my own skin is not in my nature. Just like logic, reason, and discipline, it’s a skill I’m going to need to learn in order to be the best version of myself that I can be.

8 thoughts on “Do Feelings Count As Facts?

  1. This is so what I needed to read right now!! I’ve decided to tackle the thing that led to creating my own blog site, which was reaching the point of actually researching the least painful way to end my life, the closest I’d ever come in 51 years of living to actually doing it. All these things, mental illness, suicidal inclinations, and just the dark, scary monsters that like to come out at seemingly the most inopportune times, i.e., these feelings that cast dark clouds over and blot out reality. Your post helps with working up the courage to tackle some of it. Thank you.

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  2. In the Mormon faith missionaries are instructed to bare testimony first and foremost to doctrinal teaching. That subjective, heartfelt feeling carries a lot of emotion and no fact can dipute it. The feeling trumps the facts every time, even when it is not their own feelings, but just repeating what they themselves have been told in the same manner. It carries a lot of power, but in reality that faith is all based on a positive emotion, not the spirit of god. Everyone, including more mainstream Christians think they are errant, but none of that matters in but after you’ve taken that one bite. You’re in, and expressing doubt is forbidden 🚫

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    • I think LDS churches and American Protestant churches have a lot more in common than either would care to admit. Doubt is seen as a spiritual failure, a kind of leprosy that might infect others. It has to be fought, and its perpetrators punished. Conquering doubt with abject ignorance is viewed as a mighty victory.

      Sometimes I worry that these negative concepts, like hating doubt as if it’s a bad thing, or believing people are corrupt, are soaking into our society and left a permanent mark. I hope it hasn’t; I’d really like to see a day where people didn’t have to be afraid of not believing things because they don’t make sense.

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      • My friend James posts a meme once in a while “Be humble, you might be wrong”. Boy that is the truth. My whole world changed a few years ago. I was pretty arrogant in testimony and politics and socially. I was sick. And the sad part is none of it was my own. I think a lot of us have been there, and it is still rampant in the churches. And I am finally myself. Full of love and hope for the best in everybody. Before it was all judgement. I am a new person. I like that.

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  3. SB, I agree with your comment that Protestant churches (and I would add nondenominational) have more in common with LDS churches than is readily noticed. During my time as a Christian, I fully believed that LDS churches were some kind of brainwashed cult, while I was on a “normal” path of spirituality. All the while, I was blind to the fact that I was reading, singing about, and sharing stories that were equally as absurd, impossible, and emotionally harmful. I didn’t “feel” like my liberal church (with its booming sound system and fog machines and Starbucks) was controlling me because it wasn’t telling me who I could marry, or prohibiting me from having a glass of wine or from speaking in church. It took me years to realize that my religion was controlling the very core of my being: who I would allow myself to spend time with, which memories I was allowed to cherish and which I should be ashamed of, how to love an imagined “Christian version” of everyone I met ( so I could love them, while hating the “real” them), how I should allow this glorious life to pale, in favor of an imagined world to come.

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  4. Feelings can, to some extent be fact. If one, for example is hungry- the feeling is a fact of hunger. The purview of such facts is limited because they are not open to investigation

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