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Feelings and Attitudes

Are feelings and attitudes the same thing or different?  Does one cause the other to happen?  Which one has more power over how we respond?  Does the person experiencing them have any choice in the matter?  What if they are in conflict?

Feelings are what they are.  We cannot force them.  The phrase “I can’t help how I feel” keeps rattling around in my head as I write this.  There is no magical way to change how we feel.  Feelings are not right or wrong; they simply exist.  Feelings are very powerful and definitely have some control over how we make choices and how we move through life.  We will do almost anything to avoid feeling bad.  Think about the large amounts of money, time, and focus we put into trying to feel good while avoiding feeling bad.  That is not a bad thing; it is the basic nature of feelings.  It goes against human nature to want to feel bad.  

Feelings are based in emotions.  Emotions come from the heart.  Therefore, we cannot change them from within our logical minds.  If your favorite pet dies, then you feel sad.  You cannot be expected to simply stop feeling sad.  You will feel some level of sadness until you have finished feeling sad.  It is possible to distract yourself for a while, but the feelings will just lay dormant until you allow them time to fully run their course.  There is nothing wrong with wanting to distract yourself from the bad feelings of missing your pet, but it will slow down the process.  Yes, there are constructive things you can do to aid the processing of your feelings.  However, regardless of how you handle your feelings, you are going to feel what you feel until it works its way through your heart.  You may always miss that pet and feel a slight tug at your heart when you think back fondly on your time together, but the overwhelming painful sadness will eventually pass.  It always does.  That is why they say, “Time heals all wounds.”  We cannot maintain any one feeling indefinitely.  Emotions by nature are shifting and uncontrollable.  

What about our attitudes?  An entire multi-million dollar industry has been built around teaching people about the power of a positive attitude.  The industry would not have survived and thrived as it has if it was not a valid and real concept.  Our attitudes are rooted in our belief systems.  Our belief systems are chosen by our logical minds.  Therefore, it is possible to make a conscious decision to change it.  Our minds have complete and total control over what we believe.  I do not think I need to bore you with another long-winded speech about the powers of a positive attitude.  If you have ever tried it, then you have proven to yourself that it is possible to make an internal adjustment regarding your attitude.  

So, which is stronger?  Which has more influence over our choices and behaviors?  Does one overpower the other?  If a man finds himself falling madly head over heals in love with someone.  Then he is experiencing a feeling, an emotion.  It comes from his heart.  However, let us say that he is entertaining a very pessimistic attitude towards love and relationships in general.  The attitude comes from his mind.  Which will sway him more; the feelings of falling in love or the dark attitude?  If he changes his attitude, then the feelings of being in love can grow and perhaps become a wonderful source of joy for him.  If he holds on tightly to his negative attitude, then it will wear heavily on the loving feelings and he will eventually stop loving her.  But what if instead -- the feelings of love were so amazingly powerful, that they caused the pessimistic attitude to change and his core belief system about love and relationships changed too?  Our feelings can definitely have an effect on your attitudes, but our attitudes usually hold more weight over the long run.

Attitudes are not more powerful because they are more important or more accurate than feelings.  They are more powerful because they are more stubborn than feelings.  By creating self-fulfilling prophecies, we prove to ourselves that our belief systems are real and valid.  Those with positive attitudes seek and find proof to validate that belief and therefore it continues for them.  People who have bad attitudes do not realize that they too seek proof to verify the logic behind being so pessimistic.  The truth is that there are all sorts of things happening at any given time and we select on a subliminal level to only notice those things that validate our existing belief system.  It takes a lot of effort to consciously force ourselves to consistently seek proof of the validity of a new outlook on life.  The reason the attitude wins the battle over our feelings is that feelings are ever changing and flexible while attitudes are often locked into place and become law in our minds.  

What if on the other hand, a woman’s feelings were bad and her attitude was good?  If she felt afraid that she might fail at one of her goals, but she had a positive attitude and deep down she believed in herself, then she could choose to keep moving forward despite her feelings of fear.  Her attitude would win out over her feelings just like the man’s attitude outlasted his feelings too.

If our feelings and attitudes match, then we have an inner balance and harmony within ourselves.  This is the age-old battle between heart and head.  Attitude comes from the head and feelings come from the heart.  When the two agree, we are able to focus and move forward with confidence.  When the two are at war, we have to decide which is right… the heart’s feelings or the head’s attitude?  By sitting quietly and looking inward at our feelings and attitudes from a detached perspective, we can evaluate and chose for ourselves on a case-by-case basis which one should lead us, our feelings or our attitudes.

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