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Feelings from a Thinker’s Perspective: Part 1

“Feelings are just feelings.” I’m sure you’ve heard it.

Feelings are just feelings.

Many agree with that statement. I, however, do not. Maybe it’s because I’m a Thinker 🙂 A Deep Thinker, even, according to the RightPath4 Assessment. I’m also a Thinker according to the Keirsey Temperament Assessment. Of course, I could have told them that.

Or maybe I disagree because I’m a Behavior Analyst at heart. Or maybe that’s why I’m a Behavior Analyst at heart.

See? Too much thinking.

Are feelings just feelings? It’s very cliche. Right? We’ve all heard it. We just want our feelings to be validated, even if they don’t make sense (hey, me too!).

I believe, though, that all feelings have a cause. Cause and effect. Something happens and a feeling follows. We may not undersand the feeling, be able to control the feeling, or even recognize where the feeling came from… but it came from somewhere.

Feelings can come from past experiences creating a sort of conditioned response to a trigger. For example, if every single time I went to Disneyland I smelled popcorn and that made me happy… then it would be natural for me to think of Disneyland and feel happy every time I smell popcorn. I’m trying to use a positive example with this scenario but many situations of this nature have had negative tolls as well… a smell can trigger a painful memory or poke at a deep wound. In fact, it’s often these negative emotions that seem to attach themselves to our experiences.

Feelings can also come from chemical reactions in our brain. Without enough of the happy hormones (Seratonin, Endorphins, and Dopamine) our brains can alter the function of brain behavior… leading a person to feelings of lethargy, sadness, emptiness, and so much more. Depending on the extent of the imbalance, a person can actually become unable to function in every day tasks, so overwhelmed by feelings. With medical attention, this imbalance can be treated and help restore a person to the more common of human experiences, without the additional brain-chemical challenge.

Feelings can also come from thoughts and actions. If I allow my thoughts to take their own course, I will wind up feeling something. This, fortunately, is something I can control. I can filter my thoughts. I can restrain them. I can guess where they are headed and stop them. I can even change my thoughts.

I don’t believe that feelings are just feelings. I believe that’s a fatalistic approach to handling ourselves. In that phrase I hear, “I don’t have to control my thoughts or actions… I just am what I feel- and feelings are just feelings and I can let them take their course; I’m powerless to them.” But I don’t think we are powerless to our feelings. Even a chemically imbalanced brain can receive some aid in restoring balance. I believe that our feelings need to be held accountable and tightly reigned.

For example (this is fictitious): I’m feeling really sad. I don’t understand why. I’m just down. I don’t see any perceivable cause for my feeling. Later, someone mentions my mom. That sadness pops up again. I realize that it’s the same time of year that she passed away, though it’s been a number of years now. I connect that earlier feeling of sadness with this new realization. Does it make the sadness go away? No, but now I have a source and can find some ways to help walk through my sadness with some direction. I can pull out an album and spend time remembering- grabbing hold of that sadness until it washes me clean. I can write her a letter in my journal. I can call up my sister and reminisce. I can act on my feeling, bringing it some resolution. I can channel it in a healthy way. It hasn’t just popped up for the sake of making me sad. It has a purpose- a place within me that needs some attention.

Feelings can be warning flags, like a sting on the bottom of our foot. A way of letting us know that something needs our attention. Because they are the effect, we must take a look at the cause. Knowing the cause can even help us change our feelings.

There. I said it. Feelings can be changed. I know that’s a very unconventional thought. It’s not new, though.

Feelings can be changed.

I can be angry at my husband for not doing the dishes. I can build it up in my mind too. I can decide that he’s lazy. That he must not really love me. That he’s selfish and rude. I can get become quite furious with this run-on of thoughts. But when I find out that the dishes weren’t done because he received a call from a friend who was in a crisis and rushed off to help our friend- my feeling changes. I’m not mad at his selfishness or rudeness. I don’t even question his love for me. Understanding the cause can change the effect. How often our feelings get the best of us over a misunderstood cause!

Or maybe he really was just being lazy and didn’t do them so he could watch a show. I can choose a number of ways to feel about this. Uh oh. I did it again. I said you can choose your feelings. Well, I think sometimes you can. I can choose to think he hates me because he picked a show over the dishes (which is the easiest route to take) and feel furious. Or I can consider that he works a full time job, is finishing his full-time Masters, and has four children… and just needs a break. So would I. I can feel some compassion and understanding. Very different feelings, same cause.

This, of course, is not a call to invalidate someone’s feelings. Feelings are very real and very strong. But YOU are stronger. There is a way through them that can make you a better person on the other side.

At least that’s what I think 🙂

Well, I’ve meandered quite awhile and think this has become the first of a three part series 🙂 The next part will focus on the value of pain and how we can use it to grow and better ourselves (instead of let it fester and wilt us). Stay tuned!  Oh, and please feel free to respond (nicely). 🙂 I have many thoughts, as you can see, but love to hear other opinions, consider them, and maybe even change my own accordingly! 🙂


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Eggs, Babies, and Forever

I was driving a meal to a friend who recently had a baby tonight.

My own two darling toddlers were strapped in their seats behind me. I was attempting to explain to my three year old how babies come into the world. I said something like, “All mommies have always had eggs (like a chicken) waiting around on the inside. They just needed a daddy to turn it into a baby.”

I hope this doesn’t count as R-rated. 🙂

Anyway, it suddenly struck me.

My son has been a part of me ever since… I’ve been a part of myself!

According to ShareCare (came up when I googled 🙂 I had 400,000 eggs by the time I hit puberty. My son was one of those. Weird!

THEN, I started to think about how this was equally true for my daughter. How they’d been hanging around inside of me since I was born. Just waiting. Sort of.

Maybe they had even rubbed shells with Zoe 🙂

See how my thoughts meander? From the purpose of each individual to the thought that my kids have been part of me since I was newly born… and hanging out just waiting for their other half.

If only it ended there… my mind-train then followed that track to my own self as an egg… nesting inside of my mom from the day SHE was born. Wow, I’ve been around awhile…

Does anyone else have such random thoughts as I do? LOL 🙂


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You-niquely You

My meanderings meander far more often than I actually have time to record them. Which is a bit frustrating because this results in my mind being constantly filled with such a varying degree of thoughts to be thought and mysteries to ponder that I can become quite distracted and in a constant state of quasi-inspiration, floating in and out of my philosophical mind and the reality of my laundry, dishes, meals to plan, children to rear, etc.

That said, I finally decided to take a moment to share my most recent thought. So recent, in fact, that it only occurred minutes ago.

As many of you know, I am a foster mother, an adoptive mother, a biological mother, and the daughter of a mother. 🙂

My various experiences within these roles came to a point this morning as I recollected various children I’ve mothered and their own biological mothers. One of my foster children had been told by her bio-mother, “It’s okay if I lose you… I can always have more kids.”

!!!!!!!!!!

That poor sweet child, at the age of 13, had a daughter as well. Yes, my 13 year old foster daughter had a baby… without her consent. Regardless, when it became clear that she was unable to care for her child, her response was, “It’s okay, I can always have more kids…”

My heart breaks.

Another biological mother, recently, was released from prison and, free to start her life again, had a baby. To keep this baby, of course, she has to stay clean, follow the rules of the court regarding her former children, and prove she can raise this new child of hers. Well, upon receiving a secret phone call from her young bio-daughter (now in foster care), this mother had to respond with, “Please don’t ever call me again or I could go back to jail.”

I get it. This is her shot at a new life. A life where she actually gets to raise her own children. She’s already lost quite a few to her choices and the consequences of our system.

But to be a child hearing your mother say, “You are replaceable” must be among the most devastating of “realities” that a person could hear, at any age.

The reality is, no one is irreplaceable.

Nope, not even you.

Not at work.

Not at home.

Not at school.

Not at all.

You are the only you. Profound, I know. 🙂

I look at my 3 year old… a million other birthed babies could not replace HIM. Not one would be him. Not one could replace my almost 2-year old. Or my adopted 10 year old. Or my adopted 12 year old. Other children could fill my space and time… but could never be them.

To her biological mother’s great misunderstanding, my 13 year-old foster daughter could never be replaced by her future children. And neither could a new baby replace the one that my foster-daughter lost to the care of a more equipped person.

The daughter whose mother has a second shot at getting life just a little bit right… can’t be replaced. The new baby doesn’t do it. And I know for a fact that this same daughter is absolutely irreplaceable to the family who now desperately loves her and calls her their own.

And so are you. I don’t know your story. Whether you’ve been “replaced.” Or whether you have done the “replacing.” Or maybe you’ve even been asked to replace someone lost… and couldn’t. No one can be you. No one.

And YOU are important. Because you are a life. Planned. Designed. Counted on. Purposed. Called. Created with intention. Your life was not chance. Or a mistake. No accident. Even among the total world’s population… for all of time… not one can be you. Smile like you do. Laugh like you do. Think like you do. Be gifted as you are gifted- with your own special bent and quirks.

You have a purpose. Not just to take up space or breath up air. A destiny.

Even if you don’t believe me, it’s true. Your own belief about yourself can’t even change the reality that you are entirely unique and irreplaceable. This truth doesn’t rely on you believing it.

It just is.

But don’t take my word for it….

“You have searched me, LORD,
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you, LORD, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.

Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.

For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
How precious to me are your thoughts,God!
How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand—
when I awake, I am still with you.”

Psalm 139:1-18

(emphasis mine).


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