Let me first start with, I was a sensitive kid. I cried sometimes when being verbally or physically reprimanded, and I took a lot of criticism to heart. In these moments, it helped a lot to have self-awareness along with a really good memory, as that directly prevented a lot of repeat occurrences with respect to bad behavior. Unfortunately, this played no role in correcting my desire to do and turn in homework. I didn’t start doing homework AND turning it in on time until I was in college. That aside, I understand that people are different, and I understand that it is difficult to react reasonably before emotionally. I also understand that we’re all human, so mistakes will come regardless.
With that long winded disclaimer out of the way, I feel we as a society need to chill with this quest to validate everything. Specifically, reactions based on feelings. We validate feelings across the board and that’s fine since we can’t control how something makes someone else feel, so whether that feeling makes sense or not, the chemicals in their brain are firing or misfiring to create this feeling in them. I’m on board with that, but I jump ship when people also use that rationale to justify actions. We all know a crazy person or two that misreads life all the time and their feelings are absolutely off-base from what’s really going on. We tend to view these people as irrational because they forego thinking before doing, at least we hope that’s the case. If they are thinking before doing, then that’s another problem.
Feelings will fail you…sometimes
When I was in 6th grade this big ass 5th grader would crack on everyone and he was brutal with his take downs. This kid looked like he was held back twice, but both his parents were just really big people. He was cracking on me one day and because I’m funny too, I returned fire. To no one’s surprise, he couldn’t take the same heat he gave out, so his response was to try to intimidate me with his size. I didn’t find that funny at all, so we both had a problem that needed to be addressed. For no reason besides peer pressure and him being a few months younger than me, I challenged him to a fight. He was bigger than me by a good amount, so I’m sure he expected me to be light work, and if his heart was in it, he could’ve easily beaten me. However, his heart wasn’t in it. In this case, neither of us were really thinking before doing. He felt his size was going to be the determining factor and I felt my age was…we were both wrong technically, but I was less wrong, because he took that L with him. Either way, this behavior is expected of elementary school boys…not so much for grown men and women.
Yes, we’re all different, with different feelings and all that but somehow, we’re all subjected to the same laws…in theory. We know that it is illegal to bring about bodily harm to someone for frivolous things such as words, opinions or for someone simply existing. We know there is a baseline of how people should be treated, and some of us can distinguish with little effort at all the difference between reasonable and unreasonable. At least that is the case for situations not involving personal feelings. Years ago, a friend of mine cheated on his girlfriend, she found out and punched and slapped him out of frustration. I was talking with a female friend at the time about it and her response was “he’s lucky that’s all she did”. I asked what if the roles were reversed, would he be justified in that response, to which she replied, “hell no, he’s a man”. We ultimately disagreed and that lack of common sense is partially why we are no longer friends.
Every action or reaction cannot be justified with “I was responding to my feelings”, as previously stated, everyone isn’t operating with a full deck. The notion that reactions based on feelings are automatically justified is ridiculous, but that seems to be the tone being set by the mental health experts. Not really the experts, just their patients and a gross misinterpretation of their expert advice. Feelings aren’t really rational in a vacuum, as there is some sort of external influence to cause that feeling. Actions and reactions SHOULD be rational because there is time to think before acting or reacting. When people fail to think things through, an irrational response can be reasonably expected.
Not that long ago I received an article about this guy that I knew in the military. From what I knew, he was a normal guy, a little bit wacky with his thought process, but outside of some key inconsistencies with personal views, I liked the guy. We were both married, walking around the base we saw pretty women and did what married guys do…looked at them and commented favorably about their butt cheeks and breasts. He took it a bit further (often) and mentioned what he’d do with the women and all that, but it was just talk. The flip side of that he said he’d have a problem with his wife doing the same, a sentiment we disagreed on. His family life seemed fine from what I could tell. However, turns out his wife had a boyfriend and his response to her cheating was irrational in my opinion. The feeling he had was anger, I understand that feeling but his reaction was an attempt to kill her and successfully killing a guy. Maybe I’m weird, but I don’t feel that shooting two people because they’re having a consensual, sexual relationship is reasonable, regardless of being married or not. I’m certainly in the minority when it comes to how many men feel on this topic.
A few more noteworthy moments of feelings failing the feeler. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were the result of feelings and hindsight has shown they were not worth the action. Will Smith slapped Chris Rock based on an emotional response and again, hindsight is not kind to the action. This guy mentioned above killing his ex-wife’s lover may have been thought out, but it was based on the flaws of his emotions and either hindsight or a lonely guy is probably smacking his ass daily. Big differences between these examples for sure, but you get what I’m saying. Emotion based decision making is often the incorrect rationale for deciding things. There are a few exceptions of course.
“Don’t dismiss, invalidate or minimize someone else’s feelings just because you don’t understand them”Lauren Faulk
Irrational for the win
Don’t get me wrong, feelings matter and are important to our individual narratives. I’m a Black man in America where I feel tolerated more than accepted, in too many of the places I go. Feelings capture the intangibles that are otherwise hard to describe. When interpreting the mood of a room versus the words stated, feelings thrive, and are dismissed by those that simply don’t understand. I went to a restaurant in the middle of nowhere Virginia once and I felt like I was not welcome. No one told me to leave, threatened me or said anything at all actually. The look on the face of the patrons and the lady behind the podium to seat people said enough. I briefly looked at a menu, which seemed like a hassle to this young lady. So, instead of sticking around to find out if my food would be tampered with, I immediately left that restaurant and dealt with being hungry until I was around more welcoming civilization. My response wasn’t rational, it was based on feeling, but it was possibly a great decision. I either saved my insides from torment or misread the mean faces and missed out on a good meal. I’m here writing about it so I feel like I won, but I’ll never know for sure.
All said, feelings aren’t all bad. They aren’t as objectively reliable as rationality, but sometimes waiting to make a rational decision will fail you. When making big decisions, who to marry, what car to buy, how to raise kids, where to live…by all means, apply more rational thought than feelings. When reasonable, think things through, but if the waitress gives you a menacing glare when you enter the one off establishment in the middle of nowhere, feel free to leave that spot immediately.