Originally Posted by AnnabelMore
What I can't help but see, though, is that to own your feelings is one thing, to uncover them for the first time and then immediately set hard-line new policies for your life based on them, policies that are going to rip apart the life of someone who until recently had been a friend and lover, and could also drive a serious wedge between you and your wife (surely she's going to end up with some resentment over the lack of even trying to compromise, and to hear you talk about being willing to consider moving out is very surprising) is another.
I'd just like to affirm this point from AnnabelMore. This is something I've come to understand from my own research and teaching, though I still struggle to live it in my own life.
Feelings are important, and we would do well to attend to them, but only as initial indicators of how things are going and how we are reacting to them. The problem with feelings is that they are usually set at too low a resolution to provide a lot of useful information as to why
things are going as they are.
If anything, what feelings are mainly good for is getting our attention, drawing us to think
and, eventually, to choose
. They are not a substitute for thinking, nor are they, all by themselves, a good basis for choice. Feelings may be the beginning of a process of figuring things out, but they are not the end of the process; they are not the last word.
In short, as AnnabelMore suggests, feelings are not a reliable basis for policy, at least not all on their own.
In this case, the feelings that have been building up in Matt are indicators that something is wrong; that much seems beyond dispute. But what, exactly is wrong? And what would be the most useful way of making it right?
For myself, what I'm learning is to go ahead and let myself feel what I'm feeling, and attend to the signals my feelings are sending . . . but then to hold off on making any choices, making any demands of others, or setting down any new rules for myself or my relationships, until the first spams of feeling have passed and I've had a chance to think and talk and work things out.
In my own case, feelings of anger and fear and outrage I've encountered (very recently!) in my relationship with my wife often come back around to something I'm
not doing, something about myself
I need to change, for good reasons that are independent of feeling: an expectation I really do need to revise, or a rule I need to follow more consistently, a bit of cultural bias or blindness I need to dispel, or an uncomfortable fact about myself I need to face up to.
I'm not claiming to know what all is behind Matt's feelings in this moment, nor do I claim to know the best course of action for the people involved in this situation. Given the intensity of his feelings, though, it seems to me they should be treated with some caution . . . perhaps especially on Matt's part.