In a recent article in the weekend Guardian Magazine a woman recalled how it was she became convinced she'd been sexually abused by her father, doing so on nothing more than her feelings, and the then contemporary enthusiasm amongst feminism for 'recovered memory syndrome' that coloured, if not distorted her perceptions. This caused her to cease all contact with her 'abusive' father. Her own persistent doubts about the validity of her accusations eventually led her to a regretful restoration of contact many years later.
Feelings aren't all bad, they also can inspire, uplift and transform us, but they are fickle masters, they can also cause us to loose perspective and the rational coolness to help us make considered or fair judgements. Feelings, however, are very compelling, they have an ardor and conviction to them. They cause us to love and hate, in unbalanced and frequently unfair measure. Both lovers and murderers do rash, ill considered things. Feelings can propel us towards actions without pause to consider the consequences or potential for future regret. Feelings alone are unreliable mentors for what is the right thing to do, let alone what maybe the ethical, skillful or wholesome thing to do.
I've been concerned over recent months with the strength and frequent irrationality of my own feelings. Their intensity can be an extremely compelling, and an often misleading prompt to action. They have a self-righteous urgency to them, appealing for a response, for an action to be taken to resolve or dissipate the feeling. I've often taken the strength of my feelings as an infallible measure of there importance. In reality, I am just feeling quite strongly about this or that issue, and though this may indeed be an understandable response, it may not be a right nor true one. Most peoples psychology is a messy mix of the good, the bad and the ugly, no matter how 'sorted' their surface appearance maybe. So it might be unwise to put full trust in our feelings, as the rectitude of our motivations is so frequently soiled. Magnitude of feeling alone is never a good enough measure for what has value, meaning or place in the wider scheme of things.
I may, if I'm lucky have got my feeling responses in
proportion, but mostly I'll be struggling to keep it in anything like a reasonable perspective. I'm liable in such unguarded moments to make bad judgements on the back of this feeling alone, and not be easily dissuaded otherwise. I can remember those instances when I've felt like throwing in the towel over something, and took the first available opportunity to do so. I'm not prone much to regret, what's done is done, but nevertheless I have made decisions in the past that I might not do quite so speedily now. Rank dissatisfaction has led me around by my nose, by the strength of its stench alone. If we perceive our feelings as some sort of divine omniscient messengers from our unconscious, they will undoubtedly mislead us. For is this bright descending angel I'm seeing a golden or a fallen one ? Is this urgent feeling a talisman, an oracle, or a self-deceiving trick?