I remember watching the original Star Trek when I was a child and taking note of how often Spock and Kirk would debate logic versus emotions. In retrospect, I think they did a good job of valuing both. Inspired by those debates, the young counselor in me came up with this theory.


What if emotions are like a super fast computer that quickly evaluates a situation based on past experience and generalizations to warn us of danger or problems?


Have you ever felt angry before you even knew why you were angry, only later to process that someone had violated your boundaries or undermined your security? Have you ever felt uneasy or anxious about a situation only later to recognize all the clues and warning signs?

Anger, fear, frustration, worry, etc. come on quickly and the unpleasantness motivates us to change our behavior. They can serve as excellent warning signs and indicators that we need to take a situation seriously.


The problem is, because this survival mechanism needs to process things so quickly, our emotions are based on generalizations, assumptions and past experiences, which are prone to error. For example, when you have all those odd physical reactions to public speaking, it is because your body reacts to the anxiety of being judged, the same way it would react to prepare to run from a lion. It is a protective mechanism that we regard new situations and people with hesitation and care, but to the extreme this becomes racism and seclusion.

And while our logic is certainly still prone to errors, given more time we can usually discern better what is right and true and what was just a false alarm or poor judgment.

Feelings are just another way to get information about the world, but just like sight or hearing, they can be impaired or faulty. I like to think of feelings as warning lights on a car dashboard. They are indications that something might be wrong. They should be respected, not ignored. But there have been times that I had a low tire warning light, checked all my tires with a gauge to find they are fine and later found out that the pressure sensor was broken. It feels a bit odd to drive around with that warning light on afterward, but I know why it is on and that things are ok.

Society appears to be doing a better job lately of recognizing that feelings need to be validated. Too many people have been hurt and told they were wrong to be upset. And too many people have ignored their feelings when they shouldn’t. Furthermore, depression, anxiety and many other mental health issues are invisible illnesses where people appear to be fine from the outside, but have a very real internal experience of pain and distress. Consider that if someone has tinnitus and experiences painful ringing in their ears, but there is no external sound, their pain is still real. It is largely ineffective or counterproductive to tell someone their experiences are not real.

But, it is an opposite and equally problematic extreme to confuse validating a person’s experiences with saying that those experiences are reality. It is a delicate balance for both those experiencing painful emotions and those caring for such people. But it is good to first validate that feelings are real, and painful, and distressing, and confusing. People are not crazy for being angry, or scared, or stuck.

But then no one should stay at this point too long. Feelings are real, but not reality. Just because you feel scared does not mean you should run. Just because you feel hurt does not mean anyone did you wrong. Just because you feel hopeless, worthless or a failure does not mean you are.

When actions are based on feelings all kinds of things go wrong. Half my blogs are basically getting at this point. I plan to write Feelings Part 2 soon as an example of this. And many of my clients, especially people who struggle with bipolar disorder, are basically just trying to learn how to stop letting their emotions be in control of their lives because of the ongoing problems this causes.

On the other hand, many people have tried to be Spock and be purely logical, and that usually fails or has its own problems, because our emotions are valuable and a crucial part of our existence. Often the best parts of our existence come from emotions. When we are in touch with reality, including the painful parts, life becomes so much more vibrant and rewarding. I think the balance is to learn how to use feelings as clues to navigate our lives, but not let them be in charge of steering the ship.

And as many people say, the longest distance in the world is between the head and the heart. It is a very difficult challenge to act based on your will, rather than you feelings, but it is a challenge worth accepting. At the end of the day, it is not what you feel, but what you do that matters.

On the bright side, most people find that once they realize they do not have to act based on feelings, they start to do things differently, challenge their reality and have new experiences. And, as I said at the beginning, since feelings are largely based on experiences, new experiences are often the best way to eventually change our feelings.

Ok, I’m going to put my head on the chopping block today. Talking about the opposite sex is a pretty dangerous thing to do for any guy who values his peace. In fact, I have already dialed back the original post I made because some people were offended at what I thought were fairly benign observations. However, I think those that are open to this message can transform their relationships, so I’ll take one for the team.

I’m just going to let this article speak for itself. Keep in mind this is not every woman or every marriage, but it does apply to some. This is a transformative story of a wife who had a difficult realization about how she used anger in her marriage. Trust me, this is something that many husbands are desperate for their wives to understand, but are too afraid to share.

Just click the link below.


I Wasn’t Treating My Husband Fairly, And It Wasn’t Fair


“Never go to bed angry,” is one of the most common pieces of advice given to newlyweds. If you ask people you know or search the web, you’ll find plenty of comments, opinions and research to either back up or contradict this age old advice.

For what it is worth, I think the fundamental principle of the cliche is true. But like most any piece of wisdom, you have to avoid taking it to extremes and there may be other factors to consider, which is the basis of the arguments criticizing this time honored saying saying.

I think that this sage advice dates back thousands of years to the scripture:

” ‘In your anger do not sin’ : Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry,” – Ephesians 4:26 NIV

And since this wisdom has been around for thousands of years, all I intend to do here is add my 2 cents for why it matters.

I came to understand it during my bachelor days.

My roommate, other friends and myself were playing poker in our apartment. I’m known to be overly competitive at times and my friends decided to play a little prank on me. Throughout the night, they would frequently cheat and give the winning cards to one of the other players. The player they gave the winning cards to was the person who cared the least about winning, did not take the game seriously and often had haphazard strategy. My friends knew that one of my pet peeves was losing to someone I thought played poorly. I’m not proud of this trait and try to work on it, but it is an important fact of the story.

As the night went on, I got more and more frustrated when I lost repeatedly to this player. The odds of him having the cards he did as often as he did were mind boggling. I have pretty honest friends, so I would never expect them to cheat to win, but I guess cheating to irritate me was a different matter, which is why I was slow to consider the possibility. At some point I crossed into being legitimately mad, but they continued the prank.

When they all finally had a good laugh at my expense, I was not in a good place. “How could they keep provoking me when they knew I was so upset,” I thought to myself. I don’t recall how the night ended or what happened next, but I do know that I called it a night and went to bed before any apologies or reparations could be made. I went to bed angry.

And what happens next may be familiar to you, even if you didn’t recognize what was happening. What started out as anger at a problem situation, “How could they keep provoking me when they knew I was so upset,” evolved over time as I stewed about the night. After a while, my thoughts became, “How could they be so insensitive,” to “How could they be so cruel,” to “they are such cruel, thoughtless jerks.” You see, when we dwell on a hurt without addressing the person, the problem situation eventually becomes a problem person. We attribute what happened to a flaw in the character of those who hurt us. Now that character flaw is our problem.

And it is so much harder to resolve a problem with someone when you believe the problem is their character. And when the problem is their character, the possibility of change or resolution is so much more hopeless and frustrating. Which conversation will be more productive?

 “I was hurt when you knowingly pushed my buttons,” or “I need to talk to you about how manipulative and inconsiderate you are.”

Regardless of whether you deal with a problem today or tomorrow, I think one of the key things to remember is to stay focused on the situation and not allow your anger to fester and taint your whole perception of a person. It is always easier to deal with a situational problem than a character problem. People will be far more defensive, the scope of resolution gets overwhelming, and you will have much more difficulty dealing with facts when you try to take on something as arbitrary as a character defect.

And while we are on the topic of attributions of character, here is another valuable tip. It has been observed that when we have bad behavior, we tend to blame our circumstances:

  • “I didn’t get enough sleep and was irritable”
  • “I’m under a lot of stress right now”
  • “If you only knew what my childhood was like”
  • “It was just a miscommunication”

But when other people have bad behavior, we attribute it to their character:

  • “What a selfish jerk”
  • “They are just lazy”
  • “She’s such a B—-“
  • “Don’t be an idiot”

We excuse our bad behavior with understanding and context, but we simply chalk up other people’s bad behavior to innate character flaws. I believe we do this because we love ourselves (let’s not get into the whole other subject of people who do not love themselves). Because we love ourselves, we want to think better of ourselves, so we try to understand our behavior in context. We are more than a simple label. We have good days and bad days and we don’t want all our good points and accomplishments to be cancelled out by a mistake. We don’t do this for other people, because doing all that thinking to understand someone takes a lot of mental energy, and if we’re honest, we don’t love other people enough to put in the effort to understand them.

What if one of the main lessons of the golden rule is to love others as ourselves, which means to cut other people the same amount of slack we do for ourselves. It is a lot harder to be angry when you try to consider someone as a complicated human being who is struggling to do their best, rather than just a villain.

So, if you go to bed angry, you run the risk of turning someone you care about into a villain…and that kind of makes you sound like the bad guy now, doesn’t it?