Welcome back, everyone! Today’s topic is a tricky one, not only because it deals with questions that are difficult to answer, but because those answers can be tremendously uncomfortable. So let’s lay out the groundwork. Now, we’re all familiar by now with the concept that wrong beliefs are responsible for most of our persistent life issues. Frustration, unfulfillment, chronic stress, and even illness and disease are all, eventually, common symptoms.

So how do you know which beliefs to trust? Logic and reasoning, yes. But no one can be entirely reasoned about everything—and I personally believe that there is great value in trusting your feelings, what you might think of as intuition or “gut instinct,” rather than trying to approach everything analytically. So how do we separate authentic intuition from our reactions to wrong belief?

First of all, we’ll have to resign ourselves to making some mistakes. I know that probably calls my advice into question right from the start, but the simple fact is that we are all works in progress, and our personal foibles and wrong beliefs will interfere. I can’t give you a three-step process to make the right call every time. What I think I can do is provide a framework to separate the bad from the good, and to grow wiser and healthier over time.

The first tool is to draw a distinction between emotions and feelings. Technically, these are synonyms, but we need more specific terminology than the English language provides, so I personally separate them this way: emotions are circumstantial and temporal. They relate to what we are experiencing right now. Feelings are personal and sustained. They relate to our beliefs, right or wrong.

Now, for the first six or so years of life, we are meant to live according to stimulus/response, seeking pleasure and avoiding pain. Young children are pretty much all emotion. But as we get older, we start to learn, to reason, and to separate good from bad and right from wrong, independent of temporary circumstances. We learn how to feel about things, and we are meant to start leaning on those feelings over fickle emotions.

Now, we come to the real meat. Dr. Caroline Leaf says in her wonderful book, Who Switched Off My Brain, that our bodies have no mechanisms for the negative. Therefore, any time we are experiencing a sustained negative over a prolonged period of time, it is always a malfunction. I believe this dovetails wonderfully with scripture, which describes Jesus’ gospel first and foremost as “the good news.” The Truth is, fundamentally, positive.  

This gives us a pretty strong start. First, decide whether what you’re experiencing is an emotion or a feeling. Is it rooted in momentary circumstances, or something deeper? Then, decide if it is primarily positive or negative. Do you feel at peace or full of anxiety? Frustrated or optimistic? Fearful or excited? Of course, it does not end there, and circumstances introduce all sorts of considerations which are much too broad a subject for my modest 500 words. But I think we have reached a useful metric, not for asking, “does this feel right,” but for answering, “do I feel right.”

Have a blessed, wonderful day!

Dr. Alex Loyd


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