Saturday, September 7, 2013

Airplane in trouble? Feeling or fact?

Feelings are not facts.

It's easy to forget this nugget of wisdom from Dr. Low when your heart is racing; your mind is cloudy; and your vision is blurry. Our bodies react--make that overreact--to some situations. In the heat of the moment, it's hard to deny that what we are experiencing is real. The symptoms are, of course, real, but the reality of the situation may be quite different.

For example, this week I was on a short flight. The plane experienced some very light turbulence, and instantly my heart began pumping hard; my breathing became shallow; and I was "certain" the plane was in trouble. That's what my feelings were telling me, after all.

A quick look around the cabin showed otherwise. Flight attendants continued serving drinks. Other passengers continued to snooze. In other words, my feelings about the situation did not reflect the facts.

Dr. Low reminded us that feelings and sensations cannot be controlled. They'll rise and fall on their own, and there's no use trying to stop them. However, our thoughts and impulses can be controlled, and they will always respond to our commands. So instead of working myself up about having anxious symptoms, I reminded myself that feelings are not facts and decided to read a magazine article instead of focusing on my bodily symptoms. Within minutes I had forgotten about the few bumps in the air, and my body calmed down.

Out of all of Dr. Low's teachings, "feelings are not facts" may be one of the most powerful tools he shared. The next time you find yourself worked up in either fearful or angry temper, remember this short but powerful saying.