The Mighty Logo

Why I Will No Longer Fight My Irrational Feelings

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

Once I looked at my personality, at my way of thinking, at things I did that caused myself pain, and thought, “This is a bug. I have to get rid of it. Excise it.”

I don’t know how it happened, but I think I’m starting to veer into the “this is a feature. I have to deal with it. Strategize around it.”

I now realize these features come about because of actual reasons (not out of the blue or out of my supposed will to make everyone miserable). Squashing the feelings won’t squash the reasons. These things are here because I’m a human being, I’ve dealt with adversity at some point, as one does, and self-protective (if maladaptive and irrational) circuitry was developed to deal with it.

I’ve been increasingly miffed by the word “irrationality,” though. It makes it sound like we are feeble, deranged creatures ruled by completely random, Lovecraftian forces we don’t understand and the point is to eradicate those forces from our minds and lives so reason will reign 100 percent.

Not only is it often used in mental health contexts, especially phobias and the like, it’s also habitually attributed to women — supposedly “hormonal,” “ruled by their feelings,” which I honestly find hilarious, because self-righteous denial is hilarious. Anyone who thinks themselves fully rational is hilarious. As if denial, delusion, false beliefs, biases, being primarily motivated by instinct, needs or emotion, etc., isn’t universally pervasive in every single one of us, every single day of our lives. Really, one ought to seriously consider the question, “Why do I behave the way I behave? Why do I feel the way I feel? Why do I believe the things I believe in?” thoroughly analyze it and then come back to me about what percentage of that is motivated by pure reason.

Yes, irrationality is usually super inconvenient and the reasons for a certain reaction may be obscure, but they are there. It’s not random craziness (even “craziness” is a problematic word, there to dismiss “wild, random” things — things we don’t control or understand, and therefore we often resent).

Do we all want to be more rational? Of course, absolutely, that’s where we are headed as a species. But you don’t do it by eradicating irrationality; you do it by understanding it, noticing it when it arises and gradually letting go. Through awareness, through “I realize I don’t need this anymore.” Not by demeaning and shutting out a part of your absolutely inherent functioning.

I’d also say things like morality, love, purpose and creativity, hallmarks of self-actualization, are hardly rational. You can rationalize why injustice has bad consequences, but not why it’s inherently repulsive. You can’t rationalize your reasons for loving.

So I want to stop fighting myself and start understanding, and becoming aware. And if I can’t let it all go, at least learn to manage, maneuver around and deal with it. Without trying to stomp it out like a cockroach. Without resorting to self-violence toward my human nature, even if it often causes me pain. I won’t escalate that pain by repressing and resisting and further hurting. Not anymore.

Follow this journey here.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Getty image via Victor_Tongdee

Originally published: January 5, 2018
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home