We live in a world with a multitude of words that signify feelings that are negative in connotation—words such as embarrassed, guilty, ashamed, frustrated, anxious, nervous, desperate, depressed, self-pitying, humiliated, annoyed, and many more. What’s interesting is that we are not born with any of these feelings. We are taught these words as we grow up. We learn what it means to feel guilty, to feel self-pity, or to feel ashamed. When we feel one of these feelings, what do we do with it? It weighs us down, and we can often be trapped in that feeling. But if we look beneath a feeling such as shame, we will invariably find one or more of three core feelings: anger, fear, or hurt. To understand this better, let’s look at some basic characteristics of feelings, and then at the relationship between the feelings of anger and hurt in a given individual. Characteristics of Feelings 1. All feelings are automatic. We do not get to choose our feelings, but we do have some choice as to how we deal with them. In other words, just because feelings are automatic does not mean that we are at liberty to express them in an inappropriate way. Also, in relation to the feelings of hurt and anger, the fact that feelings are automatic does not necessarily mean that we identify a feeling at the time it occurs. Also, the emotion we outwardly express may not be a true reflection of our initial feeling. 2. Because feelings are automatic, then all feelings are okay. How we express them may not be appropriate, but the core feelings are okay and part of being human. A good example is someone who expresses feelings of hatred toward a parent, but then feels guilty because he shouldn’t feel that way about his father. To have feelings of hatred, you have to care about someone. Plus, pretending that a feeling doesn’t exist or that you shouldn’t feel a certain way accomplishes nothing. Feelings do not disappear. Only by owning his hatred or anger and working through it is he ever going to arrive at a place of acceptance and increased peace. While the relationship may not improve, he will likely have more of a sense of understanding or closure. Also, in the process, he is likely to find a considerable amount of unrealized hurt and fear beneath the anger. 3. Feelings are neither moral nor immoral. We live in a world where we frequently hear, “You shouldn’t feel that way,” which implies of morality. Being told how we should feel about a particular situation contradicts both feelings being automatic and that all feelings are okay. Too often, people struggle with self-esteem and still hear that critical voice from childhood with all the “shouldn’ts” and “supposed tos” in their heads, constantly making them question their decision making and feelings. 4. Our feelings are our own. No person can make you feel a certain way. Too often, people in general, and particularly addicts in their disease, blame others for how they feel. This blog post is an excerpt from Finding a Purpose in the Pain – A Doctor’s Approach to Addiction Recovery and Healing – by James L. Fenley, Jr., MD; Published by Central Recovery Press (CRP).