Alan Watts Explains Why There Are No “Wrong” Feelings

There are no wrong feelings.

There may be wrong actions in the sense of actions contrary to the rules of human communication. But the way you feel towards other people: loving, hating, et cetera, et cetera; there aren’t any wrong feelings.

And so, to try and force one’s feelings to be other than what they are is absurd. And furthermore: dishonest.

But you see: the idea that there are no wrong feelings is an immensely threatening one to people who are afraid to feel.

This is one of the peculiar problems of our culture: we are terrified of our feelings. We think that if we give them any scope and if we don’t immediately beat them down, they will lead us down into all kinds of chaotic and destructive actions.

But if, for a change, we would allow our feelings and look upon their comings and goings as something as beautiful and necessary as changes in the weather, the going of night and day and the four seasons, we would be at peace with ourselves.

What is so problematic for Western man is not so much his struggles with other people and their needs and problems as his struggle with his own feelings. With what he will allow himself to feel and what he won’t allow himself to feel. He is ashamed to feel really profoundly sad, so much so that he could cry. It is not manly to cry.

He is afraid to loathe somebody, because you’re not supposed to hate people. He is ashamed to be so overcome with the beauty of something, that he goes out of his mind over this beauty. Because all that kind of thing is ‘not being in control, old boy‘; not having your hands on the wheel.

I think this is the most releasing thing that anybody can possibly understand. That your inner feeling is never wrong. What you feel is never wrong – it may not be a right guide as to what you should do, but it is right that you should have the feeling of hating, or of being sad, or of being terrified. When a person comes to himself he comes to be one with his own feeling, and that is the only way to be in a position of controlling it.

Source: Alan Watts, from the collection of Lectures ‘You’re It’

Image: Elia Scudiero

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