Feeling Rules

RainBigSociologists define “feeling rules” as guidelines that tell us how we should respond in certain situations. Feeling rules are not based on research. They evolve from our need to align our emotions with societal expectations.

If we ask ourselves “Why am I feeling this way?” or “What am I supposed to be feeling or not feeling at this moment?” we are searching for a feeling rule to evaluate the validity of our emotional state.

The term “closure” as it applies to those who grieve is a pervasive feeling rule in our culture. This word is used so frequently and with such certainty, the bereaved have come to believe they are failing in their grief if they do not experience it.

Remember your grief is your unique experience. Stay open to how you feel without assessing if your feelings are correct. Know that the length and intensity of your grief does not need to conform to a set of rules, a set of stages or societal expectations.

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Dr. Patrick O’Malley is a psychotherapist in Fort Worth, Texas, specializing in grief counseling. For 35 years, he has counseled individuals, couples and families in his private practice. Dr. O'Malley has recently published a book, "Getting Grief Right" about grief recovery.

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