THOUGHTS vs EMOTIONS
I’m confused! What are you talking about?
PREVIOUS: Request of my Readers
This is a familiar phrase used in 12-Step Programs, but not exclusive to them. It contains an intrinsic truth and an intrinsic lie. We have to examine both words – ‘feelings’ and ‘facts’ – to understand.
• In our language, the word feelings is used in almost every context to mean either thoughts, emotions or sensations, without distinction.
• The main problem is that most of the time people use ‘Feel’ to mean Thoughts, not emotions. This causes confusion for both speaker & listener.
• This triple usage may be a clever ploy in our culture – likely unconscious – to suppress Emotions! We’re taught to live in our head & only focus on actions (“Just do it”), which we gladly embrace as a defense against facing our deepest pain.
So, along with many other sources (family, media, male culture, war, sport…) our language encourages being cut off from an essential part of ourself
b. CLARITY: We’re not going to change the vocabulary, but we can learn the meaning of these 3 words, so we can use them correctly.
i. Sensations – ‘Feel’ is actually an experience word (Physical) : I feel hungry, tired, thirsty, sexual…
ii. Emotions: If the word ‘feeling’ is meant as Emotions – then what follows can only be single words : “I feel…… sad, glad, mad…..” (Posts: Use THINK, not feel)
iii. Thoughts: If the word ‘feeling’ is meant as Thoughts/ Opinions/ Beliefs – it’s always a sentence, & usually leads with ‘that‘ or ‘like’:
• “I feel that he wants to talk about something”
• “I feel like you’re not going to support me”
• “I feel that we should leave now”
• “I don’t feel like we’re communicating”
Stated as such, none of these are about emotions, only ideas – even though emotions are often implied – nit not acknowledged. It’s subtle & at best unintentionally, at worst it’s manipulative & dishonest
➼ Mix-ups occur when EMOTIONS & THOUGHTS are combined, or substituted for each other. This misuse comes from not being able to own our personal power. ACoAs are ‘notorious’ for being talking around an important point, leaving out important info, adding too many qualifiers, justifications & apologies!
• “ I hope you don’t mind if I tell you…”
instead of “I’d like to tell you something / I need to talk to you about…”
• “Is it alright if I___ , Will you be upset if I___ , I hope you don’t mind that I…”
instead of (with a smile, perhaps) “I won’t be able to____ , I need to____ , I’d like to___ , I’m not available for___”
• “I feel like I’m doing better” instead of “I’m doing better”
• “I feel like I can’t trust him” instead of “I know I can’t trust him”…..
YES, there is a time & place for careful wording, being respectful of others’ time & space, or for apologizing. Also, generally, women are more likely to be indirect, as a way of not being aggressive, which makes staying connected easier. (“He said, She said” by Chris Evatt)
HOWEVER, the above examples of waffling have to do with ACoA shame, S-H, fear of being seen & of punishment / abandonment.
➼ Practice verbalizing your thoughts & emotions using declarative sentences, so they come out of our mouth more easily, and repeat, daily: “I know what I know”!
A good way to be understood is TO include both meanings in the same sentence (emotions + thoughts):
• “I’m scared that you won’t stay with me”
• “I feel sad that he’s ignoring me”
• “I’m afraid he may not like this gift”
• “I’m so happy that you got the promotions”
• “I feel excited & curious that you want to tell me something”
• “I’m (I feel) concerned that you don’t stand up for yourself”
This of course implies that we know what we’re feeling (emotions) and have permissions to own & express them.
NEXT: “Feelings aren’t facts”, Part 2