REVIEW: Many of us are addicted to using the word ‘FEEL’ incorrectly & indiscriminately in all our communications, causing all sorts of problems. In English (& maybe in other Western languages), we use ‘feel’ to talk about 3 totally different categories of meaning:
👣 • Feel as physical SENSATIONS (right)
“I feel hungry, thirsty, exhausted, peppy, strong, the need too pee, energized….”
💝 • Feel as EMOTIONS (right)
“I feel sad, happy, sexy, excited, depressed, scared, angry, loving, sympathetic….”
🧠 • Feel as THOUGHTS (wrong)
“I feel that they don’t want me around” / “Do you feel like you can do that?”
This 3rd one is the big problem. Why? After all, it’s the most common way everyone expresses themselves, yet in this case we’re never referring to emotions (or even a sensation) but instead – only to thinking.
Feelings are not thoughts – see posts listed above. However, if asked how we feel, most of us tend to give long, sometimes rambling answers. And when therapists ask this question, they’re trying to elicit an emotion-answer. So they ask again: “How do you feel?” & off we go again, providing information (thoughts / opinions) but not emotions.
NOTE: This is not to dismiss our capacity to SENSE/intuit something about others (EXP: that Joe’s actually very upset, even though he’s acting all cheerful ….. that Mike & Sara have definitely cooled toward you – now they’re polite but less available)….
But saying “I feel like something’s wrong” still does not indicate what you feel about it (sympathy/ frustration / anxiety / annoyance). It’s an observation – however accurate it may be – but not an expression of emotion.
While this distorted way of talking may be the norm in our culture, for ACoAs it’s of much bigger relevance, since it leads to profound confusion for ourselves & when trying to communicate with others. It can make us say things like: “I feel crazy”.
— This could mean you’re overwhelmed by intense emotions, but crazy is a mental issue, not emotional
— OR that you’re lost in obsession about conflicting double messages (‘voices’)…. which are crazy-making, but doesn’t actually mean you’re crazy!
Instead, you could say “I’m scared – because I don’t know how to handle this mess!”
IMP: For ACoA, using the word ‘feel’ to mean ‘think’ makes it impossible to get the connection between our actual emotions – such as anxiety, worry, anger…. & what we’re saying to ourselves – usually negative thoughts (S-H / Projecting). Without having that connection we can’t find out who we really are, or get the help we need.
Long-term stress creates a communication split between the 2 halves of the brain – as a defense. Instead of working together, one side is used much more than the other, making it too dominant. Which side is ‘chosen’ comes from a combination of our native personality, the traumas we’ve suffered & our culture’s preferences. (Brain Repatterning exercises help get the 2 sides working together)
⚡ T.E.A. RESULT
a. Many damaged people (addicts, narcissists, some ACoAs….) ‘live in their head’- the brain’s Left side. They:
— complain about everything, only talk about their actions (As) & gossip about what others are doing – whether they know them or not
— are only vaguely aware of what they actually think (Ts), even when they’re ranting about something!
— are numb to most or all their emotions which they’ve consistently buried (Es), & refuse to unearth – but act them out, usually to everyone’s detriment
b. The opposite type of wounded people (including very sensitive ACoAs) are dominated by the functions of the Right brain – ‘drama-queen or king’ types, caught up in what they’re convinced are ‘true’ emotions (Es), but are instead too intense & too long-lasting.
1. Their Es are rarely if every comfortable or joyous (not the high of being in a fantasy). A healthy emotional life includes a wide range of Es, not just extremes
2. Their Es are never at the bottom line – always going to rage instead of feeling sorrow or vulnerability, constantly anxious instead of feeling long-hidden anger, self-hate instead of feeling the original abandonment…..
3. The intensity is often way out of proportion to present-day events. Healthy emotions fall mostly in the mid-range (+/- 20, not +/- 100 from neutral)
4. Their Es can go on & on, for weeks, even years. Healthy emotions come & go rather quickly – a reasonable response to the moment, not about past or future
5. The intensity is actually messy globs of unprocessed old pain – real but “hysterical, because they’re historical”.
Since these people are automatically engulfed by painful Es whenever triggered, they don’t hear the very real – harmful – beliefs & obsessions hidden directly behind that wall of emotional flames.
Not being able to recognize their thoughts, they have no way to correct cognitive distortions from the Introject, or to comfort the WIC.
NEXT: Think vs Feel #2