Re-posted From: http://KindCommunication.org/2015/07/27/thought-feelings/
Our culture does a really poor job of delineating thoughts from feelings. Most of us get the two mixed up in most of our normal conversation. And this actually creates a big problem.
Have you seen Inside Out yet? If not, go! This movie is phenomenal. One of its key messages “diminishing one emotion, diminishes all of our emotions” is quintessential to a lot of psychological healing. But to follow that advice you have to know what your feelings are and what your thoughts are. While it is true that we need to create space to feel all of our emotions, it is not true that we need to dwell on all of our thoughts. In fact, dwelling on thoughts often leads to things like depression, rage, and anxiety. But being fully present to our emotions leads to relaxation, peace, and joy. So it’s important to know the difference between thoughts and feelings.
Another reason it is important to know the difference between thoughts and feelings is that emotions actually help us build intimacy. Our thoughts really push us into debating rather than relating. The marketplace of ideas is also a marketplace which is full of disagreements and debate. And this is very helpful in terms of science and law, but it is not very helpful if you’re trying to build intimacy with your friends or significant other. We all need intimacy, the feeling of being fully seen and accepted by another person. And emotions are truly the pathway to intimacy, not thoughts.
My first tip that will help you in almost 90% of situations is that if you hear yourself saying the words “I feel like…” or “I feel that…” you are about to say a thought. It’s almost guaranteed. So catch yourself, and check in “what am I really feeling right now?”
“I feel like she was being rude to me.”
“I feel that this isn’t fair.”
“I feel like I am on top of the world!”
All of these are thoughts. They are a personal opinion, or personal evaluation, about some event. In the first example, this person may be feeling angry, frustrated, hurt, and maybe even disappointed. In the second example, this person may be feeling angry, scared, anxious, confused, and maybe hurt. In the third example, this person may be feeling excited, hopeful, joyful, and most definitely happy.
But there are other thoughts which we present as feelings (thought feelings) which are harder to spot. For example:
“I feel attacked”
“I feel abandoned”
“I feel left out”
These are “thought feelings”. Underneath all of these statements is a subtle “you”. You could rewrite all of these examples to say:
“You attacked me.”
“You abandoned me”
“You left me out”
And when we say these “thought feelings” other people can hear that subtle “you”. Another way to look at it is that all three of these examples are “feelings” based upon a particular analysis of the situation. For example:
I hear my partner’s comment about needing more help with cleaning the house and I feel guilty because I know I haven’t been contributing much.
I project that feeling of guilt onto my partner and come to the conclusion “she/he wants me to feel guilty! She/He is attacking me!”
I then state out loud “I feel attacked! Don’t you know, I do….”
The point isn’t whether this analysis is true or not true, the point is that this analysis of the situation is happening. Stop trying to analyze the situation, and just notice “how am I feeling?”
In conclusion…I’m just going to plug one more time: Go See Inside Out!
KindCommunication.org is a project by a close friend of Wiki World Order, Alex Leach. WWO fully supports the study, practice, and teaching of non-violent communication as one of the core solutions which already exists.