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 hindrance to clear communication is between the first 2, because most of the time people use ‘feel’ to mean Thoughts, not emotions. This causes confusion in both speaker & listener.
• This triple usage may be a clever ploy in our culture – likely unconscious – to not acknowledge Emotions! We’re taught to live in our head, to only focus on actions (“Just do it”), and we gladly embrace that 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 our emotions.
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, scared, happy, etc (page 47)
• We can have several emotions at the same time & they may or may not be contradictory. That doesn’t have to be confusing – it’s normal, since humans are complex & multi layered
• Different ego states can generate different emotions at the same time: The Inner Child may be sad, while the Inner Adult is curious & the Inner Parent may be angry – all about some situation or event! (traveling, work, a new relationship…)
iii. Thoughts: If the word ‘feeling’ is meant as Thoughts/ Opinions/ Beliefs – then what comes after is always a sentence, never just one word AND it often 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 hidden behind the thoughts. It’s subtle & at best it’s unintentionally, at worst it’s manipulative & dishonest
➼ Mix-ups occur when EMOTIONS & THOUGHTS are combined, intermingled & substituted for each other. One reason for this misuse is not being able to own our personal power. ACoAs are ‘notorious’ for being indirect, talking around an important point, leaving out important info, adding too many qualifiers, justifications & apologies!
So we say:
• “ 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…”
• “I hope you don’t mind that I…”, “Is it alright if I…” , “Will you be upset if 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.
➼ It’s helpful to practice verbalizing our thoughts & emotions using declarative sentences, so they will come out of our mouth more easily, and to repeat, daily: “I know what I know”!
EXAMPLES: A good way to be understood is TO :
a. 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 feel, own & express them.
b. or to identify our thoughts, opinions & beliefs, directly:
• “I think that the government should…”
• “That’s not my opinion” • “I wouldn’t say that…”
• “I suspect he’s not going to honor his agreement”
• “I’m convinced there’s a better way to do this project”
NEXT: “Feelings aren’t facts”, Part 2