Feeling Your Feelings

All Things Feelings

Feelings. What exactly are feelings? What is the nature of feelings?

First of all, let us look at certain properties of feelings.

Feelings are immediate; they are in the moment. Feelings are fluid; they change on a dime. Feelings are contextual; what you feel in one situation or relationship is different than what you feel in another.

Feelings and thoughts are two sides of the same coin, a singular experience. When I say I feel something I am also saying that I think something but I don’t often express both sides.

One always feels what one feels. Sometimes, there are no adequate words for feelings. Our emotional vocabulary is generally very limited. When someone asks me how I feel, I will generally say, “good” or “bad” or “fine.”

Feelings also have an intensity to them and are distinct from emotions which we generally think of as being a display of feelings. I can feel sad or I can cry. I can feel angry or I can get angry and call you names.

I am the creator of my feelings and I am also the feeler of my feelings. Nothing in the world causes my feelings although it appears that way. Being the creator of my feelings is the same as saying I am responsible for my feelings. I own my feelings. No one can feel my feelings but me. I create the feelings that I feel and I feel the feelings that I create for however long I feel them.

Asking the question, “Why do I feel the way I feel?” is mostly a useless question, a subtle way of invalidating or judging the feeling. It is looking for the cause of the feeling somewhere in the past. The cause of feelings is always in the present, the only time that exists. Asking why I feel the way I feel is at best an intellectual exercise that leads to nowhere. It doesn’t change the feelings. I’m just left with a reason for the feelings.

Trying to “explain” my feelings is a subtle way of avoiding my feelings. Saying, “I feel this way because…” often puts the “cause” of my feelings onto some external circumstance or onto another person. “You make me feel this way,” “That makes me so angry.” The payoff is that I get to blame you. Instead of explaining, take responsibility by saying, “I’m causing this feeling in me.”

 Our lives consist of various relationships such as family, friends and work. Relationships are a series of encounters that have various purposes but the overriding purpose of all relationships is to relate which you already do in the way that you do it. When you encounter someone you relate to them; there is an exchange of energy. All feelings emerge within the context of relating whether the feelings are expressed are not. You feel something before, during and after an encounter.

Feeling feelings, expressing feelings, and sharing feelings are distinct processes.

Feeling my feelings is feeling the sensations in my body in all its detail. It is all an internal process.

Expressing my feelings arises within the context of a relationship and is telling another how I feel about something.

Sharing feelings is sharing the reality of what I am experiencing in any given moment and arises out of self-awareness. The intention behind sharing feelings is to be known by another. Sharing feelings is acknowledging my inner state. Sharing feelings is allowing feelings to stand on their own. Sharing feelings is very simple and most often can be expressed in a word or a sentence. Sharing feelings is like taking a snapshot of emotion.

Sometimes there are no adequate words to express feelings except perhaps “these” feelings or “this feeling.”

Asking the question “How am I feeling?” is a different question than “What am I feeling?” or “How do I feel about [something]? Asking “how am I feeling” is often meant as an inquiry into my physical state. Asking “what am I feeling” is often meant as an inquiry into my emotional state. Asking “how do I feel about something” is often meant as an inquiry whether I like something or not.

Feelings are intuitive and metaphorical in nature. “I feel like I want to explode” is a metaphor and description of a feeling as I feel it. Saying, ‘I feel like I want to cry but I can’t” expresses that there is a part of me that wants to cry and another part that won’t allow me.

Feelings can be used as a weapon of attack or manipulation to be used against another. When I feel resentment, I can attack you with criticism and blame. Feelings can be turned into behavior that becomes an indirect way of expressing a feeling or a manipulation to get what I want. Children don’t generally have the words to express feelings so the child has a tantrum as a way of communicating a feeling to get what it wants.

Generally, we do not allow feelings to stand on their own and instead project our feelings onto others and assume what the other feels. When I say “I feel that you…,” I am telling you what I think you feel and what I think are your intentions.

Persistent feelings are unfinished feelings. The psychological term is, “unfinished emotional business.” The way out of persistent feelings is to take responsibility for how and what I feel. “I am responsible for my feelings” means that I own my feelings and have a say-so about my feelings. There are many ways to finish a feeling but the essential element is to take responsibility for my feelings.

The way we keep a feeling going is to judge our feelings (“why am I feeling this way”), condemn our feelings (“I’m bad for feeling this way”), pathologize our feelings (“there is something wrong with me for feeling this way”), or try to escape our feelings (“I can’t stand feeling this way”). When we judge, condemn, pathologize, or try to escape from feelings, we turn to addictions as a way to deal with the feelings. We do just about everything imaginable EXCEPT to feel our feelings.

How does one deal with persistent emotions? That’s where we want to look at the link between thoughts and emotions. Judging one’s emotions is what keeps emotions persisting. Emotions are like water. Judging creates a dam that serves to block the flow of emotion.

There is nothing wrong with feelings. Yes, there are unpleasant feelings but that is just the problem, we don’t want to feel our unpleasant feelings. We want to DO something ABOUT our feelings instead of sitting with our feelings. We will get into mindless activities to avoid being with our feelings.

What is EQ? EQ is the counterpart of IQ. A person with a high EQ is a person who is able to be with their feelings.

Feelings are energy. eMotions are “energy in motion.” That energy is given various names, like sadness, anger, resentment, hurt, or excitement and enthusiasm. But it is all energy that takes on form.

Moods are distinct from feelings but are often intertwined. Moods are like a general inner atmosphere or inner state of feeling that can be described in various metaphorical ways such as with terms we use for weather: (“I feel… “) sunny, bright, cold, warm, gloomy, cloudy, stormy. Moods can also be described in terms of elevation (“I feel high” or “I feel low”) or in terms of expansion (“I feel open” or “I feel closed”) or in terms of levels of enthusiasm (“I feel excited” or “I feel reticent” ).

Here is a little exercise for you to try out right now. Begin a series of sentences that begin with the words…

“Right now I feel…” 

and then fill in the blank with a new word or short phrase three or four times.

“Being the creator of my feelings is the same as saying I am responsible for my feelings. I own my feelings. No one can feel my feelings but me.”