DEFINITION OF A FEELING
A feeling is an internal sensation or emotion. It is an involuntary response to a mental or physical stimulus! Since feelings are involuntary, they are neither right or wrong. They just are. However, what we DO about our feelings—our reactions—are right or wrong, appropriate or inappropriate. Our actions, even including our thoughts and attitudes, do have morality; we may do good deeds or bad ones. Even what we allow ourselves to dwell on in our thoughts may be good or bad, or we may think of ways of doing good out of something bad happening—but what we feel has no morality. What you feel can’t make you a “bad” person (shame). What you feel also can’t make someone else a “bad” person. Feelings are simply spontaneous responses to some situation, either inside or outside of ourselves.
FEELINGS ARE NEITHER RIGHT NOR WRONG
Rules for Finding a Feeling
1. If the word “feel” is followed by the word “that”, it is NOT a feeling. It is an opinion or a thought. Example: I feel that you have done a good job.
2. If the word “feel” is followed by the word “like”, it may be an opinion. Example: I feel like you are wrong. Or it may refer to some unnamed feeling and thus not really identify any feeling. Example: I feel like playing golf. I may feel good and want to play golf, or I may feel bored and just want to get away.
3. If I can substitute “I think” for “I feel” in a sentence, and it still makes sense, it is a thought and not a feeling. Example: I feel he is making a mistake. This is a thought: I think he is making a mistake.
4. If I can substitute “am” for “feel”, and it still makes sense, it is a feeling. Example: I feel happy. I am happy. I feel sad. I am sad.
Feelings can be about:
- Situations, actions, things: e.g., embarrassed, nervous, relaxed
- Other person: e.g., annoyed, angry, loving, sympathetic
- Self: e.g., lonely, confident, inadequate, lovable Ways to Describe Feelings A one word feeling doesn’t always tell enough. If you say, “I feel overwhelmed”, are you ready for suicide, or a night’s rest? So that your spouse or those around you can begin to understand your feelings, you must describe it in loving detail (“I feel _____ like ______.”) A feeling can be: 1. A situation that is generally recognized (“I feel embarrassed like when I was called on in school and didn’t know the answer.”) 2. An experience personal to you (“I feel proud and excited, like the time I first saw our baby at the hospital.”) 3. A physical experience (“I feel tense—my face is flushed and my body is racing inside.”) Feelings can also be described as: 1. Physical sensations: hot, cold, trembling, sweaty, shaky, flushed 2. Color: cool blue, serene green, red hot, cheery yellow, drab gray 3. The five senses: Taste- bitter, sour sweet, favorite food, disgusting taste, etc. Smell- pleasant, nauseating, familiar scents, like fresh spring air, etc. Sight- colors, scenic views, calm as the lake on a windless day, etc. Touch- rough, smooth, splintery, etc. Sound- irritating like nails on a chalkboard, etc. 4. Music: minor key, polka, waltz, jazz, blues, gospel hymns, classical, heavy metal, etc. 5. Former shared experiences: a vacation trip, shopping spree, holiday celebration, etc. 6. Levels of intensity: Light, medium, strong. Happy- how happy? Light- I’m not crying anymore and just serene Medium- I’m smiling and pleased Strong- I’m ecstatic How comfortable are you in sharing your feelings? How easy or difficult is it for you to identify your feelings and communicate them to others? Being able to communicate feelings in relationships is one of the most important parts of being emotionally healthy. It can also help others to hear you more clearly, because it can take the blame out of your communication with others during conflict. It forces each person to take responsibility for sharing personally, instead of focusing on the other person. We encourage you to take time to focus on your feelings—and see what a difference it can make in improving your life and relationships!