It's important to understand that not only is there a difference between thoughts and emotions, but it's also important to understand that mixing them up can have a catastrophic effect on your relationships and on other interactions! It also has huge implications for the discussion about emotions that has come before. Now, to get us caught up, what I've been suggesting so far is that people can't make us feel anything! We make ourselves feel in the way that we respond to them. (That will now become our mantra) Now I think it's important that I make a point here. Feelings are a big deal. They're real and powerful and they are a major part of what makes us uniquely human. And I am convinced that no feeling we experience in invalid! NONE! The problem arises when we start to confuse thoughts with feelings... Here's why. Feelings are immutable. They are ours, and are not subject to interpretation or refutation by others. If I say to you, "I feel sad😢" you can't very well respond by saying, "No...I disagree!" Sad is an emotion, a feeling, and it is mine! I own it, and you can't tell me otherwise! And since it's an emotion, you can't disagree with it. A thought, on the other hand, you can disagree with. In fact, a thought can be flat out wrong! I might tell you that I think it's going to rain and you might say, "No...I disagree!" Or I might say "I think this steak weighs 2 pounds!" (I love steak), and I might be wrong. No one would bat an eye if you responded, "No way! That steak couldn't be more than 1.5!" But instead, we say things like, "I feel like you don't care about me anymore." And our significant other replies, "no...I disagree! I care very much about you!" But that reply falls on deaf ears because, since we told ourselves that we feel like it's true, we experience it like it's an emotion! And remember, you can't argue with an "emotion"! The problem is, this is a thought, not and emotion! And thoughts can be wrong! So our significant other argues with that thought and we respond as though they are "invalidating our feelings". This is a classic case of mistaken identity. We expressed a thought, told ourselves it was a feeling, and got even more upset when our significant other told us that the thought was wrong! Here are some more examples of thoughts that we tell ourselves are feelings. Tell me in the comments section if you've heard any of these:
"I feel like we never talk any more."
"I feel like you never want to spend time with me!"
"I feel like you put your work/school before me."
"I feel like everybody is staring at me."
"I feel like nobody is going to like me at this party."
"I feel like you're always judging me!"
"I feel like I'm really gonna mess up in this interview!"
"I feel like everybody else knows what they're doing and I'm the only one who doesn't!"
Each and everyone of these is a thought. And, for the most part, they are all likely to be wrong! None-the-less, because we tell ourselves that they are feelings, we experience them as though they were TRUE! And we'll defend them as though they really were our emotions!
Wanna know the first cue that you're expressing a thought (which could be wrong) and not an emotion? Well, emotions are usually only 1 word! In fact, I'd be hard pressed to think of an emotion that's more than one word:
"I feel lonely."
"I feel abandoned."
"I feel amused."
"I feel embarrassed."
"I feel enthusiastic!"
"I feel anxious."
"I feel shocked!"
"I feel euphoric!"
Each of these is an emotion. If we are experiencing them and we express them to someone, they do not immediately find themselves prepared to argue with them. They are ours! So when you find yourself starting to say, "I feel like... " just stop! And ask yourself, "What emotion am I feeling?" If it's a single word, you're probably on the right track!
There's so much more to be said about this, but I'm feeling tired. I think next week I'll talk with you guys about cruddy ways that we talk ourselves into being more upset than we deserve to be!
📢 If you have questions, comments, or challenges please feel free, no, feel encouraged, to post in the comments section below! Oh, I accept positive feedback, too! I'm just kind like that. 😉
p.s. When all else fails, take it from Steven: