Thoughts versus Feelings – Do we know the difference?

So many of us muddle our thoughts with our feelings. It is very common to hear and read expressions like “I feel like I need a break” or “I feel she doesn’t listen to me” or I feel as if I am eating too much”. When we use I feel with “like” or “as if” or with a name, we are in our head and in our thoughts and not sensing into our feelings.

When we are triggered by something we see or hear or a thought we have, our body will often go into a flight, fight or freeze state. When we can identify the way this resonates in our body, we can name it using feeling words, for example “I am noticing that my chest feels tight and I am having trouble breathing, a part of me is feeling sad and a part of me is feeling stressed”. We can then identify a need and find a strategy to meet that need.

 It is important that we distinguish the difference between a feeling and a thought. Awareness of what resonates in our body and naming the feeling helps us to take action and calm ourselves. We are then more present and better able to handle the tricky situation at hand.

I will give an example, yesterday I was nervous about a zoom presentation I was giving to eight people. I was not sure I could handle the technology. Forty five minutes before the allotted time I noticed that my heart was beating faster, my stomach was churning and my throat was dry. I named this as anxiety and nervousness. I knew I needed to relax and ground myself. I looked for some strategies and tried some breathing techniques but I found going into my studio and looking at the progress of one of my paintings was more useful. It helped me turn my thoughts to other things and brought me back to the present moment. Thirty minutes later I went into the call and I was calmer and more confident.

I have found regularly checking in to see what is alive in me (what feelings are alive) helps me to be more aware and conscious of myself and those around me.

2 thoughts on “Thoughts versus Feelings – Do we know the difference?”

  1. Thank you Heather. This is very significant! I have often muddled feelings and thoughts throughout my life and it all gets confusing. Thanks to your explanation I can now see that they cannot be interchanged: thoughts are not feelings. I will try to be more aware of this fact on a daily basis.

  2. Dear Luiza, Thank you for your comment. I really appreciate hearing how this can help you. Thoughts as well as actions can trigger feelings but feelings resonate in your body and your body does not lie. However, I have found that it takes practice to become aware of our feelings.

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