You’re thinking your feelings

Feel instead.

The title of this post may seem a bit confusing. “What do you mean, I’m thinking my feelings?”

Many people use the phrase, “I feel like. . .” and they get this mixed up with how they’re feeling. When people say, “I feel like. . .” it’s actually a thought, not a feeling. 

When asked “How do you feel about it?” or when people are wanting to express their feelings but they’re actually expressing their thoughts, they may say:

“I feel like it’s unfair to them” – The thought is “It’s unfair to them” and the feeling might be “indignant” or “upset” or “frustrated” when someone thinks something is unfair.

“I feel like he disrespected me” – The thought is “He disrespected me” and the feeling might be “hurt” or “angry.” Some people might say the feeling is “disrespected” but go further than that. Is “disrespected” a feeling? What do you feel when you feel “disrespected”? It might be more like “angry” or “vengeful” or “hurt.”

“I feel like it’s been so long since I’ve seen you” – The thought is “It’s been so long since I’ve seen you” and the feeling might be “sad” or “hurt” when someone has been absent for a while, or “relieved” to see someone again after a long absence.

“I feel like it’s not working out” – The thought is “It’s not working out” and the feeling might be “disappointed” or “defeated” or “hopeless.”

“I feel like I’m doing a good job” – The thought is “I’m doing a good job” and the feeling might be “satisfied” or “competent” or “celebratory.”

Feelings and emotions are vibrations in our body. We can describe them in single words–as in the examples above–though we can feel different emotions at the same time. Feelings and emotions come from the thoughts we think.

And what we’re feeling will drive our actions or inactions. 

And our actions or inactions are what create the results we get in our lives. 

Therefore, we can be more engaged with our lives when we know what we’re thinking and feeling. 

It’s important to understand how we’re feeling because we experience life through our feelings. 

And what we feel comes from what we think about our life. What do you want to purposely think about your life so you can live a fulfilled and meaningful life? 

Your turn: How can you become more aware of your feelings? What is it like to actually feel the feelings in your body?  

If you’re open to it, try this self-inquiry: “When I’m feeling _____ (choose an emotion), where do I feel this emotion in my body? Does it stay still or does it move around? What color is it? Is it heavy, light, diffuse, solid? Is it hot, cold, warm? Can I be with this emotion and allow it instead of resisting, reacting to, or avoiding it? What happens when I allow it to be there and really feel it?”

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Stop giving your power away

You’re in charge of how you feel

Last week we talked about how to process and allow painful emotions. It’s easy to think that external circumstances like other people, things, outcomes, and events, cause us to feel a certain way. What really causes us to feel a certain way is how we think about those external circumstances. 

Do you know why circumstances don’t cause our feelings? Because two different people could experience the exact same circumstance, but depending on how each of them thinks about the circumstance, their thoughts will create their feelings. So it’s not the circumstance. It’s the thoughts.

For example, one person gets cut off while driving. She could immediately get angry and vengeful and try to cut that other person off because she’s thinking, “This person is a jerk! How dare he do that to me. I’ll show him!” And sometimes this anger can start a spiral of negative thoughts and emotions for the rest of the day.

Another person who gets cut off while driving could feel some annoyance but then get over it easily because he’s thinking, “Yikes! I know how it feels to be in a rush like that and I’ve done that type of thing before without meaning to.” Some initial annoyance, but pretty quickly letting it go and not letting it ruin his day.

Same circumstance, but different thoughts, which create different feelings–and ultimately, different results. 

When we let other people have so much control over our feelings, we’re giving our power away to them. We’re saying, “How you’re behaving/what you’re saying/what’s happening ‘out there’ is determining how I feel, so I have no control over my feelings.”

But we do have control. That control is in our thoughts. Our thoughts are where our power lies.

Most of the time, we make other people’s words and actions mean something about us and we think we have to protect ourselves from something, protect our egos. 

For example, when a colleague offers another way of doing something than what we suggested, we might get defensive because we might think, “He doesn’t respect my opinion.” Then we may feel angry and defensive because we made it mean something about ourselves–usually something related to “I’m not good enough.” Then we proceed to act in a certain way that deteriorates our relationship with that colleague. 

What if instead we thought, “He could be offering a more efficient way to do it. Let’s see if it can work”? That thought will create a totally different feeling. We didn’t make our colleague’s words/actions mean anything about ourselves. We didn’t take it personally or need to defend ourselves. This other thought might create the feeling of “curiosity” or “openness,” which leads us to collaborate with that colleague in a cooperative way. 

Two different outcomes because of two different thoughts–but the circumstances were the same.  Starting to see a pattern? 😉

When we take responsibility for our feelings, we stop giving our power away to other people and situations. We are in charge of how we think and feel. 

When we take responsibility for our feelings, we are in emotional adulthood instead of emotional childhood.

More about emotional adulthood and childhood next week!

Your turn: What are you making someone’s words or actions mean about yourself? What if their words or actions don’t have to mean anything about you? Are you open to becoming more aware of the thoughts you’re thinking and how they’re creating your feelings? What are the three most frequent emotions you feel during a typical day? What are the thoughts creating those emotions? 

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