Distinguish between your thoughts and feelings.

Uncle: How do you feel about circus lions being kept in cages?

Nephew: It’s cruel. It’s wrong. It shouldn’t be allowed.

Uncle: Wrong answer.

Nephew: Huh? Why?

Uncle: How do you feel about your basketball team losing yesterday?

Nephew: We were unlucky. Our best player was out with a crook knee and we lost by three points.

Uncle: Wrong answer.

Nephew: What?!

Uncle: I asked you how you felt about circus lions being kept in cages, and you gave me your thoughts on the matter. Big difference. A correct answer might have included words like ‘concerned’, ‘appalled’, ‘irritated’. Those words describe feelings.

Nephew: I get you. How did I feel about my basketball team losing? Disappointed. Deflated. Flat.

Uncle: Very good.

Nephew: Thanks for your sympathy.

Uncle: A good way to be aware of our thoughts and our feelings is to distinguish between them when we speak. When you say: ‘I feel —’ describe a feeling. When you say, ‘I think —’ give your thoughts.

Nephew: “I think it’s cruel to keep animals in cages. I feel distressed when I see one in a cage.”

Uncle: Good work! Make it a habit! From now on, use the right word, ‘think’ or ‘feel’, when you speak. Do that, and over time you will become skilled at knowing precisely what you are thinking and what you are feeling. That will significantly help you become aware of what is going on inside you.

Nephew: I feel I have had enough . . Wait. l think I have had enough of this conversation, because I feel like a break.

Uncle: Good work! Now clear off.

‘I feel we should look for another way.’ (Wrong)
‘I think we should look for another way. ’(Correct.)
‘I feel frustrated. I think we should look for another way.’ (Correct.)

‘I feel I’m unappreciated.’ (Wrong.)
‘I think I’m unappreciated, and feel hurt and disappointed as a result.’ (Correct.)

‘I feel you are not listening to me.’ (Wrong.)
‘I think you are not listening to me, and I feel irritated with that.’    (Correct.)

Jan: ‘I want to break up. How do you feel about that, Bill?’
Bill: ‘I don’t think we should break up.’ (Incorrect. That’s a thought. Before Bill expresses his thoughts on the matter he should address Jan’s question by telling her what he feels. Try again, Bill.)
Bill: ‘I don’t feel anything; I’m in shock.’ (Bill is not in shock. He’s exaggerating, and indicating that he isn’t aware of what is going on inside him. Try again, Bill.)
Bill: ‘I feel awful.’ (That’s a better answer, but Bill needs to be more specific. He needs to find words that describe precisely how he feels.)
Bill: ‘This is terrible.’ (Incorrect. He’s expressing his opinion again, rather than stating how he feels. Have another go, Bill.)
Bill: ‘I feel terrible.’  (That’s a bit better. He is describing a feeling, although he still not being specific.)
Bill: ‘I feel hurt. Frightened. Anxious.’  (Now Bill is getting the hang of it!)
Bill: ‘I feel nauseous.’ (Good. Bill is also recognising what his body is feeling.)
Bill: ‘I feel surprise, hurt, betrayal, anger, humiliation . . .’ (Good. It might sound like a shopping list, but by labelling his emotions Bill is becoming aware of them. He can now start to deal with them, and think things through.)
     When Bill got it right he: – expressed his feelings rather than his thoughts
          – used the word ‘feel’ to describe his feelings
          – allowed himself to feel vulnerable by expressing what he felt
          – labelled his emotion,
          – looked for other emotions he was feeling and labelled them too.
All in all, Bill did well. But Jan still dumped him!

Exercise
Practise distinguishing between thoughts and feelings by naming at least six thoughts you might think, and six emotions you might feel, in each of the following scenarios.

Example:
You find a rabbit with its leg caught in a rabbit trap.
Six thoughts you might have:             Six feelings you might have:
        I think —                                                I feel —
it’s in pain.                                             concern, anger, flustered, outrage, distressed
this shouldn’t happen.
who would set this trap?                                I feel in my body —
will the rabbit be alright?                      a knot in my stomach, tense, nauseous, goosebumps
how do I cook a rabbit?

Your turn now.
(1) You discover that your best friend has been stealing money.
Six thoughts you might have:             Six feelings you might have:
I think —                                                               I feel —

(2) A close relative gleefully tells you she is pregnant.
Six thoughts you might have:             Six feelings you might have:
 I think —                                            I feel —

This entry was posted in Distinguish between your thoughts and feelings. and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s