Psych 101: Differentiating feelings and thoughts

One of the basics of practical daily-life psychology is to differentiate feelings and thoughts.

BASIC EMOTION CATEGORIES

In our culture, we tend to differentiate emotions into sadness, anger, joy, grief, and so on. And there may be variations of these like frustration which can be seen as a form of anger.

Anything beyond that is a story. It may be a story about why we feel the way we do, what it means, and so on.

DIFFERENTIATING EMOTIONS AND STORIES

If we say “I feel you don’t love me anymore” or “I feel you did this to damage our relationship”, then we mix up feelings and stories. Yes, there is probably a feeling there. And no, we don’t feel this. We have a story saying this.

By mixing them up, we muddle the situation. And by learning to differentiate the two, we can more easily deal with what’s happening. We may notice a thought that the other person doesn’t love us anymore. We may notice sadness and fear coming from that thought. We may notice it’s more of a question than a statement. We may realize there may be other things going on. (For instance, the other may react to their own fearful stories, or it may be they don’t love some of our words and actions and it’s not that they don’t love us.) And we can more easily explore what’s going on with the other.

It’s more helpful to differentiate emotions and stories. We can say “I feel sad and I have a story that…”. It’s more close to reality, and it opens our mind up to hold the stories a little more lightly and explore them with more receptivity.

EMOTIONAL REASONING

This is closely related to emotional reasoning.

We feel something, it’s mixed up with a story, and the emotions make the story seem more true.

I feel it’s true so it must be true.

What we overlook here is that an emotion in itself is simple and doesn’t mean anything. It’s the stories we attach to it that gives it meaning. And these stories may not be true in the way we take them to be.

EVEN THE BASIC EMOTIONS HAVE A STORY COMPONENT

We may notice that what goes into the emotion category is somewhat arbitrary. We can differentiate five or ten or fifty different emotions.

From here, we may look a bit more closely and find that even conventional emotion labels like sadness, anger, joy, and so on have a story component. They are sensations that our thoughts put a label and story on.

PARTS LANGUAGE

Personally, I find parts language helpful.

If I say “I am sad”, there is a tendency to identify with the emotions. I take myself to be the emotion, at least for a while. This comes with a tendency to act on or react to the emotion. (And, really, I identify with certain stories connected to the emotion and the way these stories view the world.)

If I instead say “a part of me feels sad” there is a bit more space around it and it’s easier for me to see it as something that happens in my experience and is passing through. It’s not what I am. It’s something I experience. It’s a guest. It’s easier to relate to it more intentionally.

STORIES CREATING EMOTIONS

We may also find that stories we hold as true create emotions.

If we hold a stressful story as true, it tends to create corresponding emotions. And our mind may then take these emotions as a confirmation that the story is true. I feel that it’s true so it must be true.

Here, it’s helpful to take a step back, identify with story or stories behind the emotion, and examine these to see how they fit with what’s more honestly true for us.

DIFFERENTIATING EMOTIONS AND THOUGHTS

All of this is about differentiating emotions and thoughts, and exploring their relationship.

We can differentiate basic emotions and any stories we have related to what they are about, what they mean, and so on.

We can explore how our stories, when held as true, create certain emotions.

We can explore the story component of even basic emotions. What do we find? Physical sensations with a label attached to it calling it anger, sadness, or something else?

We can use parts language to help us relate to emotions more intentionally.

DRAFT

This is again very basic, and sometimes good to mention.

In a conventional sense, a feeling is sadness, anger, joy, frustration, and so on. And anything beyond that is a story.

If we say “I feel you don’t love me anymore” or “I feel you did this to damage our relationship”, then we mix up feelings and stories. Yes, there is probably a feeling there. And no, we don’t feel this. We have a story about this.

By mixing them up, we muddle the situation. And by learning to differentiate the two, we can more easily deal with what’s happening. We may notice a thought that the other person don’t love us anymore. We may notice sadness and fear coming from that thought. We may notice it’s more of a question that a statement. We may realize there may be other things going on. (For instance, the other may react to their own fearful stories, or it may be they don’t love some of our words and actions and it’s not that they don’t love us.) And we can more easily explore what’s going on with the other.

If we look more closely, we find that even sadness, anger, joy, and so on are stories. They are sensations that our thoughts put a label and story on and call those things. And often, we may find they are created by our stories. That differentiation is also helpful.

…..

One of the basics of psychology, and especially practical daily life psychology, is to differentiate feelings and thoughts.

In a conventional sense, feelings include sadness, anger, joy, frustration, and so on. And anything beyond that is a story.

If we say “I feel you don’t love me anymore” or “I feel you did this to damage our relationship”, then we mix up feelings and stories. Yes, there is probably a feeling there. And no, we don’t feel this. We have a story about this.

By mixing them up, we muddle the situation. And by learning to differentiate the two, we can more easily deal with what’s happening. We may notice a thought that the other person doesn’t love us anymore. We may notice sadness and fear coming from that thought. We may notice it’s more of a question than a statement. We may realize there may be other things going on. (For instance, the other may react to their own fearful stories, or it may be they don’t love some of our words and actions and it’s not that they don’t love us.) And we can more easily explore what’s going on with the other.

We may notice that what goes into the emotion category is somewhat arbitrary. We can differentiate five or ten or fifty different emotions. And from here, we may look a bit more closely and find that even conventional emotion labels like sadness, anger, joy, and so on have a story component. They are sensations that our thoughts put a label and story on.

We may also find that stories we hold as true create emotions. The story goes first, and it may not be true in the way we initially see it.

That differentiation is also helpful.

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