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  • Writer's pictureJuliana

Being True To Your Feelings... Your ACTUAL Feelings

I often hear the advice to "be true to your feelings" or "feel your feelings". For the most part, I think this is wise advise. People who have more awareness around their feelings and have more specific language to describe it tend to be better at emotional regulation and dealing with stress, and report higher rates of general well-being compared to people who do not have as much acute awareness around their feelings (you can read more about this phenomenon of emotional granularity and its benefits here).

However, I've found that many people, when they talk about their "feelings", they aren't really talking about feelings at all, but rather their thoughts, judgments, and sometimes blame. For example, someone might say something like,

"I just really feel that this isn't working out" (thought/judgment), "and I feel like you aren't doing everything you could be doing to advocate for me" (thought, judgment, AND blame).

None of those words contain any actual feelings, yet they were prefaced with the words "I feel". Similarly, someone might unload a bunch of their thoughts and judgments about you, and then follow it with "Please don't get upset. I'm just telling you how I feel". But in reality, they just sh*t all over you and dressed it up as their "feelings", which somehow is supposed to make it acceptable?

I do not believe most people have any awareness around this, and they move through the world thinking that their thoughts and judgments of people and things around them are actually their feelings. As you might surmise, this can have serious detrimental effects on relationships and even how one sees themselves (remember, judgment is not just limited to others; people have pretty harsh judgments about themselves as well - again, often disguised as "feelings").

Let me guess what you're thinking: Okay, then what are actual feelings?

Feelings are directly related to sensations we experience in our bodies. They are things like excitement, confusion, fear, tenderness, or love. Feelings are not thoughts. They often come up together, and our feelings can tell us more about our thoughts and needs, but they are not the same thing. Having language differentiating this is crucial in having awareness around the internal human experience. For a more detailed list of feelings categorized into groups, you can check out John Kinyon's Feelings and Needs list here.

So when we say things like "be true to your feelings", I want to be clear about what "feelings" are and what they most certainly are not. I would not advise someone to "be true to their judgment and blame", because I'm almost certain that that would result in interpersonal disconnection and probably internal turmoil. However, having greater awareness of one's actual feelings in a moment, sitting with them, understanding them, and figuring out the needs connected to them can have profound benefits.

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