Distinguishing between thoughts, feelings and sensations


We often find it difficult to distinguish between thoughts, feelings and sensations. When asked, “what do you feel?” the answer we come up with is usually a thought not a feeling. Additionally, we have a difficult time distinguishing physical sensations from emotional ones. Physical sensations include fatigue, nauseous, hunger, etc.

We might say: “I’m feeling like I should go work out right now”, or “I am feeling like I should call my girlfriend and see what’s up with her”. These are thoughts, not feelings. If we dig deeper, we might discover that there is a feeling below the thought, and that the thought may not even be a logical or an appropriate response to the feeling.

In the above examples, “I’m feeling like I should go work out right now” might be masking agitation, lethargy, or even hunger. Behind the thought “I’m feeling like calling my girlfriend” might be feelings of loneliness, insecurity, or just boredom.

You might be only able to come up with the thought “I’m feeling out of sorts.” When you sit with it, you might discover that you are actually feeling a sensation of tightness in your body. If you sit with that further, you may discover what you are actually feeling, e.g. angry, fearful, etc.

Learning how to distinguish what we are feeling will helps us see how our behaviors often have little to do with what we think and more to do with what we feel. This explains why so often people find themselves in arguments that seem trivial and insignificant. The reality is the emotions underlying those arguments are deep and strong. Getting to the bottom of the emotions will help you understand what you are really arguing about.

The more in tune you are with what you are feeling, the more clear and harmonious your life will be.  To help you tune in, check out our AWARENESS app and read the Emotional Universe section in this blog.

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One Comment on “Distinguishing between thoughts, feelings and sensations”

  • Julio
    30 July, 2012,

    When I first started reading this post, it sounded like you were making a petty distinction; but as I kept reading I realized that you’ve made a really good point. It almost makes sense to say “I feel like calling my girlfriend” because that’s what the feelings are leading to, and the conclusion is based on what I feel. However, there are so many different feelings that could lead to the same conclusion (loneliness, mistrust, boredom, guilt, etc.) that if we only look at the end point, we do miss the heart of the matter.

    Etiquette seems to suggest that we keep our feelings to ourselves, so this behavior may have a place in social interactions, but regardless, without awareness, there is no choice or control.

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