Why it’s important to name your feelings
Most people don’t clearly understand the difference between thoughts and feelings. This basic thing is critical in being able to make progress in the personal work we all need to be doing at any given moment.
Client: My boss jumped all over me in front of my whole team yesterday.
Counselor: How’d you feel in that moment?
Client: I felt like beating his ass.
“Beating his ass,” isn’t a feeling.
Client: The world is in such a terrible place right now.
Counselor: When you say that, what feeling do you experience?
Client: I feel like people absolutely have to get out and vote.
“People have to get out and vote” isn’t a feeling.
Client: That woman is so beautiful.
Counselor: And you’re feeling ? right now?
Client: Like I have to get her number today.
“I have to get her number” is not a feeling.
You may think this is quibbling. Maybe you feel like, “C’mon, you know what these clients are getting at.” Which isn’t a feeling, by the way. 🙂
But do I? Indeed, often I discover when I press it a little bit the clients themselves don’t even know what they’re getting at. It’s foggy because emotion is motivating what they are saying, but they are using action words (behaviors) to say it. The first client is probably angry, but maybe other things. The second client is frustrated, anxious, depressed, or something else. The third is horny. Or desperate. Or lonely. Who knows, really? The client certainly needs to know, that’s for sure.
Because until you find the word that describes the feeling, you can’t even know what you’re dealing with. Dealing with loneliness is different than dealing with horniness. Dealing with anger is different than dealing with fear. And dealing with anxiety about the direction the world is going is definitely different than just rocking the vote.
That’s why it’s important to name your feelings.