Is there a difference?
While the two words are used interchangeably there is actually a difference, and knowing more about their nature can empower you to navigate the roller-coaster of emotions that are a natural, normal part of living as a Human.
In the 20th century, Paul Ekman identified six basic emotions:
There we are, so what are feelings?
Feelings are the experience of these emotions, especially in the body. Feelings are also very susceptible to our mind’s interpretation of certain emotions.
Have you ever been so angry you cried?
Have you laughed when something very sad or vulnerable was happening?
When it comes to feelings think of the physical sensations when we feel emotions, such as when we can’t breathe, or our mind gets spinny, or we get excited and jolt of energy comes over us. The two go together, emotions and feelings. We can feel low, but that isn’t technically an emotion. Or flip that, we can feel high, but again that is the experience of the emotion of happiness or a pleasant surprise. I also break down two emotional human experiences as Love and Fear. The feelings that come from love, acceptance, and self-care will be ones of kindness, presence, and patience. Feelings from fear are sporadic, they feel like a never-ending pit of an abyss we will fall into if the emotion takes over, we are often very self-judgemental, and always on edge.
I am not sure why feeling feelings and emotions became so shameful. At the same time people are ashamed of many basic human functions like sweating, passing gas, sexual urges, and yes, feeling feelings. It’s like we need to have this super polished, perfect, refined exterior or we are somehow dirty, disgusting, and simply not acceptable.
That’s what it comes down to folks, acceptance.
We become ashamed of something when we think it will not be accepted, and therefore we are unacceptable.
I have a funny story about this.
I was hanging out with my boyfriend in my university days, and he says to me with surprise, “Oh, you have hair on your toes.”
Immediately, I wormed my feet away from sight and hid them under a blanket.
“No I don’t.” was my logical reply.
The fact is.
And many people do. I mean really, it’s not troll-feet hair, it’s normal human hair.
But, I’m a girl. Hair? On toes? No no no, that means I am gross. Nope, I hereby deny that said hair exists.
I was very insecure in my 20’s. I spent 90% of my time and energy constantly being “on,” scanning people’s faces to see if I was being accepted or not, fearing how future events would go, and regretting past mistakes I could no longer control. I truly did not feel good enough if I was just being me. It was a hellish existence to operate that way.
Thank God, literally, I found the mentors, trainings and education plus spiritual connection and human healing to break out of that cycle of self-disgust. I was eventually able to accept emotions and feelings as normal, and natural and even now they are helpful as indicators for me to make decisions and navigate life.
I am now thoroughly amused by my human-ness.
My emotions and feelings are part of that. This comes from a place of true self love, not self aggrandizing narcissism, but adoring care and attentiveness love like a mother has for a baby. When I can approach emotions with acceptance, wonder and curiosity instead of shame, self-rejection, and fear, things go a lot more smoothly.
“Since our culture has adulated logic and reason and denigrated emotions, few of us have learned to really listen to our feelings and to use them as guides for our lives.”
Janice Berger, Emotional Fitness
The amount of times I hear my clients say to me, “Am I the craziest person ever? Am I your nut-case client?” They are deathly afraid they are so deeply flawed because of their emotions and are brave enough to share out loud to a trusted person. On top of the emotions are recurring thoughts or worries, or whatever myriad of thoughts that inevitably arise from emotions. Which again, IS NORMAL. Without knowing how to use our emotional system the whole thing can be very noisy, very distracting and we can waste a lot of our precious time by feeling sucky and helpless.
Humans feel feelings and emotions that is that. And these aspects of ourselves are extremely misunderstood, and therefore misused.
When we shove them down, like I hid my toes in the blankets, they kind of mutate.
They get clogged up, and this bogs us down.
Think of a pipe.
Water goes through, there is movement, everything works. A stream in nature is the same.
Then, there is a clog, and the clog will just keep getting worse the more it is backing up the system. A stream of running water has aliveness to it. Then it goes stagnant, and what happens? Well…it’s stagnant.
As complicated as we think our human operating system is, it is also really simple.
Energy in motion.
The emotions need to move in order to keep our system healthy and operational. It’s quite relieving to learn that it can be that simple.
And, simple does not always mean easy.
Stay tuned for the article on Managing the Mind.
Because often we think a thought, then have an emotional reaction to the thought, even if nothing is actually happening, the emotions we are having are not a reaction and will not be calmed unless the mind can be directed to see things as they are, not as their fear sees it. And that is a whole other case that needs addressing.
But, when it comes to emotions and feelings, they are there on purpose, they have been misunderstood, and they can be used to our advantage when we discern when to let them flow and trust our body to process them, and when we need to manage our mind in order to tame an emotional tidal wave.
I have 2 meditations on YouTube to help to begin to connect to this body and heart intelligence if you’d like to try this for yourself.
Body Scan: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pEaaVqwbnCs
Heart Breathing: https://youtu.be/olVPuepCJiI