Distinguishing feelings from thoughts

How many times do we say or think:

  • I feel powerless
  • I feel guilty
  • I feel disappointed
  • I feel misunderstood
  • I feel jealous
  • I feel resentful
  • I feel inferior

Probably I use some of these expressions myself sometimes as well.

But these are not feelings. They are thoughts.

You think you are powerless and that makes you feel bad.

You think you are guilty of something, and that gives you a sad feeling.

You are jealous of someone and now you feel down because of that.

Et cetera

Dutch philosopher and Stoic thinker Miriam van Reijen calls the above feelings “improper feelings”. They are expressed as feelings, but they are in fact thoughts. Thoughts that give you a bad feeling.

Being aware of this difference, and the fact that due to our use of language the difference is not always clear, is essential to deal with these ‘feelings’. Because negative feelings only disappear when we deal with the thoughts that cause them.

Let’s try to be more aware of our “improper feelings”, shall we?