Feelings & Emotions: Power of knowing the difference between them
As we look around the world we can easily gauge one culture to be cold and unemotional and another culture to be either warm, emotional or even fiery. However, how true are these distinctions? Are Latin and Middle Eastern folk more in touch with their feelings than those from the Anglo-Saxon or Slavic worlds? Once we understand and experience the difference between feelings and emotions we can clearly perceive that the differences in being ‘in touch with feelings’ is not as wide as one may suspect and in some cases, actually be the opposite.
Some have interpreted the word ‘emotion’ to mean e-motion, energy in motion. It is in actuality a pretty accurate description except to say that emotion is more often than not an outward movement. There are exceptions to this rule, very often we can turn anger in towards ourselves and this can be seen and felt in the human aura. As emotion is invariably a reaction to external events its expressions tends to remain external until such times as we allow ourselves to feel the underlying feelings. Let me give you an example.
Say for example your friend is always late for appointments and one day you lose your temper:
‘You are always late, you keep me waiting, I get so irritated and angry with you, how dare you, this behaviour is not acceptable and I get angry with myself for tolerating it’
At this point most of the energy has an outward movement towards the other, the word ‘you’ is used more often and there is an identification of both behaviour and emotional reaction. This is the outward movement which is invariably also expressed through body language and movement. Let’s now move onto feeling, the inward movement:
‘I feel so disrespected with your constant lateness, it feels as if I don’t matter or am invisible’
This expression of feeling it is far more about the self than the other. It is a very important distinction to make and indeed a very important tool of awareness to develop. The ability to distinguish between feelings and emotions is important for anyone on a path or personal development, healing and spiritual discovery for as we uncover our feelings we will discover that they are not new. In fact, most of them have existed within us since early childhood. Once we’ve experience the distinction between feelings and emotions and have identified their origin our relationships start becoming much more authentic and less turbulent.
The reason why feelings are so important is that they provide a doorway into our original wounding and they act as a compass leading us in the direction of finding a healing resolution. Emotions on the other hand, whilst not bad in and of themselves, can keep us locked in a state of reaction, projection and defence when we fail to recognise the underlying feelings. If our underlying feeling is one of abandonment, invisibility, rejection or those of lack or not being enough then we can have a strong tendency to see the world through the lens of our unexplored wounding and have emotional reactions that are not in proportion to external events.
Over the years I’ve experience many different therapy modalities and some of them actively encourage cathartic processes that can not only overload our nervous system but also keep us locked in regurgitating the same emotions of rage, anger, grief, indignation etc. without ever dropping into either the underlying feelings or the original wound. However, very often our world of emotions can feel much safer than our world of feelings. Feelings can run deep and they do so owing to their longevity and with them we can feel very vulnerable and naked. Many of our feelings have been in place since very early childhood and as such we can feel lost as sea trying to navigate a world that frequently does not have the luxury of clear memory. In essence, with emotions we experience some semblance of control – we can access them, direct them, drive them, curtail them and stop them in their tracks. In short, we know how to navigate habitual anger, tears, tantrums and fear. The abode of feelings is a far deeper body of water, often obscure and still, sometimes resembling death itself which can be terrifying territory for us to navigate.
The foundation of our world of feelings is love and it is always what is found once we have the courage to surrender habitual emotional responses and dive into the depths of the still waters that are our feelings. Our dread when it comes to feelings is that we fear them to be true. Meaning, if at our core we feel unloved then carry a deep fear that we are unlovable – discovering this would be a fate worse than death and therefore we can and do often cling onto what can become a hamster wheel of emotion in avoidance of our greatest fear – what we fear to be the truth of ourselves.
As we get more comfortable with our feelings, allowing them to surface and express themselves then our relationship to self and others becomes much more authentic and we find ourselves reacting and projecting far less. As we allow our feelings to have the authentic space they need and we overcome our fear of vulnerability and any feelings of shame we have around being open and vulnerable the core of our wounding can rise up into the light of awareness and be healed. There is no healing without facing the truth of ourselves and for that to happen we must be willing to surrender habits and be vulnerable.
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