What is the difference between an emotion and a feeling?
An emotion is just a biochemical response that you’re experiencing. A feeling is your interpretation of that response. It is the meaning that you attach to your experience. For as long as I can remember I have considered myself to be an anxious person. I would even describe myself as an anxious person. As I got older and wiser I stopped doing that. Instead, I started labeling it as activation. I started saying, “This is me getting activated, I’m getting prepared for something. I am a fully activated person.” See the difference? I converted the meaning from a negative one to a positive one. From this interpretation, I can use this charge my nervous system is giving me for construction vs destruction.
In my practice of coaching people, my goal is to help my clients separate emotion from feeling using the question below.
“Describe to me what you’re experiencing…”
“Is it high energy or low energy?”
“How and why do you believe you are producing this?
“What is the most powerful interpretation of your current emotional state you can muster?”
“How would the hero version or best version of yourself use this?”
If you want to dig deeper here are five additional questions that I find really help people…
“What is it that you’re not doing and you know that you should be?” So what are you putting off? What are you procrastinating on? Anxiety can oftentimes be like a check engine light in a car, it’s sending you a signal to pay attention to something. Maybe that something is the answer to the first question.
What is it that you’re doing that you shouldn’t be?” What’s the behavior you’re engaging in that you shouldn’t be? For some people, that’s watching too much news. For others, it may be drinking too much booze. We can typically find something with that question.
“What are you preaching but you aren’t practicing? We get this feeling of hypocrisy when we’re constantly asking people to do things that we ourselves aren’t doing or aren’t willing to do.
“What is the molehill you’re making into a mountain?”. What is the minor thing that you’re making a major thing? You know, an easy way to think about this is will you even care about this circumstance 30, 60, or 90 days down the road? If you won’t care about it then, why do you have to care so much about it now?
The last one is the one that I think if most understood would make their life exceptionally better. “What is the uncontrollable that you are seeking to control?”
I tell people, “You have about a yoga mat worth of control in this world.” That is to say, what you can fit into a yoga mat, which is yourself, your hands, your arms…that’s about all that you can control. If you think about little kids when they play basketball, for example, maybe the ball goes out of bounds and the game stops. Understand and have dead clarity on what you control and pay no mind to what you do not. When you get that your life can become so much more exceptional.
Try those questions out. They work. Man do they work! Thanks for reading.