“I feel that you are being unfair.”
“I feel as if you don’t believe me.”
In my counseling practice, these “I feel” statements often flag a very common mistake in thinking. The fancy “psychobabble” lingo for that mistake is “The Reification of Feelings”.
This is considered one of the top ten “cognitive errors” ~ mistaken thinking.
The truth is that you can “feel” whatever you happen to feel at the moment. But it’s important to remember that the feeling doesn’t make it true. Feelings don’t define reality. And fluctuating feelings should never be allowed to run the show! Simply put, feelings and beliefs are not the same.
Feelings ~ emotions ~ include one or more of the following:
So it would be true to say, “I feel sad” or “I feel angry”. It’s the nature of feelings to come and go. Even strong emotions are by nature temporary and changing. Feelings can lie, and often do. Also, emotions are not directly under our authority.
But beliefs are different! I am responsible for what I choose to believe to be true. Taking ownership of my choices is an important part of a healthy lifestyle and healthy relationships. It’s important to know that what I believe to be true is under my authority.
It may take some courage and practice to step up and take full responsibility for what I believe to be true ~ rather than to soften my beliefs as “feel likes”.
Give it a try. Think of a “feel like” sentence you’ve said or heard recently. Try the words “I believe”, “I think”, or “I’m concluding” in its place. Many times that clarity is surprising, and gives opportunity to re-evaluate our beliefs, thoughts, and conclusions.
- What might be advantages and disadvantages of beginning to replace “I feel like” with “I believe” when it’s more truthful?
- What “I feel” statements have you heard lately? What do you think about them?
- What would those opening statements sound like if they were replaced with “I think”, “I believe”, I’m concluding”, or “I’m judging”. (Hint: “I’m judging myself a failure.”
- How might the outcome be different?
Words can be very powerful! Using them carefully can be part of a more stable, empowered, and healthy life.