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What Are Feelings?

What are feelings anyway? According to the dictionary, feelings are an involuntary response to outside stimuli. We must remember feelings aren’t facts. Because we feel a thing is so, doesn’t make it so. Feelings are neither right nor wrong, they just are! The philosophy of Recovery Marriage Encounter (RME) is that we learn to recognize our feelings in order to know ourselves better, and then learn to share those feelings with our spouse so we can know each other better. Feelings should not be judged as good or bad. We feel the way we feel and that’s all there is to it! When you are reading your spouse’s dialogue, try to read their feelings, not just their thoughts. Seek the person, not just the information. There is no need whatsoever to defend your honest feelings. We have all done things we need to apologize for, but what I feel is me, and for me to share how and what I feel is an act of love.

There is a distinction between thoughts and feelings. Feelings are described by using “I” statements – “I feel” or “I am.” If you catch yourself saying, “I feel that” or “I feel that you” – you are making a judgment and not sharing a feeling.

A true feeling statement describes your feelings or emotions, not your feelings about the other person. “I feel you are stubborn” or “I feel you are rude” aren’t descriptions of your feelings. These are judgments or criticisms. There are no true feelings in the two statements because rude and stubborn are not emotions. In this case, “I feel” really means “I think” or “I believe.” A true feeling statement includes an actual emotion you are experiencing. For instance, “I feel sad” is a true feeling statement. Feelings are to be accepted as a clue to what I am really like, not to be explained away.

To help with labeling your feelings while writing, we have included a list of feeling words. It is a good source, but by no means all-inclusive, so use it whenever you need it during your personal reflection time.

Download Feeling Words