The Important Difference Between Feelings And Emotions

Christyl Rivers, Phd.
2 min readFeb 4

Think of your feelings as mental stories about sensations

Photo by tabitha turner on Unsplash

Roaring Rivers

Torrents, currents, and ripples by Christyl Rivers

We are emotional creatures

Perhaps it’s just a pet peeve of my own.

I don’t laugh when I read someone describing feelings as emotions, or vice versa. I don’t cry, either. But, I find it particularly distracting and annoying.

It does not help that people use the terms interchangeably. It does not help that when a child has a physical sensation — such as — to being bullied, or in some way offended, we teach them “He/she hurt your feelings, huh?”

No doubt a child will form some thoughts about some sensations, but one of the strengths of children is being able to let go of forming feelings.

An emotion is physical.

A tightness in the chest, a galvanic skin response, a shudder, a tight throat, a stomach contraction, watery eyes, etc. — -basically anything physical displays an emotion.

Maybe think of it as your body’s cells in motion.

Feelings are in your mind

What we keep in our brain after that sensation is called a feeling.

You may have heard that pain is inevitable and suffering is optional.

This is because we have mental hacks to keep our feelings from hurting our lives. But, we could never escape — nor should we try — from physical reactions in the physical world.

It also is difficult because we instruct and model behavior to hide both our emotions AND our feelings.

This doesn’t generally allow people to really wrap their heads around emotions, feelings, and how they become a part of who we are.

Your identity, for example, and your affiliation with political and social opinions are all formed in your mind. They tell you how you “feel” about experiences.

Just remember to always to stay in touch with your body, and be open to realizing that we can never avoid being hurt by the world, but there is a great deal we can do in our response to the world.

You can affect how you feel about every emotion in your life.

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Christyl Rivers, Phd.

Ecopsychologist, Writer, Farmer, Defender of reality, and Cat Castle Custodian.