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2: Size Up Your Situation

How Do You Know If It’s a Feeling or a Thought?

It is not always easy to tell the difference between thoughts and feelings, especially since we often mix them up.

If it blames another person, it’s probably a thought. Your feelings are your experience, and you have control over them. Not only is it counterproductive to blame others for your feelings, but it also puts the power to change in someone else’s hands. Here are some examples of thoughts about others that masquerade as feelings:

  • Judged
  • Betrayed
  • Taken for granted
  • Ignored
  • Neglected
  • Belittled
  • Attacked
  • Threatened
  • Bullied
  • Inadequate
  • Worthless

When you use words like these, which put the responsibility to change on the other person, you take away your own power. You actually might be feeling:

  • Hurt
  • Scared
  • Sad
  • Angry
  • Frustrated
  • Overwhelmed
  • Confused
  • Alone
  • Hopeless
  • Nervous

The difference is that the first set of words place the responsibility to change on someone else. For example, “I feel ignored by my boss, so I can’t be happy until she starts paying more attention to me” puts all the power to change on your boss. Whereas, “I feel alone and sad” empowers you to find ways to treat your true feelings, regardless of your boss’s behavior. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t talk to your boss about your feelings, but she will better understand what you really need if you own your experience.

Thoughts and Feelings about Combining Households

When you find yourself in a life transition, do you tend to think optimistically or pessimistically? A lot depends on the particular situation, and sometimes your thoughts may not pair with the expected response.

Consider the case of a dating couple who decides to move in together. Normally this would be a happy occasion, but there may be anxiety about combining household expenses, fear about disclosing private information such as debt amounts or credit histories, or excitement about the new opportunities.

Here are some potential thoughts disguised as feelings that might arise when a couple is combining finances. Click the arrow to reveal the thoughts, possible feelings and what you might really want.

  • I think you don’t trust me.
  • I feel hurt and disappointed.
  • I want to feel free to make my own money decisions without fear that you will judge me.
  • I think you value my input.
  • I feel inspired.
  • I want us to participate together on major decisions.
  • I think you don’t appreciate my effort to pay the bills.
  • I feel overwhelmed and tired.
  • I want you to notice my efforts and to help out in other ways (e.g., cook dinner) while I’m doing the bills.
  • I think you and I are in the same place in our relationship.
  • I feel committed.
  • I want to know that you are as committed to the relationship as I am.
  • I think you have betrayed me.
  • I feel suspicious and worried.
  • I want you to tell me if you need to spend more than we had budgeted so I am not caught off guard.
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