There’s often a confusion or misunderstanding I see, first of all with myself, then with other people and clients that is quite helpful to sort out and get clearer on for your process.
The misunderstanding is the difference between feelings and perceptions. We often in our language and day-to-day lives, confuse the difference between feelings\emotions with our thoughts\beliefs\perceptions\stories and states of mind(we will look closer at how to differentiate between them below).
This is a confusion that on a side note, I learned to refrain from mentioning to my friends, family, or partner because they get(rightfully) very annoyed!😂
Why does knowing the difference even matter?
Well, firstly, because conditioning taught us to live in our heads all the time, and then we are disconnected from our bodies, when we are disconnected from our bodies we forget how to FEEL, and we end up living in our heads.
So first of all, knowing the difference can help us better connect to ourselves in the present moment, to our bodies and to our in-the-moment self and our in-the-moment experience.
Secondly, it matters because, perceptions are subjective, while feelings are simply Truth, Truth of the moment.
If you tell me that you feel sad, I can’t tell you that’s not true, because that’s how you feel.
But if you tell me that you feel not good enough… well…. Good enough is not a feeling, it’s a perception or belief, so perhaps I can help you challenge that and see things differently if you’re willing of course, and the same goes for ourselves and doing the self-mastery work on ourselves and our characters.
The same thing is true.
Feelings can’t be argued with or challenged in any way, they’re important for us to feel, and feel fully, they’re an invitation to what’s going on inside us, to connecting with something deeper, to our root, to our core, and to the divine, to our bodies and to every living process inside us.
All of that is contained in feeling.
Perceptions are ideas, perceptions are thoughts and beliefs, these are not necessarily true. In fact, no idea is absolutely true, none, ideas are always subjective.
Perceptions can of course generate feelings, so if you tell me for example that you feel you are not good enough, and I let you know that is a perception you have about yourself, then maybe you can tell me that this perception makes you feel sad or ashamed. That would be the feeling.
The feeling is authentic, it is Truth, it lets you know of something real inside you, it lets you know of the painful belief you’re carrying and can be a guidepost into unraveling that perception or belief, and now we can work on that belief and help you feel differently.
Of course in the self-mastery work, you can do that with characters. What does this character feel? What does it believe that is generating that feeling? And noticing the difference.
Then if you want to take your experience more into the body, where is this feeling in my body?
And what does it feel like?
So here are some common examples of beliefs, perceptions, and states of mind that we confuse with feelings and how to work on those:
“I feel not good enough” – This is a belief or perception, not a feeling. To discover the feeling underneath we can ask ourselves how we feel when we believe that about ourselves, or where in the body we feel that belief, and what’s the feeling in there.
Often the feeling itself will be sadness\shame\hurt or simply: emotional pain.
“I feel confused”: Confused is a state of mind, not a feeling. It’s a state of mind where our mind is in some kind of processing or conflicted thinking. The feeling underneath can vary. My mind can be confused and that can be a fun, funny, and lovely experience, or I could have a part that feels anxious about it in my belly.
Again, the simple way of working with this is asking: “How do I feel in my body when my mind is confused”.
“I feel rejected” – This is a perception, that involves another person, it’s not a feeling.
Feelings are personal and don’t involve other people, even if someone’s actions\words triggered those feelings inside us. Discovering the feeling can again be simple: How do I feel when I perceive this person is rejecting me? Is it sadness? Hurt? Shame? Fear?
Is it a contraction in my belly or chest? Whatever it is, it’s inside me and I don’t need to think about it, I can feel it.
“I feel helpless”, “I feel hopeless” – These are perceptions or states of mind, Helpless means I believe I have no help and can not help myself. Often a belief created in childhood in moments of trauma and pain when we were all alone. Hopeless means I have a character in my mind that projects a negative outlook on the future.
” I feel overwhelmed” – This is a tricky one. But not a feeling. Overwhelmed with what? Usually, when we say we feel overwhelmed, it means there is an influx of emotions and possibly also thoughts inside us that are too much for our brain and nervous system to handle, or at least that we believe are too much for them to handle. That’s what happens in overwhelm in my experience.
Again I’ll clarify the simple exploration, we can ask: “Where in my body does that perception exist? And what’s the feeling there?”.
So what are feelings?
Feelings are simple, they are not ideas.
Feelings are: I feel sad, I feel happy, I feel love or loved, I feel grateful I feel shame, I feel angry.
They are also: I feel hungry, I feel full in my belly, I feel dry in my mouth, I feel tired.
And they can also be: I feel tightness in my belly, expansion in my chest, I feel a contraction in my lower back and I feel my muscles tightening in my right leg.
These are feelings. They are simple, they are physical, and all that I’m writing to you are labels, but we don’t even need to think and label in order to feel.
Feelings are silent in that way. They can use words, and we can use words to express them or label them or better connect and understand them with our minds, but essentially they are felt and they are silent.
So how can this be helpful?
Well, the point is not to become a “feeling vs perceptions” nazi or anything like that. You will definitely hear me say that I feel something that is not actually a feeling in a given week, but I say that with awareness, and more often than not, I find it helps my happiness and clarity of mind to refrain from incorrectly labeling how I feel. Often it’s good to refrain from labeling how I feel at all.
It matters to see the difference between feelings and perceptions, so that you can differentiate between a felt truth and the lie of the story. From there you can dissect and pick apart the lie, while opening the emotional wound, letting it be felt and cleaned out and healed that way.
It also matters because it will bring you more into the present moment that way and less into ideas in your head.
Feel free to add more examples of perceptions vs feelings in the comments to help others explore.
And also: If you have any questions feel free to comment as well or PM me if that is more comfortable for you and I would do my best to answer.
Hope this helps, I know to understand this made a big difference for me.
In LovingKindness, Daniel❤️.
P.S: Don’t try and correct close friends and family members with this, unless you’re a very mischievous individual like me. If your intimate other tells you that you make her feel “unimportant” and you tell her that “unimportant” is not a feeling… Do not be surprised if he\she (rightfully) gets furious at you in return! don’t blame it on me if that happens ok! I warned you!😂😂 (ok you can blame it on me if it helps your relationship actually, I have room for that in my dream ).