Avoid Saying “Feel like” or “Feel that”

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One of my pet peeves is poor usage of words when talking about feelings.  Feelings are events in our bodies, usually chemical in nature and thus have intensity – stronger or weaker. (E.g. I feel a little angry.  I feel a lot angry.)

Thoughts are symbol events in our brains that either occur or don't. (E.g. I think about a white rabbit or not.)  While feelings and thoughts are linked together, they are not the same things.  Feeling examples: I feel anger, sad, joy, scared, hungry, lonely, etc.  (See my first paper on Emotions for more details.)

Thinking examples:  I think you are nice.  I recall you sitting with me yesterday.  I am imagining that you are tired.  

Foolish, but common, phrases: I feel that you are nice.  I feel that you sat with me yesterday.  I feel that you are tired.

I believe some people began using the word “feel” because it sometimes gets more attention.  “I don’t think that you are mean, I feel it.”  Now this seems pretty common.  

This usage, this substitution, of the word “feel” for the word “think” is, to me, quite misleading and dangerous.  I think the real danger is that is avoids the real feelings and makes empathic connection more difficult.   When I say, “I feel that you are trying to cheat me,” I am leaving out the feeling.  I prefer the full sentence to be something like “I feel angry when I think that you are trying to cheat me.”  Now the feeling (anger) is being noticed, rather than being ignored. 

If you can use can substitute the word “think” for the word “feel” in your sentence, please do so.  And remember to speak up about your feelings.


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