Feelings or judgments?

Below is a selection of words commonly used to describe feelings, which are actually thoughts, and judgmental thoughts at that! Notice that they are all adjectives derived from past participles of verbs: something which we think someone else has done to us. I sometimes call them ‘pretend’ feelings because they really do sound like feelings until you stop to think about it.

One way of testing whether something is really a feeling is to try and sense where in your body you might feel it. If you cannot find the spot, you have probably identified a thought or idea. Of course there will exist a feeling as well, but it may not be what you originally labelled it as. Suppose, for example, I hear I am not invited to a party, while other people I know are. If I try to notice what feelings and needs are up for me, I may begin by saying to myself, for example, “I feel left out”. This in itself is not a feeling, rather it means something like, “I believe I have been left out”, or “You left me out”. It’s an idea, a thought I have, and it could easily become an accusation that someone did something ‘wrong’ to me. However, if we slow down and check what happens in our body when we think the thought “I feel left out”, we may find any emotion from anger to confusion to sadness. The actual feeling behind ‘left out’ will be different for different people and in different situations. Noticing what it is will guide us to our need. Instead of dwelling on what someone else is supposed to have done, we can now connect with what really matters to us, and if we choose to communicate with the person we have been holding responsible for our distress, it will be much clearer and more powerful to say something like:

I’m angry because I expected to be invited and was taken aback when I wasn’t” (underlying need for inclusion) or
I feel sad that I wasn’t invited because I want to be part of the group” (need for belonging) or
I’m confused because I really don’t understand why I wasn’t invited” (explicit need for understanding).

Whether or not to include the need explicitly depends on your relationship with the other person – what we do in NVC practice groups is not the same as in real life! If you would enjoy some ‘homework’, make a note of any words on this list which you commonly use to describe your feelings. Identify the actual feelings and the needs which these relate to (using a needs lists if that helps). These are key unmet needs in your life which you will be glad to get in touch with and learn how to fulfil!

 

abandoned
abused
attacked
belittled
betrayed
blamed
bullied
cheated
coerced
cornered
criticized
disliked
dismissed
distrusted
dumped on
harassed
hassled
ignored
insulted
interrupted
intimidated
invalidated
invisible
isolated
judged
left out
manipulated
mistrusted
misunderstood
neglected
overpowered
overworked
patronized
pressured
provoked
put down
rejected
ripped off
taken advantage of
threatened
thwarted
trampled on
tricked
unappreciated
unheard
unloved
unseen
unsupported
unwanted
used
victimized
violated

på svenska (in Swedish)

adapted from a list in NVC Toolkit for Facilitators (c) 2009 Raj Gill, Lucy Leu, Judi Morin