Understanding our emotions is profoundly important. What am I feeling now? How did I feel when that event happened to me?
Having answers to these questions prevents us from being mindlessly dragged around by the intensity of our emotions.
Sometimes the words we use to describe our feelings can contain a lot more information than we realize. Let’s look at an example:
|“I feel lonely”||“I feel abandoned”|
It may be subtle, but there is a crucial difference between these two statements. Perceiving your feeling as one of these versus the other could mean the difference between peace and self-understanding, or a vicious cycle of blame.
“Abandoned” is what we would call a “Faux” or “Foe” Feeling.
Put simply, a foe-feeling is an implication of blame masquerading as a feeling.
Saying “I feel abandoned” generally conotes wrongness or blame. It says “I’m hurting and it’s your fault”. Placing blame is not a useful step to understanding one’s own feelings. Purely from the goal of self-understanding, it adds layers of abstraction to our view of our own feelings, and can keep us from better understanding ourselves.
Let’s look at another example:
|“I feel cheated”||“I feel angry”|
Isn’t it already easier to see the difference? “Cheated” is a foe-feeling because it points to a foe, implying that they cheated. It embellishes the simple truth of how I feel angry, with the focus being that this is how I feel, without implying blame or an external cause.
Let’s try another:
|“I feel powerless”||“I feel manipulated”|
Imagine someone came to you with passion in their eyes, and you’ve noticed their stress ever since the surprise birthday you threw for them. They say “I feel powerless”. They’ve just opened up to you about their deepest emotions. You’re likely to feel compassion and ask them more about what they’re feeling, seeking to help how you can, feeling an inclination to empathize.
Now imagine them saying “I feel manipulated”. You might respond with “Oh, well EXCUSE ME! I just wanted to do something nice for you, and now I’m a manipulator?!”
The worst effect happens internally, to the one perceiving their own feeling. They’ve convoluted their deepest feelings with a certain degree of removal by framing in terms of blame. Perhaps they didn’t want to place blame, but labeling it that way caused communication to fail. Either way, the “foe-feeling” takes them a step backward from understanding themselves, and finding empathy within or with others.
Below is a handy wheel of basic emotions, in their most basic and pure form.
You may also like to visit the following link for a handy chart comparing common “Faux/Foe-Feelings” with their root emotions and needs:
A word that contains so much presumption. Most of the time, saying or thinking “should” carries the connotation of an objective right and wrong and/or blame. Framing things this way tends to be counterproductive, as it points outward at the world to change, distracting us from understanding ourselves and our emotions.
We all have limited power and capacity to change the world around us. But we each have an immense capacity to be or embody change. That’s why when we find difficulty and challenge, or we’re working to understand our own feelings, there tends to be clarity in finding our basic and organic emotions as opposed to “foe-feelings” or perspectives that perpetuate suffering and confusion.
Foe/faux-feelings and “shoulds” go hand in hand. Let’s look again at this example:
|“I feel powerless”||“I feel manipulated”|
You may notice how “I feel manipulated” can be reworded as “You should stop manipulating me.” The person saying/or thinking that statement has effectively shrouded their own feelings and turned their eyes outward, insisting that the other/world/enemy is responsible for their negative emotion, and should feel guilt. Communicating things this way can be even worse.
And as we read “I feel powerless,” we see a pure and simple vocalization of one’s inner life. There comes with it ample room for empathy, growth, healing. There is no should, only there is.
Next time you hear yourself saying or thinking “should”, reflect on it. How do you really feel, underneath? What are your most un-abstracted emotions in that moment?