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  1. #1

    Lightbulb 6 Reasons Why You May Not Know What You're Feeling

    It might seem almost unfathomable that someone might not recognize what they’re feeling. But the phenomenon is much more common than most people realize. This post will suggest no fewer than 6 causes to clarify why individuals can remain in the dark about what’s going on with them emotionally.

    The one safe generalization that can be made about all emotions is that they don’t start out as feelings at all but as physiological sensations. So even when a person can’t comprehend their feeling experience, they’re typically aware of what’s happening to them physically. And this is true even when what they’re feeling is a “blank”—a strange numbness within them. For these “non-feeling,” dissociative experiences also warrant being understood emotionally.

    So, standing “stone cold” with expressionless eyes peering at a deceased relative in an open casket, apparently devoid of emotion, still represents (however ironically) a state of feeling. Moreover, apathy may literally mean “without feeling”—yet, unquestionably, we’ve all experienced this curious “feelingless feeling” at some point in our lives.

    Now let’s take a closer look at why certain feelings can be difficult, or even impossible, to discern:

    1. The feeling hasn’t yet crystallized. In these instances, you’re just beginning to feel something but it hasn’t yet come into focus. So it’s not yet identifiable. You may feel something in your body—say, your throat or shoulders tightening, a vague sensation in the pit of your stomach, a trembling in your limbs, an accelerated heart beat. But in the moment you’ve yet to connect such physical activation to what provoked it.

    2. You’re experiencing more than a single feeling, and they’re oddly “fused.” Here you’re beset by two (or even more!) emotions at once, and it may feel confusing for you can’t separate or distinguish between them. I’ve actually written two earlier posts on this subject: “Angry Tears” describes being enraged and, simultaneously, extremely hurt by some keenly felt injustice. One emotion signifies a disturbing sense of unfairness about the provocation, the other a sense of helplessness or dejection in reaction to it. Consequently, your face (and most likely other parts of your body too) registers both emotions.

    3. It’s a feeling—or amalgam of feelings—that can’t be identified because the English language has no name for it. The “what’s-this-feeling?” phenomenon is somewhat new to the literature on emotions, but it’s become increasingly widespread. Consider these representative titles (and there are several others):

    “10 Extremely Precise Words for Emotions You Didn’t Even Know You Had” (Melissa Dahl, June 15, 2016);

    “21 Emotions for Which There Are No English Words” (Emily Elert, Jan. 4, 2013);

    “40 Words for Emotions You’ve Felt, But Couldn’t Explain” (Brianna Wiest, Feb., 16, 2016); and

    “23 New Words for Emotions That We All Feel, but Can’t Explain” (Justin Gammill, June 7, 2015.

    4. You’ve never had this feeling before. Children often can’t recognize what they’re feeling because they’ve not yet reached a level of development where they can transcribe their physical sensations into understandable feeling names.

    Consider this poignant description of anxiety arousal in an eight-year-old:

    It’s 8AM and my heart’s racing. It’s that terrible, full-body sort of beat that makes your whole body shake and occasionally flutter from time to time from over-stimulation. For a second it almost feels like excitement, until the belly flips start, my face heats up, and my neck starts to hurt and I feel a little dizzy. My breathing’s heavy and my palms and scalp are starting to sweat for reasons unbeknownst to me.

    5. You’re experiencing dissociation: a total detachment from your feelings. When you effectively disengage from a feeling, you’re “dead” to it. Of all of Freud’s many defense mechanisms, dissociation is one of the most primitive. That’s why it typically originates in childhood. Not yet having developed the emotional resources to successfully cope with perceived threats, children are all too easily overwhelmed by external circumstances.

    6. The feeling has been internally censored: Even when you try to access it, you draw a blank. It’s not hard to imagine why many of us learn to “blacklist” certain feelings. If, for example, you grew up in a home where expressions of anger were forbidden and losing your temper could lead to substantial punishment, you learned—almost at a cellular level—that any outward displays of antagonism could threaten your all-important parental bond.

  2. #2
    Thanks - that is a really interesting viewpoint, and a well-written post.

  3. #3
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2013
    I get the feeling that this “what’s-this-feeling?” is also commonly viewed as the observer experience often related from a meditative point of view. The physiological aspect I find to be an important one. If anything, I find having been educated with how we are suppose to perceive has lead me to being easily overwhelmed by external circumstances. I find as adults we would do better to reconnect with this primitive aspect of disconnect. I find staring into space quite comforting.

    All the same, you make some really great points.

  4. #4
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Apr 2016
    Maryland (MD)
    Excellent post!

  5. #5
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    May 2017
    Great post. Huge thanks!

  6. #6
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Jul 2017
    Thank you so much for sharing this. Identifying feelings has been quite difficult for me. I've always only understand "angry" and "sad". Most often, I resorted to anger because this always felt like a safe emotion to have and show.

    I think this is another reason to add to the list. Some emotions feel unacceptable, so we ignore them. Perhaps this is disassociation. It is so nice to be able to recognize and express emotions healthily. The first time I told my husband calmly, "I'm jealous. I feel left out." and not "Fuck you, you're an asshole." was extremely relieving for both of us. Being able to express your true emotions can help bring you closer to others rather than making you feel alienated when you only acknowledge one emotion for every situation.

  7. #7
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
    Fantastic post, written so well
    I am like Ponder stare in the space every day, but it relax me, blank is good blank is very good, our mind rests ....Welcome to the forum
    To acknowledged one's feelings is a first step to take control of ones life
    ''“If you cry because the sun has gone out of your life, your tears will prevent you from seeing the stars.”
    ― Rabindranath Tagore

  8. #8
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Dec 2015
    Thats interesting thanks



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