The feelings behind feelings

I dropped that “F bomb” again…. oh the “feelings” word.

There is a common conversation that I have with my psychologist (all the time) about feelings:


Her: So what feeling is that?meme2

Me: Anger

Her: What is behind the anger?

Me: It’s anger. I don’t know what you mean.

Her: What feeling is fueling the anger?




She always challenges me to think about the feelings involved (which is a lot harder than most think) with events. On a very regular basis I come up with the simple and vague feeling words like anger, frustration, sadness, annoyed etc. Going beyond that seems quite difficult.

I was teaching my ESL students about Martin Luther King Jr. today. As I was teaching, we read a story about one of the first time he was angry about the situation he lived in. When he was a high school student going to a state speaking competition he was forced to give up his bus seat for a 2 hour drive. It was the “angriest” he had ever been because he was hurt and humiliated. His feeling of hurt and humiliation was the feeling behind the feeling.

I have absolutely no idea why teaching this to ESL students seemed to click, but this made so much sense. He wasn’t just angry for having to stand – he was made to stand because he was “not as good as them”. He was made to stand to humiliate him and make him feel as though he is lower than the white people. I put myself in his shoes and I would have been angry as well. I would have been furious, and so upset that I would want to cry because of how demeaning it would have been. I realized that feelings don’t stop at the surface.

Now this all makes sense. There are times when I’m “upset” or “angry” but the feeling behind it may be disappointed, overwhelmed or hurt etc. There is a huge list of words that I have to use in therapy, and it always seemed difficult to navigate because I stuff every feeling into an “angry” or “upset” box. Truthfully, identifying the actual feeling behind it all makes it easier to deal with. It’s hard to deal with just “anger”….. it’s so broad and takes so long to fix…. but looking at the smaller feelings that build up to that can make it easier to rationalize through.

It’s definitely a challenge to figure out the feelings behind something, and say it’s more than frustration, anger or being upset. It really makes you take time to look back and why you are upset and then pin-point some experiences or feelings that come up. As often as I hate to say it…… my psychologist was right again…. understanding the feeling is really key to being happy.






Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s