13 The Difference Between Emotions and Feelings

This is gonna be subtle.


Here's the difference between Emotions and Feelings.

Emotions – what we experience as instinctual animal reflex (eg: fear)

Feelings – the experience we have because of how we interpret events, emotions, and circumstances (eg: worry)

The movie "Jaws"

I remember watching Jaws and then being creeped out by swimming in a swimming pool.

Hah!  There's no sharks in a swimming pool!

But be honest, haven't you ever...

Photo by  Lee Jeffs

Photo by Lee Jeffs

watched a scary movie, during which you experience emotions of surprise and fear because of pure animal instinct (like a sudden super loud noise)...

Then at two in the morning, you get creeped out by the bathroom mirror...because of how you interpret the mirror, based on your movie-going history.

Here's another example, from our own relationship

As we've discussed in a previous podcast episode (04 LGBT Relationship Buttons)...

Siena has a personal emotional wound that drives her to want to experience feeling heard and recognized in regards to her emotions and feelings. 

While Toast has a personal emotional wound that drives her to want to experience feeling competent, by getting things done.

These personal wounds of ours have helped create a perfect storm, when an emotion pops up.

It's like an Emotion Grenade gets and dropped on the kitchen table.

Photo by  Ivana Cajina

Photo by Ivana Cajina


All of a sudden, Siena is compelled to have her emotions empathized with.

But then, Toast resists that, because she's compelled to just move on and accomplish the next thing on the list!

Which of course, denies Siena the exact thing she's wanting and makes her feel more frustrated, and magnifies her feelings about it.

Which in turn, has Toast feeling even more frustrated than ever before.


It can get screwed up really fast.

Sound familiar in your own relationships?

Photo by  James Connolly

This stuff happens!

Especially if you don't know the Wounds each person brings to the table.

Or, the difference between Emotions and Feelings.


How do you distinguish between Emotions and feelings in relationships?

Stay present, and continue to be the observer of what is happening inside you. Become aware not only of the emotional pain but also of "the one who observes," the silent watcher. This is the power of the Now, the power of your own conscious presence. Then see what happens.

~ Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now 

Here's what we've found to be helpful.

Make it okay to experience emotions

For some of us, experiencing emotions was frowned on while we were growing up.

But get real.

Emotions are primal instinct.

It's like burping.

It's gonna happen.

Don't automatically amplify every feeling

Photo by  Nicolas Cool

Photo by Nicolas Cool

Do you need to amplify your burps?  Do you need to make them gross and disgusting?

No thanks.

Just because you feel something doesn't mean you need to amplify it.

Each feeling can either further – or – hinder our strength, health, and progress.

So it's wise to at least pause and consider whether a particular feeling helps or hurts us.

Have emotions.

Have feelings.

But don't let the feelings have you.

It's easier said than done.

But it's a big part of the art of life.

We're definitely still working on it!

Here's to all of us traveling that journey.