Feelings

Feelings provide us with helpful information

Feelings (emotions) give us important information about ourselves. They tell us when our needs are being met, and when they are not. Feelings don’t in themselves tell us what our needs are, but they do provide valuable clues. And once we know what we need, we have a better chance of finding a strategy to get that need met. A fruitful way of getting our needs met is to a) identify the feelings, b) use the feelings as clues to understand what needs are not being met, c) devise strategies that are most likely to get those needs met. This distinction between feelings, needs and strategies is a core component of Marshall Rosenberg’s Non-Violent Communication.

A key task in all this is to clarify what feelings aren’t. Here are some of the most common mistakes:

  1. Confusing feelings with thoughts: “I feel … that you/I/we/they …”; “I feel a need to …”; “I feel like …”; “I feel it’s …” These are really expressing a diagnosis, analysis, interpretation, need or request.
  2. Confusing feelings with judgmental thoughts: “I feel … anger, guilt, shame.” These are words encoding some kind of blame, moralising or judging, and give clues to an unmet need.
  3. Confusing feelings with interpretations: “I feel … ignored, rejected, attacked, abandoned, misunderstood …” These statements imply interpretations of other people’s behaviours. The passive form of a verb (ie ending in -ed) is often a clue that it is not a feeling, but an interpretation of behaviour.
  4. Confusing feelings with universal human needs: “I feel …. loved, respected, trusted, understood, acknowledged …” This is really naming what need of ours is being met, without indicating how we feel when that need is met.
  5. Confusing feelings with stimulus: “You made me feel …”, “I feel … because you …” The outward event (maybe someone else’s behaviour) brought us into semi-awareness of a need; our own met or unmet need then triggering our feeling.

If we hear someone describing something that they think is a feeling but actually isn’t, what can we do? Rather than judge, we can focus on what feelings and needs are alive in the person, and ask about those. So learning to name feelings is helpful for understanding and maintaining healthy relationships with ourselves and other people.

Two types of feeling

Feelings can fall into one of two categories: a feeling that arises when a need is met, and a feeling that arises when a need is not met. We have many nuances of feeling, and many needs. Any given feeling will not always indicate the same need each time; there are no direct correspondences. But learning to name our feelings takes us closer to being able to name our needs. The naming of needs is explored in the article Universal human needs.

List of feelings

[Note: This list is not intended to be exhaustive, but should provide a useful starting point for your own researches.]

Able – Absorbed – Accepting – Aching – Active – Adequate – Adamant – Adventurous – Affectionate – Afraid – Agony – Alert – Alive – Amazed – Ambivalent – Amused – Angry – Animated – Annoyed – Anxious – Apathetic – Apprehensive – Aroused – Astounded – Aversion – Awed

Balanced – Beautiful – Bitter – Blank – Blissful – Blue – Bold – Bored – Brave – Bright – Brilliant – Bubbly – Buoyant

Calm – Capable – Carefree – Caring – Cautious – Centred – Cheerful – Cheerless – Childlike – Clean – Clear – Close – Cold – Combative – Comfortable – Compassionate – Competent – Competitive – Confident – Confused – Connected – Conspicuous – Contempt – Contented – Contrite – Cosy – Courageous – Crazy – Cross – Cruel – Curious – Cynical

Daring – Daunted – Dazzled – Dead – Deceitful – Decisive – Defensive – Deflated – Delighted – Desire – Desirable – Desirous – Despair – Despondent – Destructive – Detached – Determined – Devotion – Different – Diffident – Disagreeable – Disappointed – Discontented – Discouraged – Disdain – Disgusted – Disorganised – Distaste – Distracted – Distraught – Disturbed – Down – Drained – Dubious – Dull – Dumb

Eager – Ecstatic – Elated – Electrified – Embarassed – Empathetic – Empty – Enchanted – Energetic – Enervated – Engrossed – Enthusiastic – Envious – Erotic – Exasperated – Excited – Exhausted – Exhilerated – Expansive – Explosive – Expressive – Exuberant – Evil

Fascinated – Fearful – Flat – Flighty – Flustered – Fond – Foolish – Forgotten – Fragile – Frantic – Friendly – Frightened – Frustrated – Free – Fulfilled – Full – Fun – Furious

Generous – Giving – Glad – Gloomy – Glowing – Grateful – Gratified – Greedy – Grief – Grounded – Grumpy

Happy – Hate – Healthy – Heavenly – Heavy – Helpful – Helpless – Hesitant – High – Holy – Homesick – Hopeful – Hopeless – Horrible – Horror – Hostile – Hot – Humourous – Humble – Hungry – Hurt – Hysterical

Immortal – Impatient – Impotent – Impressed – Inadequate – Indifferent – Indignant – Inert – Infatuated – Infuriated – Inquisitive – Inspired – Insignificant – Integrated – Interested – Intrigued – Invigorated – Involved – Irritated – Isolated

Jealousy – Jittery – Joyful – Jubilant – Jumpy

Keyed up – Kind

Lazy – Lecherous – Lethargic – Light – Light-hearted – Listless – Lively – Lonely – Longing – Loose – Lovable – Loving – Low – Lustful

Mad – Manic – Mean – Melancholy – Mellow – Merry – Mischievous – Miserable – Misgiving – Mopey – Mortified – Mystical

Naughty – Nervous – Neutral – Numb

Obnoxious – Obsessed – Odd – Open – Optimistic – Outraged – Overjoyed – Overwhelmed

Pain – Panicked – Paralysed – Passionate – Patient – Peaceful – Perplexed – Petrified – Pity – Playful – Pleasant – Pleased – Powerful – Powerless – Pressured – Prissy – Protective – Proud – Puzzled

Quarrelsome – Quiet

Radiant – Rage – Rapture – Real – Receptive – Refreshed – Regret – Relaxed – Relieved – Reluctant – Remorse – Repulsion – Resistant – Respectful – Responsible – Restless – Reverent – Revulsion

Sad – Sated – Satisfied – Scared – Secure – Selfish – Sensitive – Sensual – Serene – Servile – Settled – Sexy – Shaky – Shut down – Silent – Shocked – Silly – Sceptical – Sleepy – Small – Sneaky – Solemn – Sorrowful – Sorry – Spirited – Spiritual – Spiteful – Spontaneous – Spunky – Stable – Startled – Still – Stingy – Strange – Strong – Stuck – Stupid – Stunned – Stupefied – Suffering – Surprised – Sympathetic

Talkative – Teary – Tempted – Tenacious – Tender – Tenuous – Tense – Tentative – Terrible – Terrified – Thirsty – Thrilled – Torn – Touched – Tranquil – Troubled – Trusting – Turned off – Turned on

Uncertain – Uninterested – Union – Upset – Uptight – Useful

Vexed – Vibrant – Vital – Vile – Vindictive – Vulnerable

Warm – Wary – Weak – Weary – Whimsical – Whizzy – Wishy-Washy – Whole – Wobbly – Worried

Yearning

Zany – Zestful

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