Feelings are caused by needs and only stimulated by what someone does or simply by ‘the situation’. In this way we take responsibility for ourselves and liberate ourselves from dependency on others and on certain things to happen before we can act. I am my own starting point and I choose freely.
Feelings are indicators of needs. Feeling Happy means that one or more important needs are met. Sad, that they are not. Angry, that usually a need for space, respect or autonomy / self-determination is not met. Afraid, that safety is not met. Often, when anger and fear are expressed and named they turn into sadness, sadness, because the mentioned needs aren’t met. Happy, Sad, Angry, Afraid – these are the clean, basic feelings. They may come in combinations, e.g. Frustration (Sadness + Anger), and sometimes metaphors such as ‘butterflies’ or ‘night’ are suited to catch the complexity of a feeling. Beware of ‘false feelings’ that imply wrongness of other people (see more further down).
Only you know what word best describes your feeling. It could be that a basic feeling is fine, or that an exact word for a combination is the right one. Alternatively, it could be a word that is not on the list here. If you are uncertain about the word and are searching for it, an idea could be to read through the list and notice your body’s reaction. You will know when the right word is there.
Combinations of feelings
– when needs are not being met:
Close to Sad – Depressed, Despair, Disappointed, Discouraged, Disheartened, Forlorn, Gloomy, Heavy hearted, Hopeless, Melancholy, Unhappy, Wretched, Envious, Jealous, Longing, Nostalgic, Pining, Wistful, Ambivalent, Baffled, Bewildered, Dazed, Hesitant, Lost, Mystified, Perplexed, Puzzled, Torn, Fragile, Helpless, Leery, Reserved, Sensitive, Shaky, Burned out, Beat, Depleted, Exhausted, Lethargic, Listless, Sleepy, Tired, Weary, Worn out, Disconnected, Alienated, Aloof, Apathetic, Bored, Cold, Detached, Distant, Distracted, Indifferent, Numb, Removed, Uninterested, Withdrawn, In pain, Agonized, Anguished, Bereaved, Devastated, Grief, Heartbroken, Lonely, Regretful, Remorseful
Close to Angry – Enraged, Furious, Incensed, Indignant, Outraged, Resentful, Upset, Alarmed, Disconcerted, Restless, Troubled, Uncomfortable, Uneasy, Unnerved, Unsettled, Aggravated, Dismayed, Displeased, Exasperated, Frustrated, Impatient, Irritated, Anxious, Bitter, Cranky, Distressed, Distraught, Edgy, Frazzled, Irritable, Jittery, Nervous, Overwhelmed, Restless, Stressed out, Appalled, Disgusted, Contempt, Dislike, Hate, Horrified, Aversion, Disbelief, Shocked, Startled
Close to Afraid – Apprehensive, Dread, Foreboding, Frightened, Mistrustful, Panicked, Petrified, Scared, Suspicious, Terrified, Wary, Worried, Insecure, Surprised, Disbelief, Shocked, Startled, Ashamed, Chagrined, Flustered, Guilty, Mortified, Self-conscious
– when needs are being met:
Close to Happy – Joyful, Amused, Delighted, Glad, Jubilant, Pleased, Tickled, Hopeful, Expectant, Encouraged, Optimistic, Grateful, Appreciative, Moved, Thankful, Touched, Excited, Amazed, Animated, Astonished, Dazzled, Eager, Energetic, Enthusiastic, Giddy, Invigorated, Lively, Passionate, Surprised, Inspired, Awed, Radiant, Rapturous, Thrilled, Wondrous, Confident, Empowered, Open, Proud, Safe, Secure, Engaged, Absorbed, Alert, Ardent, Curious, Engrossed, Enchanted, Entranced, Affectionate, Compassionate, Friendly, Loving, Openhearted, Sympathetic, Tender, Warm, Exhilarated, Blissful, Ecstatic, Elated, Enthralled, Exuberant, Intrigued, Interested, Fascinated, Spellbound, Stimulated, Refreshed, Enlivened, Rejuvenated, Renewed, Rested, Restored, Revived, Peaceful, Calm, Clearheaded, Comfortable, Centered, Content, Grounded, Fulfilled, Mellow, Quiet, Relaxed, Relieved, Satisfied, Serene, Tranquil, Trusting, Open
False feelings that imply wrongness of others
In everyday language we often refer to thoughts as feelings, e.g. Misunderstood, Pressured etc. These words have judgements and blame mixed in. They imply that other people are causing the feelings in us and they therefore maintain dependency. By reformulating these expressions into seeing a basic feeling in it that relates to a need in us, we take responsibility for our feelings and liberate ourselves. E.g. ‘I feel misunderstood by you’ can be reformulated into: ‘When you say… I feel sad because my need to be seen for my intention is not met’. Especially when this last formulation is followed by a constructive suggestion that the other person can easily do now, it leaves no guilt and implies no wrongness or punishment. It could be: ‘Will you listen to me once again and then tell me back what you hear me say?’.
False feeling words:
Abandoned, Abused, Attacked, Belittled, Betrayed, Bullied, Cheated, Coerced, Cornered, Criticized, Deserving, Diminished, Disorganized, Distrusted, Dumb, Entitled, Ignored, Inadequate, Incompetent, Ineffective, Inefficient, Insulted, Interrupted, Intimidated, Invalidated, Let down, Manipulated, Misunderstood, Neglected, Overworked, Patronized, Pressured, Provoked, Put down, Rejected, Ripped off, Stupid, Taken for granted, Threatened, Tricked, Unaccomplished, Unappreciated, Unheard, Unintelligent, Undeserving, Unseen, Unsupported, Untalented, Untrustworthy, Unwanted, Unworthy, Used, Victimized, Violated, Worthy, Wronged
(‘List of Feelings’ is written by Peter Ulrik Jensen. The list is built on Jim and Jori Manske (2005), and Bob Tschannen Moran (2009): www.celebrateempathy.com)