Step 2: Feeling vs. Thought

In non-violent communication, special attention is paid to the distinction between thought and feeling.

According to Duden, a thought is what has been thought or the thought of something; an opinion, a view or an idea or a term or an idea. The idea, as Wikipedia puts it, is "a product of the thought process in the form of a judgment, a term, or a combination of both..." What we think has a lot to do with our personal character and with the values of the culture from which we come. It is also very influenced by our individual experience and the current basic mood.

One feeling, however, according to the Duden definition, is "the process of having a certain perception about the state of one's body." For example: you feel a feeling of coldness, of burning heat on the skin, of heaviness in arms and legs, or of a joyfully throbbing heart." We describe the perceived physical reactions in words.

But how can we see if what we think is really a feeling, not a thought? Questions are good tools on the way to clarity as to whether we are really in the "feeling field" or "thought field".

Example: "I feel loved!"
The statement sounds like a common description for the feeling of "love".
When I add a description of my perception in my body, it makes it easier for my counterpart to feel it, so that there can be room for a cordial connection, both of which are enriching. How does it feel to be loved? (for bite: warm, relaxed, pleasant…)

Often, instead of feeling, we express how we think or judge how another person behaves towards us.
"I feel neglected by you!"
When we ask , "How does 'neglect' feel to me?" we will realize that we cannot feel 'neglect'. Neglect is a thought, that is, a literal expression of feelings. To get to the real feeling of this statement, it is helpful to ask yourself, "How does a person feel that way?" Sad, lonely or frustrated are possible feelings.

Another example:
"I feel like you're going to decide everything on your own."
Although we use the words "feel" or "feel," we often express our thoughts or interpretations rather than a feeling. The real feeling might be, "I'm frustrated because I want to be heard." An expression of emotion is often visible, for example tears of joy or sorrow. A red face could express shame or anger.
To better understand whether it is a feeling or thought (also called pseudo-feeling), it can be helpful to take on the role of a toddler who is not yet speaking. After all, a child does not yet have words that describe feelings. It feels joy, sorrow, hunger… but certainly not: "I feel deceived, criticized, neglected…" because in order to do so, the child would first have to learn a way of thinking shaped by evaluations.

A first-aid kit for everyday life:
After the beginning of the sentence "I feel…" often follow thoughts.
Sentences with feelings usually begin with "I am…"

Why is the distinction between thought and feeling so important?

Many people find it difficult to perceive their feelings. Often this is because, as children, we did not have permission to show our feelings. We heard phrases like: "An Indian knows no pain", "Boys don't cry" etc. By adulthood at the latest, we have become accustomed to letting our feelings run "free." Instead, we hide them or suppress them altogether. They are so infinitely important, because they are the signpost to our needs. Our feelings show us whether our needs are met or not. In the CSF, feelings are simply seen as a signal:

"I'm thirsty."
The feeling indicates that the liquid store wants to be replenished and should be drunk a little.
"I'm just frustrated."
Here the feeling points out that an important need is just not fulfilled.

Now we need to find out what this is and what we can do to get what we need. The distinction between real feeling and thought therefore has an important meaning in the CSF.

Individual exercise on feelings

This exercise takes 2 – 5 minutes. Imagine a situation in your everyday life over the past week where you thought about another person. What do you feel when you think about the other person like that?

Partner exercise on feelings

Arrange a conversation with your partner. Take 30 minutes to do so. 10 minutes one briefly reports about his day. At the same time, the speaker feels into himself and perceives his feelings. These are then verbalized. The partner just listens. By bringing the feelings into language, the listener experiences how conscious the speaker is with him. Afterwards, the listener can describe his perception for 5 minutes. For the speaker, this gives rise to the possibility of reflection. Swap the positions after the time has elapsed.