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Thinking versus Feeling

Updated: Feb 20, 2023

In my line of work my clients and I process a lot of thoughts and feelings.

I am a Somatic Therapist. This means that I use touch as therapy.

TOUCH: to bring a bodily part into contact so as to perceive through the tactile sense : handle or feel gently usually with the intent to understand or appreciate

In my therapy practice we use touch in the way defined above. We learn how to give and receive touch for pleasure. This is called senate focus.

TOUCH: : to lay hands upon with intent to heal

The reason that touch is therapeutic is because so many of us are starved for simple and safe touch. Not only that, but our bodies hold on to so much trauma; being touched therapeutically allows our body to release this trauma in a safe place and manner.

Touch is one of our five senses. Touch and feeling are synonymous in some ways as observed in the following definitions.

FEELING: one of the basic physical senses of which the sensations of touch is characteristic

a sensation experienced through this sense

generalized bodily consciousness or sensation

When we touch an apple we feel the cool, smooth skin of the apple. We feel the weight.

Touch and feeling both extend beyond physical; into the realms of the mind. When we see a movie with an emotional scene we are “touched”. When someone tells us something profound we are “touched”. We are feeling emotions. Joy, sadness, bittersweet melancholy, gratitude.

TOUCH: : to move to sympathetic feeling

to leave a mark or impression on

mental or moral sensitiveness, responsiveness


appreciative or responsive awareness or recognition

an emotional state or reaction

HOWEVER…people often use “feeling” and “thinking” interchangeably; as if they mean the same thing. They do not.

The difference between “FEELING” and “THINKING” is often found in context.

FEELING: the undifferentiated background of one's awareness considered apart from any identifiable sensation, perception, or thought

often unreasoned opinion or belief

Thoughts are ideas. Feelings are sensations or emotions.


the action of using one's mind to produce thoughts

THOUGHT: an individual act or product of thinking something (such as an opinion or belief) in the mind

the action or process of thinking

the power to imagine


“Thinking” and “Feeling” are different words that mean different things.

  • Feelings are experienced before thoughts.

  • Thoughts are ways of dealing with feelings.

  • Feeling is subjective.

  • Thinking is objective.

  • Feeling emotional.

  • Thinking is rational.

Why is using “thinking” and “feeling” interchangeably problematic?

We often use the word “thinking” and “feeling” interchangeably; as if they are synonymous. They are not. This transposition use can lead to misrepresentations. We misrepresent our body's needs by not being clear. Our communications with others can get confused when we mix these two words up.

When we are supposed to talk about what we are feeling, but instead talk about what we are thinking- that could be an indication that we don’t know how we actually feel.

When we say “I think…” instead of “I feel…” we are letting our rational mind be the representative of our emotional mind.

When we say “ I feel…” instead of “I think” - we are letting our emotional mind be the representative of our rationality, or logical mind.

While thinking can help you figure things out, it can not help you work through emotions.

The touch therapy that I practice focuses on feelings. Logically we know that they exist, but for whatever reason we may not have actually felt them. We didn’t have the time, the space, the support; or we didn’t feel safe or strong enough to feel our feelings.

Our thoughts have the power to make us feel.

We may avoid places, people, or events because of the way they make us feel. Our thoughts can affect our lives in major ways.

But how does using the two words as if they were the same lead to communication problems?

  • “I feel like things are going to get worse.”

    • We can’t feel an insight about the future.

  • “I feel that the my co-worker isn’t doing his job.”

    • We don’t feel an opinion.

  • “I feel like your mom doesn’t like me.”

    • We can’t read Bob’s mind with our feelings.

  • “I feel that we should go to sushi tonight.”

    • We actually think we should go to sushi because we want to eat sushi!

Each of these four sentences mixes up what the speaker feels with what they think. None of them are actually expressions of an emotion or physical feeling, and each phrase is miscommunicating.

Differentiating “thinking” from “feeling” is communicating more accurately.

Distinguishing between “I think” and “I feel” builds clarity.

Having personal clarity about what we really think and what we really feel is important in order to be understood.

How we feel indicates to us when something is important, or worth paying attention to.

Not attaching emotions to our thoughts distances our thoughts from our egos; which is more mentally healthy and helps keep us intellectually humble. (as in “MY opinion the only RIGHT opinion”)

The second problem with interchanging “I feel” with “I think” is perhaps more manipulative.

“I feel like” can be interpreted as an invitation to share your feelings, too. Or it can be used as a passive way to gain validation for our actual thoughts. And who doesn’t want to feel validated, right? People have a hard time disagreeing with someone else’s feelings. SO using the word “feeling” instead of “thinking” can be a subtle way of forcing someone to agree with our thought-dressed up as a feeling.

Or we use “I feel” to soften our own statements to be “nice”. But doing that actually undermines the strength of our own thoughts.

Feeling is not a tool to replace thinking!


  • Thinking can help you figure things out, but it can not help you work through emotions.

  • When we use “I think..” instead of “I feel…” it could mean we don’t know how we feel.

  • Distinguishing between “I think” and “I feel” builds clarity.

  • Interchanging “I feel” with “I think” is manipulative.

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