The Sound of Some Feelings

Unfortunately, lots of us are tongue-tied and don't know what to say or how to explain what we feel. We are tongue-tied because we are disconnected from feelings. 

Disconnection from feelings can happen because we simply don't know any different. If you have felt the same way for many years, it is "normal" to you. It isn't an emotion, it seems to be us. We say things that reflect feelings which are totally unrecognized by our conscious minds. 

Without realizing it, we say things that reveal feelings. On one hand we deny, on the other hand, the truth slips out in metaphor or favorite sayings or common phrases. How about, "You make me sick?"  

Our daily words can be a map to this unconscious world of feelings. Our words can also create a new map, write a new story, that allows us to move into a more authentic, spontaneous, loving existence.

Our bodies react to our emotions and to the words we use, as well as the words that come back to answer ours. It isn't necessary for us to be conscious of feelings for our nervous systems to launch into out-of-control cycles of tension, anxiety, anger, or depression simply because we have heard or read words!

If we are trying to break out of the downward spiral of tension, contraction, and demoralization from mental and physical pain, it is necessary, however, for us to be aware. We need to wake up and actually listen to ourselves.  We need to hear what comes out of our mouths.  We need to listen to the conversations in our minds, too.

We can learn to use words as a powerful force for personal change. Exercises in guided imagery, visualization, and neurolingustic programming tap into the brain's capacity for language and ability to manipulate symbols and other abstract concepts. Cognitive behavioral therapy is also valuable for making long term changes.

Even though meditation seeks to draw us away from our mental word mill by clearing the mind of  endless chatter, many forms use a word, or mantra, to focus. The need to clear the mind of words in order to achieve peace illustrates the power of language. 

The words you use, and the words used by others, form patterns that reveal a great deal about underlying emotions, expectations, and assumptions. Your language, in fact, can change your frame of mind or it can reinforce an unhealthy emotional state. Your language can keep you happy or it can make every moment a misery.  

We will look at some language and thought habits that may reveal fixed-emotional states we simply don't or can't recognize in ourselves. Maybe you donít have clue about how you feel. Try listening to yourself. With compassion, of course.  

Keep in mind that most of us have bad days or weeks (not, I hope months, although I have been there) and say many of these things occasionally.  

Conditions like anxiety and depression may also have underlying physical problems associated with them. If you decide that you are depressed, angry, anxious, alienated, or have some other issues that interfere with life, please seek appropriate professional assistance.

Grief is a particularly difficult emotional state to handle for many people. Sometimes you might feel overwhelmed and frightened with normal grief as it wanders in and out of many of these emotional states. For the most part, it won't be necessary to look for professional help with grief, but I urge you to get loving support as you mourn.

Sounds Like-Feels Like List

The purpose of this list of common kinds of statements is to alert you to emotional states you are not conscious of, in yourself or others. After all, if you are not aware, than you are merely a bystander to your own existence.


Note: if you have chronic pain, diabetes or have had a stroke it is likely that the neurobiology of your condition is playing a role in perpetuating your depression. Talk to your health care professional!

Depression might sound like: 

No one will ever understand how bad I feel.

You havenít been there, you couldnít ever understand.

Thereís nothing I can do about how I feel.

I feel much better when I drink.

Thereís no way to make this better.

Nothing feels good any more.

I am always sick.

I canít give up smoking,

I am never hungry.

I am always hungry.

Why try, it never matters.

Why try, nothing ever changes.

Life is mostly crappy.

I canít get out of bed.

I want to sleep all the time.

I look like a mess most of the time. 

It really doesnít matter how I look.

No matter what I do Iím screwed.

Nothing tastes good, so I just eat whatever.

I feel helpless.

Everything is hopeless.

I overslept again and missed my doctorís appointment.

I donít want help!

I need something to get me going all the time.

I donít care.

I am always disorganized.

Whatís the point?

I never get what I want.


Often rooted in depression, anxiety reactions, or avoidance of feelings. Social isolation is actually a powerful predictor of life expectancy. More important than almost any other factor in recovery from many chronic and acute illnesses is the richness and complexity of a person's support network. It is pretty simple - if you have lots of different kinds of people in your life - you will probably live longer and happier than someone exactly like you who is isolated. 

Isolation/Alienation might sound like:

No one understands what I am going through, so I donít have (any) many friends.

My only friends are all fellow survivors (sufferers); they understand.    

No one wants to talk about whatís important to me.

I donít know anybody here.

I donít want to go out.

Whatís the point of going out?

I canít trust any one.

I donít need any one else, I am a survivor.

Iíve made it this far by myself.

My bad childhood made me distrustful.

Who would want to spend time with me anyway?

I hurt too much to go out.

Everyone around here is stupid.

I need to be around cultured, intelligent people.

I can only talk with people from my background.

I hate noisy groups.

People are lazy and rude, I am better off by myself.

There are too many children in my neighborhood, so I stay in.

I don't like being outside.

I never know what to say.

I am uncomfortable with small talk.

No one else shares my interests.


A familiar landscape for perfectionists, who may not even raise their voices, but keep themselves (and others) in a constant state of arousal as they seek to make everything ďright.Ē

Highly competitive people (especially poor losers) are often angry.  Frightened people may use anger as a mask. Passive, go-along people may internalize anger and have high blood pressure and related health problems. 

Anger might look like or sound like:

Outbursts over insignificant events.

I hate so-and-so. (This list is longer than "I like.")

I donít like such-and-such. (This usually includes whatever is going on at the time.)

Endlessly finding fault with other people: their lifestyle, actions, clothes, jobs, your very existence.

Endlessly finding fault with your circumstances: your car, your carpet, your spouse, your kids, your job, your past, your present, your future, yourself.

Constant nitpicking.

Hey, I have a right to be angry, my life sucks!

Driving too fast lots of the time.

Hitting  walls, hitting things, hitting people (not acceptable!)

Swearing and cursing.

I want to die.

I donít want to live.

Losing your temper over every little thing.

Getting headaches and feeling out-of-sorts constantly.

Tense neck, shoulders, muscles all the time.

Carrying on unending conversation about ďbastardsĒ or ďstupid people.Ē

No one knows how do anything right anymore.

I'm always having to do this or that or another inconvenient thing because the world is screwed up.

I was just born unlucky.


Denial is a powerful tool. Sometimes the ability to deny pain is the only way to make it in the short term, but long term, denial of feelings and emotions will pull you further and further down. Often, one feeling is substituted for another less desirable one (from the feeler's point of view).

Avoidance might sound like:

I feel fine.

Really, I am fine.

I donít feel anything, so I canít be feeling anything bad.

Oh, I'll do it. (This avoids confrontation or unpleasant conversation.)

I am angry all the time, so I canít feel (something worse.)

You canít do anything right. (Said often.)

Itís all over, why dwell on the past?

Hey, nothing much happened to me, so I must be OK.

Other folks have had it much worse, so I shouldn't feel bad.         

I donít have any real reason to feel bad, so I must be OK.

I feel guilty; I am worthless. (This avoids even worse feelings.)

Being a work-a-holic; eat-a-holic; drugs-drink-a-holic; hunt-a-holic; bitch-a-holic; sex-a-holic; upset-a-holic.

Obsessing (an endless list: over personal safety or cleanliness or your kidsí safety or bad people or politics or religion.)

I feel this way because I am getting older, fatter, slower, poorer, richer.

I could have, should have; if only I had (reliving events in the past all the time)        

I must, should, ought (limiting events in the future)

Itís all my fault. (This avoids even worse feelings!)


May sound like AVOIDANCE OF FEELINGS or DEPRESSION, ISOLATION/ALIENATION, or ANGER/HOSTILITY. It is also possible that you have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and you should seek professional help if most of the following occur in your life with some regularity.

Anxiety might feel like:

Feeling tight and breathless a lot.

Feeling anxious.

Feeling tense.

Feeling nervous about nothing and everything.

Having strong startle responses.

Aware of and very troubled by people walking too close.

Panic attacks (with all the symptoms, including transient numbness of extremities.)

Taking evasive action frequently, usually without even thinking about it.

Consistently avoiding conversations with people who might not approve or agree with you.

Sitting with your back to wall even when it obviously inappropriate to do so.

Fretting about everything, no matter how insignificant.

Taking forever to make even simple decisions.

Obsessing over possible adverse outcomes to even normal activities.

Dreading encounters with people you don't like or understand.

Limiting where you go and what you do because you perceive danger (whether or not founded in reality.)

Designing your life around an approval motif: making decisions and choices based on whether it is "OK" with "them."

Copyright 2003
Constance Lee Menefee
Cincinnati, Ohio