Ways We Intellectualize Our Feelings Instead Of Feeling Them

January 23, 2024

When we overthink our emotions, we under-feel them. This can have major consequences on both our relationships and our personal growth. Too often when faced with a negative or traumatic emotion, we intellectualize how we are feeling instead of allowing ourselves to accept, allow and feel it. 

And by suppressing the bad stuff, we fail to fully learn how to feel the good stuff – the spectrum of emotions are what make up the beautiful, complete human experience. 

This episode will teach you three simple, but necessary steps to begin practicing feeling instead of thinking when it comes to emotions. These are required if we want to have healthier and more meaningful connections with others and ourselves.

In this episode, we’re talking about:

  • Understanding the intellectualization of feelings
  • Why we tend to think more about emotions than simply feel them
  • How we interpret the same words differently based on our emotional state
  • The importance of communicating how you’re feeling to your partner 
  • Telling ourselves negative stories that skew our actual feelings
  • Why we avoid accepting and facing our emotions
  • Consequences of analyzing our feelings vs feeling them
  • Communicating your emotions instead of venting your frustrations
  • 3 practical steps to connect with your emotions
  • Embracing the full range of human experience

Is learning to feel emotions more deeply a challenge you’re working on? If this is something you’d love to talk more about, please reach out to me directly (contacts below) and I’d love to dive in with you personally. 


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Email: info@emilygoughcoaching.com 


Episode 371 | Lessons On Learning How To Receive Love In A Healthy Relationship


We use our brains instead of our hearts. We go head over heart. And when we overthink, we often underfeel. We can get stuck in this justification of the emotion. It’s like, it’s like the needle is stuck. And sometimes we’re going to have to feel the crunchy ones in order to truly experience the depths of the light and bright ones. I’m Emily Gough, a human connection, coach, writer, and speaker with an insatiable sense of curiosity and adventure, always asking more questions and using the power of stories to teach, learn, and grow. We boldly explore relationships, connection, and the nuances and complexities of the human experience with compassion, honesty, and a sense of humor. With both solo episodes and highly curated guests sharing incredible stories, experiences, and expertise, the room to grow podcast takes the entire idea of growth to the next level. All while covering the uncomfortable topics. Many of us would like to avoid. There’s always more room to grow. Let’s do this. Hey there. Welcome back to the room to grow podcast. Emily here. And today we’re going to be talking about the ways that we intellectualize our feelings instead of feeling them. This is something I have been so guilty of over the years, and I sometimes still catch myself in this, but it comes up in. In really like subtle kind of sneaky ways sometimes and particularly in in today’s society, we are also given so much information about like psychology and you know, like all the the Instagram pop psychology right that’s that’s floating around. So We have more information than ever, which makes it even easier to actually to intellectualize our feelings, rather than actually just dropping into our bodies and asking ourselves, What am I experiencing right now? Not what should I be feeling? Or what is this thing that I’m feeling that I need to, you know, attach a justification to or whatever. It’s, it’s actually Allowing ourselves to experience the feeling, being able to name it, so that is still an important part, I’ll get to why in a moment, and just allowing, allowing us to, allowing our bodies to have the experience. And there’s a really beautiful quote from Terry Reel, and he says emotion follows cognition. He’s a very well known relationship therapist. And, I just, I think that that’s such a powerful statement, and I’m going to explain why. So when I say emotion follows cognition, that quote, emotion follows cognition. This impacts our relationships massively, and it does for every single one of us, and this leads into the intellectualizing our feelings as well. So, an example of this, where emotion follows cognition, is that, let’s say your partner, um, you know, bright early Monday morning, you guys had a great weekend, you’re feeling good, you’re super connected, um, your partner sends a text to you in the morning after you leave for work, um, just wishing you a good day, like, hey, have a great day, and And because you feel connected and you just had a great weekend and you just kissed them goodbye at breakfast and things are, things are good. You interpret that cognitively as the context of being very bright and cheery and happy and loving and, and all those beautiful things. Okay. So the, you know, have a great day. It’s all good. You get home Monday night and you and your partner get into a fight. And Tuesday morning, your partner sends the same type of text. It can be exactly the same, like, Hey, have a great day today. But because you have stories and judgments sitting in your brain a little bit, that you are allowing to shade your interpretation of, of everything that your partner is doing. You’re looking at your partner and everything that they do through that lens. What you interpreted the day prior as a cheery, beautiful good morning text, the exact same words the next day after a fight where you feel more disconnected from them, you can be like, Oh, they’re, they’re putting me down or they’re being sarcastic. Like, Oh, have a great day. Even though it’s exactly the same, but it’s about the stories and the beliefs that we are hanging on to and holding on to and how we are intellectualizing these things that determine the course of our emotions, because then we’re going to have an emotional reaction to the way that we are interpreting that text message. So this is really, this is, is also a huge conversation around communication too. So let’s say, um, that you are having a conversation with, with your partner and you let them know that something that they did, uh, you tell them it, it made me feel like blah, blah, blah. So. That’s usually when we then insert a list of, uh, judgments or assumptions or anything like that, because we’re still not actually naming the literal feeling. We’re never actually getting to the actual feeling. We are just telling them, Hey, when you did this, it made me feel like you were putting me down. Let’s use that as an example. Putting you down is not. It’s not an actual feeling. That’s, that’s a judgment that is being expressed. And it doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily wrong. Like, I’m not taking that away from you. If that’s, if that’s the experience that you’re having in that moment, sure, that can be valid, but it’s still not the actual feeling. feeling and it’s actually a judgment. Like you are operating under a particular set of beliefs and telling yourself a story that is leading you to believe that your partner is putting you down. It’s also a very, uh, negative core view of your partner as well, that, that in that moment doesn’t mean permanently, but in that moment we can feel as though they are. Operating from negative intent towards us, even just in that moment. We don’t necessarily think that they’re bad, but in that moment, we are interpreting it to mean, Oh, you, you did this thing. And that was intended to put me down instead. Can we name the literal feeling? So when you said this, I felt. I felt sad, I felt angry, I felt fear. Those are actual feelings and, and like share with the other person what’s coming up for you. But the language matters here and, and what is the vulnerable thing that you don’t want to admit to? What is the most honest thing you could say? What is your truth that scares the shit out of you to admit? There is an example of this that I can give you is that months and months ago, my partner had an ex, uh, reach out from like decades ago, like they had dated literally decades ago. And. When he told me that she reached out, immediately, I, I shared with him that I was, uh, I basically rationalized my way through it, totally intellectualized. I, rather than telling him that I was having some insecurity come up, I told him that, well, you know, when an ex reaches out after years, it’s usually because something isn’t going well in their life or relationship. Rather than, Hey, this is bringing up some insecurity and jealousy for me. I feel really uncomfortable about this. I’m nervous to even share this with you because it feels super vulnerable. Can we talk about this? Those are two very different things, and yeah, it’s, it’s not to say that that’s incorrect, that sure, sometimes that can be the case if an ex reaches out after years, it can be because something isn’t going well. But that’s also an assumption and a massive judgment on my part, without ever addressing the actual feeling. I was intellectualizing my way through it, which isn’t. It’s not really useful in the relationship, to be honest. It doesn’t mean that those things, there isn’t space to unpack those things. Absolutely. There, there is, and there can be, and there needs to be. But don’t use that instead of naming the feeling, which is what I was trying to do in that example. And we totally figured it out. It wasn’t a big deal in the end. And we actually had some really beautiful breakthroughs in that conversation too, for both of us. This is where we can shift to, to try and, we use our brains instead of our hearts. We go head over heart. And when we overthink, we often underfeel. It’s really easy to get lost in the thinking and the justification and the intellectualization of why we feel a particular way. And some of the other ways that this can show up, like, instead of feeling, we can end up doing some things like, uh, phone a friend immediately. We can, uh, research the emotions to try and understand every possible angle. We can analyze our feelings rather than dropping into our hearts and the emotion itself. Another way that this can show up is when we state traumatic events very matter of factly and so we can list out like a very traumatic event and you know this happened and blah blah blah blah blah and the person that you’re sharing it with can be like in shock because it’s it’s really It’s traumatic to even hear about in some ways, right? And yes, this can’t but we almost feel detached from it. And yes, this can also happen when we have truly processed and done our work and moved on from it. But we often skip that step. And and you can Absolutely. Get to the point of stating traumatic events very matter of factly and in a very genuine way where you have felt all of the things that you need to feel. You have worked through all the things you have processed and that version of you actually does feel like a different lifetime in some ways. There is a level of very authentic detachment there in a healthy way. But if we try to skip past the feeling. And, and we can understand the, like, we can understand the how and the why someone did what they did, but it doesn’t take away the emotions we experienced by undergoing that particular set of circumstances and the imprint it left on us. Maybe we’re also calm and, and collected, not because that’s our authentic expression, but because we’re used to environments or relationships where our full expression was not welcomed and it wasn’t safe to fully express. There were past relationships I was in where it wasn’t particularly safe for me to express anger. So I shut it down. And it’s only in the last few years I’ve started to open that up more to allow myself to have the experience of anger. For some people, maybe it’s sadness or grief. Maybe it’s something else where, where you didn’t feel that you could. Uh, fully express yourself in certain relationships, whether that was in childhood, whether that was as an adult. And that, that creates a disconnection from our emotions, because if we don’t feel like safe to express it outwardly, then we’re, we’re more likely to not allow ourselves to fully feel it. Internally. So there’s three things I want you to think about here. Like, number one, when you, when you maybe notice some of these things happening, number one, why am I trying to intellectualize in this moment? Is this useful right now? Am I avoiding anything? Number two, where do you feel the emotion in your body? And how to figure this out is sometimes, especially, especially initially when you’re just like looking to build a better connection to mind, body, spirit, and really get more connected with your emotions as they’re as they’re in your body. You have to get quiet, and this can mean like a quiet space, meditation, um, even just taking a few moments to just sit calmly with some deep breathing, feel into your body, do a body scan, notice the different areas of your body, no matter how mundane they might seem, put your hand on your heart, allow, allow your energy to be pulled And wherever you might feel a tightness or like a crunchiness, or maybe there’s an expansive feeling depending on the emotion. The first time a therapist I was seeing years ago ever asked me that, she said, where do you feel anxiety? And she stunned me. I was like, I have literally never thought of that before. And I had to really sit with it and think about it. And I realized that it’s my stomach. So my stomach clenches when I am feeling very anxious. And it’s something my body just does of its own accord. And I have to be really conscious of it. So now I am conscious. I’m so conscious to it that As soon as I feel my stomach tighten, I’m like, Oh, okay, feel that. What am I feeling? What do I need to address in this moment? What’s coming up for me? Like when we can reconnect with our bodies and feel into what our bodies are trying to express. It is so helpful in our relationships because we’re so much better in tune that then we also are able to better communicate what’s coming up for us that allows more space for repair and, and creating more connection on such a powerful level. And then the third thing that I want you to think about here. So, you’re figuring out, you know, why are you trying to intellectualize? You’re identifying the feeling. Where are you feeling the feeling? And the third piece here is to accept the experience of the emotion and allow it to exist. Just allow it. And the example I always use is, again, something like anxiety or this could apply to anything. If we try to ignore or judge or shame ourselves for experiencing a certain emotion. Um, we, we often don’t even want to admit to ourselves that it’s there. We just kind of like go on about our lives. We’re like, whatever, we’re just looking the other direction. And it’s something like anxiety or any other emotion can just be basically tugging on our shirt sleeves like a little kid, like, hello, hello, hello, hello. And finally, when we look at it. And we’re like, Hey, I see you. And the emotion is like, Oh, okay, just wanted you to know I was here. It makes a really big difference. There’s a relaxation that happens in that moment because of the acceptance. And this is a really, really powerful way to deepen into. Not only your, your relationships with others, but very much with your relationship with yourself, the connection to yourself. And oftentimes we, we don’t accept the experience of an emotion because we’ve created a story of, of what we’re making it mean. Or maybe we haven’t fully accepted or acknowledged or processed the hurt, but maybe we’re just tired of feeling the hurt and we don’t want to fucking feel it anymore. So we’re trying to ignore it, but it’s still there and it’s going to remain there until we address it. So if you feel yourself, you know, to, to use the example again of like picking up the phone to call a friend. You know, as soon as something significant happens, you’re like, Oh, I need to call my friend. Before you call the friend, I want you to insert a little extra step there. Feel first, drop into your body. What am I feeling? Are you looking to phone your friend to express your emotions and problem solve or just to vent? A lot of times we’re generally calling to just rant and have someone validate us. And there’s, you know, sometimes we do need to vent and rant and that’s okay too. But can you validate yourself? Can you validate the way that you are feeling, the experience that you’re having? And if not, why? What’s underneath that that you don’t want to face? Is there, is there elements of that where you are avoiding your own responsibility in the manner? Are you withholding? Like, for example, if you’re angry with your partner but you tell them everything is totally fine to try and smooth everything over and pretending to be something you’re not and then call your friend a bitch about it, that’s dishonest and it’s not fair to you or your partner. And your relationship will suffer as a direct result. So before you call the friend, feel it. Feel what you need to feel and feel before, before thinking, feeling before thinking. And this, this is, this is very much practice. This doesn’t just happen, but there’s, again, there’s more information out there than ever about emotions, right? It’s so easy to go head over heart and it’s easy to repeat the intellectual phrases. I am seeing this happen more than ever. People will repeat intellectualized phrases about emotions without having true understanding of what they mean and how they’re impacting your life. It’s like catchphrases, basically, even, even individual words like gaslighting. That word is being used so often and so wildly out of context sometimes, it’s actually a little bit alarming. And yet we can use a term like that as an intellectualization, I cannot say that word today, or a justification for how we are feeling, as opposed to just feeling. Like we try to outthink it. We can get stuck in this justification of the emotion. It’s like, it’s like the needle is stuck and, and we’re trying to think our way through it to solve it rather than truly feeling it in our bodies, which allows us to potentially suppress what we want to feel, what we really want to feel, which is like the lighter and brighter emotions, right? Like, and, and sometimes we’re going to have to feel the crunchy ones in order to truly experience the depths of the light and bright ones. This is a necessary step. We can’t skip this. It’s required if we want to have the full range of the human experience. So getting out of your head and into your body, there is so much to do here. And the best advice that I can give you is to start being really intentional. And to allow yourself to, to go into your body, to put your hand on your heart, to do some deep breaths, to just notice, just notice, focus on, on different parts of your body and ask yourself, where do you feel certain emotions? Where does, where does that come up for you? When you are angry, when you are in distress, like when you’re overwhelmed, where are you feeling that? Really pay attention to this and catch yourself in moments where you are trying to outthink the emotion. And to my other point as well about emotion following cognition, where are you taking something wildly out of context because of the emotion that you might not actually be addressing? That’s another way. We’re like, we’re out thinking something we think, but that can sometimes actually make a situation far worse than just experiencing the damn emotion. Like, allow yourself to experience the emotion and it will probably dissipate a lot faster rather than this resistance that we can put up and, and it just prolongs the process. Allow yourself to feel, allow yourself to feel. Let me know how this goes. And I’d love to hear. Because it’s so different for everybody. I’d love to hear, you know, like where you feel certain emotions in your body and what comes up for you when you go into that and, and where do you catch yourself overthinking rather than allowing yourself to feel like the, the intellectualize, guys, I cannot say that word. I apparently chose a day to record a podcast about intellectualizing your feelings when I can’t pronounce the word intellectualize very easily. This has happened before in a couple of podcasts. I don’t know what this is. Anyway, let me know. I would love to hear it and I’ll talk to you soon. Thank you so much for listening. If you want more, one of the most common questions I get is where do I even start doing this work to create deeper connections and better relationships? I’ve got a free 15 page guide for you called, where do we begin? This is the very foundation that you need to start building healthy relationships with others. And with yourself, this is my gift to you. And multiple people have referred to it as life changing. You can find it over at room to grow podcast. com or check the show notes to go download it and have it sent straight to your inbox. Thanks so much. And stay tuned for more episodes weekly.


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