“I feel like you are never around”
“I feel that you don’t care about me”
You may have heard or even used these statements or one’s like them before. Perhaps you were feeling hurt, misunderstood, or lonely, and you desperately wanted to feel understood. You may have even heard it said before that if you want to feel understood or if you want to communicate effectively that you have to use ‘I-statements’ and say what you are feeling. The difficulty is that although the example statements appear to follow those rules, they will likely result in the person you are talking to becoming defensive and closed off.
The reason for this is because the example statements are actually ‘pseudo-feeling statements’. A pseudo-feeling statement is any statement which includes the word ‘feel’ and it is not immediately followed by a feeling word. If you read those example phrases again you will notice that the words ‘like’ or ‘that’ followed the word ‘feel’, and this caused the statement to then become a thought which masqueraded as a feeling statement.
The difference is not simply semantic. When our brains hear a thought, such as a pseudo-feeling statement, it is evaluated by the areas of the brain such as the frontal lobe which govern logical reasoning. This is why when someone hears a pseudo-feeling statement, they often respond defensively by citing evidence contrary to the claim; “I don’t know why you feel that way, I was around last week”. This is not the case when the brain hears a feeling word. When the brain hears a feeling word, the person is more likely to experience empathy and compassion because their amygdala and hippocampus which are involved in the experience of emotion are usually activated.
When you want to feel heard and understood, use genuine emotional language and avoid pseudo-feeling statements.