Angela Dryden

Certified Life Coach

Is that a Sensation or an Emotion that I am feeling?

two guinea pigs eating carrot

Many of my clients like to say, “well I just feel this way, and I don’t know why.”

Let me share an observation on Emotions vs Sensations that I find helpful and might prove helpful to you. I believe when we step back and question our feelings, we can learn a lot and truly grow from a genuine place of curiosity and non-judgement.

During a coaching session, when I stay open, remain non-judging, have love, ask great questions, and provide a space where my client feels safe a beautiful process takes place. They start to piece together their thoughts and formulate answers to why they were feeling certain emotions and/or sensations.  

grayscale photography of man sitting on chair

Sensations are a feeling we get within our body and then we form an awareness of it. Good examples of sensation are hunger, fatigue and pain. These are the “big three” when it comes to sensation. You fall down and hurt yourself then you feel pain, it has been hours since you last ate so you feel hunger, it’s night time after a day of work now you are tired. Sensation is mostly tied to a physical experience that the body is having.

Then there is emotion.

Emotions are feelings created from a thought we are having. Some thoughts are intentional while other thoughts can be unintentional, or more habitual.  Examples of forming an emotion are as follows:

woman wearing white and gray striped sleeveless dress smelling the air standing in the pink flower field at daytime

 It is a beautiful sunny day and you think, “Boy, it’s a beautiful day,” and that makes you happy.

A family member passes away, and you think, “I miss them so much,” so you feel sad.

It’s your wedding day, and you are thinking, “I am marrying my best friend,” so you feel love.

These are three basic examples of emotions— Happiness, Sadness and Love.

Both Emotion and Sensation create the all so familiar “feelings.” Feelings are a big driving factor for why we do or do not do something. For instance, take the phrase “Eating your emotions;” it infers that when you become emotional and want to eat, you aren’t eating because you are hungry, but because you are feeling emotions like boredom, nervousness, happiness, or sadness. Emotional hunger is very different than the stomach-aching sensation of hunger from lack of food.

If we get curious about our thinking process we can start to see that our thinking is driving habits, both unintentional and intentional. Here is a scenario to help visualize this:

You just got dumped over the phone! So, you go to the freezer (or drive to the store!) and get your favorite ice cream, because that is going to make you feel better. Well, it might for a few minutes, at any rate. But, what caused you to actually reach for the ice-cream for comfort?

person holding bucket of ice cream

You were told you were being dumped and you probably thought, “I can’t believe they dumped me!” You probably got sad or mad, or both. You didn’t want to feel these emotions, so you act from that place of sadness because being sad with ice-cream in your belly just sounds better than being sad without it and still alone. Instead of giving yourself permission to feel sad, you try to cover it up with food.

Exploring our feelings is a huge step in creating awareness. Break up the feeling and explore if it is an emotion or a sensation. You can even go deeper and see if it is an intentional or unintentional thought. It’s all about breaking the process down and it’s about acting from a place of awareness.

Stopping and realizing that whatever feeling or emotion I’m experiencing will not hurt me if I just allow myself to feel it and not do something to avoid, react, or resist it has helped me greatly.   

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