"FEELING VS. OPINIONS"
The problem is not with the word “feel” but rather with including the word “like” immediately following. That word should always be followed by an equal/parallel comparison to what comes before the verb. For example, “That guy’s running style is like my brother’s walking style: weird.”
But here’s what I have heard way too often: “I feel like John is not doing a good job,” or “I feel like John hates me,” or similar wordings. But what they mean to say is, “I believe that John is not doing a good job,” or perhaps more accurately: “It is my opinion that John is not doing a good job.”
Although the speaker may have a particular emotional response to John’s work, the speaker is only expressing an opinion or maybe even a conclusion based on observation and evaluation. He may have factual data for his view. But the person is only expressing thoughts or opinions, not emotions.
Here is what should have been said, “I feel sad (hurt, disappointed, angry, etc.) when I see John not performing at the level he used to.” So, why do we tend to change a statement of opinion into a statement of emotional response? In my opinion, an interesting phenomenon has occurred since the onset of the new millennium that has become a major complicating factor in our language usage.
During the late 1980s and ’90s, America saw a resurgence of interest in psychology and sociology through what we refer to today as the self-help movement. Tons of books filled the shelves of bookstores on such topics as “How to take care of yourself,” “How to be a better you,” etc. One of the major emphases of these books focused on personal recognition of the importance of owning one’s own “feelings” or emotions.
Here’s the argument behind these assertions: If you express your emotions or “feelings,” then no one can argue with you. Other people do not know what you are feeling inside. They can only see the results. So, if you say, “I am sad,” no one can argue with you. The only possible thing they can say is, “No, you don’t.” And, of course, that would be absurd. Logical discussion cannot exist because of the element of emotion; logic and rationality are dismissed as irrelevant when we are speaking of one’s own emotions.
The logic behind this argument seemed flawless except for one overlooked and obvious problem: The human brain. Allow me to explain. The human brain has a unique ability to twist ideas to its benefit. The brain can literally tell itself a lie, then turn around and believe every word of the lie. This statement may sound absurd. But, if you, my reader, were truly honest with yourself, you would be compelled to agree with me. Remember that when I say “the brain,” I’m talking about your thought processes as a human person: you.
Think about this. How often have you believed something to be true and later found out it wasn’t true? You would admit your mistake and then change your thinking about it. Right?
However, consider the following: Let’s say you deeply believed that you were a worthless person. Then someone came along and told you that you had worth, that you were simply a human being who makes mistakes which never make you a bad person. It only means you are human. Your first response would be to think the other person only talks about themselves, not you.
Please believe me when I say that the above event happens many hundreds of times every day. The reason we as humans have trouble accepting other people’s “opinions” is that we have chosen (for whatever reason—and there could be millions of reasons—you have chosen to believe that you are worthless. What you have said to yourself is, “I feel worthless.” So, since you framed it in the form of an emotion, no one can argue with you. You “feel” that you are worthless.
The problem with this type of thinking is that your mind has convinced you to believe a lie. The statement “I feel worthless” is an incorrect statement because the brain has substituted the “opinion of worthless” for emotion, not because it is not true but rather because you worded it incorrectly. In reality, the thought, “I feel worthless,” is an expression of an opinion, not an emotion. The proper wording should be I BELIEVE I am worthless. But, since we as humans can change our minds about opinions, we have control over what we believe.
Perhaps you think that I am the crazy one. Well, I’m not going to argue that point. Then again, I would consider that as your “opinion” even though it is, in my opinion, incorrect—but it is still an opinion. That means you can change your mind about it.
The brain has tricked your mind into thinking “feeling worthless” is an emotion; therefore, no one can really argue with you since you own your own “feelings.” Thus, the problem becomes the following: I must be worthless since I “feel” worthless. When in reality, your brain has told you a lie using your knowledge against you. You believe “feeling worthless” is an expression of an emotion and is unarguable. But, the assumption that worthless is an emotion is where the lie stands.
The truth is that “worthless” is not an emotion but is an opinion only. It is an opinion with no facts to back it up. Therefore, it must be a worthless opinion, or it is an incorrect opinion. Either way, the opinion of being worthless is up for debate. And the debate against “being worthless” is far stronger than any debate in favor since you are a human being capable of changing your opinions.
But, what happens is that once your brain recognizes that your thoughts of worthlessness are baseless opinions, your brain opens up to the possibility that you are not worthless but truly worth others’ love and respect. The brain can handle logic. But the brain has difficulty handling a statement of opinion that may be false on the surface and not worth the time and effort to consider as an arguable frame of reference.
So, if you identify an opinion, or even a logical assumption, to be an emotion, the brain moves that assumption into the sector of unarguable understandings since it is simply an emotion and not an opinion. The statement becomes a permanent part of your belief system. And that is part of the brain that drives everything you do, think, and say.
But, if you identify something as an opinion, your brain will allow it to be questioned and maybe even changed—if you desire it so. The brain automatically recognizes opinions as arguable or at least not necessarily true.
The human brain is an amazing organ that is almost endless in its potential for adaptation and change. The part that fascinates me is the brain’s ability to be trained in one way and later can overcome anything it deems as no longer necessary. I have witnessed changes and alterations in people that some would say was miraculous. And it is events like that which reinforce my belief in an almighty God.
What am I talking about here? I am not reflecting on human traits that are controlled by our DNA or the elements like our lymphatic and respiratory systems. I write of those areas that are malleable such as our emotional responses, our opinions, and our rational thought processes. No one can change those elements about you except you.
However, If you want to change your opinion of someone, that person can’t stop you. They can offer you reasons and evidence that you should not. But no one can force you to change your opinions. You may say you’ve changed your mind to convince that person to think you have. But your opinion may not change unless you decide to change it.
But there is a small rock in the shoe of the brain, and this is your self-will. No one can stop you from changing your mind. And no one can make you change your mind, either. Your mind is under your control, no one else’s. Your response may be this: “I cannot change the way I am.” Of course, the problem with that is that you know you can if you want to. That statement should be stated as “I don’t want to change the way I am.”
Now, here I must stop and remind you that much of what I say is, of course, my opinion. But it is my opinion based on years of studying the topic, research into the science and opinions of experts, and my observations as a teacher of more than thirty years. If I learned anything from my years in the classroom is that I cannot teach anyone anything. I can only offer motivation and opportunity for the people in the classroom to learn—if they want to.
Even here in this article, all I can do is offer you a few facts and many opinions. It is up to you to accept or reject or (maybe?) consider what is here. Hopefully, I have convinced you to be open to new ideas, new ways of thinking, and an opportunity to consider the possibilities I have presented.
I was raised in a very conservative, Republican, Christian home. My father and mother have been educated at a “Christian” college. As a teenager in the 1960s, I never did drugs, drank very little alcohol, and rarely used tobacco and never even “weed.” I was educated in four state universities and two Baptist seminaries. And yet, during my doctoral studies at LSU, I was introduced to the segment of literary criticism known as “Feminist Critical Thought.” I was not enthusiastic about learning this perspective. But my professors insisted it was necessary.
To this day, she and I have very different religious, political, and critical perspectives. Yet, I hold a deep appreciation for her for introducing me to a different way of looking at literature. Oh, and the thesis of my dissertation was highly dependent upon her “viewpoint,” which I resisted learning—at first. My point is simple. We must open our minds and hearts to new ways and new possibilities available to us as humans. Our lives might be radically changed or, at least, influenced by them. But the final decisions remain with you.
In opening ourselves to new ways of thinking and different perspectives and viewpoints, we never lose the control to either accept or reject. Thus, you retain the ability to change whenever you want to. And we are never hampered by a brain that might play tricks on us. We’re still the one who is in control.
Thank you for the opportunity to share a few thoughts you may wish to ponder, reject, or accept. It is your prerogative. Few things bother me more than the way most people butcher and destroy our American English language. I recognize that almost immediately, I will have offended every British reader. They speak “The Queen’s English.” So I apologize on the front end to those of the Land of England, where the English language was born.
However, there is one euphemism that even the British may often misuse, but not as much as we Americans do. However, I feel certain that even the speakers of The Queens English may agree with me on this one.
What bothers me is that people in the USA continuously use the phrase “I feel like …” followed by some statement that is more of an opinion or personal thought rather than anything to do with emotions.
In my study of the English language, the word “feel” has always meant an expression of one’s emotions (i.e. “feelings”). Here are some examples: “I feel fine” or “I feel hurt.” The word “feel” needs a direct modifier that relates to one’s emotions, not opinions or ideas.
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Herb Sennett writes about life and how to enjoy it more.