“I don’t know how I FEEL.”

One of my favorite quotes from Stranger Things, on Netflix, was Hopper’s letter. He wrote in the letter:

Feelings. Jesus. The truth is, for so long, I’d forgotten what those even were. I’d been stuck in one place; in a cave, you might say. A deep, dark cave…”

After some thought and my sessions with my clients with whom after some time the “I don’t know how I feel” would come up, I realized that the quote resonates with most of us. The truth is that our brain is engineered in such a way that everyone knows how they feel. What my clients wanted to say was that they do not know how to recognize what they feel, which came as no surprise considering that very few of us learned how to be aware of our feelings.

Why is it important for someone to recognize his feelings you may ask. Every functionality in the human structure is designed to work toward our survival. So, we need to ask if and how are feelings useful for our survival? One way to answer this is to locate where feelings are processed in the brain.

The parts of the brain which are mostly responsible for our emotions are found in the limbic system. By definition, emotions are internal subjective experiences. The word emotion stems from the Latin word emovere meaning moving, suggesting that emotions help us to kindle energy and motion in response to our internal and external stimuli. According to the appraisal theory of emotion, we have four primary emotions, namely sadness, happiness, fear, and disgust. Sadness acts as a punishment to stop/decrease a behavior, happiness acts as a reward to continue/increase a behavior, fear is an immediate response to danger and disgust is a response to a stationary threat. Hence the functionality of emotions boils down to acting as a protection mechanism by giving us feedback about a situation we face enabling us to take appropriate actions, thus prolonging our survival.

If you’ve read so far, you would realize that I haven’t actually explained what feelings are. Feelings are the language we use to communicate our emotional state. Therefore, the information fleshed out from the limbic system is processed by the frontal lobe, which is mostly responsible for our cognitive skills. Feelings are secondary emotions, driven by social pressures. Why is this process useful for us? Because sometimes the emotions created are too intense and can leave you too vulnerable. In other words, we use feelings to protect ourselves.

Now, how do you actually recognize your feelings, in order to unreel your emotions and be able to control your thoughts?


Observe the signs on your body and which body parts are impacted (i.e., your heart rate, breath rate, muscle tension, etc)


Without much effort, categorize your feeling into being positive/ negative and their intensity (for your convenience put it on a scale from 1-10)


Understand your primary emotion


Notice the event that happened, what you thought at the time of the event and understand how the event was associated with the specific emotion and feeling.

By no means, this post does not substitute individual therapy with a professional. This post is to help you understand how everything’s connected. Recognizing your feelings will help improve the quality of your relationships and understand yourself. Better to be proactive than active. Therefore, understanding your feelings and their root can consequently help you be aware of any areas of improvement you want for yourself.