is it an emotion or a feeling?

All emotions have a basis in body sensation. We even call emotions feelings because we identify emotional experience through our body sense. In order to bring emotions into conscious awareness, communicate them to ourselves or others, we label those feelings with words; angry, sad, distraught, joyful etc. These labels can also give us a way to explore our emotions.

As you go through your week pay attention to your emotional states and see how well you can identify which sensations are telling your conscious mind that you are feeling frustrated, happy or whatever. Where do you feel it? How do you identify it? Describe it as texture, image, color, sound, form, etc. Let your different senses have a chance to describe this sensation. There isn’t one right way, but do stay with a description of the experience/sensation rather than using emotional words. Ask “what in my body tells me I’m scared or worried or etc.?” Try to be very specific.

This is exercise will bring you in greater contact with your body experience and provide an opportunity to experience emotion with open curiosity rather than judgment or evaluation. By identifying the sensation of the present moment you will bring more conscious awareness to what is now, as it is. Not the past or what you hope for in the future, but all of you in the present.


Felt sense is the term used to describe the experience of knowing something with your body. People also describe it as a hunch or gut feeling or intuition. You can increase your felt sense through practice. Attending to the inner sensations of emotions and cultivating mindful sensory experiences are both practices that enhance felt sense.

  • Find things that are different textures and explore them with your hands, paying close attention to the sensation. Use your lips or inner arm or other body parts; how do different parts perceive differently than your hand does? Does this exploration change your sense of self now?
  •  Look around the room and notice different objects, you can see their differences and feel differences by touching them but do they smell different? We don’t usually attend to subtle differences in smells but if you pay attention you will notice the differences. After each experience ask; what do you notice now?
  • What other sensory explorations can you do? Try doing something familiar blindfolded. What are your preferred modes of sensory input? Notice if you perceive the world and your inner self more fully after consciously using your senses.
  • Sit or stand outdoors for 5 + minutes take in all you can on a sensory level. Indoors take a relaxing bath, give your self lots of time to feel the water, the temperature, soap or bath salts or oils, smell the fragrances, and notice sounds (you can choose music or silence). Any normal activity can be experienced with a focus on the senses.

When you catch yourself planning, worrying or analyzing, take a deep breath and remember you are just sensing. Lovingly tell yourself to come back to noticing how you experience this moment and congratulate yourself for learning how to refocus.

About karenkirsch

I am a Registered Somatic Movement Therapist and Laban Movement Analyst. I have a Masters degree in Somatic Psychology with training in Interpersonal Neurobiology, Body Mind Centering, Dance Therapy and other mind/body disciplines. My passion is to help people integrate sensate understanding into the practice of daily living and encourage gentle exploration grounded in sound anatomical and neurological principles.
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