Sensations vs feelings?

With a background in philosophy and psychology, I have an inclination for nuance and precision. I was a bit confused by hearing in the coaching videos these statements: “thoughts produce feelings”, “don’t avoid or escape your feelings, dare to be in the feeling to the end” and “change how you feel by changing how you think” When do you know if it is time to non-judgementally delve into the feeling, and when is it time to step away and use “the model”?

I just want to check if I have understood correctly how I make sense of it.

There is a difference between sensations (innate bodily reactions to surroundings or biochemistry) and feelings (the bodily vibration). For me, this is an acute distinction because of chronic illness that produces many sensations that can easily be mistaken for feelings as they both are vibrations in the body.

Sensations arise in the body, such as when I take a cold shower – I sense cold, or when I’m PMSing – I sense grouchy and thin-skinned, and when confronted in a dark alley with a man holding a gun – I sense fear. Those sensations keep me connected to my body and surroundings providing me protection and guidance. They are in themselves neutral tellings of our bodies and our relation to the world around us.

However, the brain takes those initial sensations at the blink of an eye and does an appraisal of those sensations producing thoughts and evaluations of the circumstances. These thoughts are not necessarily neutral, they can be helpful or unhelpful. These thoughts produce the feelings we act upon. This happens mostly unconsciously based on “innate models.” These thoughts can be negative, biased, and unhelpful. These thoughts load the circumstances with negative emotion, leading to unhelpful actions. This can start the spiraling thoughts downwards.

So for example, when I am PMSing the sensation of grouchy and thin-skinned is appraised by my brain and appraised via learnt thought patterns regarding the situation/myself, consolidating the sensation in a thought that I am worthless, which in turn produces the feeling of utter shittiness causing the action of binging on chocolate. Thoughts exist as learnt short cuts of appraisal in the brain. They decide how we feel in the circumstance and thus nudging our actions as we try to manage our feeling. It is the thoughts that create feelings. And if the feelings are negative, combined with the appraisal that negative feelings should be avoided, they also create suffering. By using “the model” we can go in and take charge of the appraisal of the sensations and insert new thoughts, thus changing how we feel towards the circumstances and also how we act.

In short, our sensations are vital guides in setting healthy boundaries and responding healthily to our circumstances. Such as it is important to grieve in the face of the death of a loved one. How we respond to that sensation is decided unintentionally or sometimes intentionally by our thoughts – it is first then the sensations, because of how we think about them become feelings – potentially negative, causing avoidance and suffering, Or helpful thoughts causing positive feelings leading to acceptance and healing.
If I have understood the concepts correctly, the distinction between sensations and feelings are that feelings have been churned through a set of more or less helpful thoughts causing a certain bodily vibration, slightly different from the initial sensation.

Being chronically ill, this is a vital distinction for me in order to tame my thinking and to know when to embrace and allow the feeling and when I need to reframe it. I need to listen to and lovingly accept my sensations – use “the model” to intentionally frame the circumstance so I can feel better and act in line with my values and identity. If I find that I unintentionally model my sensations with unhelpful thoughts it makes me feel crappy, but I now have a tool to break the spiral and listen to my bodily cues and sensations with respect and awareness without letting my unhelpful thoughts and feelings take charge.

I know this was a bit of an essay, but I need to check-in if I have understood… at least it makes sense to me 🙂