Feeling, Thinking, Doing

This is what psychology is about, and as a result, this is what life is about for people, particularly as they engage the world of things, ideas, and people. We tend to be good at one of these, fair at another, but almost always less than good at the third. Let me explain the paradigm of feeling, thinking and doing.

The Feeling Process

You may be aware that Deb and I are in the process of writing a book tentatively entitled, I Need to Tell You How I Feel, and that we have written a number of blogs on the matter of “feeling.” It is most important to note, however, that “feeling” does not equate to emotion, but rather, emotion is a subset of feeling, or more accurately erupts out of feeling. We see feeling as central to the core of us human beings and a phenomenon that is so important that it cannot be defined, just like the basic elements of the universe, time, space, and distance, cannot be defined. We can understand and “feel” feelings, just like we can understand time, space, and distance, but we cannot define feelings. We just have to feel them, or perhaps “know” them like when one says something like, “I don’t know what it is but I just feel it.”

Having noted that feeling is not the same thing as emotion, I should also note that these two experiences are quite aligned. When I feel something my first experience is physical. This may be a “gut level” feeling, a sick to the stomach reeling, or a wonderful feeling (of love, perhaps) in the chest, or an excited feeling that may be all over the body. The second experience after having a physical experience of a feeling is an emotional one. At this stage, my feelings become emotional with one predominant emotion, possibly two connected emotions. The basic emotions we have are fear and anger for defense, and joy and sorrow regarding something I love. Both the physical experiences are unconscious. In other words, we do not have any conscious control or conscious activity during these two basic experiences of “feeling.” After the experiences of physical and emotional the next stage in experiencing feeling is a cognitive one. I think about what I feel. Finally, I take action in some form. I might say something, do something, or perhaps just sit on the couch thinking or feeling something.

Feeling-based people

While all people have this four-part experience of feelings, people tend to gravitate to one of these quadrants, most specifically one of the last three: feeling emotionally, feeling cognitively, or feeling actively. People who primarily feel emotionally are gifted with the ability to know how they feel emotionally and very often know how other people feel emotionally. They are drawn to their own emotions and to other people’s emotions. They tend to be great achievers in the realm of human connectedness.

Thinking-based people

This is the third operation of experiencing feelings. In this arena people think of possibilities, reasons, and meaning. They think of what they feel emotionally and they think of what they might do actively. Such people tend to be analytical and enjoy a conversation that is philosophical, religious, or theoretical. They get much feeling-based pleasure in such conversations. They tend to be great achievers in the realm of figuring things out.

Doing-based people

These are the people who, quite simply, do things. They take great joy in experiencing their deep feelings in some kind of activity. This activity is usually productive, but it could also be quite routine. The doers of the world are those who are always busy, and if not busy in the moment, they are certainly planning how to be busy in the near future. They tend to be people with great achievement in the realm of things

The combinations:

Recall that we tend to have one predominant feature, whether feeling, thinking, or doing, but that having bee said, we tend to have a secondary function as well:

  • Feeler-thinker people (or thinker-feeling people)

These folks love to have conversation. They talk easily and freely moving across the domains of emotion and cognition. Hence, they are the best conversationalists, and rarely do people find them boring because they can move from emotion to thought easily.

All people have some challenges in life. People who are feeler-thinker types tend to fail to do much in life. While this is not always the case, they would much rather just talk about something or theorize about something than do something. Hence, their lives are often devoid of accomplishment.

  • Feeler-doer people (or doer-feeling people)

These folks love to help people. They are the nurses of the world, whether formally in a hospital or informally taking care of elderly, infirmed, or children. They just love to take care of people, usually serving their very basic needs, like feeling, sleeping, and even toileting. Because they are so aware of other people’s emotions and also knowledgeable at how to do things, they tend to get worn out with all their caretaking. They often do things for people that really shouldn’t be done. This would be the mother who gives too much to her children, gets exhausted and has no time for play or conversation.

  • Thinker-doer people (doer-thinker people)

These are the people who see something that needs to be done and just do it. I think the “just do it” statement was made for them and by them. They tend to be much less aware of people’s needs, whether physical or emotional, and much more aware of what needs to be done to take care of stuff. The difficulties they face has to do with the absence of emotion, both their own and the emotion of other people. As a result of their neglecting their own feelings, they can become too easily angered, often because other people are not doing as much as they are doing.


The great psychoanalyst, Carl Jung, suggested that true maturity was developing what he called the “shadow” of one’s personality. This can be seen as the parts of us that are not particularly natural to our psychological functioning. I agree heartily. True maturity is developing an awareness, an ability, and ultimately some skill in operating “out of our comfort zone.” Few people actually mature in this way because it is hard work and most importantly, they don’t want to do it. They might want to be “mature,” but they don’t want to do the hard work of maturing. The “hard work of maturing” is using one’s strengths to approach one’s limitations or weaknesses. Most of us resist this kind of maturing because we would prefer to continue to use our strengths and natural abilities even though these may no longer be sufficient in life.

I see the three combinations of feeling, thinking, and doing noted above with the dilemmas that usually accompany them. Feeler-doer people tend to do too much often for other people, get exhausted and become unhappy in their later years. Thinker-doer people often end up with few if any people in their lives because they have been so busy doing and equally busy figuring things out, but not particularly attending to their own emotions, much less the emotions of other people. Feeler-thinker people tend to fail at finding any kind of practical, and ultimately meaningful, success in life because they are so good at talk, but much less good at doing anything. These three types of people may be very bright and may be very good people of character, but they have not matured beyond their basic natures.

We can do well with our primary and secondary operations in life, whether feeling, thinking, or doing, but we can’t fare well in later life because the undeveloped part of us will began to dominate our lives: no people (thinker-doers), no rest (feeler-doers), or meaningful work (feeler-thinkers).