Oh popular music, how you subtly shift our paradigms and alter our vernacular. Perhaps no other phrase has so remarkably sprung up in the phraseology of the younger generations than this very simple, very deliberate set of words.
“I can’t help feeling…” from Adele’s song, “Rolling in the Deep.” People will now preface the thoughts they attempt to defend with this phrase. This isn’t really a criticism, but once you hear people using it, it becomes hard to unhear it. I admit that even I had used it several times before coming to this realization.
This phrase lies somewhere in the outlands between cliches and subliminal catchiness in music. Note how people will often mimic the vocal mannerisms of Adele without realizing it when they say it. And that’s fine.
But if we’re going to begin using these borrowed thoughts, let’s make sure to use the words correctly and effectively.
The phrase carries so much weight that you don’t want really want to use it in casual circumstances. For instance, you don’t what to say, “I can’t help feeling I like chocolate ice cream more than vanilla.”
In instances where you’re communicating something without any real weight or consequences, you want to instead use something along the lines of “I can’t help but feel,” or even better, “I feel like.”
And really, how hard is it to say ” I like chocolate ice cream more than vanilla.”
No, save your “I can’t help feelings” for something more brooding. Make the opportunities to say it carry a sense of change or finality, without bringing with it a reaction of alarm or panic. This phrase should serve more as a tornado watch instead of a warning, to use a weather metaphor. For instance…
- “I can’t help feeling like our relationship has changed somewhat.”
- “I can’t help feeling that you are more talented that what you’re showing me.”
- “I can’t help feeling a deep-rooted fear when I talk about death.”
In these situations, using this phrase allows your feelings to permeate far deeper than simply stating your mood.
That’s why Adele used the words she did when she said
“I can’t help feeling we could have had it all…”