What Is This Feeling?

"What is this powerful new juice coursing through my core source? The juice aches. Is this the rumored ache of feeling? The feeling of caring unknown to lemons?"
Lemonjon, Adventure Time

So you have a character who's usually defined by a certain mood. Maybe they're always calm and inexpressive, or cheery and upbeat, or brimming with rage, or moping; whatever it is, this mood defines them to the audience and the cast. But every once in a while the planets align and something happens that brings this person a momentary change of heart. This can come as a shock to the audience, the rest of the cast, and sometimes even the character himself! They were so used to their normal state of mind and they're not sure what's going on when that smile starts to spread across their face or their eye starts to twitch in that odd way. They can only ask - "What is this feeling?"

Bound to happen at least once to any Emotionless Girl and in the Defrosting Ice Queen scenario.

For specific types of feelings that can evoke this, see What Is This Thing You Call Love?, and Is This What Anger Feels Like?.

Compare Not So Stoic.


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  • Light in Death Note is always very confident and powerful. However, when Near first calls him and says "call me N", Light is shocked that he is deathly afraid and has a fantasy where he is still handcuffed to L.
  • Checkmate from Ultimate Muscle was trained by Sunshine not to feel pain. He experiences an odd sensation after his opponent attacks his knee for an entire episode, at which point Sunshine is forced to reveal that he only thinks he can't feel pain.
  • Something of a regular plot point in Darker Than Black, as it's assumed by everybody (including Contractors themselves) that Contractors are inherently unemotional, selfish, and amoral. When those pesky emotions do finally show up, most aren't exactly sure what to do with them.
  • In Full Metal Panic!, Sousuke's whole Heroic BSOD during TSR. Pretty much everyone was shocked and surprised at how depressed he of all people became when he was split up from Kaname. Mao is shown to especially be exasperated with him when he uncharacteristically almost gets them killed because he's so out of it.
    • In Always Stand by Me, Sousuke is a bit unnerved to discover that his mecha's AI has apparently developed the capacity for survivor's guilt.
  • Warrior race Zentradi in Macross feel strange when confronted with culture.
  • Towards the end of Simoun, the following dialogue takes place:
    Aaeru: What have you done to me?! Why does my heart hurt so much?
    Neviril: This is love.
  • Happened to Haruhi Suzumiya, after she helped the schoolband ENOZ out. They were very grateful but Haruhi didn't really know to handle it and becomes sort of melancholic. Kyon then figures that it is because she's not used to being thanked by other people.
  • Mytho from Princess Tutu asks this question constantly throughout the series. It makes sense, because he shattered his heart (and thus lost his emotions) to seal away the evil Raven, and slowly regains emotions with each piece of his heart he is given by the title character.
  • Ren of Elemental Gelade has to be taught jealousy. It works!
  • In Oregairu, Hachiman Hikigaya once, so far, wished to befriend Yukino Yukinoshita. There is a good chance he hadn't wanted anyone specific to be his friend for years. However his feelings were promptly crushed - courtesy of Yukino.
  • Horribly Deconstructed in Fate/Zero. Kotomine Kirei has been trying to find something that can give him true happiness for years. Despite being a priest, he doesn't find it in doing good. Despite being The Ace, he feels no pride. Despite being a married man, he doesn't find it in... you knownote . He finally finds something that makes him feels, it being being absolutely evil.
    Gilgamesh: Rejoice!
  • In one Fist of the North Star OVA, Raoh feels a strange trembling in his body when he fights Kenshiro, who has recently discovered the secret of the Musou Tensei technique. Kenshiro tells him that this is what fear feels like, and that his body unconsciously knows that it should be afraid.
  • In Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple, Miu experiences jealousy for the first time when Renka comes to visit the dojo and begins acting openly flirtatious towards Kenichi. She even yells "WHAT IS THIS FEELING?!" after she angrily kicks (and breaks) the training post.

  • In Peter David's "Earth Angel" version of Supergirl, the demon Buzz feels a horrible pain when he tries to leave her. At first he thinks this is God's doing, but it turns out that, for the first time since he was a human, he's feeling guilt.

  • In Duality, a RWBY fic written from Penny's perspective, she describes her first experience with grief.
    These people had made her happy, and they were gone now. It seemed strange that these contrasting truths existed alongside each otheró that she was happy to be learning new things and going new places and sad to be leaving the old ones behind. That Erasmus had been important to her, though she didnít know it until now. That people could hate pain and need it to survive.

  • In The Producers, Leo Bloom "feels strange" while spending an afternoon in the park with Max Bialystock. Bialystock suggests that maybe he's feeling happy.
    • In the play version, Leo gets that same feeling or similar after his first encounter with sexy foreigner Ulla. In this case, Max calls it an 'erection'. Or in some modern performances, 'swine flu'.
  • In the full length movie version of The Grinch, The Grinch has this reaction when the Who's song fills him with joy. He also suffers from what looks like a heart attack caused by his heart rapidly growing.
  • Giselle's first experience with anger in Enchanted.
  • According to Word Of Actress, Hermione went through this regarding her feelings about Ron dating Lavender in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince:
    Emma Watson: Hermione doesn't realize what it is that she's feeling, but it's probably just insane jealousy.
  • In Kick-Ass 2, Mindy "Hit Girl" McCready, who had been trained to be a fighter and killer since childhood, gets aroused for the first time when she watches a boy band music video. She gets scared and asks what is happening to her.
  • In Erik the Viking, Thorfinn Skullsplitter asks this when the party meets Halfdan the Black and he experiences fear for the first time.

     Live Action TV  
  • From an episode of Scrubs:
    Jordan: I may have screwed up Blond stickís relationship and now I have this really weird feeling...
    Dr. Cox: Itís called "guilt", ya Vulcan.
  • Profit, when Jim Profit is confused by tears in his eyes after killing his father.
  • Gossip Girl's Chuck Bass when he first comes upon feelings of love. "I feel sick, like there's... something in my stomach. Fluttering." Poor fellow, the object of his affection promptly informs him that the butterflies have got to be murdered.
  • Seinfeld episode "The Serenity Now". Jerry's current girlfriend challenges him to openly express his feelings, in this case, anger. This backfires as he becomes overly angry about everything, leading to the girlfriend eventually dumping him. For the first time, Jerry actually reacts to this not-too-uncommon turn of events, to which Elaine responds "Jerry, you break up with a girl every week!" Jerry, mystified by his own emotions, touches his eyes and says "W-what is this salty discharge?" Elaine: "Oh my God, you're crying." "That's horrible. I care!"
  • Gob in Arrested Development is puzzled to feel something that he can't identify as either 'envy' or 'hungry', when coming to terms with the fact that Steve Holt is his son.
    Michael: Could it be love?
    Gob: I know what an erection feels like, Michael! No, it's the opposite. It's... it's like my heart is getting hard.
  • On Angel Illyria, an Eldritch Abomination stuck in human form, is not comfortable with a lot of emotions. While she's familiar with grief and rage, even if she does feel unsure how to express them properly, feeling betrayed is a new one. In her time anyone would betray anyone else if they showed weakness, and didn't take it personally.
  • In the Star Trek episode "Metamorphosis", the Companion doesn't understand what Zefram Cochrane means when he complains about being lonely. After she becomes human, she understands.
    Hedford/Companion: Loneliness... this is loneliness. Oh, what a bitter thing. Oh Zefram, it's so sad, how do you bear it, this loneliness?
  • This happens to several of the emotionless Observers in Fringe. September feels paternal love towards Observer child created from his biological material, and later sympathy and friendship towards the Fringe team, which, together, kick off much of the Myth Arc. August feels romantic love, leading to his death. And Captain Widmark is slowly consumed by an obsessive desire to catch the Fringe team.
  • Yo Gabba Gabba: "What, what, what is fun, fun, fun?" - Plex (the robot)


  • Draco does this in A Very Potter Musical, experiencing... certain feelings and sensations for the first time when he sees the cleaned-up Hermione. It becomes one of the show's Crowning Moments of Funny because Draco is played by a girl. Ron has a similar but much more subtle reaction during the scene.
  • Uttered by Galinda, the spoiled Alpha Bitch who occasionally borders on Cloud Cuckoo Lander in the musical Wicked, when she is denied entrance to the Sorcery Class she craves: "Something's wrong here. I'm not getting what I want." Later, she utters, in grief, "Is this what other people feel like?"

     Video Games  

  • In the video game Borderlands 2, Goliaths will occasionally say this verbatim if their health gets low enough.

     Visual Novels  

  • In an interesting meta-example, the VN Katawa Shoujo, when released, turned out to be the one thing on the internet that could make 4chan cry.
  • Arcueid in Tsukihime after Shiki fails to show up for their meeting. She's incredibly angry because to her it feels like she got stood up on a date. After she calms down, she realizes its not like her to get so upset and asks Shiki why he thinks she got so angry. She's not used to feeling emotion towards people and will be vaguely accepting of the idea that she's selfish or that she hates him.

     Web Comics  

  • As demonstrated by the page pic, Tycho's tainted, twisted, mutant soul severely limits the situations in which he can feel things like joy.
  • In MegaTokyo, Ed feels ph34r for the first time in this strip. Cue manic laughter.
  • The Parking Lot is Full plays with this one, with a woman who is suddenly struck with an emotion no one has ever felt before.

     Web Original  

  • Strong Sad, of Homestar Runner, claims that "Something weird is happening to the sides of my mouth!" when he smiles in the Halloween special.
  • In Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, Captain Hammer apparently feels pain for the first time after being hit with an explosion, and the experience drives him to psychiatry and sobbing like a little girl.
  • Zero Punctuation:
    Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw: But after I'd played for a couple of hours, a strange thing happened; I was actually having fun. I know, it was a weird and frightening realization.

     Western Animation  

  • How the Grinch Stole Christmas! "And what happened then? Well, in Whoville they say that the Grinch's small heart grew three sizes that day. And then - the true meaning of Christmas came through, and the Grinch found the strength of ten Grinches, plus two!"
  • The Simpsons:
    Grandpa: I tried to be a good babysitter, but I failed. I'm a feeb. A useless, old, worn out...
    Bart: Lisa, I have this strong unpleasant feeling I've never had before!
    Lisa: It's called "remorse", you vile burlesque of irrepressible youth.
    • Subverted in another episode when Bart inadvertently gets Skinner fired.
    Bart: I thought I'd be jumping for joy the day Skinner got fired, but all I have now is this weird, warm feeling on the back of my neck.
    Lisa: It's called guilt, you feel guilty that your little stunt cost a man his job!
    Bart: Yeah, maybe
    Camera zooms onto Bart's neck, showing a tick feeding on the back of his neck.
  • Batman had to be told once in The New Batman Adventures that a warm, fuzzy feeling was called happiness.
  • King Julien when he feels guilt for the first time, in The Penguins of Madagascar, "Assault And Batteries":
    But what is this feeling I am feeling? It is not a happiness. It is a feeling that I have not done all I should have done! I do not like it! How do I make it go away?
  • Plankton in The Fun Song.
  • Wally in an episode of the Dilbert TV show had an experience like this. He had been hypnotized to do work. When it wore off, he mused to the effect of "What is this? I feel unclean. More so than usual."
  • Luna in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. "Your princess enjoys this 'fun'. In what other ways may we experience it?"
  • Finn from Adventure Time goes through this when he experiences jealousy for the first time at the sight of Princess Bubblegum with Ricardio the Heart Guy.
    Finn: "Ugh. I feel, weird."
    Jake: "Sounds like you're dealing with some new emotions you don't understand: like jealousy."
    Finn: "Blagh!"
    • This trope is used in a heartwrenching way in "All Your Fault" when Lemonjon learns of "the feeling of caring unknown to lemons." He later explodes and reverts to lemon candy, effectively killing himself, so the Lemon People will have enough food to eat and won't attack the Candy People.
  • Louise from Bob's Burgers goes completely crazy (even more so than usual) when she develops a crush on the lead singer of the band Boyz 4 Now, Boo-Boo.
    Louise: "Oh my God, what's happening to me!? CUT ME OPEN, I'M INFECTED! PULL IT OUT!"
    Tina: "It's okay, Louise. You're just having a crush."
    • In an earlier episode, Louise asks if it's possible to feel sad for another person after discovering her father's lack of a decent childhood. She then proceeds to assume that she might be going crazy.
  • Happens to Mandy in The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy when she experiences a crush on a newcomer to town. Frustrated by the new feeling, she implores Grim to cut her heart out with his scythe but the two come up with something a lot more clever: Using an oddly more literal interpretation of the words "Break The Cutie."
  • Happens in Xiaolin Showdown When a humanlike robot steals one of the Shen Gong Wu. A heart. At first he is thrilled at all the new feelings he experiences until someone insults him and he feels hurt. He promptly declares that he doesn't like feeling human, takes the heart out of his chest and discards it listlessly.
  • In the Batman: The Brave and the Bold Christmas Episode "Invasion of the Secret Santas!", Red Tornado interprets a strange sensation as the "Christmas spirit" he's been trying to understand. It's actually an overload that causes him to explode (fortunately, he's a robot and is good as new once his parts are gathered and reassembled).
  • Varrick, throughout his appearances in The Legend of Korra, has always been a somewhat affiable, but still Corrupt Corporate Executive. However, in Book 4, his attempts to harness the power of the spirit vines creates a Fantastic Nuke, and he tries to shut down the project as it is too dangerous. Thing is, he doesn't know why;
    Varrick: Usually I look at a project like this and all I think is WOW! I can make a ton of money off this! But recently I've been having these...strange feelings. Inside. It's like I'm... concerned with others. And there's this nagging voice in my head. Constantly. Telling me what's right from wrong!
    Zhu Li: I believe that voice is your conscience, sir?
  • From the Doc McStuffins episode, "The Wicked King and the Mean Queen":
    The Wicked King: Drat! There's a strange feeling in my tummy. I feel as if I...care. *beat* I don't like it.
  • In The 7D episode "Hildy the Good", Hildy pretends to be a good witch in order to get in the queen's good graces and take over the kingdom. However, the act of doing good deeds causes a strange feeling to well up inside her. "Is this what being good feels like? Ew!"
    • In "Jollybells", both Grim and Hildy experience joy:
    Grim: Do you feel that, Hildy?
    Hildy: No, I don't want to!
    Grim: What is that?
    Hildy: I don't know, Grim.
    Grim: I think it's, I think it's...joy.
    Hildy: Yes, I do feel it. Eeeeeew!