You Can’t Heal What You Can’t Feel

We constantly “do” things- behaviors and thinking, that put distance between us and us, us and “others”, us and ‘god’ or the ‘universe’ as we MISunderstand s/he/them and/or it.  Food, sex, TV, gambling, relationships, rationalizing, avoiding, intellectualizing, alcohol, money, property, prestige, drugs, toys/devices (cell phones, computers, etc), fixing other people, “acting out” etc.  Overstating, when it comes to distance between us and us, we’re talking about putting distance between us and our emotional condition.  Simply using a lot of words (Lao Tzu has famously said, paraphrasing, that “many words lead one nowhere”) and even certain types of words can put distance between us and our feelings.

To simplify getting in touch with and processing our feelings about things, I encourage using what are sometimes referred to as the “Six Basic Feelings”.  These are mad, sad, glad, afraid, ashamed, and/or hurt.  Certainly, we can have one or more of them at any given time, even about the same issue.  I really resist other words if at all possible, for reasons too long to go into here.

If we’re engaged in the aforementioned behaviors, we are often mood-altering, and/or simply less or unable to be in touch with our emotional condition (and as a result, others and the rest of the “universe”).  If our feelings are indicators of possible realities, if these are altered or stunted, we may not have all the information about a given circumstance.  The idea we’re going for is to talk about them in a way that transforms them, and or helps us clarify different circumstances.

So, my suggestion to get in touch with and begin transforming these is this: know the things we do that are mood-altering, let go of those behaviors (a whole other note all together), and as our feelings come up, say the facts of the circumstance, and one or more of the six basic feelings.  For instance, “When my mom (or whoever) said/did/didn’t say/didn’t do __________, I felt __________.”  That’s all.  Trying to avoid inferences, interpretations, assessments, judgments, manipulation, controlling, etc., certainly avoiding behaviors we do that ignore or diminish our ability to be in touch with how we feel.

It’s been said too that we can’t heal what we can’t feel.  So the process I’m encouraging is identifying what we do to not feel, letting go of those so that we can feel all of our feelings (“all” meaning each one, in all circumstances, and with 100% of the intensity we’re experiencing them…), naming them simply, communicating them in a way that helps us stay in touch with/get help/transform them, then finding ways to live our lives gracefully through what comes up as we process them.  This is a process I encourage with therapists, relationships, as many places as is possible.

It’s really important to point out that I’m not advocating for this process to change anyone else’s behavior or perspective.  This is not an idea about right and wrong, certainly not about comparing the relevance of our feelings to others.  It’s simply a way of getting in touch with what we feel, so that we can change it.  We often say to one another that we should “let go” of things- but you can’t let go of feelings you don’t totally have.

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