Sunday, February 9, 2014

Feelings: What are they for?

“To speak, 
to ask to have audience today in the world,
requires that we speak 
to the world,
for the world is in the audience;
    it too is listening to what we say.”  

   James Hillman  [1]

~ ~ ~ 

Sensing beings have 'feelers'. Human feelers don't stand out on top of our head like antenna with little balls at the top. They are invisible. When our feelings want to reach outward, we speak, dance, run, laugh, cry or hide. We express feelings through our eyes, ears, skin, and proprioceptors. Without such inner sense organs, what we call 'feeling', simply wouldn't register. 

It's this miracle of connection that everyone longs to feel! Feelings are 'two-way' entities. They want to be 'taken in' just as much as they want to be broadcast forth. If all feeling could be taken out of your favorite TV show, or movie, would you still want to watch it?

~ ~ ~

When does a feeling stop being felt? Or become something different? Change into a thought? When do we shift from feeling something, into thinking about the feeling we just had? Or naming the feeling? Or analyzing the feeling? Or commenting upon the feeling? Or acting upon the feeling?

 ~ ~ ~

What might happen if we paused to CHERISH the feeling a bit longer, before moving on from it? 

Childhood, for me, was a time of immersion. Sand. Wind. Running through sprinklers barefoot, in freshly mowed green grass: inhaling the pungent fragrance! It was a time to INDULGE feelings. 

Do you remember swinging? The feel of legs pumping to match the extent of the arc! The breeze caressing pink cheeks with each 'back and forth' sway. What about climbing a tree? Hugging the trunk and scampering over branches, while the world below was a completely different place than the one you'd known, while you were 'down there'!

Recently, some friends were talking about how feelings are just feelings--UNTIL we take the next step of adding Interpretation onto whatever feelings we have. Or onto whatever feelings somebody else might have. I had never thought about the fact that feelings DO indeed, rapidly turn into interpretation. How fascinating!

I have been deeply attuned to the subtleties of "interpretation" ever since that conversation. This focus is penetrating my experience like a magnifying glass. Because of this, I keep hearing and seeing whatever is happening around me--with myself and with others--through the lens of this perspective. First: How does this FEEL?? (nothing beyond that...). Then,

Where does 'feeling' end; where does 'interpretation' begin?

As I pay really, really close attention to the actual   s p a c e   that does exist, in-between feeling and interpretation, IT seems to spread out. It creates more room, and more breath, and more time, for CONTENT to register. Within such an atmosphere there is STILLNESS, which allows thought to emerge at a natural pace. 

Within whatever space we might be sharing together; when this gap is not only allowed to exist, but is allowed to be felt and to be extended a little longer--something can come ALIVE, between beings whose feelings are co-arising. The texture and the complexity of such terrain can be utterly flabbergasting. So much exists therein.

As I notice how very much actually exists between the lines of our words and our actions, it is begining to amaze me how very MUCH is swirling and churning, within each one of us. I find myself caught between awe, compassion, and a strange sort of horror. The interweave of energy beneath all of these feelings is so powerful and so strong, that it is a sheer miracle that we are able to communicate at all!!!!!

To intentionally ALLOW all that actually LIVES within this realm of FEELING, to be freely experienced, silently honored, and somehow considered wholeheartedly, BEFORE anyone responds at all, can be a 'yummy' thing to do, as well as an 'alienating' thing to do. For myself, I often notice how my feelings can lead to numbness or a sort of 'dial tone' on existence itself. It's how I have learned to 'make myself safe' from the perceived dangers of feelings. 

As kids in an 'out of touch' culture, we have all imbibed so many subtle (and not-so-subtle) messages about the 'danger' of having feelings and the potential 'risk' of expressing them. We have learned this from watching others and from interacting with them. And from seeing what happens when thing 'go bad', as well as what 'seems to work'. This all got programed into us preverbally, and it's not gonna go away. So now we just get to live with it. And of course, it is gonna pop up all the time, through our interactions with each other.

~ ~ ~

The impulse to shift from FEELING into INTERPRETATION happens almost imperceptibly, beneath the surface. We have all been so conditioned to make this leap, that it seems to be 'part of the feeling itself'. I've been looking closely at this phenomena in my own life lately, and with those whose lives intertwine with mine. I find myself leaping from feeling to interpretation automatically and believing it before I realize what is happening. I see others doing it as well. It happens almost instantly and we often fail to even notice the transition. Then we have believed the 'conclusion' that our interpretation of a feeling, has led us to make. And far too often, we are impelled into action before we have consciously registered any of this!

~ ~ ~

I am imagining a different world: One where, at that first hint of a furrowed brow, or a slack jaw, with a sharp intake of breath; or at that first sign of bracing, or of hope, that shows up on the countenance of our friend or loved ones face: what if we'd all been conditioned instead, to be alerted (not to protect ourselves), but instead to become ever more intently and sincerely concerned about what sort of FEELINGS might be surfacing behind the expressions and tone and body language, of the one with whom we are trying to connect?

I don't know about you, but in my experience, what I saw mirrored around me, ranged from auto-pilot, knee-jerk counter responses, to a sort of frozen paralysis that made everyone's 'fight or flight' system start to activate deep inside. People would tend to either go into a shell, go into a reactionary mode, or occasionally someone would remain calm, centered, and steady, as they became curious about what was taking place. 

Those who did simply remain present, and were not threatened in any manner, were able to provide a safe space, wherein others could relax. And as soon as we humans feel relaxed and safe; as soon as we feel that there is genuine interest and an inherent support toward WHAT IS, along with the readiness to allow even deeper, hidden stuff to safely emerge if IT wants to--then the entire atmosphere in a room can shift.

PERMISSION is vitally crucial to safety. And yet even permission can seem to invite uncomfortable (socially awkward or personally threatening) energies to step forth into the arena. And what does our society value most? Permission? Subservience? Direct expression? Not rocking the boat? Comfort above all? Genuine response? Keeping the peace? Sincere expression? Questions or revelations that expose resistance? Discovering what another truly thinks, feels, or believes? Conformity? Honest dialogue? Stones unturned? Avoiding conflict? Pecking orders? Competition? Living vicariously through others or through fantasy? Direct confrontation? Power? Strength in vulnerability? Invulnerability? The list is endless. But consideration of the values we have imbibed, and of the values we model as we interact ARE indeed worth of exploration.

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