Staying With Feelings — Meg-John Barker & Focusing — Eugene T. Gendlin

“Stay with the feeling, with interested curiosity, not trying to change it, or to force it to communicate: just being with it gently and curiously. Try to understand it from it’s point of view. Notice any words, images, or metaphors that come to mind. Acknowledge everything that comes up, e.g., further feelings or lack of feelings.”

—Meg-John Barker, “Staying With Feelings.” Rewriting-the-Rules.com.

During conversations, ask yourself:

  1. How does it feel?
  2. Where is it in my body?
  3. What’s the best word to describe it?

Then, respond.

Asking these questions helps is to understand our emotional landscape, which feelings we tend to prefer and gives us an opportunity to think about the emotional content of what we are saying before speaking. It also points to the notion that, if we use Freud’s ideas of the conscious and unconscious mind, maybe the body is unconscious mind, the seat of feeling.

Recommend reading Meg-John Barker’s zine. If you want more detail, try The International Focusing Institute‘s Learning Focusing, Six Steps or read the original book, Focusing by Eugene T. Gendlin.

I particularly like this quote from the Six Steps:

“One danger with a set of instructions is that people might use them to close off other ways. Anything human involves more than one method…

..Adopt a “split-level” approach to all instructions: On the one hand follow the instructions exactly, so that you can discover the experiences to which they point. On the other hand be sensitive to yourself and your own body. Assume that only sound expansive experiences are worth having. The moment doing it feels wrong in your body, stop following the instruction, and back up slightly. Stay there with your attention until you can sense exactly what is going wrong.

h/t DRMcIver’s Notebook.

Why People Ghost — and How to Get Over It

“If a friendship feels like too much work, maybe it is. The good ones shouldn’t feel like a chore on your to-do list, or that one side is doing all the communicating). Sometimes the best course is to let someone go, even if you were once close. Growing apart can be a friendship’s natural evolution; ditto for lovers, an even touchier discourse. But it’s the way you let go that matters…

…’Being vulnerable is the number one thing that creates intimacy between people and if you worry about being hurt all the time, you’re not able to be vulnerable and it affects the quality of connection.'”

—Adam Popescu, “Why People Ghost — and How to Get Over It.” The New York Times. January 22, 2018.

Resolution of the Mirage

“As explained by Lisa Feldman Barrett, a professor of psychology at Northeastern University, emotions take form as we interpret events and our physiological states. The richer the repertoire of emotional concepts we have to draw on, the more precisely we can name our feelings. This articulation shapes our experience of the world: The more precisely we can label a challenge, the more easily we can respond. Feeling ‘bad’ differs from articulating ‘righteous indignation,’ Feldman Barrett points out; the latter is more likely to propel one into action. ‘Emotional granularity’ creates more options for understanding and reacting to challenges. This ability to finely articulate emotions will likely also help us understand and relate to others.”

—Margaret E. Morris. “The New Tech of Relationships.” Nautilus. December 2018.

Interesting correlation to some of the teachings of Zen. As thoughts and emotions arise, labelling them creates distance, shifting us from the one experiencing the emotion or having a thought to an observer classifying them.

But, there seems to be a difference in goals. In creating a more sophisticated and nuanced language for emotional and intellectual experience, it gives us more control over the stories we tell about them and how we construct our identity. But, Zen is less about control and more about questioning the validity of any story.

For example, feeling “righteous indignation” is much more specific than feeling sad, but invariably, you have to identify as a good person who takes exception to a wrong observed in the world. Are there good people and bad people? Does what we think and feel, experiences we have no control over, indicate who we are? And are our ideas about what is right or wrong in the world a refection of Reality or a reflection of our thoughts and of our perception?

When you start looking closely, the difference between sad and “righteous indignation” is simply the level of detail in the mirage. Having higher resolution fictions makes for better stories, but do they make for better lives?

Emotional Regimes

“In September 2017, a screenshot of a simple conversation went viral on the Russian-speaking segment of the internet. It showed the same phrase addressed to two conversational agents: the English-speaking Google Assistant, and the Russian-speaking Alisa, developed by the popular Russian search engine Yandex. The phrase was straightforward: ‘I feel sad.’ The responses to it, however, couldn’t be more different. ‘I wish I had arms so I could give you a hug,’ said Google. ‘No one said life was about having fun,’ replied Alisa…

…’There is no such thing as a neutral accent or a neutral language. What we call neutral is, in fact, dominant’…

…In this way, neither Siri or Alexa, nor Google Assistant or Russian Alisa, are detached higher minds, untainted by human pettiness. Instead, they’re somewhat grotesque but still recognisable embodiments of certain emotional regimes – rules that regulate the ways in which we conceive of and express our feelings.”

—Polina Aronson, “The Quantified Heart.” Aeon. July 12, 2018.

Worry List

“Make a “to worry about” list. In a notebook or somewhere privately on your personal computer, make an ongoing list of things that you need to worry about. Jot down anything and everything that comes up in your day that’s bothering you. Make a special note if it’s something that keeps cropping up in your mind. Designate a time to sit down and review the list. When you do, you’ll realize most of it was nonsense. However, there will be a few points on there that require your attention. Instead of ruminating, make an action plan to address or resolve what’s bothering you. In the end, you’ll gain confidence both by addressing what’s weighing on you, and realizing how unimportant and irrelevant most of your worries are.”

—Brianna Wiest. “If You Want To Master Your Life, Learn To Organize Your Feelings.” Forbes. May 14, 2018.