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.

Pity the Feeling

On top of Everest, in my mind,
a dark cloud, lightning blasts, 
a hurricane of controversies, unwind
below, nonsense sea, fish net casts.

The Sherpa is fishing about
prefers an understanding cartel.
Procrustean commodities—easier without 
a heart, a totalitarian Tinkerbell.

Feelings, the repugnant social Other,
are the dream within the dream.
Before we think, we must feel, brother,
a mind | heart alone, cannot reign supreme.

The Uselessness of Discussion to Find Truth

“‘Every philosopher runs away when he or she hears say ‘Let’s discuss this.’ Discussion, they claimed ‘are fine for roundabout talks, but philosophy throws its dice on another table. The best one can say about discussions is that they take things no farther, since the participants never talk about the same thing.’”

—Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari quoted in Richard Marshall, “HowTheLightGetsIn Festival, London 2018,” 3:AM Magazine. October 14, 2018.

Discussion is about building relationships and expressing our feelings. A discussion creates the bonds that bind a social set or tribe. It’s expressing an agreed upon shared truth and signals belonging, or not.

Even if we are expressing a personal truth, it is a small part of it. The personal truth worth hearing is often the secret we keep to ourselves. Speaking it to another would wound our self-conception and social standing. Typically, we only share the part that enhances those things.

We are rarely interested in hearing another’s truth, much less be changed by it because the truth shared by “discussion” is rarely worth hearing.

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.