The exercise of feeling  

Observe your feelings, restrain strong responses and strengthen feeble ones.

This exercise is not done with an object or at a fixed time, but throughout the day. When something happens to you, look at your feelings, either at that moment or later.

If you start with this exercise, at first you might not experience many different feelings, but in the course of four weeks there appear to be more and more, both positive and negative, with fierce and feeble reactions. It may help to make a list or a map of your feelings and their intensity at the end of the day.

Feelings are like the weather. They are just there. We experience them, but unlike the weather we can adjust our reaction by our thoughts. An example: I say something to someone. He leaves the room and the door closes with a bang. I get scared and feel fear. Is this banging of the door a response to what I said? Did I hurt him? But is this thought justified? Perhaps the door was shut by a gust of wind. When the person comes back and smiles or says something like: the door fell out of my hand, then I am reassured and understand that my response was not correct and slowly I will be able to change my attitude to the slamming of a door. A next time I will be less scary and perhaps I am more neutral to such an event.

Another example: when I am pushed in my back while walking in the street, I feel anger, annoyance or fear. When I see that I was pushed by a blind person, I understand that he could not help it. Perhaps that thought leads to a modified feeling about the event. And I can take it a step further by cultivating the thought: "Others may be blind to how they affect others. It is their ignorance or failure to see, that leads others to act towards me in ways that may evoke my anger." Then, gradually, this thought permeates us and our feelings and reactions become modified. Maybe they are not as intense, or they don't last so long anymore.

You cannot take a particular moment, but you need to restrain your strong responses at the moment that you experience them, and likewise cherish the subtle ones. When you look back at the end of the day, you will find that sometimes you could do that, and that you missed an opportunity at other times. The next day you go on with that awareness.

It's not always easy to name feelings. There are feelings that are close to each other and yet different, such as happy and cheerful, anxious and afraid, angry and upset. Negative feelings are often easier to tackle than positive ones. You need to distinguish feelings from quasi-feelings, which usually start with "I feel", e.g. taken, used, loved, attacked. Real feelings usually start with "I am", e.g. angry, happy, sad, surprised. It can help to make a list of feelings. This list is from the Centre for Nonviolent Communication.



"You are not your feelings, you have them." You become more receptive to feelings and can experience them more evenly. Balance and equanimity arise. Awareness arises about your feelings. You are able to identify your feelings, they belong to you, are part of you. By observing them, you create a certain distance to your feelings. They can no longer sweep you away. You control yourself and your feelings better. You are able to keep your composure.

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© Heirs Tom van Gelder - AntroVista Archief Netwerk