One of the most important contributions of Marshall Rosenberg’s work on Nonviolent Communication is the realization that our feelings are merely indicators, letting us know when our Life-Needs are being met, and when they are unmet.
Eugene Gendlin from all his work on Focusing and the Implicit intricacy brings a new characteristic to the world of the feeling experience. Gendlin found after years of research when working with Carl Rogers as his research companion that there was an implicit next step to get well, to grow, and to become into what is possible if there was space and a subtle, gentle company that was not interfering with the process of the person.
He also discovered that feelings are part of the felt sense and somehow are quite on the surface of what is behind, something that wants to keep on emerging and does not do well with analysis, judgment, advice, or labels. The moment that we intervene we are interfering with the implicit process of an open new becoming.
There are many definitions of feelings, they could be described as physical sensations in our bodies and are present all the time. What is clear is that when they come we need to go there as they are messengers pointing to our needs not being met. In a way, they are like the finger pointing at the moon, even though we are not clear yet on what is the moon and what is trying to let us know. Feelings represent our emotional experience and physical sensations associated with our needs that have been met or that remain unmet.
The key to identifying and expressing feelings is focusing on words that describe our inner experience rather than our interpretations of people’s actions.
For example: “I feel angry” describes an inner experience, while “I feel like you don ́t care” describes an interpretation of how the other person may be feeling. When we express our feelings, we continue the process of taking responsibility for our experience, which helps others hear what’s important to us with less likelihood of hearing criticism or blame of themselves. This increases the possibility that they will respond in a way that meets both our needs.
- Naming the feelings we feel has the effect of calming us down. When our body realises that its feelings are noticed it relaxes and can let the feelings be part of a bigger picture. Before that, the feeling often controls the whole picture. Most of the time we are merging with our feelings living a life of dead-end stories, dead-en feelings, or auto-pilot mode. To be able to name feelings, it might be good to practice them. Try to stop 2-3 times a day and ask yourself:
- What do I feel right now? Or the question I love the most when going in:
- What is alive in me right now? Allow yourself to search for the word and enjoy the feeling of finding it. For many years I found that having an anchor to remind me to check in with my feelings was very helpful to being more self-aware at any given moment of my feelings/emotions consciousness. Our bodies are pointing us to a felt sense all the time, with every situation and every encounter. When we are alone or with others, in events, dinner parties, and live meeting us at all times.
The felt sense is there at all times, always there, even when we are not feeling it or aware of it. You can let a bodily felt sense form about any issue that is relevant to you. Accessing the felt sense usually starts with noticing an unclear feeling inside. Because it is uncomfortable to feel unclear, people often stop right there and conclude that they can’t feel anything in the body. The bodily felt sense is not just a “gut feeling”, an emotion, or an intuition, these are well known to us all in daily situations, although those might be part of it too. The bodily felt sense is the body’s “take” on a situation, the body knowing all about that thing, about something important we need to know from another angle. When you put your attention on your body, the most obvious sensation might be a strong, easily identifiable emotion, like fear, anger, or joy. But we also know that the body’s intelligence goes far beyond emotions alone. If you first feel an emotion, make room for it and acknowledge it, so that more meaning can come.
An important aspect of the bodily felt sense is that it is hard to put it in words. The sign that I look for is the feeling of a gap, a kind of feeling that there is something I don’t know yet or even understand. I welcome this as it comes.
“What is true is already so. Owning up to it doesn’t make it worse. Not being open about it doesn’t make it go away. And because it’s true, it is what is there to be interacted with. Anything untrue isn’t there to be lived. People can stand what is true, for they are already enduring it.” ― Eugene T. Gendlin
Vulnerability is the core of shame, fear, and a struggle for worthiness, but it appears that it is also the birthplace of joy, creativity, belonging, and love.” Brene Brown