By David Joel Miller.
How many feeling can you identify?
For so many of us these things we call feelings are inconveniences we wish we could avoid. Feelings fall somewhere between gas that erupts suddenly and inconveniently when we least expect it and those predictable morning feelings that now is the time to visit the toilet.
What we fail to recognize is that each and every feeling has a meaning and a purpose. These biochemical reactions to things are built into our makeup and they have served a purpose throughout mankind existence. Some of these purposes we would rather not think about and others – well we wish we could spend our lives exploring that feeling that sex or chocolate gives us.
One of the things counselors spend a good deal of time working on with clients is the proper relationships we should have with feelings. An excess of negative feelings is the principle reason people go to their therapist. A shortage of positive feelings would be another good reason to do some feelings work.
Happiness is not simply an absence of negative feelings. Contentment does not arise from being in a place of feelings neutral. Failing to cultivate happiness and other positive feelings can quickly take us back to a place of anxiety, depression or pain and suffering.
Learning to spot feelings, identify them and help clients explore them is a significant part of counselors training. Don’t let your therapist fool you; most of us had just as many difficulties with feelings as the rest of you, we just devoted a lot of time and study to the subject.
At one point in graduate school, I began to despair of ever having the answers my professor was seeking to my understanding of feelings. I just was not sure about those feelings things, I had come from a family that was so good we didn’t even have feelings, or so I thought. As a result recognizing and identifying feelings was a task for me.
I was running groups in a substance abuse facility at the time so I took that list of feelings the professor was asking me about and typed up some lists of ten feelings each. Each group that week got a list and we talked about those feelings.
Most groups got so spirited that we never finished the list. What I did find was the group and I both knew a whole lot more about the feelings than we realized. The negative feelings were easier to describe and work with than the positive ones but in every group, there was someone who had experienced each and every feeling on my list.
Importantly we discovered that each and every feeling had its reason for existing and its role to play in human experience.
So I am again going to ask for help with feelings.
This month, February Feelings Month, I am going to start discussions about various feelings, express my thoughts, maybe describe some research on that particular feeling and then ask for your help.
So those of you, who have had feelings, know someone who has feelings or has some general knowledge of the whole feelings mystery – could you help me out here and contribute some thoughts on feelings and the role they play in your life?
To the right, you should see a list of topics from past posts. Please check out some of those posts and feel free to comment.
Most of these are about specific disorders or mental health terminology. None of them are comprehensive as a description of any one disorder could fill multiple books and no two people with a disorder will experience it in exactly the same way. My hope is that my thoughts may be helpful to some of you.
February will not be exclusively about feelings; we need a little variety so some other topics will come up. There are some holidays this month, major and minor holidays. I will comment on a couple of those. Notice how all those other topics may connect with your feelings. I suspect all of you will have feelings about some of the posts.
You have those feelings for a reason and one of our tasks is to learn what those feelings are telling us.
Past Feelings Posts