Cognition & Reality

Friday, 20 August 2010

Feeling, Saying

Filed under: Uncategorized — drtone @ 9:53 am

I’ve had a couple of encounters with clients recently that reminded me how hard it is to believe in the healing process.

In one instance, I asked a man to describe where in his body he experienced his recent disappointment in love. Although it was clear that a tremendous amount of his energy was tied up in his feeling of devastation, he did not seem to understand the question. He spoke of “heartache” without grasping that there could be an actual ache in his heart.

I asked another man who also had a relationship go south on him, a marriage of many years. He spoke of the many unexpressed negative feelings he had about his former wife, how they had festered over the years. I asked him how he would avoid the same thing in another relationship. His answer was about choosing better, about finding a woman with whom he had more comfort and more passion. When I asked him about how he would address the inevitable instances in which he would feel anger and disappointment in a new relationship no matter how well he chose a new mate, again it was as if the question was  too hard to answer.

Both of these men are intelligent and successful, capable of grasping complex, abstract concepts. Nevertheless, the simple, concrete act of facing a painful situation directly barely seems possible to them. This demonstrates not that these men are incompetent or weak. Neither of them is that. It’s that the idea of acting on feelings as they happen represents a remote impossibility, so far-fetched as not to warrant consideration.



  1. Hey Tony. I remember being in church one Sunday and the minister was giving the children’s sermon. I can’t remember this precisely anymore only that one boy answered his question about how he knew something with “I feel it in my stomach”…the minister chuckled and replied that it wasn’t his stomach but his brain.
    Another story: A coach who had a 5 year old complaining of a stomach ache before her first day of school. He told her “You don’t have a stomach ache, you just don’t want to go to school!”
    It is funny that people have difficulty with this because they come to therapy because of uncomfortable feelings (only occasionally for intrusive thoughts). We have been taught to ignore them and interpret them rather than feel them. Two things help me 1. to remind people of feelings they easily attend to (are they thirsty….how do they know? Can they hear the sounds outside and that noticing that this takes no effort etc.) 2. that the hackles on a dog raise up when they are angry….that we can see that the body signals us about feelings in some predictable places….stomach, shoulders-neck-jaw, heartspace.
    It’s very cool to know that you are helping people to get in touch with themselves.

    Comment by Reta Tyree — Friday, 20 August 2010 @ 7:38 pm | Reply

    • Thanks for noticing, Reta, and thanks for the comment. I apologize for not commenting back right away, but I’m not used to receiving comments and now I know to look in future for more…from you and others.

      The examples you give are right on: Authorities direct us away from feeling, perhaps because emotions are so messy. I like the idea of focusing people on simpler feelings that may not have to do specifically with emotional responses. I also like the idea of turning their attention to feelings they can “see,” such as the way animals react. Both of those suggestions will help me in the future.

      Comment by drtone — Wednesday, 25 August 2010 @ 10:56 am | Reply

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