Summer 2001 Archive
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About the specific characteristics of different emotional feelings. Posted by John on October 06, 2001 at 00:10:29:
In Reply to: Re: A closer look at fear. but WHAT else? posted by Deirdre on October 04, 2001 at 15:04:14:
I'll have a little exercise I'd like for you to try out, please, Deirdre. I'll get to it later, before finishing up this evening's class.
When we *are* caught up in our emotional feelings, the biggest disadvantage of it is that we get locked into looking at situations from only one point of
view, or the fixed attitudes that each of the emotional reactions we are having at the time are tied to.
If we wish to really understand any complex emotional situation, it is absolutely essential to shake loose of the points of view that we immediately
become automatically stuck in, and attempt to be awake enough to go around and study the situation and attempt to understand the situation from *
If you draw a circle and put a symbol inside the circle to represent "the situation," and then point a couple of arrows into the circle, that illustration
depicts the automatic sleeping reaction people ordinarily have to an upset or crisis. What you have to do instead, to be a mindful warrior, is keep
moving around the circle, and point the arrows of your inquiry in towards the situation you are studying from as many different angles around the
circle as possible. (This is called "changing the context." The content of the circle remains the same, but you study it in different contexts.)
Not long ago this afternoon, I was wondering why in Hell I was carrying on with this absurd vigil of the news on television that I have been carrying
on. It's obviously harmful to me, physically, as it keeps on kicking off more and more knee-jerk reactions and *negative* emotions, that are wearing me
out . . . and, in my particular case, mostly bringing up depression in my body, tangible sensations of weakness. I feel like about half the man I was
before September 11th. Yet I *do* go on observing all this with awareness.
Even though I wished to respond to Deirdre's interesting post, I seemed to have no energy for it. And then . . . . aha! Fox News had an interview
with an author who has written about and interviewed the Prime Suspect in this case, and it seemed to me the most interesting thing that I have heard
yet, looking in from many points around the circle. So *here I am now*!!! You probably aren't going to like this news I heard, but it certainly is
something fascinating to ponder. And it's proved to be *the inspiration* to get me up, and get me down here to working on this coaching job with you
again. (Note that I've been waiting and watching during this day for this moment of inspiration to come along, and being ready to *catch this wave*
and surf it when it came along.) So here I am, Folks!
This writer—I didn't get his name as I was scribbling things he said in my reporter's notebook—said that people don't really understand why the
Suspect hates America so much. He said that the Suspect told him that he believes the U.S. *tricked* Saddham Hussein into invading Kuwait.
In fact, I remember it came out in the news way back then that the woman who was the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq had somehow mistakenly given
Saddham the impression that the U.S. wouldn't interfere if he occupied Kuwait. This was admitted by the government, and treated by the Press as an
unfortunate blunder. This author said the U.S. Ambassador told Iraq the U.S. position was that Muslim nations "should settle things by themselves,
preferably peacefully." At that very time, as everybody knew, Iraq had 100,000 troops poised around Kuwait.
The Suspect believes we tricked Saddham into thinking we had given him a green light to invade Kuwait. The Suspect believes, according to this
writer who met with him, that the U.S. did this "in order to get a military presence established in the Gulf region."
It really makes sense that the Suspect could believe such a thing—that we were looking for an excuse to invade and attack, and to establish air bases
and armed forces in the Gulf. It's well known that one of the things the Suspect hates the most is the presence of U.S. forces in his own country from
which he's exiled, Saudi Arabia, the home of Mecca and Medina, Islam's holiest shrines.
Now, I'm not saying this is "an excuse" for what was done in New York and Washington! I do NOT condone what terrorists do. I hate it! But this
explanation does make a lot of sense to me in attempting to understand where in Hell this inscrutible Suspect may be coming from.
We tricked Iraq into bringing the crushing defeat and terrible loss of life of Desert Storm upon itself??? That idea never crossed my mind before.
Fascinating! I've got to admit it sounds at least plausible. This writer says that explains why the Suspect hates America so.
I think I'm beginning to catch on.
Now, more about feelings: Deirdre, this is probably going to shock you (and you've disagreed with me about things before, so go ahead and disagree
again if you do!)
>I can "feel" what you describe [regarding "fear"] and then asked myself but what else is there.. there is a tightening of the muscles in the belly an almost resistance from within the abdomen.. I think this is anger..
I don't doubt that one of your reactions to the fall of the Twin Towers is anger . . . . . especially as it seems at times that the Player/Judge is one of
your primary types, and anger/humor is the characteristic emotional pattern of that type. And I'm sure you are reporting your experience of those
tensions in the belly and abdomen accurately. Good for you! But I have a strong hunch that that isn't anger. My guess is that what you are feeling
there is . . . guilt. Does that surprise you?
I think that is the guilt that typically corresponds with the Healer/Kind Helper. And if you will look back at your recent game tapes, you'll see that
there is a lot of Healer/Kind Helper music playing in these posts—for instance, the whole powerful concern you have about the famine and possible
starvation in Afghanistan.
To be sure, your Student/Believer intuition was accurate in *predicting* that full-scale efforts were going to be mounted to counter-act hunger in
Afghanistan. You were ahead of the news on that one! And much has happened since to make your prophesy look more and more like reality. You
have been being "optimistic" coming from that side of your make-up. And so far, at least, your optimism does seem warranted, thank goodness! But
let me keep my focus here on the guilt, or what I suspect is the guilt, which you have guessed to be anger.
In order for students to benefit from the information about emotional feelings that is provided in the awareness game, it is necessary to get very, very
clear about *exactly* what is being referred to in this approach by the names of the eight common basic negative feelings that we are studying—fear,
loneliness, anger, jealousy (or, rejection), depression, anxiety, sadness, and guilt.
The awareness game training is designed to provide you with very accurate and precise descriptions of the experiencable realities of being human. In
the case of emotional feelings, the study is based on a very common-sense approach, as well as tied to the direct experiences of your own mindful
It is very important that all the learning that is done in this class be based upon your own direct experiences. What you experience directly always
trumps whatever I think and say about anything! But it is also important that you try to recognize as clearly as you can the precise information I am
giving you. If your own experiences don't match up with the descriptions that I provide, stick with your own experiences. But realize that the
descriptions that I provide are attempts to be as accurate and precise about human realities as I can be.
The common sense of this approach to human emotions is grounded in an attempt to identify the precise common denominators of each of the basic
emotional feelings. I'm trying to convey to you a sense of the one single fundamental *cause* of each of the eight basic emotional feelings—regardless
of what the situation is that gives rise to the emotional reactions at any given time.
Looking first at the common-sense-of-it side, in relation to this training, fear, as I've discussed before, is always tied to the "control scenario." That's
how you can "make sense" of fear. If your car drifts off the highway onto the shoulder, it is a control scenario, and you will become afraid, and take
control of it if you can. If someone points a gun at you . . . if you are falling . . . if you hear a loud noise and don't know what it is . . . these are
examples of situations which are "out of control." Whenever you experience fear, if you wake up and contemplate the situation you will be able to
realize that there is some *obvious* issue of control involved in it. Having some thing, or someone, or some group that is "out of control" is the
common denominator in all situations in which fear comes up—as "fear" is defined in the awareness game.
So, obviously, for example, when the Suspect, the Taliban, the terrorist acts come to our attention, and impact upon our bodies, giving rise to fear in
the body (clutching up of the neck and shoulders), it is a control scenario.
More briefly, going around the wheel, loneliness comes up in a context of not having someone to talk to—more specifically, not having someone to
show off for, not having someone to share our experiences of the day with. That makes sense, doesn't it? We become lonely when we don't have
anyone to "shine to," or be heard and admired by.
Now anger. Anger, in the way we look at it in this approach, always comes up in a situation where something is wrong. When something breaks, or
wears out, or costs too much, when mistakes or blunders happen, when somebody does something wrong, when what we are wanting goes wrong .
. . these are the kinds of obvious situations in which anger arises in the human body. — And in the Twin Towers tragedy, obviously, this fits for
many people as a wrongness scenario, and there is much anger.
Jealousy (rejection) is the emotional feeling that arises when someone or something is "spoiling the beauty of it." It is our artistic sensitivity that is
offended when anything happens that spoils the beauty of the situation for us. Obviously, if one's lover is flirting with another person at the party, or
being flirted with, that spoils the beauty of it, and one becomes jealous and rejective. The destruction of the World Trade Towers has spoiled the
beauty of life in America, in so many ways! If someone smashes in the fender of one's car, or knocks down part of the Manhattan skyline, one may
become bitterly, outrageously rejective of those who would do such a wanton act. (I wonder how long it will take before it seems to be "America, the
Depression is the emotional feeling that arises in a situation where one senses they are helpless, where one senses they do not have the energy, the
inner motivation, the "juice" to do the things that are supposed to be done. In depression, one becomes stuck and isn't able to do the things they used
to be able to do, one isn't able to enjoy doing the things they used to be able to enjoy doing. One is immobilized. A poll reported in the news
yesterday said that 40% of Americans are still having depression since the terrorists' attack of weeks ago. In depression, people aren't able to get right
up and go about their usual routines, aren't able to put their hearts into the work they usually do. (As noted, this is the syndrome that I've been
wrestling with lately.)
Next is anxiety, the emotional feeling that comes up in the human body when the person senses they aren't able to depend on the things, or the people
that they are dependent upon for security. Note that anxiety and fear are two very different emotions. Especially when you get into the physical
experience of each of them one sees that fear is clutching up of the neck and shoulders, and anxiety is trembling along the long bones of the arms and
legs. Fear is over loss of control. Anxiety is over lack of trust in the security one depends upon. But it's worth noting that the two of these emotions
"team up," so to speak, in keeping so very many people from riding on airplanes these days.
Next to last around the wheel is sadness. Sadness always comes up in a scenario of lost love. Either it is a situation where one isn't able to continue
loving someone that one has been loving (such as in the case of relationship break-up, moving apart, or the death of the beloved person), or where the
other person stops loving you. That is, sadness comes when we are unable to go on expressing our love to someone, or someone stops loving us, or is
unable to go on expressing love to us. — Note that sadness can also arise in association with certain inanimate things, or with institutions, or social
ideals that we love. For instance, one may love his or her car, and when it breaks down or is smashed up in an accident, the person may cry with
sadness over the car they loved that they don't get to go on loving any more now. One may love their job and cry if they get laid off. Or one may
love their favorite team and cry when they lose the big game and won't get to go on in the play-offs (so one won't get to go on loving them longer in
the season). In fact, even if their team has won the championship, one may cry because the wonderful season is over and they won't get to go on
loving their team again this year. In all these situations, it is a scenario of lost love. For me, for instance, I was in love with the idea of world peace, and
this seeming "war in perpetuity," so to speak, has taken away the dream that I was loving so much. And I've been crying over it. These are all lost
love situations. Wherever you perceive sadness and crying, see if you can recognize how it is obviously a lost love situation. Another interesting thing
about sadness is that we can cry about other people's lost love—even if we don't know them—when their friends die—like firemen who lost their
buddies in the collapse of the Towers—or we hear a touching story of how someone lost their job that they loved, or thousands of people lost their
jobs. Good example, we can watch a movie where two characters who are in love somehow lose the relationship with each other, and we can cry for
them for their lost love. So many love songs are about lost love, and we may choke up when we hear these songs performed.
And finally, there is guilt. Guilt is the emotion that comes up in the human body when we are left with the good things in life (such as life, itself) and
other people don't have the good things that we have. For instance, when we have food and others are going hungry—as in the Afghanistan
emergency—we may feel guilty about it. All of these emotional feelings have valid and useful purposes in life. Guilt seems to have as its purpose
motivating people to be concerned about others, getting people to take care of the needy or heal the sick (so long as we don't go "too far.")
So those are a few observations that pertain to the common sense side of the eight basic emotional feelings we study in the awareness game. Fear
comes up when things are out of control. Loneliness comes up when we have nobody to share our experiences with, nobody to talk to, and shine
with. Anger comes up when things go wrong, or someone does something wrong. Jealousy comes up when someone spoils the beauty of it for us
and we are rejected. Depression comes up when we think that we are helpless. Anxiety arises when we have lost the security that we were
depending upon. Sadness comes up when there is lost love. And guilt comes up when we have plenty of good things and others are going without.
Now doesn't that all make common-sense? It is simple, basic, and explains logically the specific circumstances in which each of these ordinary, common
human emotions emerge. Of course, you have to study life for awhile with your mindfulness to really begin seeing how this all fits.
Then, in addition to the common-sense side of emotions, there is—for those who are able to wake up and be mindful of it—the *distinctive*
experiential sensations of each of these emotional feelings:
fear: tension in the neck and shoulders.
loneliness: the subtle tensions of "that empty feeling," a hollow feeling in the torso.
anger: tension in the mouth and jaw (the "growl")
jealousy: tension that forms a twisted-feeling or torque of the upper body (as if being powerfully pulled towards someone and away from someone at
the same time).
depression: tensions that feel like the whole body is being tired, or exhausted, and can't get up and get moving. The head may hang. The body may
slump. One is, literally, "depressed." Depression may feel like an intense laziness that one can't overcome.
anxiety: jangled tensions of trembling along the long bones of the arms and legs, and nervousness in the hands and feet.
sadness: the easily recognized "wanna cry" sensations that show up as tensions in the heart area, the throat, around the mouth and between the eyes.
and guilt: . . . . . . . let me come back to guilt in a minute.
When you find *both* the common-sense scenario of a given feeling, and recognize the experiential sensations of that feeling in your body, then you
KNOW that you've got that particular emotional feeling. With practice observing mindfully, you can become very familiar with each of these emotional
feelings. You will get to a place where you are immediately able to recognize each of these feelings by the obvious palpable sensations of it. And,
when you recognize the inward sensations of a given emotion, if you pause and contemplate the surrounding situation you will recognize that the
common-sense scenario is there as well.
>a tightening of the muscles in the belly an almost resistance from within the abdomen.
That seems to describe guilt to me. Guilt can be described as a tense stomach, a "worrying stomach," or "bubbling stomach," sometimes associated with
a slight feeling of nausea, and possibly a lack of appetite.
I have a hunch that what you are describing there, Deirdre, is guilt. If it was anger that was happening, there would be a tightening of the mouth,
teeth, and jaws, or a tight grimace gripping the lower face, maybe with a doubling up of the fists.
I started writing this class about five, six hours ago. There have been several times when I interrupted my work for long intervals—having supper,
later back watching television news again, other times just lying around feeling intensely lazy. But after each interval, I "rose up like a bear" again, and
came back here to the computer to trudge on with it. I'm a survivor, by God. When I can get under the laziness and depression, I'm a hard worker
after all on the inside. And I can keep pressing on, no matter how tired and dispirited I may seem to be on the outside.
Fact of the matter is that even though I've felt helpless, I haven't been helpless. The truth is I actually do have the energy to do what I've done here
tonight. It's just that emotional feeling of depression that makes it seem like I don't. And *any time* I grit my teeth and *decide to do it*, I can rise up
like a bear, and get back to work, and push on through until I'm done.
But . . . heh-heh . . . I still haven't figured out along the way a good exercise I can give you here, Deirdre. What's needed is for me to put you in a
situation where you *know* you are being angry, obviously angry!—a situation where the common-sense scenario of anger is there . . . where
something has gone very wrong, or someone has done something very wrong to you. And then I would get you to wake up and get in touch with,
first, your face, and then with your stomach, and ask whether the tensions you felt at that time were in a clutched-up jaw, or in a clutched up belly.
I did have one idea, not very good though. I was going to ask you to pretend you were an actress, playing the part of a shopper at the check-out
counter in a grocery story, and you realize that the check-out clerk has been cheating you on the price of one item after another as he is ringing it up
on the register. (That's somebody doing you wrong, right?) Your line, as an actress in this scene, was: "You're not going to get away with this, you
creep! I want you to call the Manager right now!"
Geeze, this is pretty lame. (Doormat, putting myself down.) Anyway, imagine that scene, and say your line *out loud*, realistically, with some real
energy behind it. And then check in with your body awarely, and see if the tensions that come up in that moment are in your face or in your
Well, you can try that. I don't know if it will work. It's a "role-play." And often, even in doing a fictitious role-play like that, the body will react with
the appropriate emotional feeling—which in this case would clearly be anger. I think you can understand what I'm trying to get at here, and maybe
make up a better role-play on your own. The idea is simply to see in your own experience when you are being angry about something, whether the
tensions arise in the jaws or in the stomach.
Then we could devise a role-play for guilt. Let's say you and your family are having breakfast in a booth by a window in a restaurant, and the
waitress has just served you all with big trays of pancakes and waffles and jars of syrups, and all the good stuff that goes with it. And then you
notice several small Indian children, poorly dressed, with their noses pressed up against the window, looking in at the goodies on the trays there
before you on the table. And one of your children says, "Gee, Mom, those poor kids look like they're starving out there!"
Ha! Well, this is hardly an Academy Award winning movie! (More Doormat). But anyway, you get the point. It's a guilt scenario. Contemplate this
scene and check in with your body, inwardly, and see if the tensions you feel then are tightness in your jaws, or "tightening of the muscles in the
Well . . . maybe this will work. If it doesn't maybe the best thing is just to just keep checking in with your mindfulness until you recognize a situation
along the way that is an obvious common-sense anger scenario, and later, an obvious common-sense guilt scenario, and each of those times, check in
with your awareness and feel where the sensations of tightness are to be found in each of those cases.
Anyway, the point of your posting was that sometimes we may have more than one powerful emotional feeling in us at the same time. That is true.
But usually, one of those feeings is going to be more tense, more uptight than the other(s). Usually, one pattern of tensions is the most obvious and
easiest to perceive. And when you have processed one of the negative feelings in you and it has abated, you may find yet another negative feeling
underneath that, so to speak. (This is that phenomenon we spoke of long ago, of emotional feelings that seem "nested" one within the other. Do you
remember that?) Certainly, both of the negative feelings will be contributing to the over-all discomfort and uptightness of your body at the time. The
trick in such a case is to focus first on the sensations of the feeling that seems to be the most obvious and apparent (in gestalt we used to call this the
feeling that is "on top"). Keep your awareness on these sensations, and "chaperone" that negative feeling on through with your awareness. And then
focus your attention on the second feeling that then becomes more obvious and apparent, and keeping your awareness on these sensations, escort this
pattern of tensions on through with your awareness in its turn.
Well, I don't know if this lesson tonight is very well conceived, or not. I *am* very tired. I wasn't able to sleep last night. I do feel pretty exhausted
right now. It's after 11 p.m. But . . . . . even though I've been depressed this evening, and my work may not be tip-top this time, I have *not* been
helpless! I guess we've proven that!!! I have managed to trudge on through. This may not be one of my better efforts, but at least I've been able to
rise up like a bear, again and again since I started out six hours ago, and get this hard work done, after all!
>What do you think? Should the subject of fear occur in conjunction with the subject of anger?
Yes, that definitely can happen. Any one of the feelings *can occur* in conjunction with any of the other feelings. It depends on what the common-
sense scenarios of the situation are. It wouldn't necessarily have to be fear and anger. It could, in fact, be fear and guilt. And I think that was what
was happening in your description here in your post. It could be fear and anger *and* guilt. But I only picked up on the fear and guilt of it this time . .
. . . unless I am mistaken. What do *you* think? Or rather, what is your own direct experience of it now? That is what really counts around here—
not what I think, but what you are able to experience directly.
I feel a lot better all of a sudden now. I feel like I've gotten a piece of hard work done. And I *am* tired. I'll bet I sleep like a hybernating bear
tonight, alright! Hope some of this has been at least a little helpful.
And tomorrow, it's off to the country again for me.
Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz . . . . . .
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