Sometimes it is difficult to locate or define the feelings you are having. For example, the feeling that drives your troublesome patterns on the job may not be readily apparent to you. If you are not hooked at the time of the introspection, you may not have access to the feeling. Or, if youve already been hooked by a feeling, you may not have sufficient perspective to label it.
My own experience is that even when people say they have no feeling, there is probably some subtle thread of feeling in there somewhere. There are physiological reasons to support this claim. For example, as neuroscientist Candice Pert argues, emotions can be seen as participating in body-wide chemical communication systems. They are not just centered in one part of the brain.
One client, a man who was known by his wife and coworkers to be ˜˜without feelings, told me that he applied for a promotion and didnt get it. He was adamant that he didnt care. I asked him if he actually wanted to get the job he applied for. He answered in the affirmative . I asked him why, and he gave several different answers. I did come to believe that he wanted the job. But not getting the job didnt seem to push his buttons . Or so he said.
The Transcendence Model led me to predict that there must be anger in there somewhere because he did want something he could not have. He wanted it strongly. My belief was that this man, when he did not get what he wanted, simply blocked his feelings from his awareness. After a certain amount of questioning, he did indeed acknowledge that he was a little frustrated. The final question had to be put as a matter of logic.
˜˜It seems to me that when someone doesnt get what they want, they feel some amount of regret , I said to him. ˜˜After all, if you wanted it, then you had some energy for it. Where did that energy go?
˜˜Well, sure, I suppose there is an equal and opposite effect. ˜˜Excellent. You know, some people would say that you tend not to look at that equal and opposite effect. What do you think about that?
˜˜I suppose its true. I got that from my father. By observing him over the years , I learned to stay with the facts.
˜˜Is there a downside to staying with the facts? ˜˜It makes my wife mad. My kids make fun of me. ˜˜But is there something you lose out on by just staying with the facts?
˜˜I dont really think so. This presented me with a challenge. Here was somebody who I was confident was shielding himself from his anger and feelings of rejection . But he was not aware of any pernicious effects. He seemed to have no interest in locating these feelings. He was seeing me about his leadership communication skills. His employees complained that he was cold. For me, there was an obvious link between the complaints of his people and his not being in touch with his feelings.
In fact, for a while, our focus was on what we agreed to call the ˜˜equal and opposite effect of his wanting what he could not havefor example, the sought-after promotion. At the outset, he was uncomfortable calling the effect ˜˜disappointment or ˜˜anger. I helped him with using the emotional words. The terms came into use much later in our relationship, but the emotions were present from the beginning.
Sometimes people come to me with convoluted stories of who did what to whom and a panoply of feelings. Its very difficult to dissect what is going on in these circumstances. For example, a woman named Lucy came to me with this story:
˜˜Im all confused . I was taking a new employee on a tour of the plant. John, one of the unionized employees, came up to me on the tour and started a conversation with me that he knew was inappropriate. He didnt know whom I was taking around, and he should have been more discreet. When I told him to come around my office to discuss the matter, he got a little sarcastic . So I had that tension.
˜˜Then we finished the tour and went back to my office. Willie, another colleague of mine, was there at my desk, talking on the phone. It was very inappropriate. He was surely trying to demonstrate that he had the authority to do so. But everybody knows I need my office for privacy, and its not fair for them to use it for their own private matters. It is my office. But I was afraid that if I said something to Willie, he would use it against me in my next 360-degree feedbackhe was one of the people I chose to provide input. Anyway, Ive been upset for days.
When I asked Lucy to clarify her feelings for me, she couldnt put her finger on them. She could only say, ˜˜I feel mad at the union. I was humiliated by the power game this guy was playing with me in front of the new employee. I am very angry with Willie because he was playing a power game, too. This place is sick. It makes me wonder whether I should stay in this job. I do get job offers from other places, you know.
When I get convoluted stories with an array of undefined feelings, I ask the person to pretend to be a three-year-old kid. Kids of that age dont have much of a vocabulary. Their analyses are usually simple but accurate. I asked Lucy to play this role for a moment and pretend that she had the shop floor employee and Willie sitting in front of her. ˜˜What would you say to them?
After a short while, this is what Lucy said: ˜˜Im mad. ˜˜Why are you mad, Lucy? ˜˜They dont respect me.
The job of isolating the feelings was pretty much done at that point. Three-year-old kids are much more insightful about these things than grown-ups! In Lucys case, we agreed that she had been feeling invalidated at work. In fact, over time we learned how Lucy had felt fundamentally insecure her whole life. With the feeling isolated, its ownership claimed, and lots of learning about the possibility of deriving self-worth from oneself instead of from others, Lucy learned to thrive in her organization.
When somebody does something that pushes our buttons and we cant quite label why we have been so engaged by it, there is a principle from Jungian psychology that is quite useful. This principle says that if there is a quality in another person that irks us, we probably, in some way, have that same quality but have not accepted it. Think of someone you know who has a trait that really bugs you. Lets say its that the person talks too much. What quality does that person possess that would explain that trait? You might answer that selfishness is the quality that explains talking too much. Do you have that quality in yourself? If it bothers you when other people possess it, the answer will almost always be ˜˜yes.
The principle stems from the notion that we all have the same qualities. When we accept them in ourselves, we tend to accept them in others. When we do not accept them in ourselves , we resent them in others.
A man named Chris reported to a new boss named Bernie. One day Bernie stormed into Chriss office red-faced with anger. He stepped right up to Chris and pointed his finger into his face. Chriss heart was pounding. He was having a fear response. Bernie, with a voice that sounded as tight as a clenched fist, yelled, ˜˜If you dont get your people to put zip codes on these lead slips, then I swear Im going to . . . to . . . I dont know what. Bernie turned and walked out of Chriss office.
Chris was a client who was seeing me for reasons unrelated to the Bernie affair. But he told his story at the start of one of our sessions. After hearing it, I said I expected he felt humiliated by Bernie and perhaps rejected. But he was much more interested in talking about how he hated Bernie. He wanted to leave the company because of his feelings. I kept thinking that Bernie hurt his feelings so much that he wanted to flee. But it turned out that Chris wanted to leave because he had such a problem with Bernie.
˜˜What quality does Bernie have that you dislike the most? I asked, deciding to experiment with the Jungian principle.
Chris showed a real interest in this question. ˜˜Well, he is an uncontrolled, bad man. He cant harness himself.
I reminded myself that Chris seemed a very reserved kind of guyhe seemed like someone who was in control of his feelings. Maybe we were onto something.
˜˜Is it possible, Chris, that you see something in Bernie that you dont like in yourself?
˜˜No way! he said firmly. ˜˜Not possible. ˜˜Are you ever a bad guy? Do you ever lose control? ˜˜No! He was a little defensive now. ˜˜Never? ˜˜Well, rarely. My father used to be like that, and I promised myself I would never take on that trait.
˜˜And with your kids? ˜˜Thats why I said rarely. Sometimes my kids just get so out of whack, I lose it.
˜˜In the same way Bernie lost it? ˜˜Yes. I guess so. I hate that trait so much! Chris revealed that what he hated about Bernie was something he hated in himself. In effect, he was wanting to leave his job because he saw himself in a mirror when he saw Bernie, and he didnt like the image it projected . Our work together shifted a bit so we could work on his self- forgiveness . He had isolated the feeling of anger he had at himself for losing his temper with his kids and the feeling of fear over the possibility that he would become like his father.
Several examples in this book call upon psychoimagery as a tool for isolating feelings. This involves freely bringing images to mind. I learned about it through the work of Roberto Assagioli, the founder of a therapeutic movement called psychosynthesis.
When I employ this method of isolating feelings, I ask that you close your eyes and feel where in your body you experience the feeling you are trying to isolate. Then I ask that you place your hand on that place and apply a little pressure so that you connect the feeling to your body. I then ask you to let a picture come to your mind of an object that represents the feeling. It could be any picture. Ive heard people refer to a knife , a golf ball, a tight mass, a cotton ball, a tiny box, a river . I ask for a description of the image, so that you are prompted to invest more time and effort in creating what you are feeling. By creating an image, you are suddenly the observer of the image and no longer identified with the feeling.
Once the image has been described, I ask that you give the image a voice. I might ask, ˜˜What does the object want to say? or, ˜˜Get the object to finish this sentence for me, ˜I feel . . . My experience is that the client will then state the feeling we are attempting to isolate.
Sometimes, rather than asking for any image, I will ask for the image of the client as a child. This is based on the belief that the feeling being isolated would have been felt first in childhood. It may even be an unresolved feeling from childhood. By bringing to mind a picture of yourself in your youth, you may well tap into the unresolved feeling in question. I also ask for the memory that you have of that child with this feeling.