The Other Feelings
For years I have been teaching and “thinking” about Feelings. You might think that silly, but I belive I am often driven to find the practical side of words, to find their underpinnings as they involve relating. I have been teaching what I call, the Four Prime Feelings for years: Fear, Anger, Sorrow, and Joy. And I have, in teaching the Prime Feelings, used some of the other feelings of bodily sensations that are feelings too: alertness, hunger, thirst, “need to pee.” But more and more I have become aware of a set of feelings that are very important and which are not usually called emotions. These “emotions” involve the Prime Feelings with the needs and desires of the Mid-Brain and the Cortex.
General Thoughts – what makes these into Feelings.
I have come to experience these “feelings” as having the characteristics of all other feelings. They are events in the body. I have seen them all many times. They have intensity, as if there were chemical processes involved, and I think there are chemicals involved because of secondary feelings that go along with them. People are often unaware of these feelings at the time they experience them. People are often poor at labeling these feelings, but I find good labels for them useful. And finally the social values of these other feelings, I find, to be all over the book.
The chemical processes are often combinations of other feeling processes. For example, fear and relief from fear play a big part in these feelings. Also, at least for the first feeling I will mention, the linkage between the emotion and the processes of the Lizard are extremely tightly linked.
When I work with people, I always try to acquaint them with what I call the Lizard processes. The way I start off is by sharing that there are two things that make all of us relax: Predictive Information and a Sense of Control. Now it is the Lizard that really seems to love being able to predict what is going to happen next and being able to control or manage its involvement in whatever goes on. I think it is the Lizard’s intimate involvement that makes these Other Feelings powerful.
Finally, I want to give you ways of understanding your own emotions in these areas so that you can chat with your partners about them so as to make both you and them more relaxed. This requires the building of trust and a considerable capacity for transparency. When you do something, driven by these or any emotions, I want you to be able to say so, clearly and simply. That way lies good relationships, intimacy and trust.
The Mid-Brain “Feeling”
Feeling Connected or Disconnected (Reliable Connection)
Of all the feelings I have tried to interpret, this is the most difficult. It is a function of the Mid-Brain, but is tightly allied to the Lower Brain – the Lizard. It is the only feeling that I have decided to use a bigger spread of numbers on, because of the Lizard’s super-charging effect. This section might be called “The Lizard with a Need for Connection.” Take a look at this figure.
The relief position, the positive place, is in the center with trouble in both directions. At any given time in every person there is an amount of connection that feels just right. I call this level “Comfy”, a term my mother used to describe many things like pillows, couches, beds, your mommy’s hug, a cat’s position in front of the fire place, etc. When I am comfortable, I don’t need more, don’t need less – just leave me there.
As the amount of connection or input decreases from the Comfy place, a person will experience a slowly increasing level of loneliness. Loneliness is just a clue that you want, that your mid-brain wants, to increase the amount of connection. This is like wanting to go over and sit next to someone, wanting to touch or hold hands, wanting to start talking, wanting to turn on the TV, etc. These actions are simply a person’s natural action to restore the Comfy level of connection.
As the amount of connection or input increases from the Comfy place, a person will experience a slowly increasing sense of feeling pushed or overwhelmed. This sense of “too much” is a clue that you want, that your mid-brain wants, to decrease the amount of connection. This is like wanting to go for a walk alone, wanting to quietly read a book, wanting to go do a chore, wanting to end a conversation, wanting quiet time, etc. These actions are simply a person’s nature move to restore that Comfy level of connection.
People do these adjustments all the time, all day. I think it fun to watch people and guess where their “need for connection” currently is.
But this is not all. I have become used to the idea that when a person’s lizard senses that it is not in control, that it is not able to easily restore that Comfy feeling, then at some point the Lizard takes over. Flee, Freeze, Submit, and Fight behavior begins, and some pretty radical things can happen. I think what makes this more clear is to realize that when the Lizard takes over, the need for Reliable Connection can get shut off. Lizards think only of life and death. They don’t need relationships. So here is a person who needs more connection or who needs more space in their relationship and who suddenly needs it in a kind of life/death way!
The Lonely person now shifts into Frantic behavior which can be so unpleasant to those around as to invite others to leave them even more lonely. I know this pattern really well as it describes much of my behavior in the past. For example when I would feel loneliness growing I would kick into interrogating my partner, throwing questions left and right at them, with my voice growing louder, words coming faster, interrupting their answers, and eventually yelling at them. Rationally, they wanted to leave me —— at that very point when I frantically needed more connection with them. Understanding this helps make sense out of the common behavior of a partner who strikes their mate because their mate is leaving.
On the other side, the overwhelmed person, in Panic, simply shuts down. They disconnect, go quiet in their heads, go blank, numb out, and may become dysfunctionall (drive a car off the road), etc. This “shut down” may attract attention, the very last thing they want. It certainly looks like “the punishment of leaving,” the “cold shoulder,” and can easily come across at threatening to anyone they are with. And here is a person who wants some quiet time and who can be seen as inciting their mate into intrusive behavior.
I repeat that this feeling of need for space, need for connection or of feeling just right, are part of everyone’s daily experiencing, increasing and decreasing. I think it very important to learn how to notice and dialogue about it. “Hey, I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed right now. I’m gonna take a break.” “I’m calling George, cuz I am feeling just a bit lonely and wanna talk with a buddy”. “I need you in my life, honey, cuz I just ain’t built to be alone.”
Our cortexes have a whole series of needs. Each are more or less connected with the needs of the lower brain and some of these needs show all the signs of being emotional. Again, my goal here is to describe these feeling-like functions so that you can understand yourself and others better, and more easily.
Probably the simplest of these emotion-like processes is seen in the desire to hear what is being said, and understand what is going on. The emotional scale runs from -10 through 0 and up to +10. -10 is “I really want to know what is going on and I feel left out.” +10 is “I really like knowing what is going on, being on the inside.” 0 is half way in between and denotes, “I don’t care.” This is all about the Lizard’s love of Predictive Information and a Sense of Control when supercharged by the Cortex ability to hold memories and handle symbols.
When I have a low number, I will tend to move closer to the action and ask more questions. Getting no answers may tend to lower my number and increase my distress. When I have a high number I may appear to be pretty relaxed and happy. ‘Tis all about learning and growing up. “Curiosity killed the cat. Satisfaction brought him back.” This Cortical Feeling is pretty straightforward, and I speak of it first to set it aside from the others Cortical Feelings which are a bit more complex.
Also I want to set this aside from the action of “I don’t want to hear. Don’t say that!” This may seem emotion-like, but to me is simply an immature tactic of Passive Masters. (See my paper on the Power of Passivity.)
I call the rest of these feelings “interpersonal” because each one involves other people and the quality of the connection with other people. Elsewhere I speak of Interpersonal Skills, i.e. skills that are measured by their success in another person. “I want you to feel happy. I smile at you. You see my smile. You respond by feeling happy. I am successful.” Caring Behaviors are skills that make others feel safe, etc. More, relevant to this article, examples: To Mirror is to make another person feel heard. To Validate is to make another person feel understood. Hear I am writing about the Feelings elicited by those Interpersonal Skills.
More to be written.
Feel Heard: -10 to +10 (not to be confused with to feel exposed)
Feel Understood: -10 to +10
Confidence in beliefs: -10 to +10 (Right brain / Left Brain)
Respected: -10 to +10
Hope: -10 to +10 (Apperceptive Schema)
Worthy : -10 to +10
Thanks, Gibby, and I haven't even finished. I feel please when I think you are inviting me to say more and are liking what I am doing. One of the interesting things going on with my website is that a whole bunch of people from the Far East (Korea, I think) are reading these essays on emotions. Very very interesting.
this is one of the most coherent and insightful essays i believe you have ever written. the axis really helps explain it so well. i struggle mightily with “naming my feelings” sometimes and this has really helped shed some light on how to proceed.
keep it up!!