We have the sense that thoughts reside in the mind, whose location seems to be in our head. But where do feelings reside? It would be nice if feelings had their own room, a room like the one that is our mind, so that we could do similar work on our feelings like the work we’re doing on our mind. We might install windows in that room; we might get a second easy chair; and so on. That would be lovely and helpful. But we don’t seem to experience feelings that way.
So let’s employ a different metaphor for feelings. Rather than imagining that they reside in a room, which doesn’t feel true, let’s imagine that they circulate in our system, the way that hot water or cool air circulates in our house. In fact, feelings seem to circulate like that, coursing through our bloodstream and our nervous system. Sometimes nothing is coursing through us; we feel rather neutral. If asked, we might say, “I’m not feeling anything in particular.” But then something happens—a small incident on the bus, a toe stub, a bad memory, a desire—and we can almost hear that “Swoosh!” of a feeling suddenly circulating.
The anger. The sadness. The humiliation. The flooding of feeling that just about knocks us off our feet. And why shouldn’t it affect us exactly that powerfully, if it’s flowing everywhere in our system, through every pipe and into every nook and cranny? How it rushes everywhere, overwhelming thought and stealing the moment!
But isn’t that image of a feeling coursing everywhere suggestive? What if you could isolate that coursing feeling a little bit? Think of a smart house with individual temperature zones, a house where you can make your bedroom toasty without having to heat the whole house. What if you could do that with feelings?
Imagine that you could isolate that bad feeling that just welled up in you, isolate it in, say, the index finger of your left hand. The feeling is coursing through you; you mentally send it in the direction of your hand; then you funnel it into your left index finger. Having done that excellent isolating, your finger is the now only place where you are feeling the feeling. Isn’t that something?
Imagine what you could do at this point. You could use your index finger like a pistol and shoot that feeling at some imaginary target. You could use your finger like a graffiti pen and scrawl pungent graffiti on some imaginary wall. You could use your finger like an eyedropper and let the bile drip out into the sink. You could use your imagination to dream up all sorts of powerfully cleansing things to do with that now carefully contained and isolated feeling!
Probably you should start with a small emotion, maybe a bit of irritation. You’ve just missed your train. How frustrating! Stop. Breathe. Aim that feeling of irritation that’s coursing through your system toward your left index finger. See how that works? After practicing that a few times, move on to a middle-sized emotion. You have a chat with one of your parents and get criticized. Okay. Here comes the emotion. Whoosh! It’s everywhere, racing through your arteries and veins. Breathe. Yes, this is harder. But try. Aim that anguish and anger toward your left index finger. Maybe say something out loud like, “Get moving, you bad feeling!” Did it work? Maybe it did!
Now, let’s try it out on a big emotion. We’ll need to be very careful here. Big emotions are big. They can be horribly painful, maddeningly intense, even overwhelming. Breathe several times. Try to angle this big emotion toward your hand. This may prove much harder. But try. Now, corral it into your left index finger. That’s a lot of emotion for one finger! But maybe you managed. Okay. Now … get rid of it. Carefully squeeze it into the sink, using your left index finger as an eyedropper. Or use it as some terrible ink to paint like Goya.
You will need more tactics than just this one to deal with your emotions. Won’t you spend a little time and dream up a few fanciful, provocative, potentially amazing strategies for dealing with the emotions that rise up in us every day? You don’t want to do a wonderful job on your thoughts and let slide that other human endowment, your feelings. We’ve been working on your brilliant mind; but what about a brilliant heart as well?
This lesson is part of the Your Best Mind Ever series. In this groundbreaking program Dr. Eric Maisel teaches a brand new way to get a grip on our minds.