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To Feel or Not to Feel, featured as part of SpiritSite.com's "Coaching Corner" column, is Copyright © 2001 by Marcia Reynolds. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission. HTML and web pages copyright © by SpiritSite.com.

"Success and happiness requires you be fully alive and present, aware of your emotions, their source, and their significance."


  Marcia Reynolds, To Feel or Not to Feel

What is intuition? In my experience as a personal coach, I have found that much of what we call intuition is simply listening to the wisdom of our emotions. We all have access to this "deeper knowing." Yet, for a number of reasons, we distrust or donít read the messages we get from the emotional centers of our brain. 

Some of these reasons include:

  1. We believe our rational brain is smarter than our "gut" feelings.
  2. All of our lives people have told us, "Donít let your heart rule your mind."
  3. Weíve been taught to have a "stiff upper lip" and not reveal our emotions because it makes us look weak.
  4. People who are in touch with their emotions are "high maintenance" and a boring drain of energy on those around them.

The result is that we create habits that block our ability to use emotional information when we make decisions and communicate with others. 

Ask most people how they feel and they say, "Fine." Some say it with no emotion. Others reveal their true state in the inflection and volume of their voice. Yet few people actually stop to assess their condition. Of those who would, most would think twice before telling the truth unless they were feeling absolutely marvelous. Even the ones who would love to express how upset they are choose to remain tight-lipped, secretly hoping the asker will sense their pain and act with empathy.

Unfortunately, the brain does a poor job of sorting emotions. You canít learn how to suppress anger or fear without decreasing your ability to experience joy. Suppress one, you suppress them all. Life loses its color. Golda Meir said, "Those who donít know how to weep with their whole heart donít know how to laugh either."

One of the exercises I do with my coaching clients is to recount the events of the morning or previous weekend. Every ten seconds, I give the person a different emotion to express as they tell the story, even if the words donít fit the emotion. 

The trick is to be able to access their feelings without thinking about them, and act it out, actually release it, without worrying about what it looks or sounds like. If they pause to think, I ask them to speed up so they donít have time to think. With a little warming up, they actually experience a flood of emotion.

One of my clients, Allen, spoke in a monotone. No matter how much I coaxed him, he refused to alter his expression. When he finished, he told me that he had learned to how to stay calm in all situations with no particular training. He didnít seek coaching for himself, but to find a few ways to help those who worked for him to better deal with their emotions. 

I commended him for his mastery, but asked if there was at least one person or situation that pushed his buttons. He said that nothing, not even an irate employee, bothered him. "I just handle it," he said. Then he explained that getting upset wasnít worth his time, and he could better solve problems when he stayed neutral. 

Again I commended him, and asked him if he at least had a mentor or a good book that acted as his guide. I had never met anyone who had truly reached this level of consciousness without years of guidance and practice. I had to believe that although he probably let a lot of remarks roll of his back, some events and words had to hit him between the eyes. In those cases, he was suppressing his feelings. He may be a good manager, but in the end, he would regret spending years in this state of disconnection.

I then said, "Let me ask you two more questions. If you still feel the same way about your temperament, then Iíll admit to being wrong."

Allen agreed. 

I said, "You told us about taking your son to a soccer game. I gathered that he is a decent player. Can you tell me the last time that when he played so well, that you busted out screaming and clapping for him?"

Allen sat quietly for a moment before he said, "Itís been a few years."

I said, "And when was the last time you rolled around on the floor with him, laughing so hard it hurt?"

This time his silence seemed like it went on forever. I resisted the urge to fill in the gap. 

Finally, he said, "Okay, I got it."

We did the exercise again many times over the next few weeks. In between sessions, he kept a log of experiences and a journal that helped him begin to uncover how he felt about the incidents. By the end of the month, Allen could tell his soccer story as if he were a Shakespearean actor.

Suppress one emotion, you hinder the ability to feel altogether. Whether the goal is to be a better manager, to be a better parent, or to be a happier human, you must be present to what your heart is feeling and saying without editing from your head. 

Success and happiness requires you be fully alive and present, aware of your emotions, their source, and their significance. Then you can freely choose the best course of action in the moment, to display or release the feeling and go on. And you can then allow the world and all itís glory to flood into your heart. Become one with your emotions, and you become one with the universe.

Know your emotions, befriend them. Allow your feelings to color your perception. People will marvel at your "intuition." You will revel in your joy.

Marcia Reynolds, author of Capture the Rapture: How to Step Out of Your Head and Leap Into Life, is the president of Covisioning, a coaching and training company focused on helping people and organizations access emotional intelligence and courage to reach their visions. You can read more about Marcia and her work at her website, www.covisioning.com (site will open in a new window).

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