What do you feel?
What do you want?
How often do you ask yourself these questions? How often do you ask others these questions—if you’re like me, probably not often enough.
These questions are the portals to knowing where you are and what to do about it. If you’re like the rest of us, you were trained to believe as Descartes said, “I think there for I am.” Focusing on your thinking distracts you from what you are feeling, from what your unconscious mind is experiencing. It is your unconscious, your emotions that really are the determiners of what drives you. Reasoning doesn’t work for a young child, and reasons don’t remove your feelings and wants. Reasoning just distracts or represses feelings and wants.
By acknowledging your deeper experience, you are giving power to the part of you that has wisdom beyond your intellectual mind. You are empowering the part of you that hungers for expression and fulfillment.
How often have you calculated what to do, and achieved it only to discover you’re weren’t satisfied? I’m not saying that you should appease your every emotion or desire, I’m suggesting that you start communicating with these parts. Much like a child who doesn’t get to express or get what he wants, often you will either sabotage or not enjoy what you get.
When I started the Sandpoint Men’s Groups back in 2003, I incorporated these two questions into the core of the group. Often when a man was stuck, another man would ask one of these questions to assist the man to go deeper into discovering what he was experiencing. Out of his new awareness, the man knew what he needed to do. Every man in the group might have seen what was needed. What the group learned was that by telling the man that something was not going to work—he wasn’t learning how to create on his own.
What do you feel?
Before anything, you must feel. Are you angry, sad, afraid, shamed or happy? Having a specific label is not important at this stage, being aware of the emotional quality is. If you’re not sure, check out your body. Where do you feel tension? Where are you holding your breath? What part of your body wants to act or is held back from acting?
These questions are guides into your feelings. Surrender to whatever you experience. Keep breathing and surrender more. Your feelings will have space to come up to be felt and acknowledged. Next, put a voice to these feelings. If you aren’t used to voicing your feelings, your voice may feel weak at first, that’s okay, you’re in training. You’re just experiencing how you’re out of shape; keep feeling and speaking.
You may feel shy about voicing your feelings, we all are. As with any skill, it becomes easier with practice and then automatic. I started out very shy as a result of my Asperger’s Syndrome, dyslexia and a speech impediment. As I spoke more of my feelings, I found my voice. To the chagrin of a few, I no longer hold back my feelings. You can do the same.
What do you want?
Now that you know what you feel—what do you want? Sometimes this transition happens naturally. You may feel sad; you may be grieving a loss.
Often you need to ask yourself specifically what you want. What will solve the problem, cause you to move forward or make you happy? Habit or enculturation will have you respond in ways that might not fulfill your want, so ask yourself.
Embrace your desires; put a voice to them. Like your feelings at first, communicating your wants may come out rough. Just keep expressing and it will get easier and smoother.
As you perfect asking yourself these questions, ask others. When asked in a soft, curious manner the response you get can be amazing. Just think about it, how many times has someone asked you what you felt or wanted? I mean really asked—without an agenda; because they wanted to know, because they cared.
Offer your question to someone as if you are offering an appetizer. Let them take your offer, if they choose and then wait. Don’t re-ask it. Don’t rephrase it unless they ask for clarity. Don’t give them multiple chooses to help them. Don’t ask for a yes or no answer.
Ask as an open-ended question, and then wait. I know that waiting in the void is difficult but through the practice of asking yourself, you will become more comfortable waiting in silence. That silence is a huge gift. It is the invitation to the person to go deep, to express honestly and feel like what he or she says will be accepted.
By asking these two simple questions and then waiting, communication is often transformed. After asking their wives these questions and then listening, men come back astounded with how easy it was and how their communication shifted.
As you develop the skill of asking yourself and others these questions, you will notice your decisions are better and take less energy to manage. More importantly, you will be happier and be getting more of what you want.
You may notice that women are better at the what do you feel and men are better at what do you want. You’ll also may notice that certain feelings and wants are easier than others to express. If you stay with it, this process will eventually be automatic. It will be as if you have an ongoing program operating in the background asking these questions.
Play with these questions; their power is in their simplicity. Let me know what you learn.
Photo: zaQography via Flickr