✒ “Feeling-favoritism” & “Feeling-equity”

It makes familiar andbig rocks in water089 practical sense to put happiness above all other feelings, especially sadness and grief. It is our cultural practice, as humans, to prefer happiness since the interactions and events that prompt happiness are highly desirable and the interactions and events that prompt sadness and grief are, naturally, not. Regarding a feeling as inextricably linked with the event that prompted it–and attempting to repeat or avoid that type of event and the feeling associated with it–makes familiar and practical sense.

Difficult as drawing this distinction can be–especially in traumatic situations–it is the capacity to be open to feelings, the capacity to be with and have all feelings, the capacity to understand their context and the capacity to empathize with ourselves and others that grants us resiliency and creative access to, and say in, the rich meaning, movement and direction of our daily lives.

Though it is important to be pro-active in life and optimistic, and to reach for the experiences we easily favor, our lives ebb and flow with events, circumstances and relationships that are often outside our control, prompting a wide and often unpredictable range of feelings.

Even within a world of uncertainty and potential danger, it is within our influence and control to permit ourselves to sustain and stretch our capacity to feel, to house all of our feelings (lest they go homeless), to seek to understand, accept and embrace feelings, as we would a child in need of comfort and celebration. Given the inevitability of life’s ups and downs–and, clearly, we definitely favor one kind of circumstance over another–this kind of open-ended, equitable relationship with feelings takes courage, clarity and practice with profound benefits to be had.

Feelings are like a river, constantly flowing within. Just think of the amount of time, energy, expense and potential loss, whenever you endeavor to impede that river’s flow. ELA encourages a robust swim on a moment-by-moment basis with every wave. Feeling equity provides buoyancy in the swim and the perceptual opportunity to distinguish the capacity to feel from the occurrence of an unwanted feeling-prompting circumstance.

Like life’s ups and downs, the shape of the river’s waves and the rate of their flow influences the nature of our swim and those waves and their pace don’t have to be the final arbiter on whether or not we stay in the water.

“What is true is already so. Owning up to it doesn’t make it worse. Not being open about it doesn’t make it go away. And because it’s true, it is what is there to be interacted with. Anything untrue isn’t there to be lived. People can stand what is true, for they are already enduring it.”
—Eugene Gendlin

Please respond to this blog post with a life experience for which you decided or were invited to expand your capacity to feel…what were the benefits and challenges?

Q: Do you have something against happy birthdays?

Frames limit & shape what fits inside.

(The question above was posed to Pamela Sackett by a Franklin High School student during the special program described below. This excerpt  is from ELA’s “Full Spectrum Birthday Song” study guide.)*

I visited a high school class, as a guest artist, after the students had listened to The Full Spectrum Birthday Song in honor of a classmate and as a catalyst for learning. The teacher invited me to discuss the song and answer questions. One of the boys in the class wanted to know if I had something against people being happy on their birthdays. Initially, I was surprised by his question and then I quickly realized that the song invites an unfamiliar change in orientation to birthdays from “happy” (a traditional approach) to “full-spectrum” (a new and different approach). ‘Happy’ gets most, if not all, the “good press” so it holds a pretty exclusive place. I let the boy and the class know that, in creating this song, I intended to:

• leave no feeling by the wayside;
• make a festive show of mutual inclusivity for all feelings;
• inspire our human culture to consider “happy” to be one part of a full spectrum of feelings.

Feelings are like letters in the alphabet—are there any you could do without? Like letters, every feeling has its special place and when you add them together, their meaning multiplies. Though it is difficult sometimes to recognize and express some of our feelings, all feelings have a story to tell. It is up to us to discover it. With kind guidance, patience and courage, feelings can be quite enlightening indeed.

*Additional facets on this perspective can be found in the next blog entry: “What is feeling favoritism and feeling equity?”

More about “Ask ELA,” The Blog

Dale Klein's vintage typewriter
Image by Dale J. Klein

The “Ask ELA” Blog facilitates active outreach and a fluid platform for sustaining and generating new narrative and public dialogue to advocate for emotion literacy.

In “Q & A ELA”–one of our blog categories–we invite your questions and will answer as many genuine requests for perspectives as we can and apologize, in advance, if we are unable to address them all.

Some questions have arisen through our direct engagement with “emotion literacy explorers” who have experienced ELA programs. We invite you to explore our educational materials and programs and our most active ways to engage with our teachings through Pamela’s newest book and explorer circle.

Much of what you will find here in the “Ask ELA,” blog is driven by an intent to untangle habitual ways of thinking–with which we all wrestle–and to weave new communicative ways.

In ELA-land, narrative is key and feeling-inquisitive narrative sheds light, opens perceptual doors, feeds freedom to revise our thinking for insight, growth and authentic connections.

We use the epistemological approach to social-cultural-emotionally-charged human communication systems by considering a train of thought’s sources, methods and limitations.

Stretch your EL advocacy muscle every which way… explore the “Ask ELA” Blog today! Send your “Q & A ELA” questions via our contact page. We invite you to share your responses to any of our blog posts. We thank you for participating in Emotion Literacy Advocates’ multi-directional learning forum!