Will Joel Friedman, Ph.D. is a seasoned clinician with experience working with adults, couples, families, adolescents and older children since 1976. His aim ...Read More
When you say, “You’re driving me crazy!!”, who is really driving you crazy?
Does another person really possess the power to do anything to you (with the exception of outright aggression or a criminal act)? Or is it an inside job and we’re doing a bang-up job driving ourselves crazy? When you are upset, angry or disturbed as well as happy, joyous and ecstatic, how do you “hold” that?
Here are four levels of what can be called “straight feeling talk” in how you think, speak and act with feeling feedback from your body. Each level you arise to reflects a shift in consciousness that embodies being feeling straight, holding true equanimity and being still. No moralistic judgments of right and wrong, good or bad, need apply. The opportunity that is ever available is to rise to completely own your life and take responsibly for how you communicate feelings.
0. Emotionally reactive and verbally blaming: At this pre-level one is emotionally reactive and blaming others for his or her emotional experience. “You are” statements, such as, “You are angering me” and, “You made me love you,” are characteristic. The person often feels overwhelmed, out of control and taken advantage of, much like being in the role of a victim. This is akin to someone acting as if they were a billiard ball being knocked around the billiard table of life by other billiard balls in the form of people, circumstances, feelings, thoughts, behaviors and oneself. The view is expressed in what can be called the dreaded “to me’s, on me’s, at me’s, upon me’s and made me’s!” Other than acts of victimization, this is pure nonsense. One can create a great deal of emotional drama in their interpersonal life. Such behavior tends to be off-putting to others and drive them away. One might estimate that at least 70 percent, and as much as 90 percent, of the world operates on this level at the present time.
1. Triggers are named and linked to emotions: At first level the person is able to identify the trigger(s) in their environment that are linked with their feelings, mood and emotional state and make an “I statement” about it. For example, “When you look away while I’m talking with you, I get angry and upset,” and “When you look into my eyes like this, I feel so warm and secure.” The person attributes their bodily feeling feedback to something outside themselves, such as another’s behavior, mood, attitude and words. At this level there is the conscious awareness that you are “letting”, “permitting”, and “allowing” another’s behavior to influence your feeling, mood and emotional state. For instance you may say, “I sure could let myself react with anger to your cold distant behavior,” or “I can easily allow myself to join you in your joy.” This stage is a preliminary step toward “feeling straight” given the heightened awareness level and making an “I feel” statement in locating themselves as the one experiencing the feeling, instead of projecting and blaming one’s feeling state onto others, circumstances and situations. Possibly some 5 percent to 10 percent of the world operates on this first level of straight feeling talk at this point in our development.
2. Triggers are perceived as “set-ups” for specific feelings and choice is present: At this level one perceives specific behaviors, attitudes, thoughts and situations as “set-ups” or “lead-ins” for specific individual (or collective) feeling/emotional states given past conditioning. For illustration, a woman may perceive a male interrupting her speaking and then verbalize, “Boy, I see this interruption as really setting me up to feel hurt, wounded and angered. Instead of going ballistic, which I oh so easily could do, I request you acknowledge your behavior, own it, clean it up with an apology, commit to not interrupt again and allow me to complete my idea, thank you.” At this level there is the conscious awareness of “letting”, “permitting”, and “allowing” your feeling, mood and emotional state to be associated or linked with (not “caused by”) another’s behavior. For example you can say, “I won’t permit your nasty words and upset behavior to ruin my good time out tonight,” or “I can permit myself the pleasure of soaking up your kindness.”
One able to sincerely communicate in this fashion and operate on a level of honesty regarding past emotional conditioning of emotionally hot “set-ups” and “lead-ins” usually commands attention, respect and to be taken seriously. This is the pivotal stage in weaning from the untoward distorting influence of our ego mind in turning a feeling into a mood or emotion, while recovering our ability to notice and feel a feeling all the way through our bodies to decode what it is telling us. It would seem that only a small percentage of the world, perhaps 2 or 3 percent of the world operates on this level of straight feeling talk currently.
3. Feelings are perceived, verbalized and processed in a “straight” fashion: On this high level the person is willing to be on-purpose with their feeling life by perceiving and accepting the outer set-ups and lead-ins as “just what’s so” as well as cognitively holding the feeling feedback as all theirs. For illustration, the person in the above example might say, “The truth is I’m making myself hurt and angry over what I perceive as you being rude and unaware. I would really prefer if you would acknowledge stepping on my words, apologize and let me finish.” Other illustrations of taking complete ownership (not responsibility) of your feeling, mood and emotional state is saying, “I’m really delighting and enjoying myself in this conversation!”, “I can see how I’m just frustrating myself over this darn lawnmower not working,” and “I totally own getting passionate over my vision of our new house.”
At this level one is able to acknowledge what we all do in helping orchestrate our feeling lives. “I’m making myself” and “I am creating myself feeling” are honest forms of straight feeling expression. “I’m upsetting myself over” and “I’m letting myself feel joy over” are an honest form of being feeling straight. While emotions deriving from past conditioning held by our thinking ego minds may arise, it can be ever more swiftly identified, witnessed and surrendered over and over again.
Various transformational approaches can be helpful in processing through and releasing the “emotional charge” on incomplete past traumas as well as functionally and affirmatively “writing over” past survival decisions. The ability to own and take responsibility for how you perceive, verbalize and process the feeling feedback present is what’s critical-not for the feeling itself. One can only guess how few people, possibly .1 percent of the world, operate on this level of honest feeling talk at the present time. Of course, the pre-level and all three levels of straight feeling talk are absolutely available to everyone with awareness. Awareness practically translates into bringing a willingness and follow through in actions for growth and development of Awareness and Consciousness.
Actually, so long as there is a separate “I,” that is, the imaginary self or ego thinking it is your identity, it is only that “I” that is being allowed to upset or anger or hurt itself; who you are simply goes on for the ride witnessing it all. On the highest level, there is no “I-thought” or “self” present, only feelings as bodily feedback on our inner and outer environments. Listening in presence opens up life.