The holiday season, with its twinkling lights piercing the icy darkness and obligatory good cheer straining every face is for many people one of the tensest times of the year. Even the promise of a New Year and the good intentions embodied in our resolutions may leave us as cold as a winter day’s high temperature. But that’s life, with all its highs, lows and plateaus. It’s said that we can’t control what happens to us but we can control our reaction to it. But when the emotion itself becomes an event it is time to ask, “who’s in charge here?”
…feelings are often ignored or buried. Yet they are the movement of life inside us. The emotion knocking on our door is letting you know that you have reason to be excited or fearful and that your aliveness is calling you to a larger version of yourself. Both negative and positive emotions can be unnerving invitations to get real. They ask us to attend to what we want or don’t want in our lives, to what is good and not good for us. They ask us to hold on to ourselves.
— from “The Courage to Feel”
For more than twenty-five years, Andrew Seubert has been helping people come to grips with their emotions. A psychotherapist with practice in Corning, NY and Mansfield, PA, he has put the philosophy and counseling he provides to clients into a new book “The Courage to Feel”, subtitled “A Practical Guide to the Power and Freedom of Emotional Honesty”. The 263-page book contains physiological and psychological explanations of the roots of emotion, case histories and strategies for uncovering and coping with triggering events as well as many training exercises and procedures. To help readers describe their feelings in a word, Mr. Seubert warns about intellectualizing too much and then presents a list of about ninety feelings (pleased… loved… worried… miserable… timid…) that can serve as the one-word (sorry… furious… ashamed…) that will reveal the message borne by the emotion. Then it’s necessary to test for emotional honesty and overcome “the fear of feeling”.
But human beings are mentally and emotionally complex, and we don’t easily adapt to change in our lives. So to make his lessons clearer, Andrew Seubert opens most of the chapters of “The Courage to Feel” by turning to a turtle. He has written a fable (some would call it a parable) of Simon, who dared to come out of his shell, and his mouse friend Ronald.
“What’re you thinking?” asked Simon, noticing his friend’s unusual reticence. “Remember we were talking the other day, and you said that sometimes I can irritate you?” answered Ronald. “ Yeah,” replied Simon.“But that doesn’t happen too often, you know.” “ Right, but do you like how you feel at times like that? I don’t mean irritated or angry or such things.I mean, how you are feeling about you when I’m irritating you.” “ Umm, not so good,” answered Simon.“Well, that could be a problem.”
Their conversations sound like those a psychotherapist might have with a client reluctant to open up and speak out. “The Courage to Feel” is a self-help book, filled with thoughtful advice such as, “To ignore our Self-signals and to second-guess the needs and reactions of those around us is to become the yo-yo at the end of someone else’s string.” There is a page of Guidelines for Creating What You Want. But Seubert also advises that there are times when “guidance of a professional to accompany us through the unfamiliar terrain” is necessary.
Andrew Seubert joins Bill Jaker on OFF THE PAGE to tell about “The Courage to Feel” and respond to listeners’ questions about understanding our emotions