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Another Day in the Country

Speaking of feelings

© Another Day in the Country

Several weeks ago, we were talking in this column about feelings that felt good. I used the word “nice.”

Most people don’t like that word, assuming someone is using it only to be polite — as in when they show you some gift they got for someone else and you are thinking, “I’m glad they didn’t get it for me,” but what you say is, “Oh, that’s nice.”

It’s a neutral term, synonymous with the word, “interesting.”

The nicest “nice” that I went on about in a previous column is a good kind of nice. It’s not ecstasy or amazement. You aren’t blown away. It’s subtle but warming at the same time — very positive, but not a demanding or loud, front-of-the-class feeling. It needs appreciating, so you’ll notice it more often.

I bought for my sister a book by Brené Brown called “Atlas of the Heart.” Then, before I had a chance to give it to her, I began reading the book myself.

It brought to mind when I was in grad school, well into my 40s, and I realized there were a whole slew of my own feelings that I was hiding from — ignoring, wanting to go away. 

And they did go away from my consciousness, but it left me feeling unfulfilled, sluggish, and bereft.

When I decided to get in touch with more feelings than mad, sad, OK, and happy, it was hard work — like untangling Christmas lights.

In this book I was reading, Brené identifies a long list of feelings and talks about their various characteristics.

She identifies what the feelings mean and includes tips on dealing with them as they arise.

The book was a gift, so I went ahead and gave it to Jess, but I wrote down that long list of feelings the author was writing about so I could remember them and thought you might be interested in them, too.

Here they are in a nutshell (that’s a metaphor for a paragraph). Disclaimer: These feelings are not in alphabetical order or listed in order of importance:

Stressed, overwhelmed, anxious, worried, avoidant, excitement, dread, fear, vulnerability, comparison, admiration, reverence, envious, jealousy, resentment, bored, disappointed, expectant, regret, discouraged, resigned, frustrated, seething, wonder, confusion, interest, surprise, amusement, bittersweet, nostalgic, cognitive dissonance, paradox, ironic, sarcastic, anguish, hopelessness, despair, sadness, grief, compassion, pity, empathy, sympathy, suffering, shame, perfection, invisible, insecure, humiliation, embarrassment, guilt, belonging, connection, disconnected, lonely, love, trust, betrayal, defensive, flooding, hurt, joy, happy, calm, content, grateful, foreboding, joy, relief, tranquil, anger, contempt, disgust, dehumanized, hate, self-righteous, pride, hubris, humility.

Whew! No wonder people drink alcohol. It’s not surprising that we keep busy all the time so we have no room for contemplation. It’s probably why many of us are overweight. We feel things we don’t identify, so we call it hunger.

Fact is there’s a reason we try to ignore our feelings. I counted, and three-fourths of the list we’d consider negative. Some are even listed as deadly sins in religious realms. 

Who’d want to acknowledge those negative feelings? But they’ve all been identified as part of being human.

On a positive note, you could call feelings a gift. They are meant to be helpful.

My dad used to say, “Oh, to live a dog’s life.” By this he meant a placid existence.

A whole lot of feelings that he didn’t want to notice or take the time to explore floated around his body. That’s why he carried Tums.

Awareness of his feelings had limited benefit, I’m guessing, but I think it’s a fair assessment.

So, why did I write about this big long list of feelings? My answer is that I thought it might be helpful — it’s just a feeling I had — because it was helpful to me to be reminded of the complexity of being a human.

When I feel at loose ends, I look at the list and say to myself: “Which one are you really feeling? Maybe we can do something about it.”

Then again, while I’m reading the very long list, my particular feeling already might have moved on. Feelings are like that — Quixotic, sometimes fleeting, but always worth noticing and useful to recognize and name.

Being able to pinpoint how we feel is enlightening. It improves our interactions with other people. It gives us clues, information about our life journey, enabling us to change and grow.

If you desire to be a happy, healthy, ever-improving person who is a blessing to your family, you need to be able to identify how you feel interacting in that environment, how it affects you and your decisions in life — pure and simple.

Honestly identifying one’s feelings is neither pure nor simple. It’s complicated, but it gets easier with practice. It also is necessary for those of us who aspire to be learning and growing — maybe even improving — throughout our lives.

That’s the bottom line, on another day in the country.

Last modified May 19, 2022

 

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