From Thinking to Feeling - A Dispatch From My Journey

From Thinking to Feeling - A Dispatch From My Journey

Alex Guillien

It’s much easier for me to think than to feel. My ability to communicate is limited on the feeling side and increased on the logical, thinking side. This has been pointed out at various times in my life. Sometimes I’ve accepted it and sometimes I’ve rejected this notion. But I know the truth. 
My emotional vocabulary is limited and an area to improve upon. It’s easier to fall into a logical narrative about the past than to insert a “feeling” word, at least for me. For someone who has been drawn to writing, this is kind of odd. When asked how a particular event made me feel, blanks are drawn. This is part of “my work” as I progress. 

I knew part of that work was going to be through Douglas Heel’s Be Activated workshop. I’d first learned about in some of Chris Korfist’s writing and I took my first concrete steps in 2017 when I learned RPR from Cal. These four days with Douglas and my fellow attendees were a big step down this path.

A Be Activated workshop begins with introductions that can sometimes take most of the day. I was one of the last people to go. I didn’t know what to say and it was unsettling. I didn’t know why I was there exactly. I thought I did. 

I had been to a therapy session. I had made what felt like good progress. And I thought the workship would be a continuation of exorcising those proverbial demons. Those events from childhood certainly have had an effect. But as people were talking about their reasons why, I felt like I didn’t belong. I felt like my anxious about  my worthiness to be part of this group. I even felt like crying as I heard some other people’s stories. I knew I was there for myself so that I could help other people eventually. But my reason didn’t feel right.

As I began talking I fell into narrative and Douglas cut me off. I had done exactly what I feared. Retreating into a story that most people might say (me included), “so what.” I felt embarrassed as Douglas said, more or less, that. He was pointing to my tendency to think in place of feeling, but without explicitly saying it. My respect for the room was that of giants and inside I felt embarrassed, humiliated, and isolated. However, on the outside nothing of the sort happened: he simply called out the retreat into narrative. But what happened inside affected me the entire day. 

When sense of self is poor, emotional maturity is lower and can be compensated for with intellectual maturity -- powerful intellect holds them instead.

What doesn’t develop in one area, over-develops in another area.

It wasn’t until the end of the day after doing the breathing reset that I felt relief from those heavy feelings. Feeling lighter in walking and overall was incredibly freeing. If I was tense before, now I was at ease.  It wasn’t a complete ease but I dropped down the staircase a bit.

The second day was filled with many emotional releases from others and it was touching to see. To share a room with that energy is unexplainable. Part of me craved that experience because I knew there was plenty in me, weighing me down. I thought I knew what might come out, but it didn’t turn out that way.  After dinner on Day 2, I was left feeling that tomorrow might be my day. I had been too focused on “me,” on Day 3 I would have the chance to open up.

It certainly didn’t start right as my uber driver brought me to the wrong side of the school, and I had to sprint around the building because all the doors were locked. Luckily there were some logistical issues for some other folks and I had enough time to sneak into class, albeit stressed, sweating, and breathing hard. Pretty serious sympathetic arousal. But if that was the worst part of my day, it would be a good one. 

In a Be Activated workshop, we go in depth on each of the activations with one or two people in the class before breaking out and working with partners. As we reached the shoulder activation, Douglas scanned the room and said I was an easy pick because I was leaning against a wall … but my shoulders weren’t even touching the wall. I was excited to begin. Laying on the table and looking up as Douglas began instructing the group on the areas he noticed something. He noticed some sort of disassociation and said something to get me “back in the room.” I didn’t realize I was doing anything. 

Then, emotions began to overwhelm me. He was still talking to the group. The activation hadn’t even begun. He quieted the room and everyone immediately took his cue. We then had the contract of “you can say stop, you are in control.” For me, it was going to take a lot of discomfort to make me say stop. These emotions are there for a reason and they need to be released. 

The activations were painful. Tears streamed down my face. At one point I wanted to push his body away from me. The room was eerily quiet. All eyes were on me as I was instructed to stand up. Feeling after this is confusing. So many things coming in and going out. I walked off of the stage away from the group until I met the wall. I didn’t want to turn around. I wanted to hide or leave and head out the door. It took a lot to turn around and walk towards them. 

My chest felt incredibly open. I felt significantly less tension, again implying an ease in my step. I felt accepted by the group. I felt connected. I told Douglas I knew what it was all about. I used to be held down by and suffocated growing up and was unable to fight it. Those muscles in the pecs and upper chest (fighting off and breathing) have been tense and tight for all of these years. He put in the same position and had me practice pushing him off a few times to integrate it all. I gained some semblance of agency but not entirely.

This wasn’t the first time this area was worked on and I had an emotional release. It happened back in March. Two bodyworkers were working on me. One had my arm out to the side while working on the armpit/pec area. One said, “It feels like you want to punch someone. Who do you want to punch?”  It wasn’t who I thought it was. This is “my work” to continue to unravel the ball of yarn held in this area.

Just as I came to Be Activated thinking I was working on a continuation of some therapy, a different release was to come. Something I forgot was in there. Something, perhaps I didn’t want to feel. 

What came next wasn’t some illumination, however. The next weeks were incredibly difficult. I experienced a depressive period complete with hopelessness, confusion, lethargy, and sadness. I didn’t know what to do. I wanted to use the momentum from the course to work with others and continue to learn. It’s only recently I’ve felt able to concentrate, read, comprehend, and engage in the world. 

I've been working into shifting the scales from thinking into feeling. Patterns are difficult to break. Especially if they are physiological and unconscious. By moving into the body with the activations, taking the time to sit in silence, and breathe the yarn may slowly unravel. 

We’ve all got work to do. 

Mine is to move from thinking into feeling.