Feeling The Feeling
WHY DOES “FEELING THE FEELING” REDUCE OUR SUFFERING?
“The only way the primal pain and the act-out it generates can be eradicated is through experiencing the memory of the trauma, to make it conscious.” (1) Consciously experiencing the memory of the trauma is feeling the feeling of it.
Because the sensorimotor content of a conditioned fear response (imprint) is constantly pushing toward consciousness…and, because our nervous system is always trying to prevent this from happening…we suffer and feel depressed. The way out of our suffering and depression is to let ourselves feel the rising sensorimotor content. This requires a willingness to sit with the resultant discomfort. “Feeling the feeling” means bringing the content before the mind’s eye. Remember: with sensorimotor memories, we must let them be expressed, rather than thought about. Our ability to observe mental images (as though from a third-person perspective) is what is meant by the term “mind’s eye”. Antonio Damasio reminds us that mental images are not just visual. “By the term images I mean mental patterns with a structure built with tokens of each of the sensory modalities- visual, auditory, olfactory, gustatory, and somatosensory”. (2) This releases the previously trapped imprint material into the high-road sensory process, making “connection” possible. Connection to specific painful data (the content of the imprint) releases the suffering. It also gives the medial prefrontal cortex access to the sensorimotor elements of the imprint, which enables control over our response to the felt content in the future. To the extent that we can feel the content of our imprinted pain, to the same extent is neurotic suffering diminished.
(1) Janov, A., Why You Get Sick: How You Get Well, West Hollywood, Ca: Dove Books, 1996, P91.
(2) Damasio, A., The Feeling Of What Happens, New York: Harcourt Brace and Company, 1999, P318.