Feel to Feel
I was watching a mother as she was soothing her crying child when I realized that very few words passed between the two. Hardly any at all. The mother was holding her daughter close to her chest, kissing and caressing her lightly. The only sounds I could hear were soft murmurs of love.
I thought to myself, “at the end of the day” (a South African way of saying : “what is really important is…”), we are all children at heart.
When we are in pain, all we want is to be loved, caressed, held close to the heart, comforted by someone we love. Not words. At those moments of hurt and anguish words only interfere with our need to feel and be felt.
It has long been a truism in our culture that women do not want someone reasoning with them when they are feeling despondent or simply feeling low. Logical investigation of why they hurt and what to do about it often only leads to anger, if not fury.
What is wanted is that we shut up and listen. What is wanted is emotional touching, not reason; love, not logic; a sense that the person they care about connects to their feelings, not their mind. What I call: feel to feel.
But come to think of it, we men need and desire the same kind of response.
Imagine for a moment a man coming home from some interaction in the office that went badly. Our partner tries to talk us out of how we feel; tries to use logic; tries to persuade us not to be so bruised or unhappy or out of sorts.
I believe our response is predictable. We will be furious too.
Just shut up and feel my pain, is what we want too, although often we are unable to utter the words: Too macho to ask for comfort. But wouldn’t it be nice if our partner just held us, hugged us, listened to us and was “just there…?”
If an insight is called for here, it might be stated as:
Logical issues should be handled with logic,
Feelings should be handled with feelings.
Not feelings with logic or logic with feelings.
Here are some examples of a potential confusion:
Think of a person dying. Imagine someone telling him that it is not so terrible. Really. There is life after death. And God is waiting. And come to think of it, heaven is not a bad place to be. Huh…it is so idiotic that it is not even funny…an extreme example of feelings handled with logic, with words.
Something else is wanted here. Something simple. And direct. Perhaps as slight a gesture as holding someone’s hand. Silently. With a caress. Or placing a hand on his (or her) heart. Gazing directly at one another.
It becomes a way of showing love. Of transmitting your sense of caring. Do not speak. Talk will only interfere, will only blur the connection.
Feelings should be responded to with feelings…
By the same token we should not handle logical issues with feelings either.
Imagine that you come to someone and ask him (or her) for advice, explaining what went wrong.
Instead of reasoning with you, offering alternate suggestions or possible paths to follow, he (or she) tries to hold your hand, hugs you in an effort to offer comfort and tries to make you feel better. You will dismiss that person in a heartbeat. You were seeking advice, not emotional support; tough analytical reasoning, not sympathy or empathy.
The rule then is: feelings should be responded with feelings and logic with logic, and do not confuse which stimulus calls for which response.
Look at lovers sitting on a bench by the beach at sunset. Is he saying: “Let me tell you the many ways WHY I love you,” or is he just holding her in an embrace and not saying a word?
Speaking would ruin the moment.
Feelings come from the heart and, yes, there is and can be heart to heart communion. Without declaring a sentence or uttering a word.
The mind speaks with words; the heart with action done in silence.
To me this insight, which evolved as I watched a mother soothe a crying child, has repercussions within a marriage, in a lover’s fight… and even in a business partnership turning sour.
Because what hurts people more times than we understand, is not what happens to them, but what it means to them. Often it is the heart that is reacting to what is going on, not necessarily the mind.
And to help someone in that situation we need first to empathize. When he (she) calms down and asks for our comments, in effect wants us to speak, only then should we respond with words of understanding. But not sooner.
If this insight makes sense, it has repercussions in international relations as well. For example, today there is still no peace in the Middle East. I suggest that there will be none until both sides are able and willing to respond to each other with “heart speak” not “mind speak.”; with actions from the heart and not words expressing the mind.
What is happening instead is that words of negotiation have become the form and substance of exchange. They have covered over and replaced the feeling side of the equation. What they have left on the table is all barter and logic; rational thinking; who did what to whom; who is the victim and who is the villain.
All the while the real problem is staring us (and them) in the face: Jewish hearts bleeding from the Holocaust, and Palestinian hearts torn by the loss of home and land.
I am not suggesting here that they hold hands and look into one another’s eyes. Please…but there are ways I believe each side can turn to one another with an open heart. Less talk, more heartfelt action.
Here is an example: A friend of mine who is the personal physician of Shimon Peres, the President of Israel, does exactly that.
Once a month he and dozens of physicians visit a different Palestinian village and offer their medical services free of charge.
That seems to me a feel to feel act. A response from the heart, less talk and more heartfelt action
If there is going to be peace in a marriage, in a partnership going sour, in international relations, the path must lead from the heart…and include far fewer words. At least to start with.
Dr. Ichak Kalderon Adizes