Thoughts come from the brain, feelings come from the body. This little nugget of wisdom arrived in my household early in this year, and it’s slowly landing in my body… Along with the juiciest nugget of all, that the breath is what connects the two. (Where is the emoji for Mind. Blown. ??)
I skew strongly on the thoughts/brain spectrum, which is to say, I can articulate a lot of ideas really well, but emotions? Ooh. That’s a lot harder. Recently, I’ve been challenged by a friend who asks me “in what part of your body do you feel a sensation when you relate that story?” I’m embarrassed at the long silence that follows as I remember, oh! I have a body too! I’m not just a brain in the jar. Hey, body! Wake up! Do you feel anything? Anywhere? I’m only glad she can’t see my screwed up face as I scan up and down, up and down, looking for signs of life, tingles, heat, itches, aches, sensations…
Happily, I have discovered that parenthood has been a forced foray into becoming more emotionally fluent. The need became immediately apparent the first time I parroted something I’d probably seen on SuperNanny to my toddler, when he was wrestling for a toy, “Use your words!”
And then I realized, uh, he doesn’t have the words unless I give them to him.
Happily, as I’ve played catch-up with my feelings literacy, we’ve had other wonderful influences around us. I feel as though this generation is growing up with far more ability to express and name their emotions that I did (where the repertoire for feelings management was: swallow it, stuff it down, say something nice, stay stoic, when all else fails pretend nothing happened.)
As I wrestled my strong-willed Small into school day prep this morning, I was able to say, “man, I have to say, I’m feeling really frustrated. I’m trying to help you, but every thing I suggest, you say no to, and that is slowing us down, and I’m worried we’re going to be late.” And the air in the room stayed neutral. And my desire to yell suddenly dissipated. Just as the night before, when he’d yelled out from the bath, as I was trying to cook dinner, “I’m feeling so frustrated that you are being such a slow poke and not coming to me right away,” quenched at least some degree of the protest-splashing.
Anyway, that’s all a long preface to this great little movie, that was inspired by the filmmaker’s kindergarten-age son, who was learning about how emotions affect different regions of the brain, and how to calm down by taking deep breaths, at school. Inspired, she took a 6 week course in mindfulness, and then made this short film, with her son, his classmates and their family members one Saturday afternoon. The film is entirely unscripted – what the kids say is based purely on their own neuro-scientific understanding of difficult emotions, and how they cope through breathing and meditation.
Kids are great teachers… even if just in the motivation they give us to step up our game… in order to serve them better.
Thanks for the link, Alex Moir.