This is one of series of blogs that are a retrospective reflection on Integral City Community of Practice’s experience in taking the In This Together (ITT) course on basic facilitation skills taught by Diane Musho Hamilton and Ten Directions.
In the sixth module of the course we stepped back from the art of questioning and opening to perspectives and voices at the table, into the depths of feeling and emotion. We sought to add the colour of positive feelings and even confront the darkness of negative emotions that characterize authentic expression.
Diane demonstrated the power of engaging with emotions from both ends of the spectrum to transmute and transform a group that might be stuck, resistant or even belligerent into one that is open, energized and receptive.
Feeling embraces both physical feeling – where do I notice this feeling in my body – as well as emotions. We wondered if awareness and/or expression of feeling is related to a person’s style? For example, MBTI patterns include Feeling/Thinking as a preference. (And Enneagram 1’s go to feeling as their last impulse.) Perhaps for people who naturally prefer “feeling” first, noticing feeling in the body comes more easily than for those who prefer “thinking” as their prime preference.
Style can also be linked to Types, particularly related to men and women as a typology – where women, wired differently than men, tend to be more aware of and express their feelings more readily than men.
Then, we wondered how feelings are expressed differently in generations, being particularly curious about Millennials.
Marilyn noted that at the end of every chapter of the forthcoming (Integral City Inquiry & Action) Book 2 is a self-quiz that asks the reader to notice what they Observe, Think, Feel and Want. Interestingly the act of Observation uses our senses to notice what is going on outside of us. But Feeling asks us to notice what bodily sensations are going on inside of us.
Another facilitator remembered that Anne Wilson-Schaef used to teach a process for individuals in groups to check that they are not co-dependent. Her injunction was to name, “What do you want/feel/need?” This practice helped to clear the whole group energy field.
Behind feelings, one practitioner noted that the energy of groups can come to us through intuition. While tuning into groups can often seem like a vague practice, tuning into oneself as an antenna for the group can often give us the sense of group feeling or emotion. We can use our skill at questioning to name the emotion we are feeling and ask the group if anyone else is feeling the same way.
Different cultures express feelings differently; e.g. Japan tends to repress emotional expression and Latin countries tend to be very emotionally expressive. How we express feelings seems to relate to the habitats in which cultures have developed and perhaps how they view and experience safety.
One participant commented that she had experienced deep feelings because of the US election and the hate that it had generated. She was committed to speaking up against hate as a critical spiritual task for coming times.
By contrast, one of Dutch participants commented that in the Netherlands emotions are not expressed and supposed not to be there.
What was the ITT homework?
This week’s practice aimed at generating greater skills in including and expressing emotion.
- First, notice emotion in the body
- Be willing to feel both ends of the spectrum—positive and negative emotions
- Label or name the feeling
- Ask: What does this feeling bring to the communication? What information does it convey?
1. What did we experience in accomplishing the homework on noticing and expressing emotion?
Our experience in practising the homework produced interesting impressions that made us aware of our own willingness to express emotion, our ability to notice emotion in others and to help groups engage with emotion.
One of the group shared that, “I was emotionally triggered by what was going on in the room. Being able to read that energy and name it required concentration and focus. Then I had to choose whether to take the space and time to express or not express the emotion that I was sensing. I was surprised how difficult that is for me.”
Another facilitator agreed that she could quite easily stop proceedings and go into silence. This can help a group be more reflective. But it is not yet dealing with the feelings that have surfaced.
We agreed that noticing and naming feelings can play a very important role with conversation or meeting. People often act as if the feelings aren’t there. Their conversation can go on and they will think or suppose because the feelings are not named that the topic or issue or perspective is not related to emotions. We wondered if this is a shadow habit – perhaps even one that is practised worldwide?
Moreover, as another participant observed. “I notice when we are having discussions that include feelings, it opens up lots of possibilities. I am able to see lots of roads I haven’t been down before.” So, identifying feelings can help build on the familiar and open up directions we haven’t previously been aware of because we haven’t even considered them.
2. So What does the topic/homework on noticing and expressing emotion have to do with Integral City practice or training?
If we think of big cities containing many different cultures, that fact is interesting to remain aware of because this cultural mix impacts a lot on how we negotiate feelings and emotions. Emotions and feelings may be expressed in ways that are so deep we don’t see them and as a result, may not consider them.
Noticing emotion in the city relates to the sounds of the five stages of change (thanks to Don Beck for sharing this pattern in Spiral Dynamics integral training).
- When life is good and most people are content the emotions are positive and happy.
- When people notice many and/or small to moderate change in the habitat, emotions become worried, more edgy and unhappy.
- When people sense change is major and/or irreconcilable, emotions shift to the negative spectrum of fear, anger and even hate.
- When people sense a breakthrough has happened emotions can be elated, effusive and even ecstatic.
- When the breakthrough has matured into a new status quo, people once again express positive emotions of contentment.
A facilitator who does not notice feeling in the group (or in the city) can be blindsided by the information those feelings are representing. On the other hand, the facilitator who is willing to step into the “refiner’s fire” of feeling and emotion can help a group find the angels of their better nature by naming the feelings, exploring their roots and discovering the information they convey that can help the group move on, break through and/or discover new paths.
In many ways, exploring feelings is a skill related to Integral City’s Navigating Intelligence. Navigating feelings can give us advance warning of storms ahead and help us design strategies to avoid city “shipwreck”.
To find out what a city is feeling, opens up a lot of options or possibilities. Tapping into the feelings of groups in the city (or at the table) can reveal different ways of approaching challenges.
Many examples are coming out of the aftermath of the US election where some voters have been so confounded by a result they didn’t expect that they are reaching out to people who voted differently than them, with a genuine inquiry into what they believe and feel. One critical discovery is that many people did not feel safe under Obama. People who lost their jobs or who had their way of life threatened, thought they were voting for job stability and family security (by voting for Trump).
On the other hand, we also need to be wary of feelings that are presented as facts. By naming and sharing feelings, we can often discover they are not founded on facts and can be transmuted from negative to positive when facts are revealed.
3. Now What will we do as a result, of our homework experience and sharing on noticing and expressing emotion?
We gained much appreciation for the value of sharing and transmuting emotions and feelings and the positive impact practising these skills can have on our capacities as facilitators.
- We will go find people we don’t agree with and learn how they feel as well as what they think about the issues involved.
- We will notice our own feelings and where they are located in the body as a form of antenna for monitoring a group.
- We will use feelings to remind us to be genuinely curious about the feelings of others.
- We will check out the assumptions that we make about what others are feeling as a good practice and model for recognizing the value of feelings whenever we are “in this together”.
- We can monitor feelings when we use the 4 Questions to discover the change state of the Integral City habitat where we are facilitating (what is working/ not working / could work better/ how am I working?).
- We could translate those Integral City 4 Questions into feeling-related questions:
- What am I/are we feeling?
- What am I/are we not feeling?
- What could I/ we feel differently (more positively)?
- As a result of noticing my feeling, how have my feelings been released?
- We can notice our personal style preferences and strengthen our tendencies to feel, especially if feelings are not our first preference.
- We can speak up against hate and use these practices to help others transmute the feeling into positive expressions of feelings about change.
- As facilitators, it is valuable if not critical for us to practise each of the 4 steps in dealing with feelings for ourselves. In doing so, we can set a pattern for the group to expand its view of a situation, and give us all more information to help the group to transmute out of negative territory into positive options.