Emotions and feelings are simply ideas. What you do with them gives you character and keeps life interesting. After learning this simple skill you can amaze your friends with surprising conversations and observations about yourself.
These are not hard questions to answer, but they do take focus and a little consideration. 99% of what you do, think and feel is on full automatic pilot. This kind of reflection is not the kind of thinking you are used to. This is a quick visit to our your old brain and this is where your shadows live.
With just a little practice these questions can be answered in a split second. But to begin with it takes a little time and most of us start with paper and pen. Notice how your mind throws moving ideas into your head and that makes things hard to sort out.
The 5 Questions:
- What did I see and hear? (your eyes and ears talking – what they saw and heard)
- What do I think about that? (your brain talking – making up stories)
- What do I feel? (your heart talking – glad, sad, mad or fear)
- What do I want? (your stomach talking)
- What am I going to do? (your brain talking with your stomach, heart, brain and eyes)
Question 1: What did I see and hear?
This is how a robot would describe a video of the incident. The robot will simply say what was seen and heard. No judgments, no interpretations, no remarks, no ideas about what the action means.
Example: “I was driving along the freeway and getting ready to take my exit. Suddenly a guy swerved across two lanes of heavy traffic and cut in front of me. I had to slam on my brakes so I wouldn’t hit him.”
Question 2: What do I think about that?
What are your stories. The little stories focused on the little incident only. You might have a lot of stories because you need to invent ‘meaning’, it’s a human thing. There is no right or wrong story, they are all just made up by you.
These are also your judgments about what just happened. Someone else would make up a completely different story about what just happened. These is your story only. They are just ideas.
Example: “That asshole almost killed me!”
Question 3: What do I feel?
This step is an extraordinary thing to do. You have to cook your feelings down to just four simple emotions:
Some people have a hard time with this. There are hundreds of English words to describe your feelings. Often a single word describes a combination of many feelings and also describes the intensity of them. It can get tricky.
Taking a step back and taking a careful look inside is not a normal thing to do. It might help to mentally close your eyes and take a little breath as you do this. This does get easier and faster after doing it just a few times.
Example: “That guy scared the crap out of me and I’m mad as hell!”
It is normal to have a bunch of feelings at the same time. Take your time and sort them out as best you can. Usually one feeling will be the strongest and it will be easy to identify.
‘Reasons why’ When you identify a feeling it is normal to jump back into your head to find the ‘reasons why’, sometimes called the back story. This micro-journey happens in just a second.
A ‘reason why’ is the little story you told yourself that triggered the emotion. It is the hard wiring of your emotion. There might be several ‘reasons why’ or there might be just one.
When you are starting out with these questions, take time poking around with these ‘reasons why’, your payoffs could be huge. When you get faster with the questions, the ‘reasons why’ will not be very important. You will already know them and you don’t have to visit them every time you discover an emotion.
These ‘reasons why’ are also a great source of stories you can tell. It’ll be easy for you to get excited and wave your hands around when you tell some of the stories and they are fun to embellish.
Example: “That guy has no right to be driving like that! He almost killed me!”
Question 4: What do I want?
This is your stomach talking. Your stomach tells you when to eat and drink. Your stomach almost always wants something.
Now it’s time to use your stomach as a metaphor. Ask it; “What do I want?” He’ll tell you and some of what he wants will surprise you. This is where some of your shadows get to say stuff out loud. They get to think of ‘inappropriate’ ideas. They get to be naughty and consider the forbidden for just a few seconds.
Having these ideas come to life is not giving them permission to posses you. You are simply visiting some of the darker parts of your mind. Giving them a little air time is a very good thing. You do not have to do what they tell you and you do not have to tell anyone what just popped into your brain. They are just ideas.
You’ll probably smile when you hit some juicy ideas.
Examples: “I’d like to drag him out and beat the crap out of him.”
“He ought to get a damn ticket.”
“I hope he crashes into a light pole.”
Question 5: What am I going to do?
This last question is a quick visit your new brain, your thinking brain. This is when you make your plans for real action. You do not have to do anything you come up with here, but you might discover an action you really are going to take.
For most of us, this last step is to simply be aware of what’s going on inside, and not say a thing.