"Hungarian pianist András Schiff concluded his performance of Bach’s French Suites to thunderous applause at the San Francisco Symphony. The man next to me clapped loudly.
I leaned over and asked, “What did you think?”
“Tremendous, absolutely tremendous,” he said. “you know, I’ve downloaded his performances and listened to his records for years, but this – to be here in the third row where the strings vibrate in your chest, where his hands flutter over the keys as he plays for three hours… from memory… with his eyes closed – this is to see something with soul in it.”
“Wow,” I said, “you must be a pianist.”
“Who, me?” he said. “No, I can’t play a tune. But I often have a dream where I can.”
How aware are you of your inner longings, dreams and feelings? Do you follow them? Do you pay attention to what gives you life energy? Do you stay involved with yourself, or take a disinterested position towards your inner experiences?
From an evolutionary perspective, feelings help guide us, communicate and connect with others. Findings from contemporary neuroscience show that connection with our bodies provides a sense of anchoring to the sense of self. Bessel Van der Kolk (2014), a leading expert on healing from trauma, states that we can only truly know ourselves when we feel and interpret our physical sensations, and act on them to navigate throughout life.
Yet, a lot of people treat their feelings and longings as enemies, bringing mostly painful truths.
Diana Fosha (2000) talks about the visceral experience of deep feelings in therapy as a way of allowing for new self-perceptions, heightened sense of vitality and authenticity, and for freeing emotional resources. In this way, in time, even when feelings are experienced as painful, the person can have the experience of themselves as strong and resourceful instead of helpless, passive and unworthy of love. Interestingly, such experiences in therapy often result in an emergence of memories of good relationships the person forgot about, which were significant for their psychic survival at the time. This, in turn, helps reinstate the core sense of self as worthy of love and good, and leads to a wider and more adaptive range of behaviours. For example, the full visceral experience of anger results in assertiveness, ability to stand up for one’s rights, to put boundaries in place and set limits to unhelpful behaviours of others.
“Overcoming what has previously been overwhelming, confronting what one has been avoiding, is empowering”