Stuart Woods

This conversation is closed.

What happens (and how do we know) when we move from thinking to feeling?

I am currently exploring the thinking/feeling continuum with a group of students at my school. If we can raise our self-awareness to the level of knowing when we shift from thinking to feeling (and where on the line is our default setting) then I believe we can live at an enhanced level of Flow and enjoy greater levels of fulfillment; but what do you think? I would like to know if people readily know how to describe their place on a continuum with thinking at one end and feeling at the other. Does anyone exist right in the middle and if so, is it truly a powerful place to be?

Closing Statement from Stuart Woods

Thank you to everyone for their insightful comments and conversations. I have learned a lot. It is clear my assumptions as thinking/feeling on a continuum was over simplistic and the complexities of our consciousness in realizing 'where we are' in the moment and over time depends on many factors. Particularly I now understand that fulfillment somewhat depends on balance and awareness of the two together as well as separate elements to be considered individually.One of my students summed up her understanding of this question (bearing in mind she is 14 years old) she said ' sir, I see it as cyclical not as a continuum, she then asked ' so where does intuition fit here?'.......I think she should join TED!

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    Feb 6 2012: I don't think of it that way. Thinking and feeling are done in two different areas of the brain. So when you move from one to the other you are literally doing that.

    What I know is that the sense organs, smell, sight, hearing, etc. All enter the brain through the feeling structures of the brain. Conscious processing is done in the frontal cortex where we assign meaning to the stimuli that are entering our brain. So all thought always occurs within our feelings at any given time.

    Feeling is not at one end or the other, it is central (literally). Self-awareness happens in the structures that connect to those areas of the brain and are those areas talking to each other or have we shut them down.

    Interesting.

    http://www.dalailama.com/news/post/104-how-thinking-can-change-the-brain
    http://med.davidslife.com/archives/images/051105_TheLimbicSystem.pdf
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      Feb 7 2012: Thanks Linda.
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        Feb 8 2012: Thought you might like that answer from a hard core INTP:)
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      Feb 9 2012: Great linda,

      thinking and feeling are simply left right brain processes. I once took a brain test that revealed that i am 57% left
      brain thinker. for that particular test. i might add.working my right brain every minute.
      the world isnt short of right brain geniuses like stephen wiltshire's and daniel tammet's.

      i have always maintained that there's nothing supernatural, only a remembrance of who we truly are.
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    Feb 6 2012: Hi Stuart,
    This is a good question, which I think/feel causes concern for a lot of people. For me, "thinking" is more the work of the brain, logic, and information that has been programmed in the brain throughout our life. Feeling, for me, is generally informaion that is more from instinct/intuition. You know how sometimes, we "know" something on a logical "thinking" level, and something tells us intuitively/instinctively that there is another level of understanding? I observe that many times people are conflicted or puzzled in themselves because it sometimes feels like information is coming from different sources, when in fact it's all coming from our "self" in different ways. Idealy, these features in our "self" can work very well together when/if we recognize all "parts" of our self.

    For example, for me, dreaming, planning, imagining creative endeavors I percieve coming from the feeling/intuitive/instinct. They are ideas that draw my attention. Once I decide that I would like to pursue those dreams/goals, I put the logical mind/brain to work to figure out how to realistically achieve my goal. Make any sense?

    I find that the thinking, logical mind will often say..."well that's foolish Colleen...you cannot do that", while the feeling/intuitiion/instinct usually tells me that I can do almost anything if I do my homework and learn with the process:>)

    I believe that I do "exist in the middle" as you say, because I am in tune with all information that flows through my "self". Yes, I do believe it is a more powerful place to be because all parts of "self" are working together, rather than against each other:>)
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      Feb 6 2012: Hi Colleen, A fellow 'middler' great to hear! I agree that residing in the middle is a very powerful combination. Might I ask your occupation, have I missed it on your profile?

      Regards

      Stuart
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        Feb 6 2012: Retired at the moment:>)
        Operating Room Technician – assisted for surgeries-(2-years)
        Assistant in Doctor’s office – assisted for in-patient surgeries –(3 years)
        Owner/manager of 32 rental units, including subsidized elderly housing (25 years)
        Laborer in the restoration of 4 historic buildings
        Case Reviewer/child advocate for SRS (social & rehabilitative services (1 year)
        Professional actor/singer/dancer/model - theater, films, tv, miniseries and commercials (10 years)

        Volunteer Positions
        Counseling women and children in a shelter and on the hot line(2 1/2 years)
        Dept. of Corrections (6 years)
        *co-facilitated “Cognitive Self Change” sessions and various other programs
        *Trained mediator, facilitating sessions with convicted felons
        *Member of the Reparative Board – Part of the Court System
        Volunteer Coordinator for United Way(3 years)
        Local Rescue Squad (4 years)
        Respite House – terminal care facility (2 years)
        Local Planning Commission and Development Review Board (5 years)
        Regional Planning Commission, Transportation Advisory Comm. and regional Project Review Comm (presently chair) (10-15 years)
        Regional Brownfield’s Comm – orchestrates the evaluation of toxic sites in the region funded and guided by the USEPA(5 years)
        Guest lectured at the Univ. of Vt. (6 years)
        Competitive athlete:>)

        That’s a piece of my story, which appears in many TED talks as appropriate. I have genuinely explored life and many different aspects of life in various capacities.
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          Feb 7 2012: Wow! A breath of experience, thank you for sharing this Colleen. No doubt this enriches your viewpoints on the conversations here.

          May I ask another? what single skill or attribute has served you the most over the years?

          Stuart
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        Feb 8 2012: Open heart, open mind, exploration of the life experience with curiosity and unconditonal love:>)
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          Feb 9 2012: Colleen,

          You are truly blessed !

          May you be blessed even more ! Keep sharing
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        Feb 9 2012: Thank you Mwenjew....I do my best....you too......keep sharing:>)
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      Feb 12 2012: Colleen and Christophe,

      I read your conversation with great interest.Thank you.

      Colleen, you say' Perhaps it is when we suspend "thinking" that we can truthfully, honestly experience "feeling" on a deeper level? This resonates with me deeply, is what you refer to clarified by Csikszentmihalyi's flow or something else?
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        Feb 13 2012: Stuart,
        Yes, the theory I present is based on flow, and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyl, certainly addresses FLOW, in the book of that title. The idea of absolute absorption in every activity, being in the moment with mindful awareness can produce the optimal experience. To achieve this state, we need to be fully aware and conscious in the moment, and people have different abilities in themselves to reach this goal.

        Christophe says...."How to act in social situations is most often done by 'feeling' (goes fastest and is often most reliable)... though I can imagine that social impaired people do need to think instead..."

        He also states..."I was thinking about cases of sociopathy and autism or asperger (as extremes), and those ho might be more in those directions of the continua.
        so yes... the ones who are not in touch or are even impaired to be able to be in touch"

        I agree with both these statements, and in my experience, people are "impaired" in different ways.
        For example:
        When co-facilitating "cognitive self change" sessions with offenders who were incarcerated, I discovered that they are often not feeling OR thinking about their behaviors. Because of life experiences, they have often shut down their ability to think rationally, and/or feel on any level because they have built so many walls around themselves emotionally, as protective mechenisms to avoid being hurt. With this population, it was necessary to first get them to "think" about their actions, and with their logical thinking engaged, we could take them to "feeling". They had to "think" about how to "feel". Make any sense?

        With the example I provided regarding those who were diagnosed with mental challenges, their logical thinking seemed to be impacted by the "disorder", and they were incredibly "feeling" people.

        With these different scenarios, the "flow' was interupted in different ways. Your original question needs to be addressed differently for different people.
  • Feb 12 2012: Thanks very much for responding, Stuart. My suggestion isn't the most intuitive one, so your invitation to explore warms my heart. Let me give some context first.

    I sort of stumbled on this 'simply happening' paradigm, when I thought I was going to die 14 years ago. For about 3 weeks I fell into a state of utter happiness. Everything I had considered happiness to be, paled in comparison. However; once my doctor convinced me I wouldn't die just yet, I found myself lost again. The happiness now a vivid memory. I decided not to settle for anything less than that reality and started my search. It took about 3 years to find it again, this time without the need to think I was going to die. Here is what I learned.

    Happiness is the nature of what is. That nature is often referred to as essence, source, life, wholeness etc. It comes to 'us' as realisation, that undeniable basic awareness that is timeless and formless yet gives rise to all time and form. The thing with realisation is that it be-comes about 'something'. Lets call this the content that follows in the slipstream of realisation. The content consists of an emotional response and an analytical response. The emotional response becomes 'identified' as 'self', the analytical response identified as 'I'. All this happens independent of your consciousness thereof. It is the content that underlies 'consciousness' as such.

    The 'I' is the domain of thinking. The 'self' is the domain of feeling. Wherever there is thought there is feeling, since there is no distinction without context. It is just that the thought 'I' has no way of being aware (in touch with the reality) of the feeling 'self', other than as a concept (which is a projection of reality).

    Now, as to your question: With every thought there is a feeling. Though you may experience thought first, they co-exist. Recognize the feeling, embrace it. Notice how the feeling changes with thought and visa versa. Both merge in realisation. No one is present there, see?
  • Feb 8 2012: Hi Stuart, your basic assumption could do with a bit of tweaking. 'We' don't shift from thinking to feeling or visa versa. Nor is there a default setting. There is no 'we' doing anything, there is only manifestation of what is referred to as thinking and feeling. Thinking and feeling simply happen. In the broader context of awareness, they give rise to consciousness which is memory. There they give rise to the identification with the specific content and story line as 'I' or 'we'. This identification is then considered the entity 'doing' the feeling and or thinking. In consciousness, one seems to take precedence over the other. In actuality both take place. This dominance in consciuousness alternates and the alternation is dependent on conditions and circumstances. You could consider asking around these conditions and circumstances, but that would require a different paradigm for it to make sense to students and teachers alike. You are welcome to explore this with me. Kind regards, Cees
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      Feb 12 2012: Dear Cees,

      Thank you for this detailed response. I would very much like to deepen my understanding to achieve a more accurate language and definition of what I mean. In school the simple definition of thinking/feeling has had amazing results and I would love to develop this. I would say I generally think first /feel later and am aware of the 'simply happen' you mention. In my leadership in school seek to find a workable way for others to build self-awareness of this 'happening' too. Where could I start?
      • Feb 12 2012: Thanks very much for responding, Stuart. My suggestion isn't the most intuitive one, so your invitation to explore warms my heart. Let me give some context first.

        I sort of stumbled on this 'simply happening' paradigm, when I thought I was going to die 14 years ago. For about 3 weeks I fell into a state of utter happiness. Everything I had considered happiness to be, paled in comparison. However; once my doctor convinced me I wouldn't die just yet, I found myself lost again. The happiness now a vivid memory. I decided not to settle for anything less than that reality and started my search. It took about 3 years to find it again, this time without the need to think I was going to die. Here is what I learned.

        Happiness is the nature of what is. That nature is often referred to as essence, source, life, wholeness etc. It comes to 'us' as realisation, that undeniable basic awareness that is timeless and formless yet gives rise to all time and form. The thing with realisation is that it be-comes about 'something'. Lets call this the content that follows in the slipstream of realisation. The content consists of an emotional response and an analytical response. The emotional response becomes 'identified' as 'self', the analytical response identified as 'I'. All this happens independent of your consciousness thereof. It is the content that underlies 'consciousness' as such.

        The 'I' is the domain of thinking. The 'self' is the domain of feeling. Wherever there is thought there is feeling, since there is no distinction without context. It is just that the thought 'I' has no way of being aware (in touch with the reality) of the feeling 'self', other than as a concept (which is a projection of reality).

        Now, as to your question: With every thought there is a feeling. Though you may experience thought first, they co-exist. Recognize the feeling, embrace it. Notice how the feeling changes with thought and visa versa. Both merge in realisation. No one is present there, see?
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    Feb 6 2012: Great responses which are making me think (but not feel) deeper about this- thanks everyone. Myers Briggs surely offers the most practical way to help process this and use it in our everyday lives. When I consider the following traits:
    Logical
    Objective
    Decides with head
    Wants truth
    Rational
    Impersonal
    Critical
    Thick-skinned
    Firm with people
    Driven by thought
    alongside:
    Decides with heart
    Dislikes conflict
    Passionate
    Driven by emotion
    Gentle
    Easily hurt
    Empathetic
    Caring of others
    Warm
    I see characteristics favorable in different situations but more importantly I believe we should have awareness of them, I'm not sure I do all the time! I do think Myers Briggs helps us deepen emotional Intelligence too with useful tangibles. The work of defining roles within the thinking/feeling paradigm is also useful. I find the Thinker/Feeler tensions between roles such as Craftsman (T) to Artist (F) and Chief (T) to Mentor (F) fascinating too.
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      Feb 6 2012: Myers Briggs, or any other test, does not "help us deepen emotional intelligence". The tests provide information, and that is one tool we can use to know our "self". When we know our "self", there is no "Thinker/Feeler tensions between roles such as Craftsman (T) to Artist (F) and Chief (T) to Mentor....."

      Everything is interconnected and an opportunity to learn, grow and evolve as humans.
      If one depends on the Myers Briggs test to guide one’s life, it doesn’t seem like s/he has a very full life….just an observation on my part:>)
      • Feb 6 2012: I usually really enjoy your observations. This time is no different.
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        Feb 7 2012: Thanks Colleen, yes, you are quite right, I should have clarified with the words 'builds capacity to improve' EQ. I have seen many people in my organization benefit hugely from the reflections and self-awareness raising of the MB style testing. I thank you for your depth of thought on my proposed 'tensions'...through my career I have often considered when I move from Craftsman to Artist.This could be, as you say be because I am yet to know myself fully.......any day soon!
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    Feb 6 2012: Watch Spock and Kirk talk with each other. Logic communicating with emotion. :)

    I personally love the Myers-Briggs scales.
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      Feb 6 2012: Thanks Thomas, yes I agree! personally Myers Briggs has opened up useful awareness of peoples approaches and styles (particularity in work) .
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    Feb 6 2012: "Feeling" and "thinking" and are no separate ideas from one another when involving thought processes (or events), in fact, emotions (stress-levels, environmental factors, self-actualization...) are a factor that comes prior to the brain breaking down information. There have been studies suggesting that the "higher reward" often makes people do poor work due to anxiety of performance.

    "I ask you to walk with a book on your head for a dollar - you could probably do this no problem -> Now I offer the same deal for 1,000 dollars, the chance of you dropping the book have risen based on your perception of how nice a thousand dollars would be." Again important because this would mean emotions DO come before the thoughts -> unless it is your goal and education to avoid subjective thinking and to be entirely objective -> which is IMPOSSIBLE in my opinion for a lot of reasons -> One being that ALL of your objective view points are stored inside your individual consciousness or perception then having to be filtered through your preexisting thoughts, beliefs, connections, etc.

    But, I think what you are asking is which is the first and the latter - subjectivity and/or objectivity? Subjective.

    To be objective about X, one must require first a subjection to X + S in order for anyone's subjection (S) towards X to begin. Subjective (or feelings involving thought) are first always because that is perception. To be objective is - 1. to be concerned with the empirical data ONLY and/or 2. to have multiply perceptions on X - to make S closer to the reality of X. That would require existentialism with a dash of scientific research or vice versa -> I rather philosophy come prior to science.

    And there are people who exist in the middle check out Zen Buddhism literature.

    As far as education goes - both the mind and body need to stimulated in order for a lot of activity. If your curriculum involves stimulating both creative thinking and academic informative, self-awareness is constant
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    Feb 6 2012: Can you maybe define the concept of thinking and feeling a bit sharper?

    I would presume thinking is the conscious act of reasoning... in an auditory, visual or other way.
    Feeling would be the emotions you happen to sense at a given time... (unless you refer to the sensory definition of feeling as in touching, and sensing pressure differences)

    I don't think these processes are place-able on one continuum. As one can feel and think simultaneously.
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      Feb 7 2012: Hi Christophe, I hope my (clumsy) attempt to clarify this concept (see above) is helpful. As an artist I know that simultaneous thinking and feeling results possibly in what Ken Robinson calls 'fully alive' . Possibly hence Nicholas' Zen reference.
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        Feb 8 2012: Ok, I assume you refer to the MB list you provided.

        I love both approaches. Though when debating, I shift towards the first set.
        Why? "Wants truth" would be the most apt.
        And yes, truth is not about "feel good".

        When it comes to human activity (games, social meet-ups, friendly gatherings, caring for each other), then I will take the other approach... because the value of being kind and emphatic and warm is much greater.

        So I wonder: In what kind of ways can you have both (where is the trade-off)?
        I would think that a Socratic gentle approach would be valid.
        Be warm and listen, and when you want to share an opinion, do it in a delicate way that does not offend the other (if that is not possible, either remain silent or hurt the person anyway & hope he/she forgives you or still feels warm towards you afterwards).
        Offer suggestions, let the other do the reasoning... keep an open space for doubt,...

        Anyway, I don't always succeed in doing that, as I often grow impatient... (i.e. should the other not also be able to listen to me like I try to listen to them? or is this reciprocity too harsh, and I need to become even more compassionate?)
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          Feb 8 2012: Hi Christophe,
          I suspect you know the answers to your own questions, and in an effort to keep the conversation going, I'll pop in here:>)

          Idealy, it would be GREAT if everyone listened and evaluated information on the same level, and that probably is not very realistic.

          I believe there is always room for more compassion for all of us, and when/if we are aware in ourselves, we can usually "feel" when that is needed, don't you think? If I discover that I am reaching out to a person over and over again with compassion, and it is not making a connection, then I retreat. Sometimes, no matter how much compassion one offers, it may not be accepted by the other party, so in that respect, it is beneficial for all of us to listen to the best of our ability...as you do:>) By NOT listening or evaluating information that others offer, we are actually denying ourself the opportunity to get more information:>)
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        Feb 8 2012: Yes, Colleen,
        How to act in social situations is most often done by 'feeling' (goes fastest and is often most reliable)... though I can imagine that social impaired people do need to think instead...

        so I 'feel' we agree ;-)
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          Feb 8 2012: By "social impaired", you refer to people who may not be in touch with "feeling"? You say they may need to consciously think about it, rather than feel it?
          I agree:>)
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          Feb 12 2012: I agree, I find I 'over think' social situations and become very self-conscious. I also find connecting with someone much easier without the context of a large group. I would however class myself as someone who 'feels' so am at a loss as to why I actively avoid large parties or concerts etc.
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        Feb 8 2012: I was thinking about cases of sociopathy and autism or asperger (as extremes), and those ho might be more in those directions of the continua.
        so yes... the ones who are not in touch or are even impaired to be able to be in touch.
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          Feb 9 2012: Hi Christophe,
          I think I understand what you are saying. However, I do not agree that cases of diagnosed mental disorders necessarily prevent a person from "feeling".

          I used to coach children and young adults for special olympics, sometimes for both summer and winter games. So I had the pleasure of meeting and interacting with hundreds of young people with mental challenges. They were mostly down syndrom, some autistic, and many with various other mental challenges. Without doubt, I found these young people to be the MOST caring, joyful, enthusiastic, loving, and genuinely "feeling" people I have ever encountered. Perhaps it is when we suspend "thinking" that we can truthfully, honestly experience "feeling" on a deeper level?
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        Feb 12 2012: Stuart,
        You say...."I would however class myself as someone who 'feels' so am at a loss as to why I actively avoid large parties or concerts etc."

        What, in your perception, do large parties or concerts have to do with "feeling"?
  • Feb 6 2012: Thinking transitioning to "feeling" would in some religions be taking a step forward.
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      Feb 6 2012: Hi Richard, Yes, it's ironic as many religions preach from a 'feeling' position but have rules which suggesting a 'thinking' stance.