Author Topic: "How do you feel?" - my brain doesn't compute  (Read 603 times)

Sunny Clouds

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"How do you feel?" - my brain doesn't compute
« on: 27 Aug 2021 07:54PM »
I find the question "How do you feel?"  can really bug me unless I feel ok with the person asking.  I'd feel ok with people here because I'd know you would accept variations in type of answer.  It won't have taken any of you long, being people who accept that others have bits of them that aren't standard, including brain function, to work out that for me the logical answer to "How do you feel?" is "I feel that..." followed by an analysis of a situation or set of facts, followed by an opinion on that situation or facts.  For me personally my feelings aren't separate from facts except by reasoned explanation.

Thus it has long bugged me when Samaritans and health professionals ask it unless I've prepared my answer in advance.  Emotionally it feels like an exam question.  There, perfect illustration.  "It feels like [analogy giving situation]." not "I feel uncomfortable/upset/deflated/whatever."

For me, at a very, very deep level, the question triggers a sense that I need to analyse things at a deep level and give a reasoned response. 

That doesn't mean, as you'll know from what I say on here, that I don't have emotional feelings.  I think my feelings show very strongly sometimes.  And believe me, I do lots of crying.

I think that my sense, which I can attribute to aspects of my childhood, that I need to justify myself includes a sense of needing to justify feelings as well as everything else.  My parents seemed rarely to display 'feelings' except where it amounted to a bit of anger.  Otherwise, it mostly took the form of 'decisions'.   

But I still struggle to find simple explanations of how if I try to identify my feelings, for me they take the form of facts and analysis.  I can say things like "I feel upset" but it has precious little meaning for me unless it's "I feel upset about X", X being a situation or event etc., and for me "about X" being the description of the feeling. 

It probably sounds awful, but if I call the Sams and then get put on the spot with a question like "Leaving aside what's happening, how are you feeling now?"  I want to scream "I can't do feelings without happenings!"

Before the Sams directed everyone to a single telephone number, I used to call specific branches and feel nervous about that now.  I also heave a sigh of relief if what I feel I've got through to is someone sounding like they belong to a demographic who'll cope better with my sort of factual feeling.  Example categories include male, older, clipped-accent posh, and certain regions. 

Ironically, if I phone Silverline for a chat, a Lancashire accent will relax me, particularly if it's strong.  But then with then with them, I'm phoning for a chat, so I'm not expected to clarify or justify my 'feelings'.

I feel (warning, reasoned analogy coming) about expressing my feelings the way I do when I fall over and people tell me I should use a walking stick.  It's all I can do not to launch into a long lecture on why a walking stick is the wrong mobility aid for someone with my sort of ataxia.

Aargh!

(Ooh, look, I expressed a feeling!)

   
(I'm an obsessive problem-solver, so feel free to ignore any suggestions or solutions I offer, even if they sound terribly insistent.)

Fiz

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Re: "How do you feel?" - my brain doesn't compute
« Reply #1 on: 28 Aug 2021 08:40AM »
It might be worth a little practice exercise daily. Maybe once daily at a set time of day and maybe again if some event or situation has happened and you identify it's uncomfortable. Sit and think "what emotions am I feeling right now?" Sometimes you'll be able to identify those emotions through physiology, anxiety would be the main one felt that way, anger too. Some less so like sadness and hurt.


Have you heard of the feelings wheel? Might be worth printing it out for the exercise. Looking at the feelings may help you identify them.


It's useful to be able to identify our emotions as we feel them. After that we can question why we are feeling them. For me it's usually because X, y or z happened in the past and that triggers fear now or beliefs about myself that are painful. Knowing what we are feeling emotionally and then why is often key to healing.

Sunny Clouds

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Re: "How do you feel?" - my brain doesn't compute
« Reply #2 on: 28 Aug 2021 11:18AM »
I know what my emotions are.  I just don't conceptualise expressing them without an explanation what I'm feeling about.  Well, until I found the usefulness of emoticons that for me work like those things you put on personal letters like kisses after a name or SWALK on the flap.

I can list feelings I experience.  I can feel low things like loss, hurt, deflation, near-numbness.   Ah there you go, the rationalising cuts in as I edit 'numbness' to 'near-numbness' as my brain says "You can't feel numbness."  But I still understand that total numbness is on what I'll call the feeling spectrum.

I can feel things like happiness, elation, relaxedness, silliness etc.

What doesn't work for me is any concept that any of this makes sense without being because of something or about something or related to something.  I have to find a reason or explanation for everything in life.

So it's the "How are you feeling?" question that freaks me because it feels like an exam question or, to express the emotional overtones of it better, like question on a DWP form.

Curiously, where I've tried things like meditating or similar, the sit there and feel thing, then I really, really freak out.  Aargh.

On the funny side (or at least it's funny for me), I spent years trying to ignore all my physical pain.  That or blotting it out with exercise highs.  But one day, I found myself wondering what all this mindfulness stuff is about.  Focussing on what's in the now or something?  I left the house and tried to work out which bits of me were hurting in what way.  Hmm.  Was that mainly the arthritis or partly compensating for the old injury in my...  I looked up at the sky, i.e. was the weather damp?  Aargh, it was going to rain, the things I was carrying would get soaked!  I ran for it.

Then I realised I have to do the opposite with pain from what everyone had told me.  Now if pain is bugging me, I do a sort of audit.  Which bits are hurting and why.  That tells my subconscious whether I need to be concerned about anything and usually there's no pain there's no explanation for, and so my subconscious can ignore the pain and somehow that usually means it doesn't bother me.  I call it the fire alrm technique.  If the fire alarm goes off at work, you are suddenly alert and you look at the clock.  If it's weekly drill time, whether the alarm then bothers you will depend on your mood (yes, ok, feelings!) and also whether it changes.

But a key aspect of that is using two things - my need to explain a feeling, and my brain's propensity to go off on tangents exploring connected observations, thoughts etc.

So it's not that I don't have feelings or that I don't recognise feelings, it's just that for me "How do you feel?" is, for me, like asking me to come out with an 'acceptable' description that can be justified.

I can deal with one aspect of it now - when people I know socially ask me how I feel.  I give a socially acceptable meaningless response like "Better days, worse days."  Thanks to the pandemic, I now have useful options like "Not dead yet!" Then if they prod further, I know they really want to know, but if they really want to know, there's a good chance they know my communication style and are ready for it. 

That being said, I can cope with a Sam who asks "How do you feel?" or, more often "How do you feel now?" in a way that's clearly using it as a phatic phrase (social phrase) meaning "Your time's up, there's queue." My response to that will be something like "It's really helped to talk. Thank you." we exchange a couple more 'end of call' phrases and I put the phone down.  That's different from what I conceptualise as the earnest question or even the desperate wail from someone who in turn conceptualises themselves as been there to listen to feelings and emotions not explanations and reasoning.

My nightmare with this is psychiatrists and other mental health professionals.  Describing feelings to them is dangerous once they know you've got a bipolar label.   Conceptually they're a prosecutor and it's the loaded question that determines the 'sentence'. 

As I sit here and say all this, I'm making a decision.  Not to try and change that need to latch my feelings onto explanations, but to focus more on what I'd half identified when I typed the OP, which is the need for a set of suitable phrases, for communication techniques, for people who really, really don't want the explanations.
(I'm an obsessive problem-solver, so feel free to ignore any suggestions or solutions I offer, even if they sound terribly insistent.)

Fiz

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Re: "How do you feel?" - my brain doesn't compute
« Reply #3 on: 28 Aug 2021 01:15PM »
I 100% agree that it's dangerous to tell Psychs your feelings! Not helpful at all in my experience.


Part way into your last post I thought how Mindfulness may be helpful for you. A key component of Mindfulness is observe and describe WITHOUT JUDGEMENT. So no opinions on why/how/because are allowed.








Fiz

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Re: "How do you feel?" - my brain doesn't compute
« Reply #4 on: 28 Aug 2021 01:18PM »
An exercise on Mindfulness that we did when I was in hospital last week was to observe and describe without judgement the drawing above. Have a go at doing the observing and describing that drawing and see whether you manage to do that without judgement. It's hard!

Sunny Clouds

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Re: "How do you feel?" - my brain doesn't compute
« Reply #5 on: 28 Aug 2021 02:56PM »
I'm a linguist.  In every one of the ten languages I've learnt enough of in the past to either gossip with neighbours or stumble through a newspaper, words have judgements and English is particularly bad because of its enormous vocabulary.

So I struggle to see how to describe it without judgement.

If I try to describe the colour of the background, I'm using words that betray the language's colour-bias, because not all languages classify words the same, and we don't all see colours the same.  Add in that we each have different colour settings on our devices, and different degrees, if any, of colour-blindness, and there's judgement.   

Ok, so do I use vocabulary that works on the premise that overall it looks like a classic sad-smiley?  To do so is being judgemental as to the purpose of the creator, of the meaning they are transmitting. 

Ok, so then there are curved shapes.  If I describe them in terms of symmetry, whether I describe them as asymmetric or not symmetrical is judgemental, because I'm choosing between baselines of symmetry/asymmetry, although the term asymmetry is also judgemental because of the a-prefix rather than a separate word.

I'm also then being judgemental as to whether it is the picture that is not level horizontally or the image/photograph.

There are two small shapes.  One is approximately circular, one is less so and approximately vertically divided between filled-in and not-filled in.  If I mention that, am I attributing significance to the difference?

There are two arcs above the two circles.  They are not level.  But then does that imply that they are meant to be?  A judgement as to whether the creator had a steady hand?

There is an arc lower down. Fairly level.  If I describe the angle of it relative to the angle of the other shapes, am I making assumptions as to whether that has any significance?

The overall shape.  Closer to a pentagon, a hexagon or a circle?  Overlapping - can I describe the manner of how without using vocabulary that implies intent or lack of it?

So no, I lack the necessary vocabulary to describe that drawing without judgement.  I cannot think of any aspect of it that I can describe without judgement, although it would be easier to do in languages with less vocabulary than English.
 
(I'm an obsessive problem-solver, so feel free to ignore any suggestions or solutions I offer, even if they sound terribly insistent.)

Sunny Clouds

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Re: "How do you feel?" - my brain doesn't compute
« Reply #6 on: 28 Aug 2021 03:09PM »
When I was at infant school, a teacher taught us about the mental associations that different words had, giving a word that was similar in two languages we used at that school, and then showing how depending on which language you said it in, it had different mental associations, not least because of how similar each language's cognate words are. 

Even my choice of which language to describe something in is judgemental.  I form an opinion that you would like it described in the language in which you gave the instruction, not whichever languages I am thinking in as I look at it.
(I'm an obsessive problem-solver, so feel free to ignore any suggestions or solutions I offer, even if they sound terribly insistent.)

Sunny Clouds

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Re: "How do you feel?" - my brain doesn't compute
« Reply #7 on: 28 Aug 2021 03:39PM »
The more I think about this, the more it maps onto other issues to do with how we each think differently and how the world around us doesn't necessarily cope with that.  I don't think our society in the UK, or quite a few others, copes with the fact that we start out with very different ways of relating to the world and communicating.

For example, until relatively recently, I was mystified by the phrase "Don't worry about tomorrow/the future, just live in/for today/the present."

My experience in life has been that people mostly say it to me when I'm struggling.  But when they do, my internal reaction is "But if I stay in the moment, I'm staying in the misery, but if I think about the future, I can have hope."

Then again, last year, someone said it in a context where they meant "Enjoy this community event." and then their partner exchanged some words with someone about something seasonal.  My internal reaction was "It's alright for them, they've a partner to worry about the future."

I discussed it later with the person who'd said it and it was quite interesting.  For them, it meant something like "Thinking about tomorrow is making you miserable, so take time out to think about something nice."  It had never occurred to them that for someone else it would mean "Stay stuck in misery and don't cling onto the hope that maybe things could improve." 

And it hadn't occurred to me that people saying it to me didn't take staying in the moment as staying in the pain and misery and despair.

But then, for me, it's usually said by someone person to person.  For me, being physically with someone in a social context is rarely a stress-free or relaxed moment.  I don't say never, just rarely, and as soon as they tell me to do something, the situation for me changes from 'chatting with friend/neighbour/social contact' to 'formal situation'.

What I'm trying to work with in all this is an acceptance of who and what I am, with my peculiarities, but adjusting my social niceties to deal with it.
(I'm an obsessive problem-solver, so feel free to ignore any suggestions or solutions I offer, even if they sound terribly insistent.)

Fiz

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Re: "How do you feel?" - my brain doesn't compute
« Reply #8 on: 28 Aug 2021 04:45PM »
You totally got the observe and describe without judgement aspects of that exercise. No one in the group did, after session one I learnt what observe and describe meant. So this picture when it was drawn by the session leader I could say that on white paper there was a blue oval shape and inside the shape there are two blue dots, two blue straight lines and one blue curved line. That was observe and describe without judgement.


We'd all described it as being an angry or a sad face. Even saying it's a face isn't true because it's just markings on paper not a face, and then having made the judgement that it's a face, we've judged the emotions of the face as well when it's just markings on paper so there are no emotions there.


To an extent I get how not adding our own judgements to an experience could be very helpful especially if we're in a negative thought cycle but I think not "reading" people's emotions via their expressions, words and body language could actually detract from our ability to fully connect and empathise with people so sometimes we need to make judgements when communicating. As long as we're not assuming we know what they're thinking. But I am trying to be more Mindful and less judgemntal when looking at things.


One situation offers me a dilemma. Say something unexpected and spectacular happened. For example I live in an area where wild animals of all kinds roam free and one day I turned into the road that I was living in and had to stop my car because an enormous red stag with huge antlers was stood in the road. It was 3 feet in front of my car and it stood there looking at me before calmly turning and walking slowly off the road and into the woods. I was awe inspired and stunned to be so close to such a magnificent animal. I could have chosen to find my mobile phone and spend time getting a good photo but had I done that I would have lost the moment, the actual experience of just mindfully observing and enjoying the moment. I enjoy social media but one negative of it is people are so busy taking photos on their mobiles that they fail to be present and just enjoy the moment.

Sunny Clouds

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Re: "How do you feel?" - my brain doesn't compute
« Reply #9 on: 28 Aug 2021 05:22PM »
The difficulty with the non-judgemental aspect of the picture, is that for me anything whatsoever I say involves judgement.  However I describe it involves judgement.  Your question involves judgement.  How precise am I meant to be.

For you, I come across as non-judgemental.  For me, anything whatsoever I write descriptively involves judgement.  There's social judgement, linguistic judgement etc.

However, I can exercise judgement to try to describe something in a way that I think that someone else will find non-judgemental.

The mere decision to describe it in terms that don't simply say it's a sad smiley involves being judgemental.  I'm having to decide whether what is required is a description of the architecture of it or of the meaning of it.

So telling me to look at something non-judgementally sounds totally impossible, catch-22.  The best I can do is to guess what the other person thinks would be non-judgemental, but then I'm judging them.

And if the aim is to get me to detach from emotions, that doesn't, because it prompts anxiety as to whether I will sound sufficiently non-emotional. 

For you, describing it in terms of shape is being non-judgemental.  For me, it's being judgemental because it's forming an opinion that the  person I'm addressing would consider that a non-judgemental view.

Whereas for me the culturally non-judgemental view would be to see it as a standard icon used not only in alphabet-based languages but also in some ideogrammatic-character-based languages.

So I think we've put our fingers on why a lot of the 'don't worry about it, just stay in the moment' stuff doesn't work for me.  I'm too busy analysing the instructions and worry that I'm not being unemotional enough, and worrying that my anxiety over trying not to show emotion might be showing.

I'm going through a quite deeply analytical phase of realising how much the mental health services imposed their interpretation of me on me, to the extent that I lost almost all faith in my own instincts, lost my sense of it's being ok to have my peculiarities.  They took away my strengths.

For one person, to be asked to look at that picture non-judgementally is ok because they perhaps have a pretty instinctive sense of what the person would or wouldn't consider to be non-judgemental.  If they're right, that's fine.  If they're wrong, they may be puzzled.  For some of us, we are aware we wouldn't all see it the wrong way and that of itself prompts emotion in the form of anxiety.  When I was younger, that sort of issue, being aware that my notion of what was being asked of me might not be the same as the person asking it was fine in contexts where I could channel it and not in contexts where I couldn't.

But if you think that for me describing that picture in terms of shape not in terms of symbol is non-judgemental, you're wrong.  It requires, for me, social and linguistic judgement.  I'd have happily said to someone else "It's a hand-drawn image inserted by a poster into a message written in English.  It generally indicates unhappiness and is a type of image called a smiley, which, together with stick figures and some simplified pictures, is the nearest thing English writers have to kanji."
(I'm an obsessive problem-solver, so feel free to ignore any suggestions or solutions I offer, even if they sound terribly insistent.)

Fiz

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Re: "How do you feel?" - my brain doesn't compute
« Reply #10 on: 28 Aug 2021 06:51PM »
There is so much truth in what you write. I have actually found that mental health services have caused me harm and I wish that I could have no contact with them but am obliged to stay in contact with the team in order for the CCG funding for the trauma and dissociation therapy to be granted, as in the funding has been granted for the assessment there on condition that I remain under the CMHT. Blackmail. I do actually think they do more harm than good. You and I are very self aware and can work on our own healing without their hindrance.

Sunny Clouds

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Re: "How do you feel?" - my brain doesn't compute
« Reply #11 on: 28 Aug 2021 10:22PM »
It's taken me a long time to start to really believe in myself again. 

It would sound horrid to some people, but I think you'll know where I'm coming from when I say that when I read/hear news items saying people have trouble accessing mental health services, my gut reaction is "Good!"

Not good that they can't get help, but good that they don't find themselves in the clutches of a system that hypothetically helps but has harmed so many of us.

Whereas places like Ouchtoo can really help.  A place where we see our issues in terms of disability, and disability not as us being 'not ok'.  I think in terms of mixed model of disability, and the social model part of it has really helped me.
(I'm an obsessive problem-solver, so feel free to ignore any suggestions or solutions I offer, even if they sound terribly insistent.)

Sunny Clouds

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Re: "How do you feel?" - my brain doesn't compute
« Reply #12 on: 29 Aug 2021 05:20PM »
I just tried talking to a Sam.  Not a good idea, I've decided, to outpour to a Sam about having the problem of living in a world that sees emotions as expressed separately from facts, happenings etc.

I feel (!) like I'm being told my feelings are less valid because they are expressed in terms of an explanation of a situation or event.  Gosh, a lifetime's reliance on explanations plus analogies.  I'm in tears, but even inside my head cannot conceptualise it without an explanation or narration or reason.

And I'm rebelling.  This is me.  No more efforts to feel the way others think I should feel.  No more trying to feel according to a textbook or convention or societal norm. 

I don't mean (note the deeply-felt need to add a disclaimer) that people can't change my feelings.  It's just for me, that's about changing my views, opinions, understanding etc.
(I'm an obsessive problem-solver, so feel free to ignore any suggestions or solutions I offer, even if they sound terribly insistent.)

Fiz

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Re: "How do you feel?" - my brain doesn't compute
« Reply #13 on: 30 Aug 2021 04:42AM »
 :f_hug:  feelings follow thoughts so that makes total sense to me

Sunny Clouds

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Re: "How do you feel?" - my brain doesn't compute
« Reply #14 on: 30 Aug 2021 11:38AM »
Thank you.

Coming back here has come at a useful time for me.  The reminder that if I'm different, it can be ok.  And if it's seen by some as a defect, a deficiency, an abnormality, I can go into mental 'disability rights' mode.  Ask that the world accept my differences.

Obviously I'm not talking about the world being expected to accept differences if those differences take the form of nasty behaviour.

Meanwhile, I'll cross-post and say I hope you're not feeling too yuck/wiped out, Fizz.

 :f_hug:
(I'm an obsessive problem-solver, so feel free to ignore any suggestions or solutions I offer, even if they sound terribly insistent.)