Is There An App For That?

One of my favorite phone apps is AccuWeather with RealFeel®. I mean knowing what the weather outside is right now is one thing and what it’s going to be in an hour or tomorrow is another. But to know what it really feels like out there, well you just don’t know how important that is to this runner girl. The psychotherapist in me wonders what life would be like if there was an emotional RealFeel. How tuned in people would be to themselves and each other. I can imagine, “Hi, how are you?” “Fine.” RealFeel: “I’m tired.” or “I’m lonely.” or “I’m afraid.”

When I first wondered about this concept, I thought the biggest impediment would be that people don’t share their real feelings often. I mean we all assume the question, “Hi, how are you?” Doesn’t mean you want me to tell you how I really feel. But then, I wondered, is that true. Maybe. Maybe not. What is true is that most of us walk around not being tuned in to how we really feel.

When we are hungry, our stomach sends a signal to our brain that let’s us know, hey feed me. And we pay attention. What signals do we get to pay attention to ourselves. Those are less like the hunger signals and more like the thirst signals. By the time we realize we are thirsty, our bodies already are dehydrated. The same holds true for our inward feelings. By the time we get the signal to tune in, often we already are overwhelmed by them. Thomas Moore, author of Care of the Soul says, “Nothing in our culture or in our education teaches us how to go inward, how to steady the mind and calm our attention. As a consequence, we tend to devote very little time to the life of the soul, the life of the spirit."

Just as our bodies crave food and water, our soul craves solitude. Solitude is the way inward. And by the time we crave it, we are depleted. Now stop right here. I know what you are thinking. (Yes, I have ESP) Yes, you do have time for solitude. I am talking about inward solitude. You don’t have to pack up the llama and head up the mountain with the sherpa. I’m talking about carving out little spaces in time to pay attention to our emotional realfeel.

We feed and water our physical selves daily, feeding and watering our soulful selves is important as well. Some people meditate, some people pray, some people practice yoga. It doesn’t really matter, as long as you turn inward daily - even if for brief spaces in time. The next time you have a few moments alone, don’t reach for the cell phone or turn on the TV, or check FaceBook. Retreat. Go inward and check for your emotional realfeel.

Emotional realfeel means to “see” more clearly. Moore says, we as a culture have a complex about being busy. He says our busyness is a way of avoiding our emotions. We are afraid of what we might find in there. By turning toward our inward selves we breathe more deeply, see more wholly and listen more intently.

I know that paying attention to our emotions can be life changing. I see people in my office who have somatic complaints such as migraines, panic attacks, numb and tingling extremities. Often, they have had test after test and seen physician after physician and cannot figure out the cause. Usually, after exploring what’s going on in their life and how it is affecting them emotionally, the symptoms subside. Tuning in to our emotional realfeel helps us become more alive in the world.

How do you tune in to what poet and Jesuit priest, Gerard Manley Hopkins called the inscape, the landscape of our interior? I run, I write and I sit still and quiet. Others garden, paint, play the piano, walk. Whatever you choose, don’t let anyone else’s agenda dictate that time. Hold it sacred. You have an external life - the busyness, the kids, friends, work, spouse - and an internal life. If you aren’t paying attention to the emotional realfeel, you are cheating yourself of knowing yourself. You are settling for a mediocre life.