OK, I’m a slow learner.
But it’s only dawned on me slowly that at least half my problems come from not feeling better.
I don’t mean “feeling better” in the sense of “feeling good.” I would love to feed good all of the time, but it’s probably not in the cards.
I mean “feeling better” in the sense of “get better at feeling.” I learned from Jung years ago that you either get absorbed in your feeling — bad! — or you remain mindful while a feeling passes through you — good!
So the aim is to remain mindful even while the feeling is taking place.
So far so good. So how do you get better at something? Well, I’ve been reading a lot about Deep Work and deliberate practice, so it was only natural to google about “deliberate practice for feelings.”
Well, pretty thin gruel: there’s a lot about getting better at expressing your feelings (not that there’s anything wrong with that, I suppose) and a lot about deep feelings, but nothing to speak of about using the “deliberate practice” technique for improving your ability to feel.
So I’m reviewing what I know about deep practice:
- It’s systematically identifying weaknesses in the area and correcting them by repeated practice
- It’s unpleasant, because you’re always doing stuff you’re not very good at
- It benefits enormously from having a teacher or coach, although some people (Ben Franklin, e.g.,) seem to have done OK without one.
As I’m toting up this info, all of a sudden it dawns on me: deliberate practice of feelings is nothing but psychotherapy.
In psychotherapy, you are essentially going over feelingful situations again and again, minutely re-rehearsing what you could have done, or what you were really doing, or what you wanted to do. You are doing this under the watchful ear of a coach — your therapist — who is correcting your self-delusions and forcing you to look straight at what happened internally and externally.
It’s deliberate practice of feelings.
OK, so I’ve been a huge lifetime consumer of psychotherapy services. And I’ve also been a lifelong skeptic that you needed the therapist (although it’s proven itself time and again: I’m just a cheapskate, in part, and in part a non-joiner of things; I joined plenty in my youth).
So I’ve got to ask: is there any Ben Franklin-style hacks you can do to get the benefits of deliberate practice with feelings without the expense and, yes, cultishness of psychotherapy?
An ongoing question.