Sometimes we need to gather perspectives from a range of psychological and neurological investigators to make sense of the issues we encounter in insight work. Whether you read Damasio, Kahneman, Heath or Freud, the role of emotions in what is called ‘reason’ is becoming ever more clear. We decide based upon emotional markers in so many circumstances. Often these markers do not even touch consciousness as they exert their effects.
For those of us involved in the pursuit of understanding choices and decisions, it is of growing importance to find ways of working with feelings – or, at the very least – including the emotional landscape and its topography in our inquiries. Yet if you look for a moment at our experimental procedures, largely based on interviewing either individuals or groups, you’ll see that all of them are based primarily on thinking. In response to the facilitator’s questions, the respondents consider their answers, they think about them and the consequences they might produce and then they reply.
To include another great thinker in our discussion, notice the above diagram of the four functions suggested by Jung. The important consideration for us and our authenticity in experimental methods, is that whichever function is dominant, represented by the top or North Pole position in the diagram, the function at the other end of that pole is secondary. Even the two lateral functions of Sensing and Intuition have more impact on the dominant function than its polar opposite. In other words, when thinking is activated, feeling is suppressed.
This means that when we are using thinking to drive our inquiry, we tend to exclude or hide feelings. Emotion is relegated to the back seat, where it may simmer, bluster or sulk. In the post on Spilling Water (http://www.langmaidpractice.com/blog/freeze-frame-technique-psychodrama/) I describe a way we can bring emotion into the foreground using the Freeze Frame technique. This work we have done in countless sessions and it is based on the way Jacob Moreno, founder of psycho-drama, used to enable his clients to re-enact their dramas in everyday life.
We are so far from this level of authenticity in general qualitative practice that the validity of our inquiries may be increasingly thrown into doubt as the news from psychology and psycho-biology continues to demonstrate the central role of emotion in rationality. So far indeed, that I still hear suggestions in training courses that the moderator should be neutral, a blank slate and show no feeling him or herself. The problem here is that, as the leader of the session, the moderator’s range of expression will set the permissions for all of the participants. People will model the length and tone of their replies upon the moderator’s set-ups and will mirror the emotional range he or she uses. This is how we are made. This is how our circuits and wiring works. This process is generally known as mirroring, facilitated by our mirror neurones.
It may be a challenge for ‘Note and Quote’ researchers, but if you want to keep your techniques up-to-date you should learn and practice facilitating the expression of feelings in your sessions. That will mean changing the settings you use to allow more freedom of movement and re-configuring the placing and postures of the group, changing the relationships you build to include the safety and permissions that allow the expression of feeling without fear of ridicule and changing your process to encourage people to experience feelings so that they can describe these to you – as Damasio calls them, ‘the feelings of what happens’.