It Is through Feeling that We Find Ourselves

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Almost anybody can learn to think or believe or know, but not a single human being can be taught to feel. Why? Because whenever you think or you believe or you know, you’re a lot of other people: but the moment you feel, you’re nobody-but-yourself.

E.E. Cummings, from Spectator magazine, 1955

E.E. Cummings shared the wise words above in a “Poet’s Advice to Students.” Although he wrote those words nearly 70 years ago, they somehow feel particularly relevant today. Maybe it is mass media, which was nascent in the 1950s or maybe marketing or maybe social media which seems to fill just about all the space we have, but I don’t think it is an overstatement to say that we are under assault with messages hounding us to be like others or like some perverse notion of what is desirable/normal/expected.

It is not by chance that people with many followers on social media are referred to as “influencers” rather than as communicators or supporters or content providers.

I think that Cummings figured something out decades ago which is that our feelings cannot be owned by others. Can “influencers” make us feel certain things? Yes, but that is a reaction based on our insecurities designed to elicit behaviors. It is not a feeling that defines us. The feelings that define us are those generated internally; they are sacred. They can be shared, but they are not for sale.

To be nobody-but-yourself-in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else-means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.

Cummings could not have known just how hard the battle would become. For many of us, it is not just a battle to be ourselves, but a battle for survival; a battle for our souls, the manifestations of which are often despair and hopelessness, but also self-discovery, liberation, and empowerment.

Much of the work I do with clients ultimately ties back to “Who am I?” and “Why do I matter?” Healing, then, often requires emancipation from, to paraphrase Cummings, “a world that is doing its best, night and day, to keep you from being yourself.” That emancipation comes from the courage to feel and the courage to claim oneself back.

The sublime and grace inherent in the human experience is that, even in the face of relentless, often brutal attacks on the self and self-worth, we possess the resource to battle back, to reclaim ourselves, to heal. I am grateful to be part of that journey for so many people who have entrusted and honored me to share that journey with them.

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