How are you Feeling?

by Eunice J Minford MA FRCS Ed, Consultant Surgeon, N Ireland

A simple observation highlights to me the importance of the difference between what we feel and what we think, particularly when it comes to health. The world we live in gives precedence to the intelligence of the mind and/or the brain without taking full cognisance of the intelligence of the body. Thinking and thoughts are associated with the mind/brain and much weight is given to the acquisition of knowledge and information and the cognitive disciplines in education and professional life. In contrast, feelings are often dismissed or ignored or over-ridden. They may be negatively associated with emotions or a so-called ‘emotional person’ or someone being too ‘touchy feely’ as opposed to the rational, logical thinker. Certainly as a child I was lead to believe that feelings were somewhat irrelevant; I was not encouraged to express what I felt but instead learned the opposite. I thought it was good to be the ‘strong silent’ type who didn’t disclose feelings or personal matters. Everything was always ‘fine’ no matter what was really going on.

Whilst thoughts may appear to arise in the mind, feelings come from the body and are the language of the intelligence of the body. When I do a ward round in the morning, I ask patients “How are you feeling?” not  “What are you thinking?” if I want to know what is going on for them and their wellbeing.

This simple observation clarifies that if we want to know the truth of what is going on in the body and in someone’s health, we ask about how he/she is feeling and respond accordingly. True intelligence is embodied and feelings are the conveyors of that intelligence.

Yet so little importance is really given to understanding the feeling realm within medicine. Medical training itself is a good way to learn how to ignore and over-ride one’s feelings; we often end up using food, alcohol or excess work to numb ourselves and not feel what is really going on. The onslaught of medical training, the hours of work, the vast amounts of material to be learned, having to deal with exposure to high levels of suffering and trauma of various kinds, results in people hardening to be able to cope. Yet it is a false coping mechanism that leads to over-worked, cynical, burnt-out doctors who have difficulty caring for themselves, never mind their patients.

To provide true care for another we must first provide that care in equal measure to ourselves.

This means listening to and honouring our own feelings about how we feel, being aware of when we are over-working and becoming exhausted. It means taking the time to get a good night’s sleep, to eat healthy nourishing food and to be emotionally aware so that we are not dumping our undealt with anger /rage / aggression /sadness etc on our fellow colleagues and patients. I rather ignorantly and arrogantly used to think that my angry outbursts were just part of who I was – that I was made that way and people could ‘like it or lump it,’ not realising that I could take steps to address the root cause of that anger – which had nothing to do with the situation at hand.

I have found that the ability to truly care for myself is something that deepens the more I live it and that there is much more to it than I ever imagined. Indeed, some of my preconceived ideas about what it means to be self-caring have been challenged. For example, there is the general belief that exercise is good for the body irrespective of the nature of the exercise and I have come to realise that aggressive forms of exercise, that push my body harder and harder, are not actually good for it.

Furthermore, I have discovered that the more I truly care for myself, the more I am able to care, both for others and myself. I have also become aware that there are a myriad of ways that can interfere with my ability to care for myself due to my engrained ways of living – yet I know I always have the power to choose that which is truly caring or not. It always seemed easier to care for others than it did for myself and indeed some would consider putting others before oneself is the way to live. Alas, that does not lead to true care, for to know what true care is, it must be lived by oneself and then it becomes but a natural expression of who one is and an equality of care is then delivered to all.

495 thoughts on “How are you Feeling?

  1. “To provide true care for another we must first provide that care in equal measure to ourselves” 101 of medicine – there are far too many burnt out health care professionals – in a loveless sector which spits out and chews up the very people who are born to care.

  2. Harmony is who we all are. A natural and deep harmony in which there is nothing that is not harmonious, nothing at all. So when we bear this in mind and look around us it’s easy to see that there is almost no harmony whatsoever in either ourselves or the world around us, which is a stark indicator that tells us that we are not being who we naturally are.

  3. Like so many things in life it’s a set up. Being made to feel guilty for putting ourselves first and being praised for putting others first is one of the countless number of ways that have been purposefully put in place to steer us away from connecting to ourselves because the dark forces know that it is through our re-connection back to self that we re-connect back to God and it is their sole purpose to delay that from happening for as long as they can. But there is a significant number of people who have managed to navigate their way back and like everybody else who makes it back, they simply turn around and go out again to bring everybody else back too.

  4. Recently in conversation with a friend, I asked ‘How are you in your body?’ Taken aback, she said ‘Wow what a question to ask’ and responded in a way that took the conversation to depths of understanding we would not have reached had I asked her about her job or day. We have a responsibility in conversations with others to ask questions that are true and real. How the other responds is not in our control, but asking the question is.

  5. The question ‘how are you’ is often asked and yet when it is answered, the truth isn’t presented. People don’t want to know you are not ok, people don’t have the time to stand and listen to what is wrong or not ok with you. And yet when we make that extra space to listen to what they have to say, they let go of what needs to be let go off. A few tears here and there is what was needed, a person who shows a bit of interest, is what was needed at that time.

    Life now a days is busy, and yet it only takes a few seconds to truly listen and respond to what is needed at that time and no more – it is that simple.

  6. “To provide true care for another we must first provide that care in equal measure to ourselves.” The health care system can often seem void of this wisdom you talk of here Eunice, it does much harm not first caring for ourselves.

    1. Le, I totally agree. I work in the health care system and many of the staff need to nurture themselves before they can care for others. If your self care is not at the fore front, then caring for others is not only going to be challenging but draining. It’s a no wonder the system is at breaking point. True simple self care needs to be part of all health care professional curriculum training. What would the health care system look like if this was the case? Worth pondering over…

  7. I love the equality that you offer in your last sentence and it is only by committing to living that level of self-care that we are able to offer it to others equally so.

  8. “Everything was always ‘fine’ no matter what was really going on.” When we dismiss what we are feeling it prevents us from being aware of what we are truly feeling.

  9. “True intelligence is embodied and feelings are the conveyors of that intelligence” – and in starting to truly honour what we are feeling, even at first it may not be ‘right’, and deepening trust with ourselves, that intelligence starts to speak even louder.

  10. Expressing how we truly feel is an opportunity to be honest not only with ourselves but others too, it can also convey a great deal to another, provided they are listening, I have found the two go hand in hand to express fully you also need to listen fully too, because when we feel we have been heard we are willing to go deeper in our expression.

  11. If we are not first caring for ourselves we may not even consider or feel to ask how another is from a depth of understanding that can only come from a quality of love that is lived. Thanks Eunice.

  12. Being honest with what is felt in my body and acting on it has truly changed the quality of my life. At times I don’t listen as attentively as I could and the body also communicates this. What a gem the body is.

  13. It sure is something that seems foreign, to take care of ourselves and nurture ourselves when it is not something we have done and certainly not what we are seeing around us. It takes one person to show us that it is possible and then if we are ready and willing, it becomes something that we actually want to do.

    1. And Natalie it feels to me that there is a natural snowballing effect once we start taking care of ourselves. It feels like there is a gentle momentum that gradually includes more as well as deeper ways in which we can self-care and this goes hand in hand with becoming less and less tolerant of anything that feels in anyway abusive.

  14. Caring for ourselves is where it’s at, how can we expect to live in a caring and respectful world if we do not first and foremost practice that with ourselves?

  15. ‘ To provide true care for another we must first provide that care in equal measure to ourselves.’ To provide true work – we need to work from the all (brotherhood, love for ourselves and all members of humanity equally) for the all. Only then group work truly exists.

  16. “To provide true care for another we must first provide that care in equal measure to ourselves.” Many words of wisdom in this blog Eunice and this was a stand out for me today. So true. Otherwise it is empty words that can come out of our mouths.

  17. When there is a division between what we think and what we feel, then we know a certain evil has entered the equation.

  18. We don’t always realise it but our unresolved emotions do have an impact on everyone around us because they can all be felt and detected as an energy which can feel forceful or imposing on others.

  19. It’s a really great point that we usually ask people how they are feeling, not what they are thinking, and the embodied intelligence that comes with feeling. It reminded me of how we can approach exercise, either from our thinking of how we think exercise should be, usually pushing the body and ignoring and overriding how we are feeling, or connected to our body respecting how it feels and adjusting how we exercise accordingly.

  20. How often do we just roll the words off our tongue “I’m fine thanks” when so often this is not the case? It has me realising how we sit in the politeness of conversation but how are we truly going to support one another when we are not willing to start with honesty.

  21. It’s an interesting observation that it often feels easier to care for someone else than it does for one’s self.. could this be because it’s so ingrained to us from young that taking responsibility is about putting everyone else’s needs first, before our own? When actually, true responsibility is about feeling what is needed in any moment, and listening to that – not following a set of rules or pictures. As we learn to value what we’re feeling instead of relying purely on our minds and intelligence to get us through life, we learn that we always do know how to respond, and how to take care of ourselves, on a very deep level. We just have to re-learn to tune into and listen to that communication from our body, and act on it.

    1. It’s a great point Bryony about what life can look like when we follow what we think is right and good (taking care of others before ourselves for example), and how life is when we honour how we feel and respond to that.

  22. When you care for yourself, it is like you put deposits in the bank. No matter how small the action is, it is still a deposit into the self-care bank. And the more you put in, the more you have available. And I mean available in the sense that you have a more solid foundation in which to live life from, you are less knocked about and as you say here Eunice, have more to offer to others.

  23. It is like hitting the eject seat in a modern jet when we have held our feelings in and finally get the understanding that lets them go. As we need to understand the role they have played in capping one-of-the most important aspect of our self-caring relationship, which is when we re-connect to our essence. So our emotional-roller-coaster-ride is intrinsically tied to our lack of connection to our natural expression, Essence, Esoteric or inner-most, all one in the same and ‘who one is’. Then re-connection deepens our understanding so that we ‘know what true care is, it must be lived by oneself and then it becomes but a natural expression of who one is and an equality of care is then delivered to all.’

  24. The amazing thing is – is that if someone asks with a genuine depth of care how we are it has a ripple effect, that then in turn inspires us to take that same care for ourselves – it would be amazing if true care was practiced in a health related environment.

  25. ‘To provide true care for another we must first provide that care in equal measure to ourselves.’ This simple and clear statement should be the foundation of every job, even one of the basic teachings taught at every school. Then, we would grow, learn, live and inspire others to also live with true care, which would be so, the basis for true health.

  26. A relevant point you make of how as doctors we can train and study and read and intellectualize things – but if we don’t connect to how we feel and the patient feels – then it is all just theory in practice and not a response to the individual needs of others.

  27. So little importance is placed on the truth we know in our hearts. When we walk into work, we never ask our colleagues, so what are you thinking today? The day usually starts with, “Good morning, how are you today?”. When a big life-event happens, such as a wedding, a birth or a funeral, again the first question is: how are you? or what do you feel? It is never about thoughts, or how intelligent we can be in that situation because deep down we all know that there is no greater truth than the one expressed from the cells of the body.

  28. We wouldn’t cut an organ out of our body and expect to live well, so why on earth do we think ignoring our inner sense is going to work? Our spirit disregards it because it exposes how selfish it is.

  29. “I have found that the ability to truly care for myself is something that deepens the more I live it and that there is much more to it than I ever imagined.” So true Eunice the only way to understand true care is to live it and listen to the body for it will tell us what is true care and what is not. For me it has been a process of trying different things and finding out what works and what doesn’t and as I deepen my self-care things that I would have thought self-caring are now no longer seen as self-care but are a normal part of how I live.

  30. When asking someone how they are feeling it is good practice to actually listen to what they have to say and to give them the opportunity to express in full. Too often I hear people ask on the phone at work ‘How are you today’ but barely wait for the response.

    1. We haven’t made life about relationships or people, and I suppose a big part of this is that we value what we think, not what we feel or how others feel. We have learnt to override and ignore how we feel and our sensitivity, so we then approach others that way too.

  31. I remember starting to self-care for myself and spent a long time working out exactly what that was because at first I naively thought I had been doing a reasonable job of it, but it is through a far deeper connection to our body that allows us to care deeply for ourselves.

  32. In a world where looking after ourselves first is considered to be selfish it is very liberating to finally know that this is not true in any way, as caring for ourselves first is actually the most loving choice we could ever make, and not just for us but for those around us. And it makes even more sense to do so because when we care for ourselves deeply it naturally follows that we then build a strong foundation from which to care for others. Life would definitely change for so many if this was one of the tools for life we were presented with as a child.

  33. “….to know what true care is, it must be lived by oneself and then it becomes but a natural expression of who one is and an equality of care is then delivered to all.” Beautifully summed up Eunice. It is not until we embody something in full that we are able to naturally share that true expression of who we are.

  34. “if we want to know the truth of what is going on in the body and in someone’s health, we ask about how he/she is feeling and respond accordingly…” When we ask ourselves or another how they are feeling, it offers an opportunity to connect with the body and speak from this connected place… For just this moment, the control of mind over matter is suspended…notice how sometimes it’s a struggle to answer the question of how we feel, because of how much we are distracted away from, or have become dismissive of our body and thus habitually choose this over feeling connected with ourselves.

  35. We seem to give so little consideration to our relationship with our body and the intelligence that we innately have access to, yet it is the vehicle that allow us to precisely know who we are, how to nurture, love and care for ourselves so that we can live and express the fullness of our being with the vitality, health and lightness of being that we are here to live. It is through our connection to our body that the aliveness and multidimensionality of our being can be freely lived and expressed as is intended.

  36. So true – we often reply with “fine” to mean “I am coping with what I am going through, just leave me alone”. I too used to think that sharing what I am truly feeling would make me vulnerable (reads weak) and if I had to express any emotion, anger was my choice.

  37. “To provide true care for another we must first provide that care in equal measure to ourselves.” So true. I was never taught this in any of my trainings as a nurse, homeopath or any of the other various alternative healing modalities I qualified in – until I came to Universal Medicine. It makes absolute sense. What use is an exhausted nurse or doctor – yet we expect them to work 12 hour (or longer) shifts, sometimes with very few breaks. It is illegal to allow a lorry driver those hours without proper breaks…….

  38. Self-care is a term that can be thrown around but not actually used or taken seriously. Once we start to truly self-care we realise that there are many layers to it and we can keep refining and refining. There is never an end point. Listening to and honouring our body is a constant thing.

    1. When we develop a truly honoring relationship with our body it is then we are guided to know all that there is for us to live and magnify in this plane of life. I agree Rebecca, to which ‘There is never an end point.’

  39. “I know I always have the power to choose that which is truly caring or not.” It’s becoming more and more apparent to me these days that my body comes under massive stress when I ignore how I am feeling. It’s getting to the point where I know that I can (and it is greatly more supportive) to honour and explore what I am feeling to understand a situation, be it external or internal.

  40. We think we know what we feel – but this is just another trick of the head just to be in control. Feeling is a bodily knowing with no logic attached except that it flows from true common sense – our every cell. Thank you Eunice for the reminder not to stay trapped in my head.

  41. What you are sharing Eunice exposes how we have been sucked in to the mechanics of caring, the tasks involved in ‘caring’ for someone. This is definitely part of caring but the way we care for others is capped by how we care for ourselves. Its the details that are missing in the mechanics. The details in the way that one approaches their own care can not but come out very naturally when caring or supporting another. Therefore it is not something that is confined to those who are health professionals, because it is inherent within us all. We have just stopped deepening this with ourselves.

  42. I love that you go around on the ward and ask how people are feeling, and I know that all doctors do this because it gives an indication of the person’s healing/recovery process, but there is something in the way that you do it which is unique because when you ask ‘how are you feeling’ there comes with it an understanding that the question is posed to the intelligent body, which is beautiful in many ways, but most particularly because with your question, you are giving each person the opportunity to express from the intelligence of their body.

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