About a year ago I had surgery. I was fortunate to have a wonderful team that, even all this time later, I still recall with tremendous gratitude. Under their skillful care, the difficulties I faced for some time were healed.
Lately, I’ve been thinking in particular of the anesthesiologist, whose job is to put the patient into a state of unconsciousness. While I am an advocate for conscious living, in the setting of an operating theatre unconsciousness is welcome on the part of the patient. Why? Because in such a state one is no longer in a state of wakefulness and therefore one can no longer feel.
To truly feel is only possible when we are awake.
While unconsciousness is welcome when we do not want to feel the pain of the surgeon’s blade, in the realm of social good, compassion, and activism we want the polar opposite – we want to be as conscious as we possibly can.
To be conscious means to be awake, alive, and aware. An alternate definition is to be deliberate and acting with intentionality. Weaving all these thoughts together, then, we can surmise that to feel requires us to be awake and intentional.
Yet the world is awash in unconscious feelers; those who form strong opinions and become emotionally reactive, clinging to a particular position without ever really examining the identities, fears, and emotional underpinning of those assertions.
So often, we beat back the feelings we deem “negative,” disallowing ourselves the opportunity to examine or learn from them. In doing so we deny the intelligence of our emotions and create the conditions for disconnection. Unconscious feelers are numb; it is easy to become apathetic and deny injustice if we are continuously training our hearts to reject that which is uncomfortable.
To develop conscious feeling is not an invitation to become swept out to sea in the current of your emotions. Rather, it is an opportunity to sit with your reactions, impulses, and predilections so that you can see them clearly.
As Victor Frankl famously wrote: “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”