by Gaia U MSc Candidate, Laura Kaestele

What are feelings? Why do we need them to drive change? How can we consciously engage with our feelings to empower human transformation? How can they serve us personally and professionally to create the beautiful world our hearts know is possible?

We look at feelings as directions on a compass for inner navigation. All feelings have a discrete purpose and serve to guide us unerringly through life. Their energy and information are neutral; a means to handle situations in life. They are social and relational forces. They emerge from our emotional body’s heart, are created by us in the present moment, and vanish quickly. Feelings are dynamic, ever-changing, and come in five basic categories: anger, sadness, fear, shame, and joy.

In modern society, we are taught from an early age that feelings are not okay: Anger is destructive, fear is unprofessional, sadness is weak and unpleasant, shame is embarrassing, and too much joy is childish and naïve. Instead of feeling our feelings, we learn to block them, numb them, analyse them, and explain them. We are extremely dedicated to and creative about coming up with ways to distract ourselves from our feelings to avoid pain, obtain the sensation of comfort, and function in society. Not having to feel the impact of our behaviour permits us to do horrible things to ourselves, other people, animals, and nature without feeling pain. But it does not avoid consequences – ultimately we are destroying the only home we have. And so our numbness is used to keep a destructive petrol-patriarchal-capitalist system running.

Besides a high level of numbness, another key strategy for preserving this system is emotional manipulation. Emotional manipulation happens on a broad social scale, through mass media, education, politics, and economic mechanisms. It is the misuse of feelings in an un/conscious and irresponsible way. It is used to gain power and control over people by influencing their feelings and therefore actions. Emotional manipulation leads us to:

•    Think something is wrong when it is right → misuse of anger as outrage and defamation.
•    Accept what we want to change → misuse of sadness as powerlessness.
•    Think something is right when it is wrong → misuse of joy as illusion and blindfolding.
•    Believe that we ourselves are wrong in our position → misuse of shame as humiliation.
•    Be afraid of the unknown → misuse of fear as intimidation.

What happens when we are numb and emotionally manipulated? We are blocked, separated, malleable, irresponsible, and not in our power. We don’t have access to our authentic feelings to more fully and consciously interact with the world and each other. We don’t fully feel the state humanity and so can’t appropriately respond to present conditions on earth: taking responsibility, fixing the mess we have made, regenerating nature and communities. Intellectual clarity, on its own, is failing miserably at generating the dramatic shifts necessary for eco-social regeneration. Rationally knowing what is not working has proven to be insufficient. Otherwise, we would not have remained in a deteriorating global situation for decades. So how does change happen? What is the magic ingredient here?

In my personal experience, there was a sudden, irreversible shift in my life the moment I truly allowed myself to feel. Feeling the deep and overwhelming pain (in the forms of sadness, anger, and fear) of what we are doing as humans was part of discovering my care and love for all life beyond that – my heart’s motivation for change.

So, short answer: we need to re-connect to and access the power of feelings! Feelings give us the information and fuel we need to drive change. Knowing this, we can change our relationship to feelings and learn how to consciously use their power.

How do feelings serve you in life?
•    Anger – change the unwanted situation (if you are capable of changing it) → take action.
We can use anger to set boundaries, make decisions, move forward, maintain integrity, take a stand for something, and create clarity.
•    Sadness – mourn what you can’t change (and let go) → accept.
We can use sadness to be authentically human, open our hearts, share, create connection and intimacy with other people, increase compassion.
•    Fear – step into the unknown (when you can’t change or accept) → be creative.
We can use fear to be creative and curious, go into unknown territory, stay present and aware, expand boundaries, and be innovative.
•    Shame – change what you don’t like about yourself → self-reflect and learn.
We can use shame to be self-aware and reflective, recognize our limits, weaknesses, and mistakes, integrate our shadow sides, ask for forgiveness, and embrace humility.
•    Joy – enjoy and be grateful for what is (if you want it that way) → appreciate.
We can use joy to enjoy life, be playful, lead, leap over boundaries, share appreciation, be grateful, inspire others, celebrate, and follow our visions.

Experiencing, navigating, creating, and using our feelings will help move our culture to the next phase. I invite and encourage you to experiment with and explore your feelings. The key to facing our global challenges is personal transformation for each one of us to become a living solution. Let’s start a “feeling evolution” and become fully human, present, responsible and alive!

Further resources and inspiration:

Possibility Management website:
Directing the Power of Conscious Feelings by Clinton Callahan
Feelings – How to Use Them Intelligently by Vivian Dittmar