The Five Basic Feelings
...we have to start somewhere
On an October day in 1985 I was sitting in my friend, Kate’s, car in a church parking lot in north Seattle. I remember it as a brilliantly sunny day setting fire to the red and yellow leaves of the Japanese maples that dotted the neatly tended church grounds. I was newly sober, feeling very much like I had emerged from a dark, moldy cave into a too-bright world with a too-real reality. It was all too much and now Kate, my kind-hearted, big-bosomed, twinkle-in-her-eye, wise-as-hell mentor, savior, grandma and guide was trying to tell me about the five basic feelings. I started crying.
“Mad, sad, glad, alone and afraid,” she said gently. I stared at her. Mad, sad and glad would be somewhat easy, I thought, because they rhymed, but alone and afraid seemed to elude me. “Mad, sad, glad, alone and…what was that last one?”, I asked. “Afraid,” she answered. I gave my nose a big snotty blow and tried again, “Mad, sad, glad, alone and afraid.” Kate smiled. I felt accomplished and humiliated at the same time.
Of course there are many more feelings than the five Kate origiinally introduced me to. I know that now, but had to start somewhere. It’s very possible that Kate made up the whole idea of the ‘basic five’ as we sat there on the bench seat of her Ford Fairlane that morning. She no doubt saw how I almost winced when she asked me how I was. I could come up with ‘fine’. I was fine, I would tell her through a gush of tears, mystified as to why I was crying again and wishing I could be anywhere else in the world then where I was. She knew that if given half a chance I might bolt for the door, so she made it very simple for me. Mad, sad, glad, alone and afraid, the Emotions 101 Starter Kit.
In essence, Kate was a big beautiful love vibe with IM4U written all over her. I felt it. People do. She taught me early on when I didn’t know up and down to extend myself to others even when I didn’t have a darn thing to offer except maybe a cigarette and a hug out in the parking lot after a recovery meeting. She was my role model for love in action. I made an effort because she did. Slowly a confused young woman who was a complete mystery to herself was able step-by-step to build some inner resources, self-awareness, acceptance, compasson and stop crying all of the time. It was slow going.
The famous psychotherapist, Carl Rogers, felt his main job as a therapist was to hold the client in front of him in an attitude of unconditional positive regard, genuinely viewing them as a person of unconditional self-worth. Rogers believed that a person can and will change when he/she experiences this positive environment. His approach revolutionized therapy. No longer was the therapist looking for what was wrong with the client but rather creating the conditions in which the miracle of change could happen. Such was my experience with Kate. She was a natural Rogerian, an IM4U human.
The five basic feelings marked the beginning of my own path of self-awakening. It has been a difficult road and sometimes I just throw up my hands and exclaim, “My life!” You know those times, don’t you? when your expectations of yourself and life meet reality head-on in a big mis-matched mashup and you turn out to be a fool or a baby or a pathetic nutjob and all you can do is cry or stare at the sky with your mouth open? Well, next time we might try laying a little unconditional positive regard on our selves. This may be difficult at first, but we have to start somewhere. Next time let’s just say, “Hey! IM4U!” and see what happens.
Thanks Karin for sending this to me
Thanks for this