If you walk into my office right after I’ve led a PLUMLINE group, you’ll likely stumble across a laminated sheet. I often get distracted and leave it lying in the middle of the floor. Peer closely, and you’ll discover that it’s a vertical list of feelings. Eight, to be exact.
When people first see this sheet, they look up at me with caution in their eyes. And for good reason. There are some heavy words there. The kind of words that many of us avoid in our day-to-day lives.
So they ask me, “What’s this sheet?”
“Those are the 8 primary feelings that human beings experience,” I answer. As they process that, I’ll go on to explain that this framework comes from author and therapist Chip Dodd.
It may seem simplistic to say that humans have 8 primary feelings, but it makes sense when you compare them to the 3 primary colors.
You can create an entire color spectrum by mixing red, yellow, and blue together. emotions work the same way. When you experience a few of these feeling simultaneously, they can swirl together to create all kinds of emotional experiences.
To most people, this explanation makes sense. But they’re often still puzzled. “So, why, is there only one good feeling on that list?”
Truth be told, my answer puzzles them even more. “According to Dodd, there are no bad feelings. They are all good.“
These conversations take all sorts of twists and turns at this point. The people sitting down with me have all sorts of responses as they begin to process this information. Meanwhile, I sit with them and listen. And laugh. And weep.
I fully believe that these eight core feelings are friendly guides. If you are willing to follow them, they will lead you to a full life.
But often, our heart’s capacity to hold the tension of these feelings has grown small. Even more tragic is the sad truth that many of us have been formed to minimize or disregard them. Instead of holding this tension, we’re choosing copes that allow us to avoid or numb our feelings.
These habits have terrible consequences. Ignoring your heart can be dangerous because repressing your feelings does not make them go away. Instead of leaving, ignored feelings devolve. They become twisted and sick. As Chip Dodd teaches, unrecognized feelings turn into impairments that thrust us into anxiety, resentment, self-pity, and more.
The good news is that we can heal.
When we honor our feelings—learning to listen to them and live with them—we are treating our hearts with the sacredness that they deserve. This is an important part of taking care of your heart system. This loving treatment helps us to recover and reconnect our hearts. In practice, that means learning to identify and sit with those big feelings.
This practice can be uncomfortable, and yet it is also the only way we can access good gifts like faith, wisdom, healing, and courage.
The only way to truly love God, yourselves, and your neighbor with all of your heart is to be honest—before God and with yourself—about your feelings. To walk down this road is to walk towards deeper faith, connected relationships, and meaning in life.
If you want to learn more about Chip Dodd click here.
It’s hard, but your heart is worth it. YOU are worth it. So keep showing up.
If you want to learn more about the “heart system” read our blog post here.