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Move With Deb the Podcast

Mar 14, 2021

In this episode I discuss the concept of The Felt Sense. 

I share the work of Dr. Gedlin, the founder of Focusing and namer of the idea of "the felt sense".

I read from this article -

You don't need to understand the concept of a felt sense to become aware of them. I share two personal stories of my own felt sense of disbelief from my life. 

Here's another interesting article that might tickle your imagination.

Thank you always for listening and if you would like to learn more about my 8 week pain recovery program, please sign up for a curiosity call -



    Welcome to Move With Deb. I'm Deb your friendly neuroplastician. And this is a podcast that explores the relationship between the body and the mind from a health at every size, judgment, free perspective. I teach you how developing a new internal conversation based on curiosity, self friendship and simple neuro-plasticity techniques can rewire your bodymind out of pain and emotional overwhelm to help you build the rich full life that you want to live. Disclaimer, this is not a replacement for medical care.

[00:00:50] Hello, it's Deb with Move With Deb and welcome to my Move With Deb podcast. So today I am rerecording episode five, because I lost it and it's kind of a fascinating journey losing something you worked so hard on, and then just kind of being like amused and unbothered by it. That is a new and welcomed experience for me, kind of excited. 

[00:01:26] What my original podcast was and I kind of want to go back to it, uh, which isn't going back to it for you, because you did not get to experience the recording it, editing it, process. And then losing it process. But it's going back to it for me. So what I was talking about is the topic of the despair of disbelief. 

[00:01:49] And it's going to bring in this idea of a felt sense of a thought. So when I work with my clients, what we're often doing is kind of mapping our thoughts and our feelings and tying into the sensations that we are experiencing in our body. And there is foundational work in psychology called focusing. And that was developed by Dr. Eugene Gendlin. I didn't actually know of any of this until I kind of Googled the felt sense of a thought, just a concept that I had heard of with Peter Levine and his somatic work. But honestly, those are the words that I have used to describe my cognitive emotional experience.  I often feel in my body a felt sense of what I'm thinking.

[00:02:46] So Dr. Gendlin talks about this, this an article from psych central. When he was working with clients, he found that they were connecting with and speaking from their bodily felt experience. When they were doing that, they made the most progress in therapy, regardless of the orientation of the therapist or what kind of therapy it was. Rather than just speaking from their heads or sharing the content or story about their lives, they slowed down their speech and groped for words or images that described what they were feeling inside. 

[00:03:21] So here's a quote. I felt angry when I said I was selfish. Well, not, well, not angry there a knot in my stomach. As I talk about it, it reminds me of what I felt when I felt criticized by my mother. There's something wrong with me. It brings up a feeling that I'm flawed and defective. Yes. The shame of being defective. That says it all. 

[00:03:45] Gendlin discovered when a word phrase or image that resonated with our inner sense, as felt from the inside, then something shifted and he called this a felt sense.

[00:03:56] What made the difference is pausing and being with the bodily felt sense of an issue, listening to the wisdom of the body, rather than trying to figure out things in one's head. He saying he didn't invent, focusing that he merely observed it. So oftentimes this is the work that I'm doing with my clients.

[00:04:16] We're starting to unravel with the felt senses of a particular thought or an idea or belief about oneself. And that, that felt sense is an input, right? Talk about inputs into the body, into the nervous system. So that felt sense as an input when we're able to bring it out from being unconscious to conscious. And creating a playful engagement, we can begin to understand and shift that. 

[00:04:47] I wanted to talk about the despair of disbelief because the felt sense of despair can be very powerful because it's this place of a gap between what we would like to believe and what we actually believe. What I'm finding with myself and with my clients is that it has a real embodied quality to it.

[00:05:12] And that embodied quality can often feel very impactful, can feel very painful. And it's important, I believe to understand what's happening. Because oftentimes when we feel things that are painful, our first impulse is to avoid them. Our first impulse is to want to make them never happen again, because feeling something painful is uncomfortable.

[00:05:40] And if we believe that it is a message about ourselves, about our worth or our value, then we're absolutely not going to want to believe that or approach that. So there's this sense of despair, of hopelessness, that can come with feeling this kind of quality. So I've had this for a lot of times in my life, a sense of disconnect with what I want to believe about myself, what I'm actually feeling, and it can get very confusing.

[00:06:16] I remember being in therapy and having therapists try to convince me that I'm a good person. They were often baffled by my self-loathing, by the intensity of my emotional landscape around not liking myself. And I was often baffled because I would tell stories about things that I did that were "good", but I didn't feel good. I didn't feel like a good person. 

[00:06:51] So there was this gap, the more they would try to convince me of something, the more pain that I felt. It wasn't that I didn't believe what they said. It's that I didn't feel the belief in what they were telling me. And now that I work with this concept of the felt sense of a thought, I have a deeper understanding of what was happening.

[00:07:12] So I used to have this happen all the time when I, I first started doing massage.  When I started learning massage in my mid forties, and I would give a massage, and usually when I was done, my first thought was, well, wasn't very good. Of course, that was my inside thought. I was not sharing that thought with my clients.

[00:07:34] And I would also have a thought, like I'm still learning, I'm doing the best I can, but there was always this thought that was like, well, that wasn't very good. They're going to be very polite, but that wasn't a very good massage. And I leave the room and leave my clients to change and get dressed. And when I walked back in the room so many times they would relate to me that that was the best massage they'd ever had. That they felt so good. That they felt really relaxed. And then I was good at my job. And in the beginning, I was very confused as to why I had one perception of reality and they had a completely different perception of reality.

[00:08:20] And of course they were my clients. So I wasn't going to argue with them because that would be silly. Somebody tells you that was the best massage I've ever had in my life. I'm not going to sit there and argue with them and tell them that they were wrong. But my inside voice to myself was often thinking they can't be right. Well, you know, they haven't gotten every massage from every person. There, there are plenty of massage therapists who are better than I am. 

[00:08:50] But over time, what I began to see is that my brain was not an accurate reporter of somebody else's embodied experience. And so that maybe my brain was just wrong. And then I also could see over time that my brain was telling me my thoughts about my work, not some kind of universal truth. And it just kind of became a background joke between me and myself that I could leave a massage and think that that was the worst massage I've ever given and inevitably I would walk back in the room and my clients would tell me how good they felt. 

[00:09:33] After a while there was not a lot of despair in my disbelief, but humor. And that experience was very, very useful because it was so contrasting. Usually, these are very murky. We don't have a lot of direct evidence that may be what we're thinking and what we're feeling about that thought. Isn't a true fact. After I climbed Kilimanjaro, my friend and I were talking about maybe writing a book and it was in New York and just had this well of deep sadness, this despair welling up in me.

[00:10:13] And I was just like crying on the floor pretty dramatically. I did not throw myself on the floor, but I was weeping on the floor. Thinking that I didn't have anything to say. Believing I didn't have anything of value to share. So I was  in my feelings, I was crying, moving through that process.

[00:10:35] And then I looked at my email because of course, modern times you can simultaneously be weeping and checking your email, picked up my phone as a handy distraction. And I had gotten an email from my sister's friend with a financial newsletter that at the bottom of it had a quote from me. Now I do not work in the financial industry, but it was a quote that came from a interview that I did for Glamour magazine about the Kilimanjaro climb, because I was a part of a group of 20 plus size women who climbed Kilimanjaro called the Curvy Kili Crew.

[00:11:17] We got some media coverage for that trip. So I had delivered a quote that I think went something like we shouldn't put our life on hold until we lose weight to do something that we want to do. Apparently there are these newsletter companies and they aggravate quotes and then they plop them on the end of newsletters and send them out . So I had given an inspirational quote that then was used in this newsletter, which then was found by my sister's friend and it made its way back to me. And I think I both erupted in some giant laughter and also more tears because I still had this disbelief, this despair of this thought that I had nothing to share nothing of value to share.

[00:12:09] So the universe can sometimes show me that my thoughts aren't true, but they feel true. And the despair of that cognitive dissonance was something that's always been very impactful. So I'm wondering if that resonates with you. What is something in your life that you think you should believe or that you want to believe, but you don't. What does that feel like?

[00:12:37] What is the felt sense of disbelief? Is it the disbelief of thinking I can get out of  pain, but then not believing it? The belief that I know how to take care of myself, but then not believing that? The belief that you want to have that I am okay, but not believing that? What does that feel like in your body mind? 

[00:13:05] Beginning to understand and allow that sensation, is an important part of learning, how to believe something. And belief is essential for pain recovery. Learning to curiously witness our felt senses becomes one of our most powerful tools to changing our embodied experience, which includes emotional overwhelm and includes physical pain.

[00:13:38] So, what does that feel like in your body? When you have a moment of cognitive dissonance, where maybe you believe and don't believe something at the same time. Where you want to believe something and you don't. Is that a very intense embodied experience for you? There's nothing wrong. Nothing has gone wrong.

[00:14:02] I want you to understand having an intense somatic experience is not a problem. It is a clue. It is the guide with which we can begin to direct our lazy detective to find out what is it that we're thinking and feeling that is causing this much pain. Why does this feel like suffering to me? You want to begin the process of having our curiosity turned on when we have a strong emotion, rather than leading us to wanting to stuff something down, run away from it, suppress it, deny it, fight against it. 

[00:14:47] All things we think and feel are felt in our nervous system. What does disbelief feel like to you? How can we create gentleness with ourselves? So I want to suggest that the next time that you have a big physical reaction to a thought to not immediately push it away, but try to get curious about what it is that you're  thinking, get curious about your patterns around sensations like this.

[00:15:20] And as I go through my work, I'm going to share more tools, help explain these ideas more clearly. If what I'm talking about resonates with you, you feel like you're somebody who can map their pain in their body to stress in their life, and would like to learn how to change that experience please hop on a curiosity call with me. 

[00:15:46]Go to my website at or my Instagram movewithdeb and in the links, there's a way to find my calendar and get on a curiosity call, 45 minute call. We talk about how learning some new skills can change your pain experience, and it begins with curiosity.

[00:16:07] Thank you so much for listening. It's been really nice spending time with you today. Bye.