Heads Hearts Hands

Perhaps Madonna got it right in 1989; the above still from the video for ‘Express Yourself’ is her version of the famous line from Metropolis: “There can be no understanding between the hand and the brain unless the heart acts as mediator.”

This truth is one that eludes most clients — many I’ve seen would find this almost impossible to live out because their intellects call the shots. Modern Western society has placed a great deal of emphasis on the ability to cogitate. Using your mind to find a way through the world is the premise of the educational system, and increasingly, from a young age, infants and children are taught by well-meaning parents to develop intellectually, often at the expense of emotional development. Many parenting books and websites are devoted to helping you nurture the smartest child; in a very competitive world, the importance of this pursuit cannot be overlooked or under-emphasized — but to what end? Is it a coincidence that many people today are unfamiliar with the concepts of ‘happiness’ and ‘contentment’?

A few years ago. ‘emotional intelligence’ and ‘emotional quotient’ were buzzwords within the zeitgeist — but even then, they were discussed in intellectual terms. ‘EI’ became something you could train yourself in; ‘EQ’ became a measurable statistic. The irony (or tyranny?) of the mind’s central role in the definition of these concepts makes clear that people are trying to think their way into feeling — a foolhardy task!

As uncomfortable as it may seem, human emotions defy intellectual scrutiny. People do things that ‘don’t make sense’ because the mind cannot explain away the inner workings of the heart. There is alchemy in being able to feel — the primal pull of emotional truth cannot be explained nor can it be denied.

One fallacy in the given wisdom is that feelings are fragile, because they can be hurt, and hearts can be broken. In working with clients, I am often struck by the resilience they show in the face of emotional deprivation. The heart is far from weak; hope is an emotion that triumphs over and above what the mind can understand. Working to inspire and develop a client’s emotional literacy is one of the richest experiences of therapy — both for them and the counsellor. In discovering a capacity to feel, clients come to experience what living truly is. For the counsellor, witnessing this blossoming is both a privilege and an affirmation of the work we do — connecting our clients’ hearts with their hands and minds.


Originally published at www.edwintantherapy.com.

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