pediatric housecalls Robert R. Jarrett M.D. M.B.A. FAAP

Feeling – A Special Sense

Recently a young patient brought me a special gift.   Although he was ill, he had taken the time to gather one of the first autumn leaves which had begun to turn color.

He explained to me that he had picked the leaf recently on a “five senses” walk he had taken with his teacher.

“What are the five senses,” I asked?

“Eyes for seeing, ears for hearing, tongue for tasting, hands for touching… and I don’t remember the other,” he said.

With prompting he remembered “nose for smelling” (but he had a cold in his nose and couldn’t smell, which is probably why he forgot).

Now sometimes I don’t think quick on my feet enough to reply at the moment.   But there is another sense which just may be more important than any of the five he already listed.

So, Josh, let me teach you about a sixth sense; that of “feeling.”

It’s hard to describe, and that is probably why it is not talked about or taught very much in schools.   But it’s real!

Scientists can’t tell people where feelings come from, so people used to blame it on their inside organs.

After all, who hasn’t at one time said “I feel in my heart” or “I have a broken heart.”

Feelings, although they have almost a mystical quality on the inside, have direct connections to outside places like your face.

The way a person feels on the inside kind of “leaks-out” to the outside and they show it by smiling or frowning, slouching or slumping, clapping or sparkling their eyes, tearing or drooping their head.

Psychiatrist and other doctors learn to watch people as they talk, to get clues about how they feel on the inside.   Someone who smiles while the are telling you about the severe pain they   had last night, has a problem with more than the pain.

The feelings have connections with the body on the inside too, there are heart attacks and strokes and ulcers and asthma and diarrhea and blood pressure and skin diseases,   all of which are known to be effected by feelings.

And there are other problems just as important, like obesity and smoking and alcoholism and taking drugs and delinquency and running away.   These are caused by feelings getting out of control.

One doctor wrote an article in which he said that “probably over 80 percent of illness which physicians treat each day has a root one way or another, in the emotions.”

I decided to look up feelings in my medical books and I was surprised to find them.

Boy laying in pile of fall leavesAnger – it said is a normal reaction to frustration or thwarting of the individuals needs and wishes.

FEAR – it said is an emotional reaction to a real or assumed threat to one’s security or well-being.

GRIEF – it said is the emotional reaction to the loss of someone or something that the person deems as significant.

I turned the page in the book to read about other feelings and ran into gallstones!   Wait a minute!   Where were all the rest?   Is that it!

It seems that only the bad feelings are important enough to write about in medical books.   But there are others.   There are over one hundred words in the dictionary that describe different types of feelings.

However, I’m told that there are less than ten which are considered in frequent usage.

It is as important to teach children about feelings as it is about any other thing.

I could tell one young mother had been doing her parenting job well, when her little three year old exclaimed during an examination “you are making me unhappy!” I’m proud of myself for only blinking once. I cocked my head back in thought and instinctively said: “I am? Well, let’s discuss it. Just what are you unhappy about?” I thought of many things she could say: this place smells bad, I don’t wan’t to be undressed, I don’t want a shot… . However, what she finally said without hesitation was (with a Shirley Temple pout on her lips): “I don’t want to get up there (pointing to the exam table)?”

“Well,” I said putting a towel down, “then why don’t this time you lay down on the floor?” She immediately grinned, layed down – and I realized that I wasn’t so smart after all, because kneeling on the floor was most uncomfortable for me. The next time it happened I began using a parent’s lap.

Teach them about each type of feeling and what kinds of actions produce that type of feeling.

Teach them about the feelings that I have already mentioned so they know what is happening when their stomach and nerves feel weird before a school test, or when they have been scolded.   Teach them what brings the feelings on and how to avoid or deal with them.

But, don’t be like my medical books and forget all of the good ones.   Happy, Love, peace, enjoyment, pride, kindness, thoughtfulness, and others.

If you took one new “feeling word” a week, it would take you more than two years to get through all of those words found in the dictionary.

I have found that the more a person knows about their own feelings and the feelings of others, the less emotional problems they seem to have.

I do not believe that it is a coincidence that as a child enters the troubles of adolescence, a major problem seems to be the understanding of how they and their feelings affect others.

At a time when they seem to need it most, kindness and tenderness from others is often rejected.   Good feelings seem to embarrass them.

As adolescence fades, and maturity ensues, the ability to accept feelings returns and with much more depth of understanding.   This is because until a person is about 19-21 the brain doesn’t have the capability to do abstract thinking to any great extent.

When the brain matures an individual is much more capable of tying events together, seeing alternative courses of action, analyzing the feelings of others and seeing complex relationships like the events and reasons people feel like they do.

Many people spend nearly their whole life trying to understand feelings.   People come to realize that their feelings can be valuable clues about how their life is going and believe that they can recognize truth and other important things by how they "feel" inside when they hear it.

A most important thing to realize is that feelings can be given to others.   Thank you so much, Josh, for the leaf and the lesson!

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