Felt Senses


This blog post is not written in eloquent or sophisticated terms. I saved that for essays and assignments when I was still studying. That just is not me or how I write. It is my heart that I put down on to paper, or when my fingers touch the keys; and my heart is simplistic and open. No airs and graces. No complicated forms. Just as it is. So this blog post is rough around the edges, unedited me. I think I will leave it like that…

Okay, so I had intended to write about this subject some time ago, and I did attempt something a few months back but it didn’t feel right. The idea and concept of a ‘felt sense’ originates from a rather knowledgeable fellow – Eugene Gendlin. A particular part of his theory on focussing got me thinking and in turn, over time, helped me to understand myself better in terms of how my body and mind work for and against one another. Why do I hold such a fascination with felt senses, enough so that it is my firmly held alias? Let me try and explain. I fear I will only scratch the surface, but here goes.

A felt sense can be described in its most simplistic term as the emotion behind a physical feeling. However, it is rarely the surface emotion – the one we immediately recognise. It is usually a deeper association that our body has with a particular feeling, event, or memory. A simple example might be something like this – You may be sat eating pizza and notice that your stomach begins to hurt. Your mind might immediately tell you it is perhaps because you have eaten too much stodge that day. Simple. You could accept that idea and move on; you might decide pizza isn’t such a good food choice. Some research has shown that sufferers of IBS can sometimes relate certain reactions to food to moments or times in their lives when they were suffering stress or trauma and that particular food was digested around that time. So, if we continue with the pizza idea, if you were to reflect and recall a particular time in your life when you ate pizza where you were experiencing a strength of emotion that was stressful or traumatic – there is your felt sense. The feeling behind the feeling and the physical reaction. Of course, you could really just have tummy ache from eating pizza and it not be in any way related to a past experience or emotion, but it is an example of a possibility.  When you get angry with someone you may not notice your body’s reactions at the time if you are caught up in a negative emotion, but quite often what the surface anger is about is not the root cause. We all know the phrase ‘misdirected anger’ after all. Paying attention to how we respond physically to emotions can be so revealing.


I tend to be an anxious person in nature. My senses are often heightened and therefore I am usually hyper aware of my surroundings. Anxiety is a friend rather than a foe nowadays; it motivates me, challenges me. I see it as a positive thing most days and by identifying my own ‘felt senses’ I have learnt more about myself and my reactions. I remember when I went through a stage of feeling my heart race every time the phone rang at home. It didn’t happen anywhere else, just at home. It wasn’t a difficult felt sense to identify though, as it soon became clear that my body was responding to a memory – the phone call I got when my best friend died. I took the call at home in my lounge and my body was just reliving the experience each time the phone rang. People who suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder may find they can relate to such feelings. I ended up rearranging the room and changing my ring tone. A happier experience I can recall was the first time I head a song that really moved me; I was sat in my friend’s car and he said he had a song he wanted me to hear. We had parked up somewhere quiet. Up until that point I had listened to tons of music that had made an impact on me, sure, but this time was different somehow. I sat there and I felt every hair on my arms stand up, goose bumps prickling at the back of my neck and just this rush of euphoria. It was amazing. I can remember in detail how my body responded in that moment, and now when I hear truly good music I relish that feeling so much more so. It’s like my happy place; a feeling of safety, comfort, blissful distraction. I recognise it instantly.

Sometimes focussing can help us to get to the root of an uncomfortable feeling that we just can’t put our finger on. I know I have spent time just sitting, paying attention to how I’m feeling in myself and just clearing my thoughts so that I have a blank canvas which allows me to attend to what my mind and body are trying to tell me. I am aware that this may indeed sound wishy-washy, but seriously…try it. What I have described is really just the tip of the iceberg; I have not gone into depth about the theory and the various stages of focussing. I am not an expert, far from it.

Just a junkie of the felt sense and all that it offers.



4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Paul McGovern
    Jun 05, 2011 @ 20:48:38

    This is my favourite place to be online, every time I visit there is beautiful, emotional, honest, well written content. This is an amazing reflection which I find compelling and engaging.

    The felt sense, so when I read this & buzz with life inside – it’s probably taking me back to when my Mum read to be as a kid? Something I loved beyond all other things. Maybe that is wrong but it’s what it made me think of.

    I also think of the line “All surface but no feeling” the Manics song – which I think ties into this, the reaction to an event that we automatically attribute to the cause of emotion, when in fact it can be much more complex.

    Of all the things I have read, published, online and off. From vampires to manga, this stands tall above them all. I love every word, I love writing from the heart…

    Thank you for sharing.


    • feltsensejunkie
      Jun 05, 2011 @ 21:08:11

      To say I am floored is an understatement. Thank you so much. Just the fact that it evoked a tangible memory from childhood makes me smile, because that’s so relatable. When someone gets ‘it’, gets the message I am trying to convey, it’s the biggest compliment. Thank you so much. Excuse me while I go away and try to think of something more articulate to say! 😉


  2. Steve
    Jan 01, 2012 @ 02:16:41

    Lovely piece. Helped me to immediately capture the idea of “felt sense”. Thanks so much!


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