Feelings and “felts”

We also have the word ‘feeling’. Its present tense suggests the active present, that the feeling is directly in contact with reality. But it might be useful to introduce the word ‘felt’, to say there are feelings and ‘felts’. That is, ‘felts’ are feelings which have been recorded. You may remember pleasure that you once had, and then you get a sense of pleasure…A lot of the feelings that come up are really from the past, they’re ‘felts’. By failing to make this distinction we often give too much importance to some feelings which actually don’t have that much significance. If they are just a recording being replayed, they don’t have as much significance as if they were a response to the present immediate situation.

David Bohm, Thought as a System

One of the things for which I admire Bohm is his ability to introduce simple distinctions and categories that are nevertheless tremendously revealing and interesting.

If I think about my emotional day, a lot of it is to do with “felts,” feelings of pleasure and pain and other more complex emotions from the past. I consciously recollect the pleasurable and feed it, almost voluntarily. Pain, shame, guilt nag away at the fringes of consciousness and pop up in the weirdest ways. I try and sustain the one current and escape from the other.

This preoccupation with the past makes it very difficult to respond to life as it actually happens. There is an infinite field of emotion and action in front of me. My mind ignores this, and almost is lost almost compulsively in the past.

Of course, a lot of thought is anticipatory too, and the same with feeling. The mind is essentially shuttling between the past and the future.

There may be a very important point here, which Buddhist thinkers and more modern seers such as Krishnamurti point out. There is something valuable to be gained by paying attention in the present. Firstly, life occurs now. Secondly, only by paying attention now to the ways in which my mind constructs both past and future can I learn about the operations of the mind and try to be free of its compulsive patterns.

Perhaps the response to the immediate situation can only arise in the awareness of the ways in which the past and future trap us.


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