Knowing and Feeling

I was watching some show on BBC hosted by Stephen Fry (some quiz show; I forget the name now). In that particular episode, Stephen Fry shows an experiment enacted by the guests.

This is how the interesting experiment goes: There is a small divider and on one side is prosthetic hand and on the other side is the actual hand of the participant. The other participant is asked to stroke the prosthetic hand with a brush, gently at first and gradually increase the speed to brisk strokes. The participant whose prosthetic hand is being stroked is laughing and squirming, saying the prosthetic hand feels ticklish! Now, how can a prosthetic hand feel? That’s the question friends. The other participant suddenly hit the prosthetic hand and this guy let out yelp of pain! Although he knows fully well that the hand being hit is a prosthetic one, the feeling and response is somehow contradictory to the ‘knowing’! They felt pain is what they said. I have given the video link below; enjoy. My description will help you know, but the video clip increases the feel-factor!

I found it revealing at many levels. A simple experiment and yet it tells us so much about our mind, heart, and human psychology. The mind knows it should listen to the heart, it is the heart which is the seat of emotions, and it is the heart which feels, dictates our moods and emotional well-being; yet…the acknowledgement refuses to happen.

Another interesting, related observation was how the mind or our psyche refuses to acknowledge the core! What do we notice most often when we look at our wrist watches or even the wall clocks? The hands of the clock, because that’s what tells us the time, right? what else would you notice? When you are shopping for a clock, maybe you will check out the shape and colour of the outer frame, but that’s about it. We seldom pay attention to the centre, the small pin that holds these 3 needles in place. The clock is a clock because of that miniscule, yet pivotal centre pin that holds the hands, isn’t it? Yet, most of us never bother to pay attention or give it a second glance. It is there, and is taken for granted; that’s about it. Similarly, from the time we are born (hour 0) to the time we are near death or are almost near 0 again, having completed the circle; our life, heart, and breath is something most of us take for granted. Only if we have palpitation do we run to the doctor in a tizzy. Otherwise, as long as our heart is beating, we are knowingly willing to stretch it to its optimal best output.

A counselee used to incessantly ask me how she could alleviate her stress levels and what she could do to lead a calmer life. Her routine was not hectic per se, but with her advancing years, she wanted to give some time to herself. She knew she was drinking a little too much, smoking maybe a cigarette or two more than necessary. She knew she should hit the gym, walk a little. She kept on ranting about all that she knew that needed a bit of trimming and changing. But, she was yet to feel the need to change and whatever suggestions I offered for her to implement or ruminate over fell on deaf ears. She would come and regurgitate her frustrations. I barely managed to wedge in a word or two and those too would boomerang anyway. I would dread her next visit.

After a short hiatus, she reached out and said she was diagnosed with throat cancer. She was desolate, did not know what to do, and wanted to pay me a visit. I wondered what help I could offer or what solace she would receive from me.

Surprisingly, she herself asked me to make a regimen for her; starting with a diet, exercises, and the whole gamut! I was pleasantly surprised. We sat together and chalked out a daily, weekly, and monthly plan for her. We diligently did this for a month and she followed it to the T, never missing a single item on the schedule. No surprises, she recovered and lead a very healthy life, saw her children settle down in life and played with grandkids too.

We remained in touch via mails. Recently, I received a mail from her saying she had succumbed to the dreaded malady for the second time. She recalled the first time and reminisced about the alacrity with which she had bounced back to a nicotine free, disciplined life. I wrote back to her saying, ‘You know what to do, you beat it once, you can beat it again. Start implementing your prior regimen immediately. I am here to help you, always’.

She did not mail after that and I had to call to enquire. She was not cheerful, but not worried sick either. She sounded sad and kind of resigned. What had changed? She was afraid both then and now. She still wanted to recover and be healthy again. Everything was apparently the same and yet, she did not want to make those imperative changes. She knew whatever was likely to happen with her; her mind would tell her all the pros and cons, and yet, the healing did not happen! She went for chemotherapy and radiation as prescribed but was not inclined to quit smoking and would not deprive herself of her evening elixir. I tried my best to instil a sense of urgency so she could heal totally and find a reason for her to live a healthy life, completely rid of the malaise. But I failed. She had capitulated to that truth. The will to live was less in comparison to her need to indulge in these small pleasures which made her feel temporarily happy. She passed away before her third chemo.

This happened long ago. But, that episode on BBC, and then the clock anecdote somehow brought this lady’s image to the fore. This whole connection of knowing and feeling penetrated me. It’s the feeling or the emotion which we experience that has the possibility of bringing a change. Only knowing is futile. The mind always finds some logic and all our knowing is rationalised and negated or ignored; whereas feeling evokes a response.