Sunday 12 January 2020


In my last blog post, before Christmas, I wrote about the importance of place, one of the ten components of Nancy Kline's Thinking Environment.  

In this post, quite by coincidence, I am writing about another component, Feelings. (This may turn into a series: having found I have something new [I think] to say about these two components may lead me to consider what I have to say about the others - but I digress).

The coincidence that leads me to write about Feelings is that I came across a powerful passage in Kathryn Mannix's book, With the End in Mind.  I was given this powerful book, which seeks to encourage people to talk about death more, and more openly, for Christmas; and I have already written about it on the Shifting Stories blog. Kathryn Mannix writes on this topic based on her many years of experience as a medic doing pioneering work in palliative care with the dying. But what made me think about the Feelings component of the Thinking Environment?

In a chapter called Beauty and the Beast, Mannix tells the story of a young mother who is dying of cancer. After sitting with her patient through an extremely emotional outpouring (the first this young woman has allowed herself) Mannix says:

Kathryn Mannix

She gulps and takes a deep breath, but she is now so busy thinking about her thoughts that she is no longer awash with emotion. Here is an important truth in action: by being able to sit with the deepest anguish and not shut it down, it is possible to enable people to explore their most distressing thoughts, process them, and even find more helpful ways to deal with them.’

That is precisely the reason that Nancy has included Feelings as one of the components of the Thinking Environment: unexpressed feelings inhibit good thinking; and by enabling and allowing someone to express their strong emotions, and for that to be all right, we can help them to move on to do more excellent thinking. I was already fairly sure that this was accurate,  both from Nancy's reasoning and from my own experience, so it was fascinating to have that confirmed by someone highly experienced in working with people at times of intense emotion in a very different field.

Incidentally, Mannix's book is well worth reading for many other reasons, which are, perhaps, best summed up by the sub-title Dying, Death and Wisdom in an Age of Denial. There is a link to her BBC talk about 'Dying is not a bad as you think' on the Shifting Stories blog.

No comments:

Post a Comment