Looks can be so deceiving


I was having lunch with a friend at an Irish Pub in Pennsylvania a few months ago. We had a lot to talk about and enjoyed our meal. Of course I eventually brought out my Feeling Magnets to show him. He was studying Positive Psychology and has a business around leadership development. He was curious and thinking of how he could bring Feeling Magnets into his business. 

Suddenly, out of the blue, he called over our waitress. A dynamic blond in her early twenties who had been extremely smiley and friendly since we had stepped into the pub. She was good humoured, efficient and had attentively made sure we were happy and well taken care of throughout our meal.

"Do you have a minute?" he asked her. "Sure" she answered with a smile and her hands full of three plates she had just cleared from another table. He continued, "My friend here has created something new, called Feeling Magnets." He opened the box to show her. "You look through the words and pick out the ones that describe how you feel right now and stick them here," pointing to the lid.

She looked down at her hands that were still carrying the plates to see how she might be able to do this and quickly suggested she go and put down the plates and then come back. When she returned she asked us, “Do you want me to be completely honest?”.

"Yes" we both replied.

So she proceeded to comb through the words in the Feeling Magnets box, picking out one word at a time. ANGRY. FRUSTRATED. SAD. SUPPRESSED. INSIGNIFICANT. DEFEATED. LOW. The words just came pouring out and they were far from what we would have guessed.

"Is that enough?" she asked close to tears. "As many as you want..." I responded. She picked out one more: PANICKED. We were at a loss for words. Sensing that we might have brought out some feelings that she didn’t normally share so openly I asked her, "Do you want to tell us about it?"

She started telling us, ”well I have three jobs that I hate, I work non-stop and barely make ends meet, I'm exhausted and reaching my limits…" She went on to explain the details of her different jobs and what she really would want to do instead: to work in the world of art.

My friend spontaneously told us a story of a security person he once met at an airport. This security person made it a point to add a bit of positivity to every person’s day - a smile, a compliment, a kind wish. This brought meaning to the job even though it wasn’t officially part of the job description. We made a parallel that the waitress who was doing the same through her attention to detail, impeccable service and smile. Before she got back to work she grabbed the Feeling Magnets set and added the feelings, HOPEFUL, APPRECIATED to the lid and off she went.

Since then, I find myself sitting in the subway or walking in the streets trying to picture the words that would describe how the people around me feel. It's almost impossible to know because we have all mastered the art of keeping our feelings nicely stuffed inside us. We keep ourselves busy, we eat, do excessive sport, turn to a glass of wine or chocolate... Just to keep our feelings hidden. Yes, that's what we do with the feelings that are desperately trying to tell us something important about our lives, our needs, our beliefs, our values. (Related article: What is the purpose of our feelings?)

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