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HEARTWARMING, Chapter 2

by Rob Kall

From the unpublished book, The Happiness Response, By Rob Kall, written in 1990
(seeking a publisher for a new, revised version based on the title The Art of Positive Experiences and Good Feelings
This is free to read and to pass along as long as you include all of the words in this page file.
If you find this material helps you, please consider treating it as shareware and send a payment to:

Rob Kall rob@futurehealth.org
211 N. Sycamore St.
Newtown, PA 18940
215-504-1700, fax 215-860-5374

You've had many happy moments that felt great. You smiled from ear to ear, felt a warm glow inside, and felt incredible.

Wouldn't it be nice if you could feel that way all the time, or at least a lot more often than you do now?

Heartwarming has become a multi-billion dollar commercial phenomenon, that psychology and science have just begun to pay attention to. The Dalai Lama considers warmheartedness to be a key to happiness and inner peace. 

I call positive experiences (PEs) that make you feel open, connected, warm, soft and glowing inside "heartwarmers.". Anecdotes of such moments give the person remembering them and usually, the person hearing the recollection a heartwarming feeling.

I serendipitously fell into my clinical/scientific interest in heartwarming and happiness when I co-authoring, with psychiatrist Keith Sedlacek, author of the Sedlacek Technique; The Calm Within, a relaxation exercise which asked patients to use PE memories to create a warm feeling in their hearts.

They almost always came up with heartwarming memories, recollections that made them feel nice inside, sometimes even glowing with warmth, certainly better than just relaxed. I would usually contagiously share their good feelings when they told me their heartwarming memories. Our hearts would connect and I'd fill up with a warm, cozy feeling. A wide smile on my face would mirror the one they were enjoying.

I began collecting heartwarmers, partly because of the vicarious pleasure I enjoyed hearing them, but more important, I began to see the tremendous potential they offered my pain and stress clients.

The computerized psychophysiological biofeedback instrumentation I was using to teach body relaxation objectively showed that recalling heartwarming memories produced more profound cardiovascular, muscular and emotional relaxation than any other simple, fast technique I could teach my patients. As I collected heartwarmer anecdotes, I began looking for patterns and categories of activities and situations that were heartwarming.

Sharing heartwarming memories is a doubly powerful, PE. The teller of the memory enjoys the simple recollection and enjoys the gift of sharing the PE memory. Not all PE memories are heartwarming. Of course, heartwarming hasn't even been defined yet.

Every single person I've asked has known what I meant by heartwarming. Doctors agree heartwarming is a very important experience. And they agree there is no research or reference to it.

THE HEARTWARMING EXPERIENCE

Heartwarming is usually a micro-wonderful, everyday, little, PE. It starts with a soft, upward tug at the corners of your mouth. The smile spreads to a puff in your cheeks and a crinkly twinkle in your eyes, perhaps a welling touch of moisture at your tear ducts. Breathing slows and becomes more regular. A nice feeling begins to glow in your heart, filling you with warmth, which softly flushes through you, sometimes giving you tingles or

sending chills up the back of your neck.

It may leave you limp, feeling wide open, but safe. When you enjoy a heartwarming experience, you let down your guard and open yourself to gentle, kind feelings. You feel safe, confident and secure. You accept the world and enjoy the present.

Think about a happy, heartwarming experience you've enjoyed. A good, open feeling washed through you, leaving a smile in your cheeks and eyes. It could have been a major, scheduled event, like your marriage proposal, the birth of your child, a graduation or a successful performance in a competition or artistic endeavor. Perhaps you enjoyed a simple, spontaneous moment like getting a nice compliment from your spouse or your boss, having your two year old nephew offer to share something with you for the first time, or you walked in the door after a rotten day and received a special greeting with extra warmth and appreciation.

Maybe that heartwarming feeling touched your heart when you smiled and felt so warm and good inside just thinking about the happy surprise your loved one would feel upon seeing the perfect gift you'd just found.

That Heartwarming Feeling is a safe, warm, wonderful, intimate, comfortable feeling you've experienced many times. It's subtle and fragile, yet powerful. You can't simultaneously experience a heartwarming feeling and a negative feeling. It's hard to stay angry if you start to warm your heart remembering a happy moment shared with a playful, giggling and smiling child.

Usually, the PEs producing these pleasant feelings capture your attention so strongly, you primarily focus on the activity, not on the pleasant feelings. Sometimes heartwarming leaves you feeling weak. sometimes much stronger. Either way, these feelings become sources of great inner strength. They're the key ingredients of every day PEs and peak experiences, the fleeting feelings so often sought after and indirectly written about.

It feels good to think or talk about heartwarming and heartwarming memories, sometimes as good as or better than the original experiences. There is a wonderful diversity among heartwarmers.

We need to set a higher value on positive memories. Our high -tech, sensation-seeking culture has produced a kind of emotional amnesia that afflicts so many of us. As we've sped into the age of fast food, cars, laundry service, fast living, flying, short term relationships and transience, we've lost some of the wholesome, aw-shucks innocence and openness that engenders warm hearted feelings.

A Test For The Most Important Possessions You Own

Think about this scenario. You live in California on an earthquake fault line You are warned that this afternoon an earthquake, then a flood will completely destroy your house and all your possessions.

You can take your family and money and legal documents and you have a safe shelter with food. What else do you carry from the house with you?

Most people answer they would take photos, video and audio tapes and special mementos-- clothes worn at special events, souvenirs, special athletic gear or musical instruments--things they've put their heart into, things that bring back special memories. Speaking to senior citizens about heartwarming is beautiful. They have such a wealth of sweet memories. Their photos are usually very important to them. At the end of a long life, time's perspective places a different value on what is of greatest importance.

"I used to fly my one and a half year old son like an airplane. When we finished our soaring session, he'd throw back his head with a twinkling-eyed, wide mouthed yip of pleasure and say some of the first words he'd learned-- "More, Daddy, More!" And I would fill with warm, glowing, happy joy, with a contagious, almost squealing-with-glee smile on my face."

That's one of my favorite heartwarmers. We all have thousands of them. Here are a few more heartwarmers I've collected from friends, students, colleagues and our clients, to fill you, lighten your heart, make you glow or send shivers or chills up the back of your neck, to share, enjoy and to inspire you to begin collecting your own:

"I was in the locker room at the country club, putting the finishing touches on my wedding gown. Things were hectic-- more hassle than excitement. Then a little girl came in from the pool. She looked at me and stared, then grinned and softly said "Oooh, a REAL BRIDE." I stopped and smiled, realizing it was me she was staring at spellbound.... and suddenly I filled up with feelings and felt as magical as the little girl made it sound."

"Seeing a friend in our office get a dozen roses from her husband, with a note attached "for no reason at all." Our whole office was filled with smiles that morning.

-teaching my 3 year old son to wink. He couldn't shut just one eye, so he made really cute faces and used his finger to hold one eye closed while the other stayed open.

- getting an item I really wanted at an auction, for the minimum bid of $1.00 No-one bid against me.

-knowing I don't have to go to work for seven days.

-having a friend pop over when I was feeling bored and blue -figuring out just the right words to describe an idea that had eluded my grasp

- my cuddly pet lamb on the family farm when I was 5 years old. It was soft and would come up to the window and nuzzle me.

-watching my kids' fascination and excitement with catching lightning bugs -- and remembering my childhood hunts for orange "kings" and green queens.

-floating on a rubber raft for miles down a stream near my grandparents house, THe cool water and warm sun were just right while I watched the canopy of light and leaves overhead.

-seeing a fellow employee after a week's vacation and giving each other a warm, happy greeting.

-seeing the dahlias begin to bloom the first year I tried growing them.

-seeing my son take off his diaper to go to the potty.

-Watching my grandfather take my children on a tractor ride on the farm, just like he used to take me

-Disney World Vacation with happy kids and spouse

-Counting down for hands across america

-Watching my kids sleep

After reading this list you've probably recalled quite a few of your own heartwarmers. It takes a bit of practice until you get on a roll of recollection.

A significant goal of this book is to convince people to at least start mentally highlighting and framing their future PEs (PE) as they happen, so they can be recalled more quickly and easily, to more systematically store memories by photo, audio or videotape, diary, souvenir, memento or PE Memory (PEM) library, described in chapter 10.

$$$Heartwarming in Business$$$

Heartwarming as a verb, as a service or commodity is already a huge business. Bell telephone uses the promise of heartwarming to sell their message-- AT&T's "Reach out and touch someone." ad campaign was phenomenally successful. They spent over $100 million dollars on Sunday evenings on ads that motivated people to immediately dial people they would feel good calling. Harlequin sells romance novels by loading them with stories that set feminine hearts glowing, Hollywood uses warm shivers to boost box office attendance, Reader's Digest pays people $300 to fill the magazine with touching anecdotes. Mcdonald's shows Dads and grandparents becoming closer with their children or grandchildren by going to McDonald's. And Hallmark doesn't sell greeting cards and wrapping paper. It sells warmth and sharing. News pros know a heartwarming story is a sure viewer/listener hook. A cute puppy story can rate right up there with a murder or plane crash.

Positive feelings motivate goodness

Just as the pleasure of orgasm helps motivate the sex act for procreative purposes, heartwarming and its family of positive experiences (PEs) motivate people to achieve, create and relate altruistically in a socially beneficial way. It's no accident anti-social, cruel people are described as cold. Heartwarming and its cousins; joy, ecstasy, peak experiences, love, runner's high and laughter are the rewards for functioning at the peak of human experience. They motivate us to fulfill our greatest potential. When a scientist figures out an answer to a challenging question, the feeling of achievement, of glowing success, satisfaction and completion is the greatest reward. Positive feelings like these are the motivators of mental and intellectual progress and development, of art and creativity.

Happiness Science is just leaving the Dark Ages.

The knowledge explosion has had little effect on our understanding of happiness, heartwarming and the other positive experiences (PEs). Research on the varieties of PE is almost non-existent. There are tens of thousands of studies which have looked at illness, symptoms, or psychopathology. It's hard to find any that look at positive strengths and resources. I continue to be amazed that there is not one scientific reference to heartwarming, regardless of the technical words used. This incredible gap in our scientific knowledge about such an important aspect of humanity spurred me to do the research which led to this book. the closest descriptions of heartwarming experiences have been written by the poets and bards. That's why you'll find many quotes spread throughout the book.

Big O's for Orgasm, Little o's for the heart

Heartwarming overlaps with other PEs like joy, ecstasy, laughter, positive excitement, and thrills. They're really not in the same league as orgasm-- the big "O", but these "little 'o's" make up a much more significant part of our lives. They play an integral role in building our life memory and creating our world view--the filter through which we see and interpret and interact with everything and everyone we encounter.

The heartwarming feeling could be even more desirable than sexual orgasm. People experience heartwarming more frequently than orgasm. Heartwarming affects more people in many more aspects of their lives. Studies have shown warm intimacy becomes more important than sex as marital relationships mature.

Some people gush and fill with feelings at the least excuse. Others ignore or turn off their feelings to protect themselves from being hurt, at the same time, denying themselves of the sweetest of these heartwarming emotional nectars. It is so important to learn how to let go and enjoy PEs and then intensify and make the most of them and take the most from them.

Psychologist, sex therapist and minister John Perry, co-author of The G-Spot and Other Sexual Discoveries, says that people often feel funny or uncomfortable learning new pleasurable experiences, just because they are new and different, hence initially strange. He points out how women are often uncomfortable making love with their legs spread apart because they are accustomed to masturbating on pleasuring themselves with their legs together. So he teaches them to masturbate with their legs spread apart so they'll be more comfortable and thus better able to relax and enjoy making love in that position.

Happiness and PEs work the same way. You have to practice and go through the motions so you can become comfortable with the good feelings, for example, associated with a big, loud guffawing laugh. These do not always come naturally and different kinds of PEs are like some foods, which require that we gradually develop a taste for them.

Some people inhibit and prevent themselves from experiencing the heartwarming feeling. Words used to describe this emotional condition include: devoid, cold, empty, barren, desolate. The clinical term for people who don't or won't feel feelings is alexithymia. Of course negative feelings like anger, fear, hate, disgust, contempt and shame tend to get in the way too. Throughout history, philosophers have differentiated between sensory or fleeting pleasures and more productive or virtue based feelings. Kvell is a yiddish word which describes filling up with good feeling. Since heartwarming is usually a global, pervasive feeling, like glowing honey, it feels like you are filled you up with relaxed or excited, pleasant appreciation, humor, laughter, feeling in the groove, thrills, chills, surprise, euphoria, joy, spiritual connectedness with GOD, ecstasy , nostalgia, and sometimes even sadness or fear (like crying at a wedding or watching a spine chilling movie.

All these experiences are related, in the same family of feelings. Feeling good may be a form of positive addiction. Our biochemical responses reward us when we do or see certain things. Perhaps they addict us to situations or people that are heartwarming, like our children, work that leads to achievement, excitement, art, nature, well woven stories that touch the heart and long distance telephone calls to reach out and touch someone.

PERSPECTIVE: from stress regulation to emotional self regulation

After years using biofeedback and stress regulation training as a therapeutic tool I recognized that stress and pain control techniques could also be used to control or self regulate emotions. Stress management entails three basic components:training people 1- to relax, 2-to identify and monitor their stress level and stress-aggravating factors, and, 3- to control the stress response when they detect it has been activated. You can transfer all these approaches to positive emotional self regulation. You can monitor your emotional mood. How good are you feeling? Can you feel better? Are you inhibiting your positive emotional feelings? Are you ignoring or avoiding opportunities for positive emotional experiences?

You deserve to feel good throughout the day every single day. Let me re-emphasize this. There is no good reason why you can't feel good most of the time.

There is no reason in the world why you shouldn't be able to enjoy some nice feelings regardless of your situation, condition or health. Even if someone you love is dying, you will be able to connect closer and experience a better farewell experience if you can stay in a lighter, warm-hearted, heart open and connected mood. Think about how you'd want people to be around you if you were dying. Norman Cousins used humor and laughter to cure his "terminal" illness. He watched reels of old comedy films until he was cured. His book, Anatomy of an Illness, broke important ground in getting the media community to begin considering emotions, illness and healing

Start Exercising Your Happiness Response Now

Getting from here to there on the way to happiness takes people through an infinite collection of paths. Happiness is usually all people really want, yet so often , they don't know how to get there. Hopefully, this book will lay a bit of groundwork, providing some rudimentary skills, a sketch of a map to make the path more direct and less rocky, with less time off the trail. It reminds me of the kind of maps we see in shopping malls with the arrow pointing to a spot which says "you are here." This "path to happiness" metaphor is misleading because it's better to be happy any time on any path. Emerson said, "To finish the moment, to find the journey's end in every step of the road, to live the greatest number of good hours, is wisdom." Allow and help yourself to be happy on any path to any goal. Otherwise you'll be constantly working to reach the end of one path only to start another path you work to finish. The Tibetans use prayer wheels that spin endlessly. You must transcend the spinning to achieve happiness now.

PEs as Blessing: The Heart of Spirituality

There's a part of God in heartwarming. It's hard to think of a heartwarming experience that isn't on one of God's wavelengths. Almost all of the heartwarming experiences collected so far describe either benevolent acts or observations of good actions or enjoyment of beauty or expression of gifts and talents people have made the most of. They can also include observing beauty in nature or art, courage, caring, sharing,giving, forgiving, allowing freedom, participating in a good act or being appreciated for making good use of your God given gifts. So, however religion plays a part in your life, heartwarming can help you connect more personally on a day to day, real world basis, with your spirituality. It seems likely that happiness skill training can only help make our world a better one.

END CHAPTER 2

You can also access other related materials from the Positivity Central Page

additional Heartwarmers

Contact me with comments, suggestions, etc at Rob Kall rob@futurehealth.org

 

 

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