Emotional Inquiry

Emotion Series #14

January 19, 2024

Joe and Brett share a tool from our courses called Emotional Inquiry. This is a practice that can reduce self-judgment, change bad habits, and improve our ability to communicate with others. To download the tool in the form of a guided meditation, visit


04:06 Using the Tool on Resisted Emotions 

10:31 What Makes Emotional Inquiry Different  

20:16 Using this Tool Outside of a Course 

Episode Intro: Today we're going to talk about a tool used in our courses called Emotional Inquiry. This is a practice that can reduce self judgement, change bad habits, improve our ability to communicate with others, and otherwise open up our reality. To try it out, visit 

Welcome to the Art of Accomplishment, where we explore how deepening connection with ourselves and others leads to creating the life we want with enjoyment and ease. I'm Brett Kistler here today with my co host, Joe Hudson.

Joe: Hey, Brett.

Brett: Wow. So that was a hell of a call this morning.

Joe: Yeah, man, that was humbling. That was beautiful.

Brett: We just had the opening call for this year's Great Decisions course and we've had the most sign ups we've ever had and the biggest cohort. I think we're at what, 130 people?

Joe: Yeah, just about.

Brett: Surely a lot of people are going to be asking about how they can use this tool in their lives going beyond the course. So I'm excited to talk about this.

Joe: Yeah, I think it's important to start with somebody's emotional inquiry. What the hell are you talking about? Like what is it?

Brett: Yeah, what's the essence of the tool?

Joe: I would say we have these emotional experiences and some of them we don't resist and some of them we resist. This is a tool for when you resist an emotional experience. This often happens in a millisecond, a split second like something comes up, you push it away and jump into your social media, or something comes up and you push it away and get to work. It's for those moments. That's what the tool is for. What it is, is taking that emotional experience and looking at it, exploring it the way a little kid would pick up a frog and explore a frog or the way that a little kid would look at an ant hill. The important thing there is it's basically looking at your emotional experiences through the eyes of VIEW. it's vulnerable, which means you actually allow it to touch you. You actually feel it. It's impartial, meaning you're not trying to change it. You're not trying to change your emotional experience, which can be a trick. We can talk about that in a bit. then you're full of wonder and you're having empathy for yourself. you're not lost in the story, but you're not dismissing the story. You're not lost in the emotional experience, but you're not dismissing the emotional experience. you're in VIEW and that's basically the practice. It looks like a guided meditation. I'm sure at some point we will put a way for people to access it in the show notes, but it feels like a guided meditation at first and that's how we teach it, is through a guided meditation, but it soon can become very automatic.

Brett: I heard you mention how it's like a kid playing with a frog. there's a lot of different ways kids might play with a frog. one thing that I've noticed, especially coming from a scientific, intellectual perspective, I might look at a frog, like a little kid would dissect a frog. you're like, here's what's going on. Here's what this means. Here's where this came from. Here's what mom or dad said that made this happen this way. Now we're here and here's what I should do. How does that relate to what you mean?

Joe: I think that's an age thing. I'm talking about a three-year old kid. They grab the frog and they pick it up, smell it, and look at it. they look at all angles of it and they touch it. It's this very interactive, very somatic, very physical experience with just the wonder and abandon of a little kid.

04:06 Brett: When we notice a resisted or avoided emotion and we bring the tool of emotional inquiry to that moment, what happens? What will change?

Joe: Yeah, everything. It's one of the most powerful tools if it's applied. Most people will slow down on the application of it or find a distraction because they can create so much transformation so quickly. But basically, if you think about when we resist emotions, what it does. it is an attempt not to feel. Our addictions are an attempt not to feel. Our judgement is an attempt not to feel. this practice can reduce self judgement, reduce the judgement of others. This practice can change bad habits. This practice can improve your ability to communicate with others. It can help you stop avoiding conflict. If you look at almost any one of the things that you want to change in your life, so if someone's like, I want to make more money, there's an emotion around money they're avoiding. This inquiry practice is a way not to avoid that, to actually become friends with it. If somebody's saying, my marriage is on the rocks and there's an emotion they're not wanting to feel, there is a way in which they're not speaking their truth because they're scared of some emotional consequence. When people apply this tool and they apply it regularly and for an extended period of time, a whole shit ton changes and basically anywhere where the emotions are being avoided and that's the cause of the problem, this tool will change that. It'll just start opening up that reality.

Brett: How does it work? What makes it do that? What makes it have that effect?

Joe: There's a couple ways to explain it. The first one is when we resist something, it's different than when we don't. So think about it this way. Let's say I'm trying to pitch somebody who's raising $40 million from my company as an example, and the person is resisting me the whole way. I'm going to show up differently than if the person I'm pitching. Pitching is not a great word for this. But I'm telling the story of my company to somebody who could fund it, and they're not resisting. They're open and they're curious, and I'm going to show up differently. everything shows up differently when it's resisted than when it's not resisted. Emotions are no different. Emotions show up differently when they're resisted than when they're not resisted. when we bring VIEW into our emotional experience, when we do emotional inquiry and we bring that wonder, that empathy and that vulnerability, basically what happens is that it shows up differently. when it shows up differently, as it turns out, usually more comfortable, usually something you can invite and welcome, something that you start appreciating, something that you can start seeing the signal through the noise of those emotions. It allows us to stop avoiding emotion. It is one tool in helping us not only be with but appreciate and welcome our emotional experience, get the benefit, and get the signal out of our emotions.

Brett: Got it. I might ask what's the benefit of that, but that's basically what every episode of our podcast is about. I won't belabor that point, but what are some of the important aspects of the use of this tool if it is to work?

Joe: That's a great question. The important aspects for the use of the tool, VIEW is critical, which I've gone over. I'm not going to do that again. The other thing is that it feels very intimate with the emotions. So some emotional practices don't feel intimate. It feels like you're kind of above and watching. There's a watching aspect to this, but there's a deep intimacy to it. The reason I say it is like a little kid picking up a frog is there's an intimacy. It's like you're in it. So that's a really important part.

Brett: It's not that looking at the frog through glass.

Joe: Right, exactly right. This is a whole body thing. It's not like a lot of emotional, I would call acceptances, emotional acceptance practices that are not embodied. you're kind of watching it, but you're not fully feeling the physical experience of the emotion. This is very much about feeling into the emotional experience on a somatic level. Again, it's another way to say intimacy, but it's a whole body activity. It's not figuring out. There's no trying to figure out.

Brett: Dissecting the frog.

Joe: Right, you're in wonder. You're not in curiosity, meaning you're in the awe of the experience, and that's a fully embodied thing, rather than a I'm trying to figure you out experience.

Brett: Got it. What else? VIEW, being an embodied experience and wonder.

Joe: The other really important part of this practice is that what happens typically is that the practice has the first phase, which is this emotional inquiry. there's less resistance and it feels better. Wait, where did that anxiety go? Where did that guilt go? Where did that fear go? Then you start using the tool to get rid of the fear, to get rid of the guilt, and then it stops working. Just like VIEW doesn't work with partiality. It's the same thing as soon as you start doing it not as a form of welcoming, not as a form of invitation, but as a form of management. the tool just stops working.

10:31 Brett: Just like many of our tools, the moment you're trying to use it to get to an outcome, then it's not the tool anymore. The tool is the tool of exploration. What makes emotional inquiry different from some other similar types of tools or guided meditations out there? I'm imagining people might ask about focusing or realization process. I don't mean to ask for a compare and contrast against all the other bodies of work there. But what's the difference that makes this what it is? What made you make this tool for this work?

Joe: The main thing when I started doing my own experiments with it and I think on this podcast we´ve even talked about feeling like a gut punch and then going back to the situation to feel that gut punch over, over and over again so I could fully explore it. I had been meditating for years and in that meditation it was like there was a non personal aspect, which was nice. I was watching it, which was nice, but there wasn't an embrace there. It was like the difference between I can accept my emotions and I can welcome my emotions. I can't wait to feel jealous again. I can't wait to feel angry again. it's that turn, and obviously I can't speak to all the practices. I'm not an expert in all the practices. Some of them may or may not do this, and I will say my experience in things like focusing, they all have great benefits. I'm not in any way ranking one above the other. I highly suggest that everybody go out and explore, try stuff out, see what works for you, and see when it works for you. run an experimental model. I think that's a far more productive way than putting one thing above another thing. what made it important to me, and what I didn't find any place else in my limited experience was that kind of observational.  In every place else it was an acceptance. It wasn't a welcoming. it wasn't a warm embrace. it wasn't loving attention and it wasn't fully embodied. The odd way to say it is I was watching my emotional experience from the top down, rather from the inside out. I really wanted to create something that really was from the inside out, that was really deeply a felt intimate experience that had the emotional underpinnings, but also in a way scientific where we're really making observations and really figuring out very minute parts of the emotional experience. The other thing that happens is it is designed in such a way where there's three stages of the emotional inquiry and these different stages are in a very particular order because I find them to work really well in that order. it helps in that way as well that it's a very staged approach to the inquiry. It's not just a general be with that. It is very specific. Here's the first set of questions, second set of questions, third set of questions.

Brett: I also appreciate just the way that you were describing the intimacy of the child with the frog that the tool includes a lot of sensory modalities. What's the color of this feeling? What does it look like from behind or in front of it? Where are the boundaries of it? This helps to just integrate across a lot of different sensory modalities to allow them to talk to one another and that's something I really appreciate here.

Joe: I don't really geek out on this much but it's actually even more refined than that in the fact that it's like I'm crossing mid lines. There's a lot of ways in which the brain understands things that we're utilizing and and we're also playing with the sense of self in it. the questions are designed to go through a set of stages based on the way that somatic experiencing and a lot of the occupational therapy stuff works.

Brett: What are some of the different ways that it might look for different people, for example, or in different contexts in your life?

Joe: At the very beginning, when people start doing it, the typical questions are, why would I ever want to invite anxiety? Why would I ever want to welcome anxiety? From this perspective, that's funny. From that perspective, it's not funny at all. It's like, wait, I've spent my whole life trying to fucking get rid of that. that's the answer is you spent your whole life trying to get rid of it, and it hasn't fucking worked. That's the reason why you go to welcome it because each one of these emotional experiences was a rejected part of you and you continue to reject it. What is it like to face it differently? I think that's another thing just about the emotional inquiry in general is we have a relationship with our emotions and most of the time we're only dealing with one side of that relationship. We want this emotion to be this way or that way or not present itself or present itself. We're not working on how we approach the emotion. Are we approaching it with wonder? Are we approaching it with love? Are we approaching it with care or are we approaching it with disdain? Are we approaching with trying to get rid of it? That's the first stage. 

The first stage people can't even intellectually conceive why they would want to welcome it. in those particular places, it's really important to just do the guided thing and just keep that little kid VIEW mindset and see what happens. Just take it fully as experimental and play with it. As people start to see it, it's like, oh, I get this is happening. Then the next thing where people interact with it is they're like, oh, wait, anxiety actually can be really pleasant and wait, where's the anxiety? Where'd it go? Is that anxiety or is that actually excitement? What the hell's happening? then they're like, oh, I can get rid of my anxiety by doing emotional inquiry. then it stops working. So that's another stage that typically happens in it. then at some point, it can become automatic where you just ask yourself what is going to happen. You actually start getting really excited to have uncomfortable experiences because of the freedom that's on the other side. It's like if you were learning to hit a fast ball and you don't have a pitcher who throws fastballs all the time. When they throw them, you're like, oh, good, now I get to learn how to hit the fastball. That's very much a big part of it where you start really looking forward to it because you feel how much freedom and access you have on the other side of it. when that stage happens, the emotional inquiry can happen much more rapidly because then you're just welcoming this emotional experience and listening to what it has to say to you and then it just kind of becomes this automatic thing that you still need to occasionally go back to the long form just to make sure that you're not co-opting or missing something. But yeah, that's generally how it moves.

Brett: So relevant to the different ways that it might look, what I heard you say there is that people have different patterns around those emotions that I imagine they're just going to bring into the emotional inquiry. So for one person, their first emotional inquiry practice might look like, oh, all right, it's time to endure this emotion. another one might be like, OK, I'm just going to jump straight through it to the other side. Another one might be I'm going to sit above it, observe it, and look at what's happening in my body, but I'm not really there.

Joe: I get this emotional inquiry right and then cut off all emotions.

Brett: Yeah. Then there's also the different ways that it looks throughout the journey where your first time, it might be every morning sitting down and listening to one of the guided meditations. it might mean at one point having a difficult conversation at work and suddenly being like, oh wait, I could right now do a little bit of inquiry on this. Even in the middle of the conversation I'm having just take a moment to pause and be with that feeling in myself. then it can be anything in between.

Joe: Correct. I would even say I could be with the feeling or I can invite the feeling and save her there. It won't make sense to anybody who's doing it. when you first download, like you go to the thing and you download and you listen, this won't make sense to you. But maybe the 10th, 20th, 30th, 40th time you do it, it'll make sense, which is like it's a savouring. every emotion has a level of pleasure to it. If you can really savor it, it's like a deep tissue massage. There's a way to enjoy it, and the more you enjoy it, the less resistance there is and the more enjoyable it becomes.

20:16 Brett: for a lot of people who are listening to this, they've taken the course or they're in the course, most of them haven't. I'm curious, how does this tool fit in the context of a course? Also, how can somebody who's not taking a course at all use this in their lives?

Joe: Yeah, like I said, it can create a lot of transformation very quickly. So it's really important to be taking care of yourself, grounded massage, and hot baths. Make sure your nervous system is really well taken care of if you're doing this in any kind of concentrated way. Also, there's not any particular rush to it, meaning there's a rush to it in the fact that like oh, if I do this and I'm dedicated, transformation will happen quickly and I'm not going to be in so much pain for as long. There's not a rush into it. if you don't get to it, your pain's still going to be there. it's always going to be there to work on. I would say that the priority is to do it while taking care of your nervous system, while making sure that you are getting the rest that you need, and the integration time that you need. So that's important in any context for people who are in the decisions course. you have a tremendous amount of support. You have a lot of support in that room. In those rooms you have people who are dying to care for you and support you, people who are going through the same stuff. You have all these tools, and you have access to all these coaches. There's all these beautiful parts to it. that's designed so people can do that transformation quickly or with clarity. I wouldn't be quick but I would say take advantage of that. I would say outside of the group and one-on-one work this is the place you want to focus is doing that two or three times a day and doing that work for people outside of the course. Do it. Experiment with it. Play with it. Take care of your nervous system. Run experiments and find out what works for you. Find out what doesn't work for you and if you get into it and you find you can't do it without the support of a course, join the course next year. If you get into it and you want that logical integration and the integration with decision making, habits and everything, then the course might be really useful too. I think that the other main thing, if you're doing it without the course, is having the conversation with friends and family, if you're really dedicated to it, about how you need support in the process and ask for that support and ask because there'll be a lot of changes really quickly.

Brett: To that end, the changes you had mentioned earlier, there's an aspect of seeing through the sense of self that's involved here. One thing that I've noticed is that if I go into emotional inquiry with the notion of who I am being concrete and solid and the kind of decisions that I make being decided, I'm going to go do exactly the thing that I was going to do anyway. It doesn't tend to work. I have to go into it with the childlike perspective of being intimately in wonder with the frog as well as with myself, my sense of self, my sense of what kind of decision I might expect myself to make, having actually integrated, experienced, and savored any of the emotions that come up.

Joe: That's so well said and what a great reminder. It's funny like today, this morning somebody asked, there's quite a few people who've done the course before doing the course again and somebody asked why are you back. I don't know what made them ask that question. I can imagine what made them ask that question is does it not work. Do you need to do it twice? But it was really cool to see the responses, which was I'm a completely different person now. I know that this thing will affect me differently because I've changed so dramatically in the last year. That was a really neat perspective on what brought them back. They're like it's a refresher and like anything, it's like what makes you come back to a meditation retreat. There's a practice form of it and then it just becomes automated after a while, which is a really nice state to be in.

Brett: I feel like what makes me come back to this tool, which is a foundational tool in our work, is the same thing that makes me come back to a sunset day after day.

Joe: So good. That's exactly it. Yeah. Oh, wow. Beautiful. That's fuck yes. I want to end the podcast right there. That's so beautiful.

Brett: Yeah, well, not quite there. We're going to end it with a reminder that in the show notes you can find a link to access this tool and enjoy it.

Joe: Yep, you can ask questions of us on the podcast page about it if you want to. You can also ask questions on Twitter. So any way you want to get in contact with us and interact. We enjoy that.

Brett: On Twitter, we are on X, we are at Art of a Comp and we have both of our personal accounts there as well, FU Joe Hudson and Brett Kistler. And you can always email us, hit up our website.

Joe: All right. Thanks for a great, great, great session, Brett. Appreciate it.

Brett: Yeah. Thank you. Thank you everybody for listening. Take care.

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