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How to manage feelings: form-function interdependence

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How to manage feelings: form-function interdependence


DR. ICHAK ADIZES explores the relationship between feelings and breath, and feelings and posture. He looks at their interdependence, and how to use this awareness to improve our state of being and our level of happiness, as well as the analogous functionality of organizations.

You can detect how a person is feeling by their breathing. Please try the following exercises so you can experience what I am trying to communicate:

First, take a deep breath, inhaling slowly. Now exhale quickly. Repeat several times. How do you feel? You are probably feeling angry. The faster you breathe like this, the angrier you get.

Next, try the opposite breathing technique: inhale quickly, exhale slowly. Repeat several times. How do you feel? You’re relaxing, right?

Next, try breathing with a fast inhalation and fast exhalation. Do you feel panic?

Finally, inhale slowly and exhale slowly. You are sleepy or very relaxed.

If you want to control your emotions, first be aware of your breath. If you feel angry, change how you are breathing. Change from a slow inhalation and fast exhalation to fast inhalation and slow exhalation. Notice that your anger is subsiding.

If you are anxious, change your breathing to a slow inhale and exhale. Your panic will slowly diminish.

If our feelings impact how we breathe, manipulating our breath should change how we feel. Breathing and feeling are interdependent.

Dr. Ida Rolf, the founder of Rolfing massage, discovered a similar relationship between posture and feelings. When we are worried, depressed, or insecure, our shoulders slouch. In talk therapy, as the therapist tries to improve how we feel, we eventually straighten our shoulders. It takes time to see improvement. Rolf took the opposite approach. She straightened the posture by massaging the fascia that developed between the muscles and bones in the shoulders by slouching. Stand upstraight and, voilà, something interesting happens. You feel better about yourself. You are not as depressed.

Process impacts structure, but structure impacts process, too. Or in other words, function impacts form in the long run, and form impacts function in the short run.

I understand it through an analogy: a riverbank controls how a river flows, but, over time, the flow of the river also affects the structure of the riverbank.

Riverbanks are formed over a long period of time, whereas the structure of the riverbanks immediately impacts the flow of the river. The short run impacts the long run, in the long run.

If you are going to balance your life,
you need to change and address
what is really of value to you.
Since success is from the inside out
and not from the outside in.

Likewise, the long run impacts the short run, in the short run.

By changing the riverbank, we can change how the river flows. By changing the structure, we can change how the water flows.

By strengthening the shoulders of a person so that they stand up straight, we change how the person feels. How we breathe changes how we feel, too.

In the Adizes theory and practice of managing change, we can change strategy by changing organizational structure. Trying to implement a new strategy with an old organizational structure is like trying to redirect the flow of the river within the old riverbank.

If you want to know how a person feels right now, watch them breathe. If you want to know how they have been feeling for some time, watch their posture or walk.

You need to change the riverbanks first. By changing the riverbank first, you redirect the flow of the river, which, in the long-run, will reinforce and possibly adjust the initial riverbanks you developed.

If you want to know which strategy a company is really following, analyze its organizational structure.

If you want to disrupt the strategy in your company, you first need to disrupt its structure.

Just thinking and feeling,
Ichak Kalderon Adizes


Illustrations by ANANYA PATEL

Dr. Ichak Adizes

Dr. Ichak Adizes is widely acknowledged as one of the world’s leading management experts. He has received 21 honorary doctorates and is the author of 27 books that have been translated into 36 languages. Dr. Adizes is recognized by Leadership Excellence Journal as one of the top thirty thought leaders of America.


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