Are feeling maps real?

You might wonder about the validity of Feelingwork feeling state mapping images. I’m proposing that it is as if the raw material of feeling is generated through a simulation of substance, with all the diverse variability of real-world substances and more. By asking these questions, we are supporting someone becoming aware of what is already there. The experience of answering the questions is one of self-discovery, increasing self-awareness, and a clarification of inner experience.

But what does it mean to say that the mapping questions support someone becoming aware of what is “already there” versus simply generating arbitrary products of imagination? How do we know we’re not just “making it up?” Several factors suggest the mapping process is engaging something more than mere imagination.

  • First, we can check back with someone at a later time to ask again about a particular, familiar feeling state. Typically, if we are asking the questions about the same feeling, we get the same answers. There is a consistency through time to the correspondence between the imagery and the felt experience of the specific feeling.
  • Second, people report that they experience the image as real, that the answers to the questions are real, that there is a something there inside for which the proper response to the inquiry question is one specific answer, and only one, in the same way there is exactly one objective answer to the question, “How tall are you?” or “What is the natural color of your hair?”
  • Third, the map can be used to navigate back to the same feeling state at any time. Days or weeks after mapping it originally, we can use the map of a specific feeling state to bring our awareness back to its essential experience. Not only will the felt experience be reactivated, but the inner environment of perceptions, thoughts, impulses and beliefs will also be fully present.
  • Finally, the images are easily susceptible to direct manipulation. We can alter the sensory properties, and as we do, we experience an instantaneous feedback. Shift a property in one direction, and the feeling state itself lurches into a new configuration. We experience this vividly, viscerally, and inarguably. Then if we choose, we can shift the property in the opposite direction, placing it back in its original position, and the feeling state will also shift back to its original essence.

This tangible and repeatable something-ness about feeling suggests we are in fact documenting an essence, an entity, that is “already there.” It’s as if the questions function to shift your attention from one mode to another, and in a similar way that an optical illusion will reveal its alternate identity with a shift in attention, feeling steps out from behind its cloak of invisibility to reveal itself to us in all its magnificent detail.

One day in a lab somewhere, researchers will hook people up to machines in such a way as to demonstrate a correspondence between these feeling state images and the activity and structure of the brain. When that happens I suspect a number of people will find more compelling reasons to accept the “reality” of this inner phenomenon because it will create an intersection with their current knowledge. In the meantime, we’re working in soft reality, in the realm of subjective experience which still stands outside the boundary of what current science can engage with confidence. For now, I believe the kinds of correspondences and behaviors I mention here serve well enough to demonstrate the something-ness about feeling. What do you think?

Want to participate in conversations about the feeling mind? Over the coming year (2019), depending on interest, I’ll be I’ll be hosting live, group calls where we can go much deeper into the material and practice the skills. If you think you might be interested, please reach out to me.