What is feeling?
Think about this for a moment. We know all about other aspects of our existence: bones, heart, brain… We can name in great detail the microscopic components of a red blood cell or a strand of DNA. We can even say quite a lot about the contents and function of our thoughts and describe the physical sensations of our emotions.
But when we turn our attention to subjective feeling… Well, what exactly is it, and how does it work?
Feeling is the ultimate subjectivity.
Even among scientists and therapists there are many conflicting answers to the question of feeling, and outside of science and therapy are countless ways to understand it. Why is that?
There’s a simple reason. We each have access to the feeling experience of one and only one person in all the world: ourselves. There is no way for me to directly observe your feeling, and no way for you to observe mine. We can’t compare notes except in very rudimentary form. So in all of history it has been impossible to gain any level of objectivity when it comes to feeling.
But without objectivity we are powerless.
Objectivity comes when you and I can observe the same thing and compare notes on what we observe. When my foot hurts and the doctor points out the thin line in the X-ray, we’re talking about that crack in that bone, there, in my foot. My subjective experience of pain is rendered into objectivity, and with objectivity comes power. I can get a boot to immobilize my foot, and in a few weeks it’ll be healed. We’ve never been able to do that with feeling.
Because of our lack of objectivity in feeling, most people have experienced at least a few moments or phases of distress in the face of intense feelings they had no power to understand or change.
Without power, we rely on control.
As a result, most of us have learned to control disruptive feeling states using six common strategies:
But control often fails.
These control strategies can work well in certain conditions. But when the feelings are too intense or the situations too triggering, our controlling behaviors can have a reverse effect. Suppressed feelings can escalate. When we intensify our control in response, the feelings escalate still further, and eventually the whole system breaks down, sometimes catastrophically.
Feelingwork changes everything.
Twenty-five years ago I discovered a method to make feeling objective…
In some ways this new method is similar to taking an X-ray of bone, but requires no equipment. A few simple questions about the actual, inner, subjective experience of a specific feeling state give us a tangible, vivid image. This image — or map — of a feeling state grants it sufficient objectivity for us to claim a new level of power with feeling.
What kind of power am I talking about?
Consider this. When I discovered this method, I had been suffering for fifteen years with bipolar disorder. Within current understanding, bipolar disorder is a terminal condition. But within a year of discovering the Feelingwork mapping process, I had permanently ended my destructive mood cycles.
Here’s an example:
The feeling state map below gives one example of the kinds of states my clients map when they begin work with me.
Sticky black tar. Filling my pelvic girdle, moving with slow churning as if by worms. Warm/neutral temp.
I am hopeless. I am disgusting and shameful. I am unworthy. I should change, be better, do better, but I cannot.
The next feeling state shows you what this woman’s feeling, Deeply Worthless, transformed into.
I Am Present
Multiple stars like paint balls bursting with impact. Energy, light. Orange, gold, luminescent. Hot (but good). All through my body with concentration in my abdomen. In a constant state of being radiant, pulsing. Caught mid explosion, like a snap shot. Sound like a paint ball of energy exploding.
I am present. I am fully alert and alive. I am awake and open.
The button links to a collection of states related to these two, from the same person. Please take some time to browse through these and let yourself imagine the inner feeling experience behind each map. Some you will be able to relate to, while others may seem quite foreign to you. This is just a hint of the wondrous discoveries waiting as you begin to explore the mysteries of the feeling mind.