If you and I were sitting together over coffee and you asked me to tell you about my work with the feeling mind, I would start by asking you about your experiences with psychotherapy, personal growth, spiritual practices, cognitive science, and related topics. Then I would begin in your world and build a bridge to my work. If you’re ever in the neighborhood (Seattle), look me up and we’ll do just that.
Alas, here in this format I don’t have that option. Which presents a bit of a problem for me. You see, feeling lies at the center of pretty much everything human. All of us feel, pretty much all of the time, whether we’re paying attention to it or not. But we have such difficulty communicating about the actual, subjective experience of feeling that it remains a great mystery.
Put a mystery at the center of human life and what do you have? You have the current state of understanding: a massively proliferating cacophony of endless varieties of folk wisdom, spiritual teaching, esoteric practices, phenomenology, philosophy, psychological theory, psychotherapy, neuro- and cognitive science, and every single person’s private inner model of what feeling is and how it works. There is no other topic like this on the planet, a subject on which everyone is an expert and nobody can agree.
What that means is: If I write as if I am in fact talking to you, and I frame things according to your model of feeling, building the bridge from where you stand, then the next person who comes along will be left out. They will misunderstand some of my framing metaphors, disagree with some of the connections I’ve drawn to other fields, and decide that what’s here is not relevant to them before they get very far into it.
Most marketing people would advise me to choose my audience, and in fact most books and websites on the subject are indeed very tightly focused on a specific niche reader. But that’s not what I want to do. Feeling is universal. This work is potentially helpful to a widely diverse audience and I would like to make it as ubiquitously accessible as I can. My intention here is to strip down the framing of things, to keep my presentation simple. I’ll do that by staying as close as possible to raw experience accessible to anyone, bringing you along with all my readers into the heart of the territory and supporting you in making meaning of it all for yourself, no matter who you are, no matter where you are coming from. My intention is also to share my perspective along the way, building my case for a model of the feeling mind which seems most useful to me, but being transparent about how I am doing that. I encourage you to follow along and build your own understanding as we go.
Another reason I want to strip my presentation to the bone and make it as accessible as possible has to do with its countless applications. Feelingwork opens up previously hidden dimensions of feeling, and so its potential applications are far too numerous to name. You will apply your learning differently from your neighbor or friend. Some readers will use Feelingwork immediately to relieve longstanding emotional challenges. Others will apply it to their work with clients in therapeutic or coaching contexts. Some will draw from general principles revealed here to enhance their work in organizations or with groups. A few will see opportunities to move academic and scientific research in exciting new directions. Perhaps one or two readers will see the relevance of the mapped structure of the feeling mind to cutting edge theories about the nature of reality and the place of consciousness in the universe. Many more possibilities beckon. In these first offerings I would prefer not to limit these applications, so the target of my presentation is you, the human being. For you the professional, I invite you to reach out to start a conversation, and let us together explore those possibilities most compelling to you.
Finally, I want to keep things simple because the feeling mind is new territory. For known territory we have an abundance of maps for navigation – knowledge, theory, practice. Emotion and cognition are relatively known territories. But you won’t find this territory very well represented on any current maps, (at least none I’ve come across, and that’s a lot).
Wait, I can hear a faint hesitation in your thought. “Is that possible,” you ask, “with all we have learned over the centuries, especially in modern times? How can you say we don’t know the territory of feeling?” I can understand your question. Indeed, the realm of feeling, mood, affect, emotion, passion, and all the other names we have for what makes us most human have been a focus of our attention for a very long time. We have probed, questioned, inquired, experimented, and theorized at great length. But no matter how earnest our efforts, nothing we have done has succeeded in crossing the subjectivity barrier. That is to say, no one investigating feeling has managed to successfully peer into the actual, subjective experience of anyone’s feeling beyond their own. And even observing one’s own feeling experience is greatly constrained by limitations of awareness and understanding: much of feeling operates outside of awareness, and our ideas about a thing shape our perceptions of it.
Feelingwork changes that. I have managed to cross the subjectivity barrier with ease and reliability, and over the past 25 years have peered into hundreds of people’s subjective experience of many thousands of feeling states. In crossing that barrier I have observed features and dynamics of the feeling landscape which have never before been recorded. Consequently, whatever maps you are most accustomed to using will eventually run into problems here. You will find your beliefs challenged. You will experience things you currently have no explanation for.
I recommend that to the extent you are able, check your current maps at the door and enter with beginner’s mind. And please consider reaching out with your most compelling questions to start a conversation. Your perspective is both welcome and invaluable as we extend and deepen our maps of the feeling mind.
To get the most out of this website, I strongly recommend you dive in. It will be much easier to comprehend what is presented here with some direct experience of the practices. Do the exercises in the Feelingwork articles. As interest builds, I will open an online learning and practice community for those who would like further training and peer support. It will be the next best thing to the cafe!