This is a continuation of Louise’s story of doing Feelingwork, in her words, with my commentary in italics.
The first feeling I mapped was fear of rejection. first I had to get the words right. “Fear of rejection” is an abstract phrase that could apply to just about anyone. It was not mine.
What it really felt like was crumbling. I felt other people’s moods and shifts so acutely that a slight dismissal or an offhand remark could cause me to collapse inside. To compensate I would look for a fault in the person, silently and cruelly judge them, and then retreat back into my own world. During the initial mapping stage I made the transition from the rather generic, possibly universal “fear of rejection” to the more personal “crumbling”.
First, I acknowledged and embraced the emotion and I allowed all the reasons for its existence to fall away. It made me excruciatingly uncomfortable. It is a strange thing to really feel an emotion. I always tend to cover them with specific thoughts or I would turn away and find distraction. But now I had to just sit and feel it. As I did, I realized that giving the feeling form moved it from something vague to something tangible.
At first I didn’t fully understanding how exactly an emotion or a feeling state was supposed to turn into an image. I had to immerse myself in the process to understand. Guided by Joe’s questions I closed my eyes to try to see if the feeling had a shape and a form and a color. It did. A loosely collected set of yellow particles that collapsed and crumbled within me.“Yellow?” I thought,“Wouldn’t gray or blue or black be more appropriate for this sinking feeling?” I sat with it. They were yellow. I shrugged. They really couldn’t and wouldn’t become any other color. As I sat with the feeling I felt the particles collapsing. As they collapsed I felt the familiar sinking feeling but this time it was different. The feeling existed on its own without a specific incident to attach it to. All I had was the feeling deep inside me. My core felt very heavy and I was intensely aware of the weight of gravity pulling me down into the chair. I emerged from the emotion feeling disoriented and shaky. I felt deflated and sad but I also felt a deep sense of understanding for myself. I drew the image. Drawing the image right after experiencing and mapping it solidified what I felt with a visual representation. As I went through each emotional state I often found that the drawing process allowed me to further develop the visual aspects of the feeling state. Seeing the image allowed me to objectify the emotion. It no longer felt frightening and illusive and overwhelming.
Once I identified the feeling, the words came through with striking clarity. “You shouldn’t have put yourself out there, you should have kept it all closer”. These were my words coming from a level of my conscious mind I had never heard before. Through life, being rather um…sensitive… I had constructed an instant awareness of the slightest shift in social acceptance, and I protected myself from further hurt by closing up, pulling back, surrounding my self with the protective wall. This may have protected me from a deeper feeling of social rejection, but it wasn’t helping my social life, or my life as a freelance writer. It just wasn’t helping anymore.
Feeling description: A falling in on myself. Sinking feeling, from chest into abdomen, kind of falling; like sand; cooler than body temp, lukewarm, not quite neutral; yellow, opaque; it falls and settles, and then I just kind of resign into it. Sound of a heavy sigh, air deflating.
Thoughts/beliefs: I shouldn’t have put my work out there. I should have kept it all closer.
About the Mapping Process
As you might imagine, this Crumbling feeling was quite uncomfortable for Louise. At the same time, mapping it provided a measure of relief. It was as if she had gotten a little distance from the feeling, and was able to be a little more objective about her experience of it.
In creating the image, Louise wasn’t entirely sure the image was “right.” She said the experience of mapping felt a little weird, like she was just making it up. I affirmed her experience, explaining that most people have a sense of unfamiliarity the first few times they do the mapping.
“It’s like you’ve just discovered a new instrument,” I told her. “Imagine looking through an electron microscope for the first time at a single hair from your head. What you see is weird and strange, and wonderful. But before long you’ll become accustomed to peering into this new world.”
Louise accepted my invitation to confirm her image by exploring a couple of its qualities. I asked whether, if the Crumbling had qualities of being blue, or a liquid, or very cold, it would be the same feeling. She said very emphatically that Crumbling had none of those qualities. I asked her what would happen if the feeling became cooler and heavier, falling with greater force. She shook her head and told me no thank you, that’s too uncomfortable. She was now convinced that this image was an accurate representation of her feeling state.
At this point, Louise had passed through the doorway into the mysterious world of the feeling mind. She had successfully applied the tool of mapping to enhancing her awareness of a specific feeling state, and had been surprised at the richness and detail it revealed. By testing what it felt like to “try on” different qualities of the feeling image, Louise had also taken the first steps to applying the mapping process to directly interacting with her feeling state. This would become more important as we continued the journey of discovery.
The tangibility, specificity, and detail of the image can be rather startling the first time you conduct a successful mapping. Have you had a similar experience in mapping your first feeling state? What do you make of it?
To be continued tomorrow…