Mapping existing feeling states is fascinating and therapeutic. But even more exciting is engaging with the map images in such a way as to directly transform the feeling state itself.
In the past, we were forced to use circuitous means to achieve a significant shift in feeling. We could attempt to analyze our thoughts and change them, hoping the new thoughts would feel better. We could engage with our physiology through various physical practices to bring our attention from feeling states to somatic sensation and force ourselves toward more desirable inner experiences. We could use meditation in various forms to cultivate a specific feeling state like inner peace or compassion to which we could attempt to return when experiencing a state we preferred not to feel. We could hack the machinery of emotion in the brain and body using various chemical means including food, prescription medications, legal substances like nicotine or alcohol, and illegal drugs. We could turn our attention away from the undesired feeling by manipulating our internal or external environment through distractions such as entertainment, social activities, or outdoor pursuits.
Now we have the ability to go directly to any feeling state and move it directly, as if it were an object we could slide this way and that. Seventeen years ago, I imagined this was the holy grail of growth and healing. I thought there was nothing else I could ever need, that if I ever found myself in a funk that I could just map and move and be done with it. Choose your own feeling state! Live in joy forever!
Be prepared for detours.
But I want to quickly dissuade you of such blue sky visions. As I was to learn rather quickly, the feeling mind is far more complex than to operate on a simple slider mechanism. I’d like to give you a few important pointers about this new territory, to help you get the most out of it as you get started.
First, don’t dive off the deep end. Start small, with feeling states that aren’t at the center of your life’s most intractable issues. Pick that little annoyance with the guy at the coffee shop, or the bit of stage fright before you make a presentation, or the feeling that makes you read that one more article or watch that one more show when you know you should hit the sack or get up to exercise.
Just know, though, that everything’s connected. Don’t be surprised if that seemingly trivial thing you choose turns out to be linked to the big knot at the center of everything. In later articles I’ll talk about how to follow up on linked feeling states, how to discern the right balance of excavating and moving on, and other more advanced skills.
Because every state is connected strongly to a full set of other distinct but interdependent states, I encourage you to make it a priority to stop from time to time as you go, and to ask yourself, “What else am I feeling?” If you detect something relatively strong that you haven’t yet identified and mapped, make a note of it, acknowledge it internally, and come back to it later.
Overall, I want to encourage you to keep in mind that as you map and move feeling states, you are traveling through a rich, complex ecosystem of feeling. Be prepared for the unexpected, be open to surprise, and make sure you have enough time set aside to take a detour if that becomes necessary to complete what you begin. Sometimes as you move one feeling state, another will come barging into the foreground as if to demand to be taken through the process. Make it a priority to at least acknowledge it and commit to returning to it soon, and if possible turn your attention fully to the new state to map and move it before returning to the state you were working on before it showed up.
Anticipate delightful surprises.
I still remember the first feeling state I moved all those years ago. The suddenness of the shift startled me. “It’s not supposed to work like that,” I thought. It took me a little while to trust that yes, in fact, it does work like that despite pervasive expectations to the contrary. Here is what my client Louise wrote about her experience of shifting her first feeling state:
The experience of shifting the feeling left me stunned. It moved so quickly and the feeling of relief and lightness was sweeping and overwhelming.
We’ll hear more from Louise’s experience in a series of posts to come.
Talking about the experience is not the same as having it, so I want to bring this post to a close and encourage you to try it for yourself. The most important thing I want to share before I finish though is this. It is very likely that the part of you that has been holding its form in the feeling state you mapped does not remember what it is like to experience its ideal state. In many cases, you will feel completely and delightfully surprised, arriving at a feeling and state of mind that you never would have anticipated. At the same time, it will probably feel more like “the real me” than the state you started with, no matter how familiar and pervasive that state has been in your life.
That’s enough for now. Good luck. And have fun!