This is an excerpt from my book, The Feeling Path, 2011. In it, I expand a little further on the story I shared in the second half of the post, The Birth of Feelingwork. I’ll take it another step in the next couple days by posting the actual dialog by which I facilitated this transformation in myself. [UPDATE: See My Fear.] I think you’ll find it interesting.
To give you a little perspective of what it’s like to do this work in depth, let me share the story of the day I dismantled my bipolar disorder. I awoke on April 4, 1995 at about 4:30 am after a disturbing dream. I knew the dream had to do with some deeper issues I was wrestling with, and I used the material of the dream as the starting place for my work.
The previous few days, I had been flirting on the edge of a manic episode. I believe all people with bipolar disorder have the capacity to “increase the voltage” of a state at will, and I know I used to use that capacity to amplify both my highs and my lows. I had been amping up my high, (most likely in response to feelings of insecurity and aloneness brought on by my girlfriend leaving town).
The dream was fraught with intense fears and a deep sense of sadness and longing. At that time in the development of the work, I had worked at most with three or four parts at a time. I didn’t draw the states, didn’t even give them names sometimes, either before or after moving them. I was flying by the seat of my pants.
Also at that early time I hadn’t become very practiced at facilitating my own work with myself. I had to provide some kind of an external structure to lead myself through the questioning sequence. That day I used the structure of typing out the conversation on my laptop between the guide asking the questions and the explorer answering them. I still have the dialog I captured. (I’ll post that in coming days, to give an inside look at the process back then.)
Overall I mapped and moved seven feeling states. So I didn’t get an entire set. But one of those states was what today I would call a pivot. It was a feeling state which was so uncomfortable, all the other states were arrayed around it in such a way as to keep that state out of awareness. “The feeling which must not be felt.” The entire array pivots around this central state.
I called it “the fear thing.” In my notes I described it as “ovoid in shape, about half the size of a human… four feet behind me… It seems gray and smooth, but more like a gas than a solid, and more like a dull, soft smooth than shiny… It’s scary as hell.”
It was pulling on me, as if to pull me backwards into itself. When I asked what would happen if I gave into it, the answer was that I would die – whether literally or figuratively I didn’t know; it felt chillingly real either way.
In the course of moving this state, I discovered that the fear’s function was actually to protect me, to keep me from being pulled apart by people wanting things from me. The presupposition was that I was not strong enough to withstand such forces.
When it moved, it came into my body, relocating to my lower abdomen, and became a powerful source of light and energy inside me. The power was formidable, and it had the sound of a rocket engine. I described it this way, “white-hot, small. I have a sense of being able to expand it if I want to tap into a greater source of energy. This is raw energy, raw source, raw power, the source of creation.”
I worked hard that day, digging into very intense and difficult feelings, mapping and moving them, taking breaks at times to get my bearings. But at the end of the day, I was not the same person woke up that morning from a bad dream. Over the next two weeks or so I felt like a stranger in a strange land. I felt things I had never felt before, with a subtlety and nuance which was stunning in its richness. I felt as though I finally had some window into the experience of other (normal) people.
From that day forward I never had another manic episode. Not only that, but I did not miss those highs. (I had always thought I would never choose to give them up.) The highs were nothing compared to the richness of full-on feeling. I wouldn’t trade back again for anything.
My life also took a strong turn in a new direction. I had dropped out of school in my early 20s after a few years of trying to finish up my bachelors degree at the University of Pennsylvania. I assumed I would never finish because I could not bear the thought of suffering with the structure a class or degree program would impose.
Within a few months of shifting “the fear thing” into the “source of creation,” I had signed up to audit a class, to test the water for a program to complete my degree. Two years later I finished it, and I went on to complete my masters as well.
The changes unfolded organically out of the mapping and moving I had done. My thoughts changed. My spontaneous feelings and moods changed. My reactions to specific things and people changed. My life orientation, ambitions, and attitude changed.
All of these things changed without any direct effort on my part to change them. The changes were the natural outgrowth of the deep shifts I had made within my feeling mind. I simply could no longer live in the ways to which I had become accustomed. And so little by little I carved out new paths, made new choices, reached out in new directions.
This is what you can expect in doing this work. The deeper the work, the more profound and effortless the changes. Often times those changes create some disruption or discomfort in your life as you break off one path and take up another. But these are the ordinary discomforts of a life on the edge of aliveness. I believe you will welcome them as I have, and appreciate the gifts that come to you as you bring more of your authentic self to every day.