Susan: I think something that’s really up for me right now in general is receiving, allowing myself to receive. And specifically to receive love.
Joe: That sounds like a great place to work. So what do you experience in situations where you’re not allowing yourself to receive love?
Susan: It’s a noticing, like somewhere inside my physical body there’s a barrier or boundary, like the love can’t come in. I can feel it around the outside of me. And I can even feel it on my skin, on the outside of my body, but as it approaches, and I would say maybe as it approaches my heart, there just seems to be a boundary. So that my heart… when I’m loving, when I’m sending love out, or opening my heart to someone else like in terms of connecting with them, I can feel my heart open. But when I think, “Oh, there’s just this wave of love coming my way, and it would be so delicious to take it in,” it seems to stop. Like to not go fully in.
Susan: And it’s almost like there’s a fear, if I really took it all the way in, I might just explode with love or something. You know? It would be more than my system can handle.
S: I mean, I’m just seeing that right now, that behind that barrier is I think a fear that it would just be too much.
J: So do you have any experience of what “too much” can feel like for you?
S: It feels like a loss of control. Like it’s more than I can control or contain. (These things are occurring to me as I’m speaking to you.) So it’s…
J: So the feeling of loss of control…
J: Let’s zoom in there. What would you call that feeling, the anticipation of what it feels like to lose control, to have more than you can contain or control?
S: Again it feels very scary. I mean, like there’s some fear, like what’s gonna happen?
J: So what would you like to call that fear?
S: Just, “no.” I mean, I notice when you asked me what I would like to call it, I wanted to do this.
J: OK. Would it make sense to give it the name, “No”?
J: OK. Does it need an exclamation point after it?
J: All right then.
In this first few minutes, my goal is to help Susan identify and name a single feeling state for us to map. She has identified something she is calling No! but there also seems to be an indication of something else that could be called “fear,” as if the “barrier” is the No! and as she says, “behind that barrier is I think a fear that it would just be too much.”
I want to call your attention to the way in which I’m encouraging her to call her feeling states by whatever name she finds most useful. We shall see that the standard vocabulary for feeling and emotion is far too limited to capture the immense diversity of actual feeling experience, and it’s important to honor the uniqueness of each person’s experience of every feeling state in this way.
At this early stage, we’re not sure whether the No! is the fear, or the fear is a separate state related to the No! I suspect they are two different states, but that’s OK. I don’t need to know right now. For now we’re ready to map the first feeling state, and we’ll discover more through the mapping.