Let’s say you’ve tried mapping, (Mapping a Feeling State). You started with one strong, viscerally tangible feeling state. You elicited a multi-sensory image which brought that feeling state even more strongly into your awareness. Then let’s say you’ve moved the feeling as well, (Moving a Feeling State). You interacted with the image, inviting parameters of the image to shift. And what happened? The image shifted. But not only did the image shift, the feeling state shifted with it in a seemingly meaningful way.
If you did this, you’ll notice the feeling state you ended up with has a clear relationship with the first state. These are not two randomly occurring states with a haphazard connection. They feel like they are the same part of you. They feel like they’re about the same thing, trying to do the same thing, fulfilling the same function at some level in your life.
The second, ideal state feels like it is doing so with higher fidelity, shall we say, higher purity, greater clarity, more authenticity. It feels more like the “real” you. The first, reactive state feels like you, yes, but a version of you that is off balance.
Notice too that in the second state, your thoughts and perceptions have changed. They have changed spontaneously, with no particular effort on your part. You did not have to analyze the thoughts of the reactive state. You did not have parse the beliefs to identify where they were non rational. Nor did you have to logically or rationally construct new beliefs, thoughts, or perceptions to replace them.
All that happened completely without your intervention. Bingo. You found yourself feeling the new state and simultaneously you found yourself thinking the new thoughts. And they weren’t just any new thoughts. They were your new thoughts. They felt authentic, real, and as comfortable as your skin, (even though they might have seemed strangely new and unfamiliar if you were encountering them for the first time).
How did this happen? Or more to the point: what happened? Let me share my best understanding with you.
When I first started doing this work, I assumed it would be possible to take any feeling state and turn it into any other feeling state. One application I discovered was to help create emotional states for performing artists. I started working with a professional dancer out of New York City who wanted to create her own performance. My job was to help her craft her dance as a journey through her emotions.
The arc of the dance was to take her from the emotion she called Fear to a different emotion she called Stand Tall. Seemed like an easy enough journey. Map the first, map the second, and take her gradually from one to the other as she improvised her movements as expressions of the driving emotions.
But there was a problem. Fear wouldn’t turn into Stand Tall. It just wouldn’t go. Instead it turned into a different feeling she called Welcome, a type of connection with her audience. And no matter what we did, we could not get either Fear or Welcome to turn into Stand Tall.
So I reverse engineered Stand Tall. I had her shift it in a negative direction toward something that felt worse. It went to a dark feeling she called Withdrawn. OK then.
For the performance, her choreography was driven by the pair of feeling transformations: Fear became Welcome; Withdrawn became Stand Tall. As a technique for scoring a dance, it was a success. But this experience threw a wrench into my convenient understanding of what I had discovered.
Over the following months I explored the relationships among states. This is the investigation that led me eventually to the work of eliminating my bipolar disorder a few months later.
I tested the relationships of states that seemed to coexist. As it turns out, if we can feel two distinct states simultaneously, they cannot turn into one another. I also tested many states connected by their transformation. It turns out that at times, more than one reactive state can turn into the same ideal state. But any single reactive state cannot turn into more than one ideal state. And any two reactive states that share the same ideal state never coexist. We feel them one at a time only, shifting from one to the other depending on the context.
It became clear that a reactive state and its ideal were linked inextricably. They shared the same “thing-ness.” I came to call these things to which specific states belonged “parts.” It took many years to understand exactly what a feeling part is, how a feeling part works, and how feeling parts interact.
The most important thing to recognize is that a feeling part is not a static thing. There is “thing-ness” to it, but it lies at a deeper level than the expression of feeling. A feeling part is fluid, shifting, responding at all times to life by shaping and morphing its feeling expression. It’s like the expression of dance, always in motion. But that infinite spectrum of feeling expression arises from a something which is defined by a unique quality, drive, function, or essence. That deeper something is what defines each feeling part and separates it from every other feeling part. This is the dancer.
I’ll go in much greater depth into the nature of those deeper somethings that define the identities of feeling parts in future articles. For now, the important thing is to become familiar with the typical dynamics of feeling parts so you can be more effective in your Feelingwork mapping and moving efforts. Let me summarize here.
First: Any two feeling states which can be experienced simultaneously are expressions of two distinct parts. They will resolve into two distinct ideal states.
Second: Any two feeling states which, when moved, converge into the same ideal feeling state, are most likely two different reactive feeling expressions of the same part, tailored for two different situational contexts, responding to different challenges. Test by verifying whether they can be experienced simultaneously: most often you will find that the explorer experiences one state, then the other, rather than both at the same time.
Third: Any single feeling state which seems to turn into more than one ideal state is most likely a blend of two states, or the moving process is accidentally including an additional state which has not been explicitly identified. Look for the extra state.