LEGACY PAGE: Carried over from the previous feelingmind.io website. Content will be reshaped over time to better integrate with the psychotopology framework.
Noticing Patterns in Mapping
It’s been a long, slow road to get to what I want to show you in this chapter. I won’t bore you with all the dead ends and detours I took along the way. Instead, beginning with only the mapping and moving methods introduced in the last two chapters, let’s imagine we’re taking on a fresh exploration of feelingmind territory. As I tell the story of our hypothetical exploration, I’ll be including a variety of feeling state maps to illustrate our journey. The maps I share in this chapter are from people I’ve worked with over the years who have given me permission to share, along with some of my own.
Our exploration begins with Sam, who maps a feeling state she names Sad. Here is her map:
There's a funny kind of cascade down my front, over my belly, and it scoops back in around. More like mud than anything else. Feels like it's on the outside, but then it scoops in and under my stomach. Kind of warm — balmy. Black. The motion of it makes me think of what a mudslide might sound like. Starts at the collarbone, wide enough to kind of cover my arms. Scooping around a good, solid ball of my belly, a power center in my belly. Maybe the sadness is just like shrouding that. Feels like it just goes out the back, away. I don't know where it's coming from.
I've been witnessing a lot of the yucky parts of people. Seeing ways that maintaining classroom order brings out the worst in the teacher; seeing the kids being defeated and apathetic. It's sad seeing that. But it ties in with my daughter talking about not wanting to go to school; she's bored, wants to do something meaningful. Tied to this fucked up system. So hard to find alternatives without removing yourself completely from the system. It's sad. The whole rat race thing. It just feels like toiling.
Mapping Sadness in Others
Let’s get curious about what Sam has mapped. Does Sam’s map of Sad illustrate a universal experience shared by others when they also feel sad? Would other people map their sadness in the same way? If we select 16 people at random from my files and look at their maps for feeling states named Sad, or something close, what do we find? Let’s take a look.
#1: Deeply Sad
In my chest/torso; black; these dark places, one big one on my heart, these distinct, stationary places, and from those places there is an oozing down; thick fluid, “blood tar," constant oozing, down about four inches from each place; comes in waves of intensity, heavier and more concentrated in the center of my chest; warm, like the temperature of freshly killed prey; sound of me bawling. (Also, there are tears.)
It wants to be held. When I get there I just want to be held. I am very sad. Could be for any number of reasons. I just want to be comforted, specifically held or touched.
Heart, pain. Solid, soft ball, size of grapefruit, texture of rose petal, heavy, pendulous like a water balloon, moist, feverishly hot, deep red. Sound is a deep, throbbing hum. There's some power in it that stabilizes things. The hum is a vibration of an energy in and through it. The energy may extend out beyond the ball.
Loss of love; I long for your love. I grieve its loss. I can see I will never have the love I want. I am not safe. Safety is necessary for love. I am fed — that is ok. But my deeper needs are not met.
It hurts inside my heart. A deep, black hole, an endless space of sadness. I feel it grow throughout my body, and I stop breathing. No air there, just darkness. No temperature. It's a place that just exists, not hot or cold, not either/or, just a place. Black, but you can see the depth of it. It moves. You can see the energy of the depth of it. Like space, but there aren't any starts. A space inside my heart that is infinitely big. Movement is like you're in a spaceship going through a black hole, but you're not in a spaceship. An empty silence.
What the fuck am I doing? I have no answers. It's deep, like space. It's not just my sadness, it's the world's sadness. I'm not alone in the sadness. I only let myself look at this when I know my partner is planning to be with someone. In exploring this, I find there is still hope, because if I don't have hope, I don't have anything.
Through my whole body; really heavy, very solid, firm, like putty, loosey goosey; body temp; gray, opaque, color is like a kneaded eraser; pulling me down, moving down, very weighted with gravity. It's saying, “Fall into me." It's asking to be felt with surrender.
Connects to me through my belly button, and it pulls me down from the waist down, just kind of cuts me in half and pulls me down; mostly on the outside of my body. (The strength of it is, it's grounded, wakes you up to the present, there's really no escaping it. It's very present.)
People I care about who I see suffering in a way. It's sad to be able to see it all, the duality of life, the beauty and the pain, and how easy it is for people to get stuck in these patterns that aren't even our own, not really thinking for ourselves, (or thinking too much for ourselves). The sadness is living in the paradox. It's living in the truth, too. It's sad to me that I can't handle knowing what's going on in the world because it's too intense. It's sad living in a world I don't even want to know about because the destruction is too great. There's beauty too, but it's hard to hold on to it when the destruction is so great.
Like water, pouring down, I can feel it come down the whole body like rain, continually; not sure if it comes from above or comes from the top of my body, runs through me on the inside and about a foot on the outside too; cool; clear gray and white, transparent; the biggest quality is it just continues to go, and not a light rain, more like a pouring down, but not with a hard sound, more of a soft sound, but there's quite a bit of water; like when you see water pouring down against a pane of glass, like buckets; it goes down my body and especially pulls down on my heart and continues to just pour down. It just gathers around my feet. I feel tired.
There's just this heaviness and sense of giving up. I feel beaten by life. This feeling of, I don't have any strength.
In my heart. Intense heaviness, crushing inward like a black hole, about the size of a ball of pie crust, could mold it with two hands. Black, outer surface is indented as if molded by hand. A very dense clay,oily, like plasticine but pitch black. Intense cold. [Sobbing... intense, had to stop for a few minutes.] Much bigger, actually, like a basketball, extremely dense, extremely cold, intensely black as if you are peering into the maw of infinite sorrow. No sound. Steady gravity.
About all the pain — my parents' & others' as well as my own. There is too much pain, too much fear, too much grief, too much loss, too much devastation. Too much for any human to bear. I cannot bear it.
In my gut; an energy, heavy; scalding; colorless, transparent; movement is trying to erupt up and out; held in by something at throat; a wailing protest, other voice, group, non-human. The movement is very active.
It wants to be expressed, let out, relieved, released. It doesn't want to be contained. It's sad around loss. It's sad around lost/missed opportunity. I think it's sad around limitations. Son growing and leaving. Death of loved ones.
In the back sides of my lungs, between my ribs, heavy and achy. Chilly and warm at the same time. The muscle-teeth-chattering sensation that extends from my back into the rest of my body. But the actual tactile temperature is lukewarm. Like a heavy fog. A dark, charcoal gray, pretty soupy, like pea soup fog. Would be able to just barely see through it in me, like 98% opaque. Moves like labored, heavy breathing, like the oxygen bag things, with that kind of resistance, and about that pace. Sound is wailing deep sobs, my voice.
Hard to see out of it. It's heavy. I just want to curl up in a ball and cry. Sometimes there's a definite origin, almost always in the past, and sometimes just pangs. I feel like it could swallow me up whole, and I couldn't get out.
Hopeless, lost. I don't have anything. Therefore I don't want to be. I long for comfort. And comfort comes from being loved. Parallel belief: I can't be loved. My experience of time slows down. Everything seems to take longer to do.
Blackness, all around and through me, about a foot outside, perfect oval; so intensely black it is as if nothing else exists, cannot see beyond it; total silence; total stillness; a substance which is a pure absorber, with no density of its own, like dark energy or pure, empty space; super-cold, but not dense enough to feel that coldness, more of a shadow of cold.
I am sad. I don't really know why, though. This is just how it is. But I guess I wish things were different.
A kind of blue, maybe bluish green, dark thing in the pit of my stomach. A sense of resignation associated with it. Kind of like Aghast in substance, like a little doughy, glowing thing. It just sort of sits there and feels sad. Cold, not cold-cold, but colder than any of the others. It has inertia, so if I move around it sort of sloughs around. Sound of a sigh, with a half-sob, my voice. For some reason I associate it with looking off to the side. Like it's trying to find a way to not be itself, but it can't, but it still looks.
“Well, that's that. This pretty much sucks." It can even verge into despair and desolation. Gets heavier and darker.
#11: Overwhelming Sadness
Coming from outside, energy folding in around my heart, coming around my whole head and upper body, coming from outside and coming to just exist inside me. Energy; neutral temp; white and blue and gray, transparent, wispy; a feeling of resignation, it comes in from the outside and folds in, from all sides. Sound of a sigh, my voice.
It's a feeling of futility, spent energy, can't sustain itself. It all comes collapsing back in. I have always had this incredible awareness of how finite life is. Not a fear of dying young, but even if I live for 90 or 100 years, it will end. This futility of existence. Which I've come to terms with by learning to live and enjoy the moment.
Whole torso and head, larger about 6 inches all around; heavy; like dense felt; dark gray, blue, black; very dense, dry but as if it is soaked with water; very warm; no movement; sound is minimal crying.
Feeling sorry for myself, feeling alone, like I don't matter enough for anyone to support, nourish, give to me. An emptiness.
Stomach. Hot. Rising or growing if I let it out. Like a solid liquid, a solid that could move and expand like a liquid might. Red or orange or pink. No sound.
I can't bear it. I can't bear the loss, the pain. Some sense of losing myself.
#14: Deep Melancholy
Very, very quiet. Like a deep, deep pool of warm, very dark water. Dark, dark brown. Very deep, down into me, seemingly with no bottom. No movement, very still. Sound perhaps of an occasional drip into water, as if in a deep cave, with an echo. Through my torso, about eight inches diameter, vertical, bottom crossing dimensions under my solar plexus so it doesn't go into my physical lower belly.
I am lost and sad. Forever.
#15: Sad and Alone
Heart, small; solid, hard, dense, but it radiates energy, a white-blue glow; a blue, metallic sphere, baseball size; opaque; cool; it's just hovering; humming, like an electrical hum. It's kind of contained. It's its own entity. It's important that it's inorganic.
A heart sense; sadness and grief; if it's a bigger issue, it's not so much sad and alone but that I'm sad and I'm just one person. I am separate and isolated.
Thick, black liquid, very thick, very black, opaque, dull surface. In my heart, weighing down. It can pour downward from my heart into my whole body including hands and feet. Makes me want to sleep. Movement is that slow pouring downward, no recovery to it. Sound is indistinct, a low moan with an echo perhaps. Warm.
I am sad. I am permanently separated from any satisfying participation in human endeavor. I am forever an outsider, forever unable to belong, forever alone. I will always be an outsider.
Not What We Might Have Expected
Are you surprised? It was a shock to me when I first started to assist others in mapping their feeling states, to discover that “sad” for them was utterly different from “sad” for me. I soon learned to check my expectations at the door whenever entering someone else’s inner world.
Here we can say that in general, darker colors and downward movement or heaviness seem common. But in no way do they define sadness for all. We have #7 Sadness, for example, which is trying to erupt up and out. And #13 Sad is “red or orange or pink.” Seriously? Who would have expected that?
The Power of Open Witnessing
In this diverse series of Sadness maps, we see one of the most healing qualities of the experience of mapping. Especially when we map a feeling state with the help of someone who is facilitating us, being fully seen in that unique feeling state, as we are experiencing it, feels like we are sharing in a way we never have. In other contexts, when we say, “I feel sad,” and another responds with an empathic affirmation, we know someone is with us. But when we are able to share, “I feel this sadness,” we feel more fully seen and held exactly as we are. The imprecision of generic names for emotions no longer seems sufficient.
Simple mapping, then, can serve a very beautiful function in bringing people together. Whether in the therapy office or in the kitchen of a friend, sharing a Feelingwork map can reveal much more of our experience to be shared and held by a caring other.
More From Our Sadness Survey
We can take away from our survey of sadness the simple observation that the realm of feeling — the actual, felt experience of it — is far more diverse and unique from person to person than we had ever imagined. That’s good to know, moving forward.
If we were to expand our survey to include a wider selection of mapped feeling states, including those named as anger, fear, etc., we would further reinforce our observation. Feeling is an infinitely rich world, and the common language to which we have been confined is very simply inadequate to the task of describing it.
But what else can we learn about feeling, simply by mapping feeling states as they exist “in the wild?” We have one more powerful observation we can make right now, simply by surveying the sadness maps above.
The Trans-Somatic Nature of Feeling
If we scan the drawings of 17 different maps of sadness above, we see well over a third of them extend significantly outside the physical body. It seems that people are actually experiencing feeling states that exist beyond the layer of skin, reaching far into the world around them.
This runs counter to what many people who study these things would expect. According to much of current scientific understanding, the experience of feeling, or mood, or emotion is generated within the body. The idea goes, there are emotional circuits in our nervous system that, when they are activated, create physiological changes all throughout the body. Our brain monitors our physiological state and summarizes that state by feeding it to consciousness as an experience of feeling. Feeling is considered to be simply a readout of what the brain says is going on in the body. This framework is congruent with our society’s go-to treatment of unwanted feeling states over recent decades, as we have become more and more focused on attempting to control the underlying physiology through medications and other means.
Our observation suggests something else is going on. Feeling seems to exist over and above, or separate from, the body. It seems to be what I would call trans-somatic. Fortunately for some, a few of the less conventional therapies do attempt to accommodate people’s actual, felt experience. Two that come to mind are Focusing and Hakomi, and I am sure there are others. I am not an expert in these, but my sense is that while they do take a step in the right direction, they remain largely bound by a somatic understanding of the nature of feeling, and as you will see over the course of this chapter, they stop short of rendering the full complexity of the inner human being.
In the next section, we shall explore a further observation that seems to conflict with the somatic explanation for feeling.
The Interconnected Nature of Feeling
Feeling states never exist in isolation. Multiple states coexist and interact, forming complex, interdependent structures. Sam, who mapped the first feeling of Sad that started our survey, also mapped a series of other states interconnected with Sad. Let’s take a look at a few of these.
First, in the description of Sad, we have, “Scooping around a good, solid ball of my belly, a power center in my belly. Maybe the sadness is just like shrouding that.” What might that be? What is the sadness shrouding?
Inquiring into this, Sam discovers a state she calls Fucking Furious and maps it. In her description, she references two states she previously mapped, Abandoned and The Hole. I’ll show their images later. Here, let’s follow the series of three states mapped as a result of inquiring into what Sad was shrouding. See if you can follow the connections between them.
Tense, teeth grinding. In my pelvis, sacrum. (Directly attached to Abandoned, my mom expecting me to validate her. “I'm not supposed to be your mother, you're supposed to be mine!") Coming up clearly last time, mapping The Hole, felt like somebody ripped something from me, and somebody was supposed to be looking out for me, and nobody was. And nobody should even have to because nobody should want to hurt little children. Everybody should have been looking out for me, because I was a little kid!
Three sensations: one in gut, one in sacrum, one in throat. (The gut one is The Hole.) The fury is in my sacrum. Something else in my throat goes all the way up to behind my sinuses.
Fury in sacrum. Size of a grapefruit. Solid, hard, like a cannonball. It's like a cannonball because it's full of fire.
Fire: is the furiest part, furious at being in this container. Like fire. Hot, burning in a really satisfying way, like I can imagine how fire must delight in a fresh piece of wood. Deliciously, destructively, furiously hot. Not unpleasant at all. Red and orange and yellow. It burns straight up. Sound is the wind of a fire, like how a big, huge fire sucks air, the flames make a wind. No crackling, the flames make a wind of their own.
This has always felt really destructive and scary for that reason. But it's exciting too. It feels like boundless energy, uncontrollable.
It wants food. It wants to gobble up evil and push out all the dark. It wants to burn up everything hurtful, every injustice and every malice. It makes my throat really tight (*).
It has a god-like feeling to it. If I am just that flame, it feels immense and so limitless, like invincible. I could see how a person could go the wrong way with that. (I suddenly understand Lex Luther. It's a consuming, intoxicating sense of power in that fire.)
Cannonball surrounding the fire of Fucking Furious.
Larger than grapefruit size, hard solid. Thickness is like a coconut, maybe an inch thick. Metal. It can hardly do its job - it's under so much strain, and doesn't do its job. It has a fuse hole, from which there is a constant geyser coming out of the hole. My sacrum throbs. Geyser is upward. The geyser is all of it I can handle, it's as much as I can make use of. Especially since it's so connected with my sexual energy, which I have so much of. Maybe keeping it restrained is what makes it so intense.
It's cold. It has to be, or it would melt. Black. Like cast iron. It's resisting all the pressure from the inside. You would think it would blow apart, but it's just cold, hard iron. It throbs, aches, and makes me think of Atlas, because he never ever could have a break, or fall. He just stood there. You would think he'd be crushed or something. He just had the constant tension. Sound is the ominous hissing of the discharging fire.
Memory: I was really destructive with my sexual energy in my late teens for a short period of time, before this took full form. Even before that... it's kind of disturbing when even my mom's friends were hot for me... this is why the fury comes up at my mother.
It believes that if I am as big as I can be, it will be destructive, it will alienate me, it will create a bunch of desperate leach energy all around me. (I don't know why it would think that - the fire would burn that energy up.)
It's trying to ward off fans, so that I can just have friends. (High school, top everything, no friends.) One good friend became resentful, hated me because it was all so easy for me, and wasn't for her.
The fire feels so powerful. With great power comes great responsibility. Without elders to teach me how to use this energy, I've had experiences where you make mistakes and people suffer. So it's really scary to consider wielding that energy responsibly. It's hard to trust that I know what to do with it. It's easier to just keep it under wraps.
Bracing myself for a blow. Any time I would take a risk to express unhappiness or a need, I was taking the risk that someone would get mad at me. Even sharing this stuff with you, you're going to see how fucked up I am and you're going to go away. (Abandoned.)
Today, this came up in conjunction with Furious. Fear is a response to this, “Just bite your tongue and get through this."
Constriction at my throat, with Fucking Furious and Restraint. A really physical sensation. Size of a big walnut. Feels like a cap. Caps the fire that streams out of the fuse hole of Restraint. It's blue, opaque. Like rubber. Neutral temp.
It can change its size, because sometimes it's not doing it's tightening up capping thing; sometimes it's just disparate particles, waiting until they need to do their job and contract into their rubber cap-ness. When capped, no movement. I just feel it fused with my tissues. No sound.
I have to keep my experience to myself because nobody understands, and it scares people. My full genius terrified people when I was little. And the ideas that I had terrified people. And the way I saw the world was always very threatening to everyone. So it was very important to keep it all to myself, and to just figure out how to go along with the play, or I'd be completely alone. There's a lot more, but I don't know it any more. I was a lot smarter when I was six.
The Quartet and Beyond
Drawing these four states together, (including Sad), you can vividly see their intimate interconnections.
As Sam mentioned, there were also the Abandoned and the Hole. Here’s what they look like in combination, with descriptions below.
It's just a blob, a mound shaped blob with a point that comes up to my heart. And there's a hole in my gut. Like wet play-doh, the word putrid comes to mind, it feels rotten. Yellow and green, kind of opaque, a little snotty, like goo. Warm, 102 degrees, like when you go into a dance studio where people have been working out for hours and hours with the doors closed, stinky and hot and stale. Not moving, but it's flexible because it's goo. No sound.
I am alone. Therefore I'll always be alone, I'll never be loved, and I'll never be happy because I won't have my needs met. I need people and I need love.
Empty, inside Abandoned. Size of a bowling ball, but it feels like a tunnel from my front to my back, like a bowling ball went through me. I feel like something that belongs there was taken from me. Temp is just nothing, not cold or hot. Neutral. Black. Feels like sucking in from both sides, like air is being sucked in from the front and the back. Like a black hole, it's sucking things in there. It's a vacuum. Sound of air, sucking. Like in the movies when the wind moves over the desolate plain and you don't hear anything except the wind moving across nothingness.
I feel like something essential was ripped from me, and that's the place where it belongs. Because it's gone, it means there's this emptiness at my core that leaves me hollow. I don't even have any words for it, it's just a part of me that's mine, that's gone. Like a piece of my soul is missing. Part of me belongs there, and it's not there. It makes me feel hopeless, like there's just this big gaping hole, hopeless about feeling complete and whole.
It makes me mad. It feels like it was taken from me, like I had it once and somebody took it, like I got robbed. It makes me feel violently angry.
At the end of Sam’s exploration of her experience of The Hole, she reconnects back to Fucking Furious. Completing Sam’s related states are three she called Lonely, Self-Soothing, and Unworthy of Love. The nine states look like this when composited all together into one drawing.
Why This Matters
As far as I know, within psychology, neuroscience, and all the related sciences, there currently exist no conceptual frameworks, no models or theories, which can account for the complexity of this inner experience. The essential relevant quality of Sam’s experience is that all nine states coexist simultaneously. Sam can easily turn her attention to one or another, but they are all present, available, and influencing the totality of her experience when she is under the influence of this issue.
What do you make of this? Up until now, using only mapping as our tool for investigation, we have merely enhanced our perception. Now we are able to see with greater precision and vividness than we could before. But frankly, we still do not know what we are looking at.
At this point, we have entered virgin territory. We cannot say exactly what we are observing, only that it does not match what we would expect within standard models of consciousness. We must push forward to find out what else we can learn about this strange, new land within ourselves. To learn something more, we need to interact with it, to find out its boundaries, its tendencies, its behaviors.
Fortunately, we have just the tool to be able to do that: the Feelingwork moving process. Let’s find out what we can discover by moving a few states and observing the results.
What Moving Reveals
We can begin by reviewing the first shift Louise shared with us, from Crumbling to Core Strength. In describing her mapping of Crumbling, she says, “giving the feeling form moved it from something vague to something tangible.” At the same time, the underlying form of the feeling has a mind of its own. It accepts only one image of itself, the one that best fits the experience at the core. Louise describes being taken aback by the yellow color of Crumbling, and wonders whether “gray or blue or black” wouldn’t “be more appropriate for this sinking feeling.” She continues, “I sat with it. They were yellow. I shrugged. They really couldn’t and wouldn’t become any other color.” How is it that the image emerging from a feeling state can be so tenaciously precise in its qualities?
An Underlying Reality
Over the rest of this chapter I hope to demonstrate to you that in reaching more deeply into feeling in this way, we come face to face with something utterly fundamental about the nature of consciousness itself. In some way, we are using the advanced machinery of our somatosensory brain as an instrument of perception, and we are indeed perceiving something as real and present as the skeleton giving structure to our bodies. We can shine the X-ray this way or that, but the patterns arrayed in light and dark clearly reveal a structure common to all of us yet unique to each one. However we choose to perceive it, if our instrument of perception is faithful, that pattern will come through.
Central to the instrument of perception we use here is the experience of shifting that something of reality. When we adjust the dial one way or the other, whether of temperature or weight, hardness or hue, we unequivocally feel the tugging shift of the underlying thing which is moving. What is that, exactly? Let us invite Louise once again to tell us about her experience of tuning into just the right angle, just the right frequency, dialing in the shift until she experienced the tell-tale “tingle” that told her she was on track.
Louise: Getting It Wrong
“I had this experience shifting one of the feeling states. As I was imagining the color and shape it kept shifting, becoming more and more illusory. A feeling of mud became a path, supporting my feet, became a trail that led out away from me. “A supporting path,” I thought. And I began to create it as supporting path. It reminded me of a drawing I had seen as a child of a path bleached white by the moonlight leading over the hills. I began to describe this image I saw in my mind but it kept shifting. An unconscious part of my mind knew that this was not the true feeling state but an intellectual construct of my imagination. Still, part of me felt like I had already invested the time and I was reluctant to give up on it. I drew the image but it still didn’t feel right. I had a sense of vague discomfort rather than the tingly feeling I had come to identify with shifting a feeling state. I said that perhaps I had allowed my intellect to intervene in the process. I felt embarrassed and guilty about wasting time with this tangent.
“We went back through the original state. I stripped my mind of every image and went into the feeling state. I even asked it “what do you most want to be.” It felt foolish but as I asked I allowed my conscious mind to step aside in order to give the feeling room to become its most perfect state. As it shifted this time it felt right, solid and the physical feeling of pleasure accompanied its final shift.
“Experiencing the reality of getting it wrong intensified my awareness of how powerful getting it right feels. Having traveled so far in the wrong direction once, I quickly learned to realize when my intellectual mind was creating the images. Sometimes I would start to see a pattern, like a waterfall or a pond and in my mind would start constructing images from there. Though often pretty and sometimes creative, they were only that. The images were far removed from the feeling states I was attempting to uncover and map. I learned to recognize these diversions early. Each time I had to return to the original feeling state, clear my mind completely, and allow the feeling to shift into its true form. I came to fully understand how a feeling can’t become anything you want it to become. It has its perfect state, and it has the state it currently exists in. There is only one perfect state and you know when you get there."
The Singular Weirdness of Moving a State
As Louise discusses here, in moving a feeling state it is very important that “you” get out of the way. In other words, the part of you which you experience as being in charge, in Louise’s words, her “intellectual mind,” must step aside to allow the feeling state itself to find its own way to its ideal.
Don’t you find this odd? How is it that this whatever-it-is seems to have its own agency, its own preferences, its own motility, outside of the “self” you so comfortably spend your days inhabiting? What is this thing? At the moment, we don’t yet have enough information to speculate, do we? I mean, we can take some guesses, but they will be poorly supported.
At this point in our inquiry, pretty much the only thing we can say is that a) we experience multiple simultaneous feeling states which are minimally based in somatic sensation, and b) under the right conditions, these states behave as if they have their own, independent guidance system, c) which can lead them through transformation to become a new state which they seem to prefer to the original.
There is another, crucial factor here which I have not yet named. In moving a feeling state, we experience the original state becoming a new state. But the new state feels to us like it is the same “part” of us. It feels as though there is a “something,” a “part of us,” which undergoes the transformation from one state to another. Like a seed which sprouts — same plant, different form. Or an ice cube that melts in a glass — same water, different form.
Now it could be said that the language I’ve given supports this perception. Throughout the moving process I refer to the changing state as “this part of you.” But that language came into being in response to this inner experience. So there seems vaguely to be a something-ness about the underlying nature of a feeling state.
How do we test this? How can we get a better “reading” on what might be going on here?
Testing for Parts
The first time we move an unpleasant state to its ideal, we are captivated by possibility. It seems too good to be true. Does this mean that any time we feel bad, we can stop for a minute, run the mapping and moving process on it, and within a few minutes feel absolutely, peachy-keen good? Further, does it mean that no matter what we might feel in any given moment, we can choose to feel whatever we want, whenever we want?
While it seems that way at first, we have already seen how two observations from our tour through the land of feeling seem to thrust obstacles before that blue-sky hope. First, a mapped feeling state seems to have a single, ideal destination that does not seem to be amenable to conscious choice. Second, feeling states seem to show up in throngs, and moving them all is a lot of work.
But stop for a moment. We don’t have a very good way to think about what this seems to indicate. If we really go there, this evidence seems to suggest that we are made up of some sort of semi-autonomous mini-humans having preferences for what they feel. But the idea of the homunculus was tossed out centuries ago. And to get more personal, this goes against all sorts of intuitions about our capital-S Selves, for example. I’m in charge! My Self is in charge!
All right, let’s pull ourselves together, step away from the emotional attachments to visions of perpetual bliss or sacred selfhood, and put on our scientist hat for a moment. (I mentioned in the chapter on mapping that what we’re up to here is creating a new science. I meant it.)
What would a scientist do in this situation? Well, we need to come up with a hypothesis we can test, and then test it. Right? Right.
So how do we come up with a hypothesis? First, let us restrict the scope of what we’re about to propose. Let us leave aside for now the fact that we’re able to map multiple states that seem to simultaneously coexist. We’ll leave that for later. For now, let us operate within the domain of consciousness of a single feeling state. Let us propose that within that portion of our consciousness, let’s call it a silo, we actually have access to any feeling state at all. We’ll call the sum total of all states we have access to the complete state space available to me as a unique human being. (We will maintain the possibility that what you are able to feel could be different from what I am able to feel.)
The hypothesis runs something like this:
Within any given consciousness silo defined by the experience of a single feeling state, we have access to our personal, complete state space. Any state we are capable of feeling is accessible from any other state.
This is a great hypothesis, because we can test it right away. Here is how.
Let’s use Sam to illustrate. Let us explore whether it is in fact possible to move one reactive feeling state, let’s say Fucking Furious, to the ideal state that shows up when we move a second reactive feeling state, let’s say Fear. First, here are what Fucking Furious and Fear become when moved to their ideal.
Fucking Furious becomes Power:
The fire is good; it's like, frantic for food, it feels like the fire itself has a scarcity complex. Like it has to get bigger and bigger and bigger, otherwise it might go out. A steady, intense flame would be great. If there was just a really clear knowing that the one essential source was constant, none of this devouring-ness would be there.
A nice, dense fireball in my pelvis. No cannonball required. A beach ball size, but more dense in the middle. Freakin' hot, fire colors; movement is a radiating - the dense core is radiating out to beach ball size. Kind of swirly too. Looking down for its fuel, feels connected to earth.
This fireball is inside of me, but it's like the whole universe is inside it. There's a paradoxical way that I can't completely experience it as inside of me or coming from outside of me, because all there is, is that source. Sound is good, soulful singing, me or any number of women I can think of, like Pat Wright. It's really fixed. Fire seems like this ephemeral thing, but this is more like, if fire could be solid. It's not transient or airy. It's like a solid fire.
It's really important for me to know that it's not influenced by any outside circumstances. It's about power. We may be more or less aware of it, depending on our need for it. I need to really know it's always there. When it was a big, devouring flame, that wasn't the power. The power is in the solid part. That was a devouringness, and this isn't at all. Though, the fact that it burns is not insignificant.
That was based on lack, this now knows it has fullness, always, and that is power. What comes up for me now is that constancy, that I am solid. Which creates a fearlessness. Therefore I can act without fear. I can't be obliterated, I can't be cracked or destroyed. I thought I had a big hole in me and I don't! It makes it feel like there isn't a risk that wouldn't be worth taking for what was right. Any risk is worth taking for what's right.
I feel relieved, and I already feel tension in my body working itself out slowly.
Fear becomes Internal Resonance Suit:
Internal Resonance Suit
Softer... feels like another skin suit (I have others); warm and fluid skin suit, like the consistency of chocolate syrup in motion, flowing, this dynamic, moving, warm, thick liquid. A centimeter thick. Blue, opaque, a little bit shiny/reflective, like a sticky, thick syrup would be. No sound.
I can hear myself better with it on. It's like a little resonating chamber of my own. Like when you make sound under water, how it sounds like it's only inside of you. It's like that.
Also... the fear cap thing automatically implied some imperative to get something out, but the fear was capping it and keeping it in. But with this skin suit feeling, the imperative to outwardly express my inner experience is actually kind of muted. It feels complete just to be inside of that skin, it's not really about getting a feeling out or keeping a feeling in. Just having the experience of it is complete.
I can go to my deepest depths and feel my biggest feelings, and... I feel like a deep sea diver, in a completely safe state.
Inside the skin suit, everything is sort of amplified in a good way, in a way that makes things really clear, but also really safe. There's nothing threatening inside of my skin suit. It's like, I could imagine a little Sam, swimming around inside the skin suit. There's nothing inside that's threatening. Everything that goes on is ok, it's safe to experience.
It feels like I'm an ocean inside of there; there are oceans of me to explore, and they are all safe places. Even though what I might see might be fantastic, or scary, it's all safe. My deepest subconscious dreams are always underwater dreams.
Conducting Our Experiment
Now it is clear that both Power and Internal Resonance Suit are feeling states available to Sam. Both these ideal states inhabit her complete state space. According to our hypothesis, we should be able to access either one, starting from anywhere.
To test our hypothesis, all we need to do is to attempt an experiment. In our experiment, we will conduct eight tests.
- We start Sam in the state Fucking Furious, and move that state to Power.
- We start Sam in the state Power, and move that state to Fucking Furious.
- We start Sam in the state Fear, and move that state to Internal Resonance Suit.
- We start Sam in the state Internal Resonance Suit, and move that state to Fear.
- We start Sam in the state Fucking Furious, and move that state to Internal Resonance Suit.
- We start Sam in the state Internal Resonance Suit, and move that state to Fucking Furious.
- We start Sam in the state Fear, and move that state to Power.
- We start Sam in the state Power, and move that state to Fear.
Our first four tests are our controls. They will confirm for us that Sam has access to Power through Fucking Furious and back again inside one consciousness silo, and that she has access to Internal Resonance Suit through Fear and back again inside a second consciousness silo. These tests will also confirm that she is able to switch silos at will by shifting her attention from one to the other. The four tests will confirm that all four states are fully available to her, and thus are part of her complete state space.
Our last four trials are the experiment. If they succeed, they will demonstrate that Sam has access to all four of her states, no matter which of the other three states she uses as her starting place. Success will demonstrate that within either silo, all four states are accessible. This result will support our hypothesis. But if Sam is unable to access Power from Fear, or Internal Resonance Suit from Fucking Furious, these results will shoot a hole in our hypothesis for sure.
What do you predict?
I invite you to try this for yourself. Map and move two related states. We can label the pathway between the reactive and the ideal states as A and B. So Reactive (A) becomes Ideal (A) and Reactive (B) becomes Ideal (B).
Now conduct the eight trials, first confirming your shifts on the A and B pathways before attempting to move between reactive state A and ideal state B, and between reactive state B and ideal state A, forward and back.
What results do you get?
The Results of Our Experiment
Taking Sam through this exercise, the result is clear: It. Just. Doesn’t. Go. No amount of faking will make Fear transform into Power. No amount of forcing will convince Fucking Furious to turn into Internal Resonance Suit. None.
If you have wrestled with emotional, therapeutic, or personal growth work to any significant extent, whether personally or professionally, it is very likely you will have a similar response to my own when I first encountered this phenomenon — complete and utter astonishment. Or maybe for you it could be limited to just a sort of niggling, “Huh? That’s weird.”
My own first experiment happened a short nine months after I first stumbled on how to move a state, when the work was still in its infancy. At that time, I already had big plans for the work. In it, I saw an opportunity to take a more disciplined approach to stage performance. Imagine using mapping and moving feeling states as a way to create an inner, emotional “score” for dance, theater, other performing arts, or public speaking. You start your dance, for example, in a state of fear, and you steadily shift your inner state towards one of big confidence. Using the power and precision of mapping and moving, you should be able to amplify your inner states and deliberately sculpt your journey from one state to the next. This would infuse your body, your movements, your speech or song, with the power of each state, and your performance would be magnetic. In addition, you could bring a mindfulness to the thought spaces generated with the feeling states, and use them to further engage your audience.
I moved from Montana to Seattle specifically to explore this in the city’s vibrant community of performing artists, and in early 1995 I was working with a former professional dancer to develop an inner choreography for her solo performance. Anne had recently relocated to her home town in Seattle after a successful career dancing with Merce Cunningham in New York City. I was to help her identify and craft an internal source for her dance, one that came more from her soul than her head. Our plan was to use Feelingwork mapping, image space sculpting, and improvisational methods for choreographing a short, 10-minute performance.
We began by identifying a particular arc of feeling states. Anne wanted to express a feeling state of power and grace she called “Stand Tall.” This was the state she typically brought to the stage in New York. In order to create a compelling story for the dance, we sought a counterpoint to Stand tall. She identified a feeling of Fear which seemed to be its opposite. I believed our task was straightforward: to map both the Fear and the Stand Tall, create a continuous transition between one and the other, and for Anne to dance the authentic expression of the transformation from one to the other.
Anne experienced Stand Tall as a thin metal bar rotating like a propeller in her belly, as if casting a swath of fog into the back of the performance space behind the audience. Within the fog stood all the people who were important to Anne, and the bar was a motive force, connecting her to those people through her dance. She experienced the Fear as a crusty shell around her body, containing and confining her, cracking in one or two places to allow her a glimpse at the world beyond.
According to my understanding of feeling at that time, it should have been a simple matter to transform the crust into the bar and connect the two feeling states in one smooth, transitional arc. But something unexpected intervened in this elegant plan. No matter how hard she tried, Anne was unable to connect the two states. There was no shared middle ground. When we invited the Fear to transform to its ideal state, it became an oceanic body of water filling her torso, an experience she called Calm Presence. When the Stand Tall was manipulated to become something unpleasant, it became crumbling ground beneath her feet, a feeling she called Unstable.
It was impossible to fuse the two. So to create the dance, we assumed we were working with two distinct “parts,” each with its own distressed state, each with its own ideal state. She worked from the beginning, holding both the crusty shell and the crumbling ground images as simultaneous feeling states, and slowly opened both feeling states into the ideal states of Stand Tall and Calm Presence. The result was powerful and compelling.
I was left with a disruptive contrast between the evidence of my work with Anne and my previously implicit assumption about feeling. I had assumed that feeling occupied an expansive, contiguous state space in which one could travel from any point to any other through simple state property manipulations. The discovery of Anne's “parts" suggested otherwise. Our experience of choreographing the inside-out performance suggested that feelings have limited ranges of motion. Two different feeling states may not be able to transform into one another. This non-overlapping state space seems to indicate the existence of “parts,” each with its own, limited feeling state space within which feeling may range but outside of which it is prevented from traveling.
At this point, I had a clear and compelling sense that what I had stumbled upon was significant beyond what I had previously realized. I abandoned my plans to take the work into the performing arts and returned to university, buying time in which to more fully investigate the nature of this strange discovery. At that time, I had only the faintest glimmer of the immense scope of what I had taken on.
Science and the Nature of Parts
You might be familiar with some types of psychotherapy which work with “parts” of a personality. Virginia Satir’s Parts Parties, Hal and Sidra Stone’s Voice Dialog, Eric Berne’s Transactional Analysis, and Richard Schwartz’s Internal Family Systems are a few that come to mind. I’m not trained in any of these modalities, but it seems to me that the parts worked with in these therapies can be thought of as sub-personalities, semi-complete aspects of the self that function in the context of a whole person, each having its own priorities, perspective, and mode of behavior. The parts we are examining here seem to be far more granular in nature than anything previously proposed or identified.
What are these parts revealed by Feelingwork? How do they function? What was clear to me is that I needed to treat this as terra incognita, a land in which anything was possible and nothing was given. This required me to approach this investigation as if I were starting from scratch, throwing out anything I might have known about emotion or psychology, working completely in isolation using only the raw data of my own and others’ experience as my baseline as I conducted many thousands of rounds of mapping and moving with myself and hundreds of other subjects over a period of two and a half decades.
My Bootstrap Science
This was not normal science as we think of it today. There were no standard procedures, no baseline assumptions, no benchmark studies to refer to. There were no guiding lights, no experienced peers, no shoulders to stand on. At the same time there were no committees to please, no researchers to compete with, no funders to keep happy. In this strange new realm I was completely on my own, for better and for worse.
This was early science at the faintest edge of knowledge. As such, I had a great deal of latitude to experiment, to hypothesize, to speculate and test my speculations. At the same time, I was working in the realm of purely subjective experience, a domain which had evaded disciplined, scientific investigation throughout history. This task required a different approach. I would describe my process as one-third design, one-third scientific method, one-third subjective immersion. Let’s look at these three components.
First there is design. In my view, design is a practice committed above all to wholeness. The designer takes into consideration as broad a scope of factors as possible in creating a solution to a problem, and seeks a dynamic, effective synergy among these factors. In this case, the problem we are up against is one of navigation. We humans have an interior world we find difficult to navigate, and we need a better map.
What kind of map do we need? We need a model of the interior world which enables us to match experience to the model in such a way that we are able to start from any current inner experience and travel to a second inner experience of our choice. Feelingwork is revealing more detailed, more precise information about our inner feeling experience than has been previously available. How do we weave that into a model that serves to guide our efforts to navigate, specifically in the realm of feeling, but optimally more broadly in the entire realm of inner life and its participation in life engaged with the world?
Science tends to refer to the model as theory. I don’t call it theory. I call it a model, and I call the process of creating the model one of design. In part I do so to make a distinction between activity intended to reveal some objective reality, and activity which acknowledges no objectivity but instead prioritizes navigation within a world which is fundamentally beyond knowing.
But I also call it design because there is another important factor in creating the model. We could call it beauty, or resonance. As I engage in the process of attempting to design a model to account for experience, I am seeking beauty, and I am seeking an experience that might be called resonance, in which the model that emerges suddenly coheres entire swathes of experience into one beautiful, integrated whole. Suddenly, questions I hadn’t even thought to ask become answered, clearly, simply, elegantly.
So let us turn our attention now to scientific method. At the heart of the scientific method is the effort to find disconfirming evidence for your favorite theory. Over and over again throughout the years of developing this work, I brought my latest model to my sessions with clients and volunteers, or to my work with myself, and I pushed the edges. I looked for (and inevitably found) evidence that demonstrated flaws in my model. And over and over again, I went back to the drawing board to come up with a new design that incorporated the new evidence.
Which brings me to the third component. In this work, as I conduct my investigations, as I design my models and apply them, as I undergo the transformations at the heart of the method itself, I change. I will present this in more detail very soon, but in short, when we transform groups of feeling states from their reactive configurations to their ideal, our beliefs and perceptions automatically, spontaneously change as well. As a result, what we are able to think expands. The concepts we are able to entertain reach farther. The insights we are able to host probe more deeply.
Over and over again, as I applied this work to my own evolution, I experienced incremental leaps in my ideas about the work itself. My capacity to interpret my own experience and that of the hundreds of people I worked with multiplied. Always, after a particularly deep round of self work, I would emerge percolating with insights and ideas, and would immediately apply them to the next round of model design. In this way, the evolution of the work and the evolution of my own interior proceeded in lockstep.
I don’t know if I will ever find it possible to tell the full story of this work’s development. There have been too many layers operating at once, too many subtle influences, too many startling twists and turns. Plus, I haven’t had a vantage point on the outside; I’ve been buried right at the center of it. For this reason, I shall not here recapitulate the path of discovery. Instead, in the coming pages I will share the current state of the model along with plenty of examples to illustrate both the structures revealed and how understanding these structures leads directly to useful application in Feelingwork. I’ll be sharing not just the map, but some of the territory I’ve successfully used the map to navigate. We’ll go a little more deeply into application in the following chapter on skills.
The Function of Parts
A part is what a feeling state is an expression of. The feeling state expresses something related to the part’s function. If the part’s function is being well-fulfilled, the feeling state is pleasant. If the part’s function is being obstructed in some way, the feeling state is unpleasant. We can also refer to functions as needs, but let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves and think we understand the nature of the needs represented by parts. Not yet.
Our attention tends to be pulled toward unpleasant feeling states. Some need is going unfulfilled, and the unpleasant state is an alert. When we are thriving, our needs are well met and we feel good. When a need falls short, a slight unpleasant feeling calls our attention to that, and we address the shortcoming, filling the need again and freeing the part to once again express that satiation with a pleasant state.
When our life is such that some needs are more difficult to maintain, and we experience more chronically unmet needs, and therefore more chronically unpleasant feeling states, our memory of the fulfilled, pleasant state serves as a kind of north star, guiding us toward restoring the need to fulfillment. The fact is, the actual, lived experience of human life in these times falls more into this category.
So the part’s function is to maintain a dynamic relationship with a need. It relies upon a repertoire of feeling states in order to do its job. It must reassure us when its need is being met, and signal us when its need goes unmet, so that we can make appropriate adjustments. In order for a part to function well, it must partner with attention. Attention must respond to its signals, in order to direct life resources toward filling an unmet need.
In a healthy system, a part’s feeling state is in constant flux. Life is dynamic, and the condition of the part’s need is ever-changing. So for any given part, its feeling state is similarly alive, responsive to the ever-changing condition of the part’s needs.
Perhaps an example will help. Here are a pair of states from a set I mapped and moved back in 2012. In this pair, we can see a relationship between the perspectives of the reactive state and the ideal state that suggests a common function. I’ll keep the sharing from this set relatively abbreviated to focus on the essentials.
Massive, dense noise, as if made of sharp, hard boulders, unconscious, expanding to fill all space around me, wanting to crowd me out of existence. Like male voices but chaotic, meaningless, dangerous. Intense bursts of aggressive expansion happening randomly in all directions. Dark gray with flashes of red where sounds/boulders collide.
Life is extremely dangerous, not safe for me.
A red-orange-yellow energy ball at my solar plexus, about 8 inches diameter. Hot. Sound of gas fire jets. Steady, intense at center and white-hot; more yellow, orange, red at edges.
This provides fuel for my will. This is my power to choose, to create in alignment with the whole, with life, and with my own truth. I create. I choose.
This Specific Part’s Function
If we focus first on the ideal state, we can infer that if the need is fully met in the ideal, the need has to do with an expression of my will, my desire, my choice to create. When the state moves toward Big Will, it indicates that I am serving this need very well.
When instead the state is trending toward Bombardment, it suggests to me that in the current situation, there is too much coming at me from the world for me to focus on what I want. My attention has to be on the big stuff outside of me, so that I can handle it, move it aside or remove myself from its influence, and get back to being able to serve my own need to create.
Conscious and Unconscious
We have many, many parts. Just how many, and in what sort of arrangement, we will get into just a bit later. It is possible, for example, to map up to nine different parts as we did with Sam, and to have those all available to awareness in a given moment.
But we are not able to hold all parts in awareness at the same time. Even with the nine-part set mapped with Sam, she was able to visit each state one at a time, and hold perhaps two or three related states in mind simultaneously, but beyond three or four states it becomes difficult.
So even when we are actively bringing our attention inward, explicitly mapping the in-the-moment feeling states of a set of parts, we cannot hold them all in full awareness simultaneously. Many, or most, live beyond the threshold of awareness.
We can see this phenomenon play out even more extensively if we do mapping across a wider spectrum of states in various parts of our lives. Let’s say we map a set of states that arise when we are dealing with workplace issues. Then at a later time we map a different set of states that arise when we are dealing with relationship issues. Later still, we map yet another set of states that arise when we are home visiting our family of origin.
Perhaps these sets are related, but they have distinctly different flavors, and the states are unique and not duplicated from set to set. At any given moment, when we choose to enter the Feelingwork space, we are able to place our attention upon any of the states we have mapped. We are able to enter any of the sets we have worked. But at any given moment, we are not bringing awareness to the large majority of states. Most of the states exist outside of awareness, outside of consciousness.
Yet any one of them is immediately accessible to consciousness, merely by turning intentional attention toward it. When we do so, our experience is strongly one of choosing to notice something that is always there, but outside of awareness until we turn the beam of attention to shine on it. Our experience is one of easy access, and constant presence.
This experience strongly suggests that these states, and the parts they express, are active through time, but conducting their activity underneath the threshold of awareness. The full set of parts and their ongoing, shifting states engaged in monitoring needs moment to moment, function in the background while our focused attention is directed in any of a million other directions.
This is important. The question arises: How many parts are there? What is the extent of this unconscious or subconscious territory? What is the influence of these sub-threshold parts in our everyday life?
Another factor has to do with the role some parts play in hiding other parts from awareness. In these cases, the hidden part remains almost always fully outside of consciousness, yet can exert a powerful influence in day-to-day life. Here are two, tightly bound reactive states from the same set as Bombardment and Big Will.
Like embers, carbon, ash, and fire, smoldering in Cranky phase. Fire filling body, emanating from face in Angry phase. Erupting into volcanic torrent in Rage phase. Rooted low in the belly, rises up through my body; the higher and stronger it rises, the more intense is the anger. Rage is only in rare fantasies of retribution against my father. Sound is congruent with image/substance.
Generalized anger/irritability at everyone and everything. Very connected to Alone. Cranky: “I want my comfort.” Angry: “Damn you. Damn you all. You all suck.” Rage: “I hate you.”
A dense, concentrated gas, swirling viciously around its center which is nearly empty, like a vacuum. Ice cold. Small, maybe two inches diameter, spherical, but has the capacity to expand instantly and stop everything, freeze everything, paralyze everything. In my belly, hidden inside the ember of Cranky/Angry/Rage.
This is the horror of being alive, held in juxtaposition with the extreme impersonal nature of the universe. This is the vacuous cold and meaninglessness of the universe held within my own core, as the essential truth of existence.
In this case it is clear that one of the functional roles of Cranky/Angry/Rage was to keep Core Fear from surfacing into awareness. It’s easy to see why, given the intensity of Core Fear and its capacity to shut everything down. Yet, the intensity of Core Fear lay behind the ongoing presence of Cranky/Angry/Rage, contributing to its showing up at times when there really was nothing much to be angry about, to keep me from becoming paralyzed by the underlying fear of emptiness and meaninglessness.
These kinds of intense inner states are common, and often lie behind perplexing moods and behaviors. Feelingwork can fairly easily bring these into awareness so they can be processed and integrated.
Feeling and Thought
Parts cluster in groups, or sets. The experience of a set of healthy parts is an experience of being a self in the world. It is the experience of self-aware consciousness.
Each part, in addition to generating a feeling state responsive to its unique need, also generates what I call thought fields. We visited these in the chapter on attention. Inside thought fields, thought imagery is free to arise in response to stimuli both inside and outside. This imagery can be remembered or created afresh. These fields and their imagery also serve as filters on perception.
One function this structure serves is to guide action toward serving needs. When a part’s need is unmet, the unpleasant feeling state generates a different sort of thought field than it does when the need is met. Let’s take a very simplified example using a mere three parts, more rudimentary than what comprises any human experience. Just for fun, we might even imagine this rudimentary example might represent some sort of small child.
If the part’s need, for example, is one regarding physical safety, then when there is some threat to safety, the part’s feeling state slides toward fear. That fear generates thought fields which amplify and exaggerate possible sources of threat. Something small looks much larger than it actually is. Something slow appears much faster than it actually is. These perceptual filters enable the part to influence action toward behaviors which restore safety in appropriate ways.
Parts’ thought fields work closely together. Complete thoughts tend to connect images in one thought field to images in another. The image of dark movement in the fear thought field connects to another image of a large, imposing, toothed face in another part which holds the function of representing potential dangers in the environment. Whenever we feel fear, in this case for example, we are experiencing at least two parts collaborating. One part holds the fear itself, with a motivation to protect. The other part holds the source of danger, with a motivation to identify. The two work together to identify potential sources of danger and protect against them. A third part might hold what a safe space looks like, enabling the swift identification of a suitable nook in which to hide.
The three parts noted above would function differently when the danger has passed. The safety part would feel secure, the environment part would feel expansive, and the space part would feel cozy. In this state, the three parts might work together to support play time, perhaps with a game of hide-and-seek.
Let me share three more states from the same set to illustrate the way thoughts, beliefs, and perceptions tie together two or more states into clusters of meaning.
A vacuum where a protective, warm, nurturing body is supposed to be. An empty, vacant space all around me, about a foot or two. No protection (from Bombardment). Cool/chilly. Color like an insipidly flat, non-blue, non-clouded sky, with a sense of darkness. Still and quiet. Expands and darkens to form a buffer between myself and Bombardment, or between me and anyone who might abandon me.
Others don’t see; they’re unconscious, etc. Feeds into Angry. I want no enmeshment, no responsibility, no impingement of another’s needs on my own.
Like galaxy stuff, torus shape, imploding on itself, as if being sucked into a black hole at the center of my heart. Giant inner dimensions but only 6-8 inches external dimensions.
An ache, longing. Impulse to cry. Something really important is missing. Loss.
Like a churning, seething horde of giant, 4-inch-long insects around my torso. Frenzied, chaotic movement, like an army of ninjas on meth trying to defend against the outside but more often bashing into each other. In some places they are strong and the collective effect is that of a strong body; in others they are weaker and the structure is crumbling, with clumps of critter-things falling away and exposing vulnerabilities. Neutral temp. Dark gray or brown-red. The panic of being covered or eaten by swarms of giant bugs but needing them for their protection against something even more dangerous. The sound is as if each critter-thing is wailing and the collective rises into a high-pitched shriek of a baby in pain.
Like a protective buffer between the outside and Cringe & Hurt. It is losing the battle against Bombardment, and if it loses, I will be sucked into Hurt and annihilated. (Cringe is another state not presented here.)
I am in big danger; I must sacrifice everything to preserve my existence. No help is available. I am all Alone. Nothing else is important.
Clearly there is a strong connection between Alone/Abandoned and Cranky/Angry/Rage. Perhaps we could summarize this connection as, “You aren’t here for me, therefore you suck and I hate you.” Hurt is clearly the impact of Alone/Abandoned. We could expand the connection statement to something like, “You aren’t here for me, and that hurts, therefore you suck and I hate you.”
These connect to Bombardment and Overwhelm as well. Overwhelm connects with Bombardment and Alone, says essentially, “I’m screwed, and I must do everything possible simply to get through this.”
This entire set is one of heightened stress and alarm, with each state reinforcing the perceptions, assessments, and interpretations of the others. The overall effect of this set was to motivate me to avoid engaging people, to keep to myself, to stay small in order to avoid getting caught in this stressful, mythic battle.
The Funny Thing About Thought and Feeling
We are accustomed to taking some pretty tedious routes toward changing our thoughts, beliefs, habits, and behavior. But look what happens to the naturally-occurring thought patterns when we shift the feeling states from their reactive configurations to their ideal.
Alone/Abandoned becomes Go Deep:
Warm water, clear, transparent. Outside, holding me. Flows down through my body, 6 feet into the space below me, back up around sides and front, then down through my crown again. Sound is a verbal “Go deep…”
This is about sourcing allies and resources, going deep into my support. I can find the support I need to share my wealth. Others have missions to contribute as well, and for many, helping me serves their mission.
Hurt becomes Infinite Support:
A rush of galactic energy, rising up from below me, entering every cell and moving powerfully upward and outward. Intense reds and purples, very deep yet luminous, scintillating, millions of tiny sparkles, as if peering into infinite space. A little cooler than body temperature, very comfortable. Sound of deep space flow, deep beyond deep.
I am supported, carried, fed by the all-that-is. I have access to infinite strength and power. I am consciousness, and thus more than human. I am connected to all things, all energy. I am the universe, moving through this space right here, right now, through the portal of my own total-body awareness. The very fact of my consciousness is this infinite support.
Overwhelm becomes Trust:
Very slow, gentle movement, drifting; in and around me, about 3 feet outside. A soft, slightly luminous, white mist, like a cloud. Neutral temp. Buoyant, has resilience to support and hold me even though it is easy to move through when that is the intention. Soft white noise like air flowing gently through a nozzle.
I can trust myself. I can trust others. My trust supports the easy exchange of opportunities to give and receive.
The New Thought Connections in the Ideal
Now, in the space of Go Deep, Infinite Support, and Trust, we have entered an altogether new world compared to what was present with Alone/Abandoned, Hurt, and Overwhelm. We have an ease, we see connections and resources, we interpret our surroundings as supporting a natural flow.
The difference in thought universes between the typical reactive sets of states and their complementary ideal states is like night and day. And it isn’t just an exercise, not a fantasy. With the shift in states comes a spontaneous shift in thinking. And that shift comes without the tedium, the hacking away at cognitive belief statements and trying to convince ourselves to believe something else. It comes without analyzing or overriding with false positivity. It just happens.
What does this mean? I have come to believe that this is one of the most significant phenomena revealed by Feelingwork. Above all I have come to see this as very strong evidence that feeling is more fundamental than thought, that thought is built upon the foundation of feeling. If this is true, then so much of what we have come to assume about human nature and how to effect therapeutic change is profoundly misguided. We’ll have more to say about this as we go.
Excavating States Using Thought Connections
We can use thought connections to make it easy to excavate entire sets of reactive feeling states for mapping. We will go into this in more depth in the skills chapter, but for now I would like to give you an example from my notes with a client who gave permission to share his work. We’ll call him James. This is from our second session. A little background for context — he is a former standout college athlete.
James related, “So much has happened even since our one appointment. I've been aware for a while, but now much more; I'm on a mission, want to get this cleaned up so I can function well. Realized how I don't look people in the eye so much. All the things I've been through I feel ashamed of myself, that I'm weak. I must be weak or I wouldn't have had these feelings.”
OK, so right there we see a couple of places to probe more deeply. First I ask about “ashamed” and confirm that yes, that is a prominent feeling state in the experience we’re excavating. He names it Shame.
Then I probe a little bit deeper. I ask about what appears to be a self judgment, that he must be “weak.” James replies, “Yes, definitely critical. The critic. He wants the best, for sure. He wants me to be the best I can be. I was a very competitive guy. I just like to win. He's like a critical winner. He wants me to win. No excuses. No sissy shit. He's hard, really tough. Play through injuries.”
Together we identified and named The Critical Winner. He finished by summarizing it, “The basic idea is, you have to be hard on yourself. Can't let yourself slide. This is an ancient thing.”
Everything that comes out of someone’s mouth is a potential clue to an underlying feeling state. When I’m working with clients, I attempt to capture their speech word for word, at least the key portions of what they say. Their words are gold for tracing the structure of feeling that supports the thought behind the words.
In doing this, we are never challenging the thoughts themselves. We invite them in all their twisted and irrational glory because they lead us directly to the source, the feeling states that hold them in place. And once we identify and map the feeling states, even the most dark, oppressive, or erratic thoughts will dissolve as a result of moving the entire underlying structure. It’s quite remarkable.
The Role of the Ideal
For one question I raised earlier and promised to cover later, its time has arrived. What is the nature of a part’s function? This question really traces back to the raw question we started with, what in the world is a part? What is it, and how do we think of it? I have wrestled with this for the entire time I’ve been exploring this territory. Here is the best way I’ve come up with for addressing the question.
When we shift a reactive feeling state to its ideal state, it is as if the part reveals itself. The ideal state seems to hold something iconic, fundamental. The ideal state shows up in the “perfect world” scenario, where the part is fully achieving its function, when “all needs are met,” when life just couldn’t get any better.
As I described earlier, the purpose of the ideal state is to hold a north star function. Life is not perfect, and so the idea is not to attempt to pull out a hammer and nail your heart to the perfect feeling state and stay there. The function of feeling is to provide ongoing, sensitive, responsive feedback to the condition of your needs, and to be pegged to perfect is not going to fulfill that function.
But the ideal does provide us a window into the underlying nature of each part. What can we learn from these ideal states that can shed light on what exactly these psychic entities called parts are and do? Let me share with you the results of witnessing thousands of ideal states revealing themselves over the years. The following categories of parts emerge from the actual form and structure of the ideal states, with the function extracted from the relationships among them.
A source part is experienced as a limitless source of some feeling substance. Examples include constant streams of liquid or energy, portals through which endless light or particles emerge as if from nowhere, and omni-present plasma fields located infinitely both inside and outside the body.
The function of a source part seems to be to hold a sense of what is available. What is held by the field of possibilities?
Source parts fall into three distinct categories based on their structure. Inside sources arise as point sources located inside the body on the midline. Outside sources arise outside the body and travel into and through the body. Context sources are located everywhere, infinitely both inside and outside the body.
The functions are similarly distributed. The function of the inside source is to hold a sense of what is available from within me. The function of the outside source is to hold a sense of what is available from outside of me. The function of the context source is to hold a sense of what is available throughout my reality to support the relationship between what is inside of me and what is outside of me.
Example, Inside Source: Big Will (as seen earlier)
NOTE: Inside sources tend to be found in positions commonly identified as the locations of what other traditions refer to as chakras. We shall say more about this in the section on architecture.
Example, Outside Source: Infinite Support (as seen earlier)
Example, Context Source: Infinite Flow
A thick, dense liquid with zero viscosity, no surface tension, completely permeating everything. Deep purple-blue color, transparent but deeply tinted. Fully a source of life energy and possibility; infinite in extent, yet feels as though it is flowing and I am carried along in the infinite stream of life. Supremely clean, like a liquid that is not matter but pure energy. Sound of opening white noise, like carbonation magnified. Slightly warmer than body temperature.
An infinite sea of flowing possibility and evolution, carrying me gently and indomitably forward with no effort or control required. I am carried forward along the natural flow of life unfolding into infinite possibility. Everything is possible for me. Everything that is probable is in alignment with the whole. I am whole and in wholeness always.
A presence part is experienced as a finite amount of some feeling substance located mostly in the body, often filling the entire body and sometimes extending beyond the body a significant amount.
The function of presence parts seems to be that of selecting from among the field of possibilities as represented by the source parts, a particular possibility to bring into manifest presence. It is often described as simply being present.
Example: Joyful Strength
Full body energy, slight pressure outward as if there is almost more life than can fit into the space. Color of a sunset: pink, orange, yellow. Smooth. Toasty warm. Can move quickly, fluidly, gracefully, with no inertia.
I am strong. I am graceful. I am full of life, full of energy, full of living. My physicality, my body, my presence are precious gifts to enjoy.
A guidance part is experienced as a circulatory flow or exchange of some feeling substance connecting the space inside the body with the space surrounding the body. It is bi-directional or circulatory in structure.
The function of a guidance part seems to be that of orienting to action, of bringing what is held by the presence part into being in real life.
Luminous energy, full body. Circulates and radiates inward/outward as if like breath. Gold, yellow, pink, orange. Connects to and expresses Big Will. Sound of deep, steady breath with intention. Breath is like a pump, in and out at the same time. A little warmer than body temp.
I adapt to whoever I’m with and whatever the situation. I make things happen. I am an agent for the unfolding purpose in myself and others.
Putting Them All Together
I will be unpacking the full structure of interconnected parts within a set and among sets in the next section, and will be sharing more from other sets as we go. So for now I will wrap this set up with composite images of the reactive and the ideal configurations of feeling states. First, the reactive, which as I mentioned, I called My Small Life.
Finally, the ideal configuration, which I named after what seemed to me to be the central, defining state, Big Will.
Now let’s get to the section I’m most eager to share with you, where we see how all this fits together. What I share next is the place where my design self gets the greatest thrill. The beauty and elegance of feelingmind architecture is beyond what I ever expected to find in this exploration. But here it is.
The Architecture of Feelingmind
Now I think it is time for us to fully inhabit the new name for this territory: feelingmind. We have already established that this territory is unlike any we might have expected to find when first entering the realm of feeling equipped with higher-resolution tools for observation and engagement. We are about to take yet another step on the way to constructing an all-new understanding of this previously indistinct and ineffable realm. Let us take a look now at how feeling states and the parts they express tend to show up as fully-formed, interlocking networks with a predictable, universal structure.
Perhaps you have an inkling about where this is going based on what I revealed about the categories of ideal states in the previous section. Here is what I can say with a high level of confidence after testing this model over a period longer than a decade.
I would like to begin by outlining an essential logic which supports our efforts to uncover the architecture I am about to reveal to you. First, as we have ascertained, any given part seems to have one and only one ideal state. This ideal state is unique to itself, not shared with any other part. Second, any given part is expressing one and only one feeling state at any given time. A part is unable to generate two or more simultaneous feeling states.
This, combined with our ability to call two discrete feeling states into awareness at the same time, gives us a very useful test for discerning relationships among parts. Here is how it works.
- A set is a collection of parts participating in creating the felt experience of self in a specific context.
- If we are able to feel two discrete feeling states at the same time, these two states are expressions of two distinctly different parts. They will not share an ideal state.
- In addition, these two states most likely belong to parts which share a set. The two parts play complementary roles within the same set. It is very difficult and unusual to be able to simultaneously feel two feeling states which inhabit different sets.
- If we are unable to feel two discrete feeling states at the same time, yet these two states play roles in the experience of a specific issue being explored, sharing a lived context, then these two feeling states are most likely to be two different feeling expressions of the same part. It is likely that when they are moved, they will converge upon the same ideal feeling state.
Using these tests while working through the mapping and moving of a system of feeling states embedded in a life issue, we will eventually arrive at a set of nine ideal states representing the underlying set of nine distinct parts. The functions of these nine parts will invariably align themselves into the following pattern.
First, we will see one each of the three different types of source part: inside, outside, and context. Aligned with each of these three sources will be one each of the two remaining types of part: presence and guidance. The sum total will be arranged as three triads, each containing a source, presence, and guidance part.
The following is a set of nine parts, with each part represented by both its reactive and ideal states, identified within its native architecture.
Connection-Phobic Becomes Resurrection
The Reactive Configuration: Connection-Phobic
Rebecca called her anxiety, “Connection-Phobic.” On the surface was a state she called Irritation, being pissed off when people weren’t happy with her even though she was trying to please them. Part of the Irritation was related to feeling that people were trying to control her. She identified and mapped a feeling she called Being Controlled. Fighting back was Resistance to Being Controlled, saying, “No!” In reaction to all of this she discovered a sick feeling she called Painful Disconnect. Feeling further into this, she noticed a part she called Deeply Worthless, which believed she was unworthy. Then she got in touch with an anxiety she called Destruction Inside, feeling doomed. At the same time, another part felt abandoned in her pain, which she identified as Needing to Be Rescued.
Despite these vulnerable inner states, Rebecca sometimes came across to others as cold and guarded, a feeling she identified as Armored. Finally she identified a part that helped her function day-to-day, Stuffing Feelings. This state obscured the other feeling states and said, “Everything is OK. I’m fine as long as everyone is happy.” Of course, that motivated her to try to keep everyone happy, but with Deeply Worthless at the core, her attempts failed, triggering the Irritation and keeping the whole cycle churning. She carried a hidden expectation of being deeply disappointed in her connections because of an underlying feeling that she was not worthy of caring and support. So she maintained a kind of irritable defensiveness with many people.
The Ideal Configuration: Resurrection
Getting started with the shifting process, Stuffing Feelings was in the foreground, trying to do its work of minimizing the underlying distress. We started there, and it turned into an inner flow of energy Rebecca called Golden Bliss Kisses. Now she could more easily access Deeply Worthless, and we shifted that into a radiant presence she called I Am Present. Then we transformed Needing to Be Rescued to a strong inner power she called Solid, Powerful Love; Painful Disconnect became Powerful Connection; Destruction Inside expanded into infinity, becoming I Am Love. From there, Irritation became a pulsing energy she called Vibrantly Grounded. Being Controlled shifted quickly to a state of feeling supported she called I Am Exalted. Resistance to Being Controlled then felt free to turn into Fire of My Truth. Finally, Armored was ready to lay down the defenses, and it became a web of filaments connecting her skin to her heart, Connected Through Self.
Here is what the entire transformation looks like in a diagram like the ones I use to track the work:
The State Shifts:
This video takes you though the entire reactive set, then walks through the transformation of each reactive state to their ideal versions.
Below are each of the transformations in the same order as in the video.
Thick gas. Cool. Light gray. Inside Armored, in and around my body. Not much movement.
Everything is OK. I’m fine as long as everyone is happy.
Golden Bliss Kisses (Outside Source)
Color is like a golden orgasm. Warm, concentrated liquid, distinct. Pouring in through top, down through inside of body and outside, out feet. Sound is an “Ahhh” and giggle, orgasm.
I feel good. I am bathed in joy.
Sticky black tar. Filling my pelvic girdle, moving with slow churning as if by worms. Warm/neutral temp.
I am hopeless. I am disgusting and shameful. I am unworthy. I should change, be better, do better, but I cannot.
I Am Present: (Inside Presence)
Multiple stars like paint balls bursting with impact. Energy, light. Orange, gold, luminescent. Hot (but good). All through my body with concentration in my abdomen. In a constant state of being radiant, pulsing. Caught mid explosion, like a snap shot. Sound like a paint ball of energy exploding.
I am present. I am fully alert and alive. I am awake and open.
Needing to be Rescued
Throat, upper lungs; solid; cool, like steel; stainless steel color; squeezing, hurts, pressure from throat to stomach; sound, “Help me!”
Why won’t you help me? I need to be rescued. I’m dying and you don’t care.
Solid Powerful Love (Inside Source)
Warmer than body; solid, golden, glowing energy; golden and metallic mercury; heart; strong, outward movement; sound of a powerful hum; more powerful in twos, presence energy; magnetic pull.
I can feel it in me, and I can feel it in you. I am solid, strong, powerful, attracting the same.
Sick feeling through back of torso and concentrated in stomach and pelvis; oozing tar, heavy, thick, sticky; uncomfortably warm, triggers hot flash; black; turning, pulsing, oozing as if by worms.
I am truly alone even with you. Painful disconnect. You never really loved me.
Powerful Connection: (Inside Guidance)
Fiber optic water energy. Light blue, shimmering. Flowing from back spine through heart and upper chest; movement out and back in. Body temperature. Sound like drops of water and bells.
I am in awe of this conduit. I am open and grand. My connection to others has a wide bandwidth.
Fear of Danger
Front of body, inside one inch, outside three inches; fuzzy static energy, almost liquid, heavy; hot; gray; writhing about.
Makes me sad for loss. I am doomed. I am going to be destroyed. There's no way out. Still a chance I won't be destroyed. Could go either way.
I Am Love: (Context Source)
Warm, fine, uniform energy, buoyant, weightless; golden, sparkly, ocean of golden sand; washing through me, everywhere; waves, dancing with sentience; sound is an ocean of gold, singing angel voices.
I am weightless. I am carried. I am held. I am free flowing. I am love or anything I want to be.
Fuzzy, hot, red energy on my skin. Vibrates quickly.
Pissed off when others aren’t happy even though I am sublimating my needs for them. No matter what I do, I can’t win. I am in danger.
Vibrantly Grounded: (Outside Guidance)
Fast-vibrating energy. Pinkish red. Swirling up through feet, through body and back out through feet. Hot at feet, cooler in body. Sound of burning, like a forge.
I am anchored to source as reference.
Like hard rubber, pushing down on head and shoulders; through back, gripping and crushing my heart. Neutral temp. Black.
I am being controlled by you. You are trying to make me be someone else. I am not good enough for you.
I Am Exalted: (Outside Presence)
Cool with hot specks; vibrant energy; white/light blue with red speckles; from behind, attached to my back and head, inside; pulling me up.
I am exalted, supported from above or behind.
Resistance to Being Controlled
Blasting, exploding fire energy in my heart. Hot! Red, forcing outward, radiating powerfully.
I must fight this! NO! I refuse. You can’t make me!
Fire of My Truth: (Context Presence)
Hot, radiant light energy at my heart center and through my full body. Red. Movement is outward.
I am solid in my being, clear minded, clear hearted. Integrity is solid. Holder of integrity. Holder of my truth.
Full metal jacket; wrought iron cage, rustic black iron. One or two inches outside my whole body. Cool. No movement.
You can’t hurt me. I am tough. I dare you to try! I am invincible to emotional harm.
Connected Through Self: (Context Guidance)
White, tiny web filaments connecting my skin energy to my heart. Movement is a kiss, a whisper, a feather.
I can feel my feelings. I am in touch with my experience. I am responsive and interactive with those with whom I connect.
Rebecca's Ideal Architecture
What Are We Seeing?
This nine-part architecture seems to be the minimum necessary to create the conscious experience of self in the world. Entering any of the reactive states, mapping, moving them to their ideal, dipping into and out of the states and their beliefs, all of it feels natural and integral to the experience of self. This makes a certain amount of theoretical sense to me.
We can look for analogy to the world of life itself, to biology. We see rudimentary proto-life within certain types of protein chains and chemical cycles. But it isn’t until we have the single cell that we get the sense that we can definitively call this “life.” And what are the key characteristics of a cell?
First, let us look at the triads of our nine-part feelingmind structure to see if we find their corollaries in the cell. I think we can say that the cell wall introduces us clearly to an inside and an outside that correspond reasonably well to our feelingmind structure. And perhaps we can say of the larger context category that for both feelingmind and the cell, this represents the larger conditions for life, and consciousness, itself as those conditions are held in the surrounding environment.
If we look at the different types of part — source, presence, and guidance — what do we see that might correspond with the life of a cell? For the cell, perhaps source might refer to the repertoire of possible behaviors, including motility, ingestion, and division, for example. Presence may represent the particular need that is foremost at the moment, perhaps absorbing a bit of food, moving up a nutrient concentration gradient toward more nutritious waters, adapting to a temperature change, or handling the emergent splitting of the chromosomes. And guidance may represent the actual behavior engaged by the cell.
To make sense of this I also think about artificial intelligence. If I were to construct something that would fully mimic our interdependent conscious experience, I believe it would need such a nine-part structure. The source aspect of the structure would monitor the scope of possible outcomes based on monitoring external and internal conditions. The presence aspect would select a desired outcome based on the emergent balance of conditions, and lock onto that outcome as a vector for action. The guidance aspect would engage with the inner and outer world in such a way as to seek fulfillment of that vector. All three aspects would be in dynamic flow, influencing and being influenced by one another and by the ever-changing conditions of their world.
I don’t know about you, but seeing the elegance and utility of this architecture along with the clear and present evidence for its existence within feelingmind represents one of those high-resonance factors that motivate my work. This is what I live for, honestly, and it gives me no end of satisfaction to have discovered this after such arduous effort.
Next Level: Constellations
We are not done yet. Back in 2007 I thought the nine-part set was the holy grail. But after a number of years of continued work, it began to become clear that I was still missing something. After mapping and moving a full set, for example, I began to notice that very quickly another set began to surface, asking for attention. In about 2015 I began to systematically begin to excavate multiple sets at the same time, and things began to get more clear.
What I have discovered is that sets cluster in groups of three. That’s right. A group of three sets, each intimately related to the others and governing a particular phase or grand context of life, I call a constellation. I will present my notes for a full constellation of my own in a separate chapter. For now, let me briefly describe the structure.
When excavating an issue for feelingwork, we will begin by identifying and mapping the states associated with one of the sets in the constellation. This leading set tends to be one I call the reactor set. It tends to be the one that throws up the red flags alerting us that something is wrong and needs to be changed, and in the cases of people who come to me for work, these tend to be chronically activated and causing all sorts of problems in life.
Sooner or later, though, we will uncover a deeper set. This set I refer to as the core. It is a set of parts that has captured an essential truth learned about the nature of reality, usually at a very young age, and usually involving one or more of the sources taking a form representing the impossibility of that need ever being served. The reactor set is a direct reaction to the massive impact of that loss, trauma, or absence in the child’s life.
Finally, we identify and work with the manager set. This set has most often taken form over a lifetime and serves the practical function of getting along day to day. Given the truth held by the core set and the strong reaction of the reactor set, how are we to navigate the conditions of everyday, ordinary life. The manager handles this.
So within every constellation we have a core, a reactor, and a manager set. When the constellation has shifted to its ideal configuration, it makes more sense to call the middle set the activator instead of the reactor. One characteristic we find is that in each of the three sets, the inside source is at the same location. All three inside sources are centered at the same point along the midline of the body.
We can also say that the constellation as a whole serves a function for the person as a whole. At this point, though, I must admit that the underlying functionality seems to be operating at a level that I find difficult to apply language to describing. I can have a vague, intuitive sense of it, but it’s nothing I am yet able to put into clear, sharp descriptive language.
The edge of mystery for me in this work right now involves the question of how many constellations, and what is their arrangement. I have been rather relentless in my own search for completion of this work within myself, and so I turn my attention obsessively always to the next indication of reactivity within myself, to discover what might be there, to map it, to move it, and in so doing to restore yet another dimension of myself to a more full functioning. But let me be straight up with you. It’s a big job.
A constellation can take anywhere from two weeks to several months to fully excavate, map, and move, depending on what else you have going on in your life. I have completed sixteen constellations over the past four years. From what I have seen, it appears that we have within us three constellations with inside sources located at any given chakra point, (the heart, for example). Further, the chakras are not limited to the seven that are familiar to most of us. I recently mapped a constellation with the inside source located about six inches below my perineum. So it appears that there may be nine points corresponding roughly to the traditional chakras, each of which are anchors for three constellations.
Shall we add this up? We have three constellations, each with three sets of nine parts, at each of nine locus points. That comes to 27 constellations, 81 sets, and 729 parts. I have visited about half these in myself, and I have done way more of this work than anyone who is not independently wealthy or willing to live in poverty can make time to do.
At this point, extending the model out this far is no more than speculation. Nevertheless, it is exceedingly clear that we human beings are exceedingly more complex than any of us have ever realized. Perhaps this is the most important point I would like you to leave with, out of the entire book. Any given human being, whether yourself or someone else in your life, is far more complex than you can possibly understand.
Let me say that again, out loud:
Any given human being, whether yourself or someone else in your life, is far more complex than any of us can possibly understand.
Actually, perhaps I’ve said that prematurely. I really should have first brought your attention back to take in the complexity of thought, belief, identity, motivation, behavior, habit, and all of that. Feelingmind is the anchor, and as the anchor it is the simplest dimension of consciousness. Thought is built on top of the structure established by feelingmind. Recall that each one of these parts generates its own thought-image fields, and that thought connects two or more images from those into skeins of meaning.
Now take into consideration that inside any given thought field can be stored or generated an unlimited number of actual thought images. Now take into consideration that any one of these thought images can be linked by a thought connection to any of the unlimited number of thought images stored or generated by the thought fields of an adjacent part. Very quickly, in the realm of thought we enter an infinity of potential linkages and patterns. Trying to effect significant inner change by working in the realm of thought is like the proverbial herding of kittens, and it is very difficult to achieve significantly deep human healing and transformation in this way.
At the level of thought, any human is intractably complex. At the level of feelingmind, however, we gain the possibility to effect significant change in reasonable time.
Constellations and Development
In working the several dozen constellations I’ve been able to facilitate for myself and others, I have seen how each constellation seems to be rooted in a specific time in someone’s life. Again, this is a small data sample, so I am reaching into the speculation zone again. But this is what I see.
If we line up the inner source locus points vertically, constellations anchored by those located lower in the body seem to correspond to earlier times in life. The lowest ones, for example, seem to orient around fundamental physical security issues, while the higher ones seem to focus on issues of greater freedom and agency.
It seems to me that at any given point in our lives, one constellation is prime, occupying most if not all of our conscious attention and most strongly influencing our behaviors, habits, relationships, and the like. As we are growing up, we inhabit a particular constellation while we are working out that level’s challenges. As we find a “solution” to a challenge, we move on to the next. As adults, we seem drawn to complete challenges not fully solved. Thus, we tend to inhabit one particular constellation at a time, working through its central issue, (or not).
The Lockdown of Reactive Configurations
A big question we can ask at this point is this. How is it that we tend to lock into tight patterns of reactive feeling states and the thoughts and behaviors they drive? What stops those parts from behaving with the natural fluidity that allows them to respond sensitively to the changing conditions of life? What forces them to lock into configurations that support filters that distort reality and thoughts that drive us to behave in ways that undermine our own well-being?
This is a very important question, and the answer drives the final section of this book. We will pick it up again there. For now, just to get you thinking about it, I’d like to invite you to bring to mind the chapter on attention toward the beginning of the book. We are able to tune our attention to specific channels, and within those channels we are able to filter for specific kinds of information which interest us.
Let me also remind you of something I said earlier about how attention is necessary to activate the normal, healthy functioning of parts. In order for parts, and the feeling states they generate, to do the work of helping us meet our essential needs, they must be able to successfully call our attention to unpleasant states. Our attention must be free to focus on those unpleasant states in order for the whole person of us to receive the signal that some need is not being met, to address the situation in ways that allow us to meet that need, and to monitor the success of our intervention in real time by staying connected to our feeling as it responds to the results of our actions.
Got that? Now I want to ask you two big questions. First, how well does our modern culture support this natural functioning? Second, leaving aside for the moment any current ideas we might hold, what do these discoveries suggest to us about the nature of being human?
I’ll leave you with these questions as we return to our practice and go deeper into the skills that will support you in getting the most out of this work.
Your Unique Angle on All of This
I haven’t gone into great depth in the final sections here for two reasons. First, this is the bleeding edge of the work. I can only go so far before I am on unstable ground. Second, you will have your own unique perspective on the human experience, and I prefer to encourage you to tackle your own interpretation rather than attempt to tell you what to think. Whether you are coming to this from the perspective of being on your own personal journey, being a professional who helps others on their journeys, or being a researcher who delves into specific zones for detailed investigation, you will have your area of experience and expertise.
This territory is vast, and I believe there is room for all of us. I have given you the basic tools so far. In the next chapters, let me go farther into some more advanced techniques that will help you find your way around to those regions of greatest interest to you.