Feelingwork: A Few Simple Questions
Translating Feeling into Sensory Qualities of Material Experience
Feelingwork questions turn attention inward and invite the felt experience to reveal itself through comparison to qualities resembling those of the material world:
- Location, size and shape
- Substance qualities including solid, liquid, gas, light and energy
- Color, transparency, luminosity and other qualities of appearance
- Movement, force and pressure
- Inner qualities of sound, tone and voice
For some, answering these questions can feel a bit awkward at first, but soon we get the knack and find ourselves easily accessing tangible qualities that vividly convey the actual experience of specific feeling states. Drawing what we’ve described brings even more clarity to our “map” of the feeling. It’s like looking in the mirror and seeing a part of yourself that had previously been hidden from view.
The image below is a composite of nine reactive states this woman described as “Connection-Phobic.”
Manipulating Qualities to Directly Transform Feeling Itself
Imagine painting an X-ray to heal the broken bone. Crazy, right? Not so crazy in feelingwork.
The image we generate to map the feeling state is not a mere representation like an X-ray, but a living expression of the feeling itself. We can interact with that image directly in our minds, and when we do, the changing qualities of the image cause direct and instantaneous corresponding changes in the actual feeling experience connected to that image. If we take a heavy sadness and make it heavier, it will become unbearable. If we lighten it up, the feeling itself will lighten.
This direct link between the mapping image and the feeling itself is unexpected and astonishing. It gives us a great deal of power which is new to us. Here’s how my client Trinity described one experience:
“This hole in the middle was like…this sucking void. It was really scary, this horrible feeling. And Joe said, ‘what would happen if you reversed the flow?’ In an instant it was going the other way; it was all filled in, and then actually there was this solid white orb at my center, just beautiful, and generating all this snow, like crystals, floating through me, and on out of me. And it was amazing, this feeling of purity.”
Here is another client, Gina, speaking about her experience of transforming a paralyzing fear:
“In my past, in regular therapy, I learned some coping skills. But there was a feeling that would pop up from time to time. And it was the scariest feeling I have ever experienced, and it’s like my body would just get trapped in that terror. When we transformed that feeling, I totally remember that it was like I just created a bridge to a higher power. Like, wow, this is on the other side of that fear, is this amazing, unconditional love and safety, and just everything is OK.”
One more client, Paul, had this to say two weeks after his own experience of transforming a fear of public speaking that was so bad it put him in the emergency room a few times before he sought my help. He’s describing a recent sales presentation he did:
“If I would have walked in there before I met you, I know I would have been sweating, stuttering, and probably left the room five, ten times, because I just would not be able to stay in there because of fear. Yesterday I sat in the middle, spoke, and spoke to everybody, looked everybody in the eye, and talked to them like I had something to offer. I felt like I wanted to feel, the whole time, without feeling fear. Just like I’m talking to you here. It didn’t matter if it was one person or ten people, I was me, all the way through, and not out of whack, not too scared, not nervous. And felt good. I felt victory!”
The image below is the composite of the nine ideal states that resulted from shifting the states in Connection Phobic above. She called this new feeling experience “Resurrection.”
Transforming Entire Patterns
In feelingwork we systematically identify, map, and transform each distinct feeling state comprising the life pattern we want to change. This is hard work, in part because we’re uncovering states buried long ago for good reason. They can be very challenging.
But the process enables us to make steady progress, working our way through one state after another. Because the various states are so clearly interconnected, we find our way through the entire configuration in a very short time. At the end, the experience is liberating.
Here is how my client Trinity, quoted above, described it:
“The first set of feelings that I moved with Joe had to do with feeling really unsupported in my work. Feeling overwhelmed and exhausted, and just alone with it all. And within weeks, I felt a spaciousness in my life. I did not feel stressed out any more. I wasn’t getting overwhelmed. All of that just kind stopped happening. Without any conscious effort, I was just living differently, naturally, without even having to think about it.”
Here is Gina, quoted above, describing the effects of her work with me, a year later:
“To this day, it’s been a year, but I can’t even remember what it feels like to have that space of that fear. That was the biggest limitation that I’ve had in my entire life. Now I’m a budding film director, and producer, and writer, and that was where I’ve always wanted to go ever since I was a little kid.”
A couple years after I worked with Paul, the sales guy I quoted above, he sent me this note:
“Your work has truly changed my life. I now look at my life as before meeting with you and after. I am now more of the person I have always wanted to be because of our 2 day session. Thank you so much.”
Often, the work we do goes so deep that we experience a time of disorientation afterwards. The old ways of being no longer function, but it takes time to shape the new self. This is how my client Olivia described her experience a few months after completing her work with me:
“As the weeks pass I realize increasingly that many of the ways I used to feel or react are simply gone. Once I went through the whole process, I felt rather raw and unformed. Now, slowly I am beginning to recreate myself as I always knew I could be, confident, happy, focused and self-aware without being self-conscious. As I find more energy to take care of my emotional self, I have more energy for other people. I have more energy to take care of my physical body, my career, my finances and my surroundings. I feel like I have been freed from a heavy burden that I carried for years though I had only limited awareness of it. It’s not so much that I am a different person now, but rather I am the same person without all the issues.”