This is a continuation of Louise’s story of doing Feelingwork, in her words, with my commentary in italics.
It’s hard to clean up a jumbled closet without pulling everything out first. Things look worse before they look better. The deconstruction process was hard. We started identifying, feeling, and mapping emotions without shifting the first ones right away. Shifting I chose to do later. You can work either by mapping and shifting at the same time or by mapping everything and then shifting everything. Both ways work. I chose for the most part to tear it all apart before putting it back together. The deconstruction process left me feeling exhausted. I slept a lot. I felt run down. I got a cold that seemed to hang around for weeks. I felt like I was swimming though a dense fog. My mind felt wrapped in cobwebs and cotton. I slept and slept and slept. Old fears would grip me in stray moments leaving me in a state of panic. I felt in turns impatient, irritable and depressed. I was a wreck. My sense of self disappeared. I felt like a shell. Empty.
Finding the Threads
I read the seven volumes of Proust’s A Remembrance of Things Past in four summer months when I was 20. I worked too, part time in a coffee shop and I spent all my free time reading. Often, I felt lost by his winding prose, his seemingly endless description, page after page after page of a hawthorn bush in bloom. I kept reading for the beauty of the prose and a dogged desire to get to the end of this monumental piece of literature. There is a moment at the end of the book when it all comes together, for the narrator, for the reader, for me. All the winding tangents blend as part of the whole. As I worked though the winding paths of my own emotions I often felt lost. A moment when I found a deep core feeling, and mapped it and shifted it I felt that it was all making sense. Though fleeting, that moment showed me a glimpse of what was becoming possible.
Experiencing the Wrong Way Intensifies the Right Way
Sometimes heading down the wrong path helps to clarify what the right path is. I had this experience mapping 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 lead 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.
Upheaval and Realignment
I felt this intense upheaval in myself as I went through this Feelingwork process. One of the tremendous qualities of this work is the rapidity with which you can move through feeling states. In traditional therapy, the blame and guilt may last years, or it may never be resolved. This whole process took less than three months. I thought about the work a lot in the beginning trying to see it objectively and track my process through I but at some point it stopped making sense. I finally stopped analyzing the process and just went with the ups and downs of the experience. As we started moving more and more of the feeling states I began to notice that states I had previously felt intensely I could no longer access. As I shifted some states, others naturally shifted or began to shift on their own. Each emotion is linked to other emotions so by going through the whole process, you are basically overhauling your entire emotional system. And it feels like a complete overhaul. Hard in the beginning, exhausting and overwhelming in the middle, but at the end you come out feeling kind of new and shiny, or at least you feel like you got rid of most of the useless crap.
Here Louise addresses one of the most common challenges in doing Feelingwork. We of our culture tend to get much more reinforcement and training in how to use the intellect to construct highly detailed imagery. Feelingwork imagery is very different, more of a subtle perception than a construction. At some point I will talk about how to address this challenge in an article about Feelingwork.
Louise’s summary in the last paragraph is important to note. Like I’ve said elsewhere, this work is not easy. All of the externalities of your life mirror and reinforce your current inner structure. When you shift that inner structure, there arises a disconnect, and navigating the process of reintegration inner and outer can often require significant effort. Relationships, career, lifestyle, even the choice of artwork hanging on the wall of your living room, you may find new incongruences with any or all of these. Some will invite immediate and decisive action, while others will lend themselves to a gradual evolution undertaken through small choices along the way.
To be continued tomorrow…