At this early stage in the work, your goal should be simple. Get the hang of using the spotlight of your attention to peer carefully into the liminal zone of feeling. This is a skill like any other, and will develop with practice.
If you’ve taken a shot at mapping a feeling state, congratulations! How was that experience for you? What did you notice? Most people find that running through these questions seems frivolous at first, like they’re just “making up” the answers. But then they find there’s something more tangible about the image than they expected. Is there something real here? Or is this simply a figment of your imagination?
The Sketch Artist
Mapping is a bit like sitting down with a police sketch artist to draw the bank robber’s face. The artist may have a wide selection of face shapes, noses, eyes, mouths, and hair for you to select from. You may look through an array of noses, for example, and quickly discard those which are too round or too short, scanning to find the narrow, sharp nose that looks “just right” to you. You do that with the other features of the face, and when you put it all together you experience an instant of recognition. “That’s him, officer,” you say. “That’s the guy who done the deed.” You’ll have that same sense of rightness when you put all the elements of your feeling map together. (And sometimes it will indeed seem you have identified the culprit behind certain behaviors, thoughts, or moods you have tried to put “behind bars!”)
First, select one of the image properties you’re more sure about. “Try on” a different, random value for that property. For example, if the feeling you mapped seems green, test out whether it could possibly be red. If your feeling is hot, try out cold to see if it fits. Most likely, you will get a clear “No” to your substitutions. You may even be surprised at the level of specificity you get, finding it very clear that the temperature is 72 degrees, not 75, or this particular shade of turquoise, not that shade of green.
Amping Up the Intensity
A second way to test out the credibility of your map is to choose a quality of your feeling state which seems more intense. Maybe yours is very cold, or extremely heavy for example. Now amplify that quality. If it’s cold, imagine it getting colder. If heavy, imagine it getting heavier. What happens?
For most people, amplifying an extreme quality intensifies the feeling itself. Did that happen for you? It’s pretty convincing, isn’t it? Go ahead and reverse direction for that quality to return it to its original state. If you’ve mapped something a little intense, feel free to turn the dial down even farther than your original map to find a bit of relief.
Now stop and think about this for a moment. You’ve just deliberately amplified and reduced the intensity of a feeling state by applying an apparently innocuous exercise of the imagination. We will dive very deeply into this relationship between the direct experiences and the maps of feeling states in later articles. For now I just want to call your attention to the fact that this is rather unexpected. With what we know this far into our journey, we really can’t know what to make of it. That’s OK. We’ll get to it soon enough.