A Feelingwork Session in Detail: Receiving Love

Mapping Love


J: So I’m going to take you through mapping the Love. OK? What size would you say, the size of a quarter or something like that?

S: Yeah. So it fits easily inside the little porcupine that’s the size of my fist.

J: Mm hm. 

S: Maybe the size of a dime. No. Let’s see. No, a nickel.

J: OK.

S: So half way between a quarter and a dime. A nickel.

J: All right. And if you were to say it has qualities of substance, what does that seem to be?

S: I don’t know quite how to answer that, but it’s definitely warm and pulsing.

J: Ah hah. So warm and pulsing.

S: So it is like a muscle. Like if the body is just like soft, you know? Like if you pet a kitty’s tummy or something, how it feels very soft? This has a little more tone to it. But it is like a muscle because it’s pulsing.

J: And what’s the color of it?

S: Oh, you know, Valentine red.

J: All right.

S: Or lipstick red, whatever that… red-red.

J: OK. And is it moving? It’s pulsing…?

S: It’s pulsing. It’s really warm. Not like melting warm, but like if you put your hand near it you would feel the warmth. You wouldn’t be burned. You know, it’s not like scorching hot. But noticeably warm.

J: Right. And if you listen, do you notice any inner sound?

S: Um, a heartbeat sound. You know, kind of a “kathump, kathump, kathump.”

J: All right. So sound of a heartbeat. 

S: Yeah.

J: Anything else to notice about what this feels like?

S: It wants to grow. I mean, it’s very eager to expand.

J: OK. And what seems true, or real, or important to this part of you?

S: Just this compulsion, this compelling urge to expand, to get bigger and bigger. Like it’s really important, and it feels trapped and it wants to break through.

J: OK. Let’s draw it. So the red, we’re talking serious red here.

S: Yeah, like the reddest red you’ve got.

J: How’s that down in the corner here? That works?

S: That looks good.

J: OK. And let’s zoom in a little bit. So on this side… I think we’ll just do a dot, something about like so. Is that good?

S: It is. And I don’t know if you have like symbols and you can actually make it be a heart shape, but the color and the position are absolutely right…. 

J: Like this?

S: Yes, yes. That’s it… Um, I don’t know if there’s a way to show it in the drawing, but it’s pulsing. That’s a really important feature of it.

J: Yeah.

S: The other things are relatively static.

J: We could indicate that pretty easily. How about if we do this…

S: But this is really moving.

J: Yeah. Let’s try this… If I do something like this…

S: Yes, yes.

J: How’s that?

S: Yes.

J: OK. So any other thoughts?

S: Nope. I think that’s totally it.

Susan’s mapping of Love reveals a bit more of the essential nature of Feelingwork mapping. Notice how precise she gets about the size of this Love. It’s the size of a nickel, not a dime and not a quarter. That’s pretty darned precise.

How is this possible? Most of us have a common experience of feeling as vague and nebulous. But when we bring the new lens of virtual materiality to the task, we find ourselves bringing incredible precision to our discernment. (Some people like Susan do seem to have a higher resolution in their feeling perception than others.) In addition, we seem to be able to enter that virtual world and interact in order to gather even more detailed information, as when Susan describes the temperature, “If you put your hand near it you would feel the warmth. You wouldn’t be burned.” What’s going on here?

I believe this represents an opportunity for a more advanced cognitive neuroscience to investigate, maybe now, maybe a number of years in the future. For now, I like to think of it like this: 

When we enter consciousness as an infant and even before we are born, our first awareness is drenched in and infused with materiality. At first we experience the liquid and solid environment of the uterus and our own bodies lying undifferentiated (to us) within it. Then birth, and the sharp boundaries that emerge between skin and air, skin and skin, milk and tongue, and all the myriad substances surrounding and encompassing us. 

This direct apprehension of materiality is our first consciousness, and I believe remains the foundation for all our consciousness. Our brains have the capacity to perceive this surrounding materiality and to map our own bodies quite precisely in relation to it. Further, we have the capacity to extend our own body map to include a toy or hammer in our hands as if it were an extension of our embodied selves. We adjust our sense of inertia, momentum, center of gravity and other properties to incorporate a jug of milk, a hula hoop, a kid sister on our shoulders, and to move as if we were one with the extension. 

I believe this capacity is employed in generating our feeling sense. A self-aware, conscious agent requires certain fundamental functions to be handled if it is to succeed in navigating the world. It must differentiate self from other, for example. It must manage the differences between the array of possible actions, the current state or motivation, a desired outcome, and ongoing guidance of specific actions chosen, with a responsive feedback about the results of those actions in the world.

In Feelingwork, (and this is jumping quite far ahead in our journey, but so be it), we see these functions clearly represented in the qualities and behavior of specific feeling states. Or more specifically, we see patterns show up again and again in which feeling states anchor these functions. It is as if the virtually generated “things” of feeling states become anchors for these cognitive functions.

(Ah, there is so much to share with you here! Forgive me for jumping ahead.)

OK, so back to the dialog. At the end, Susan clearly indicates that the Love has a strong motivation to expand. My assessment is that the Love has a natural impulse to grow and expand, but is contained by the Shame. Apparently, for the Shame in its current state, an expanded Love would be intolerable. Perhaps at some point in the past, Susan’s loving led to something painful, and in order to avoid that pain it seems important to keep the Love confined. (We’ll learn more about this in Susan’s reflections a month after the session.) Most likely, then, we can consider the Shame to be the pivot for this cluster of four states. I suspect we’ll probably start the moving process there after we draw Love.