J: Now I’m going to lead you through a series of questions to help you describe what No! actually feels like. Just be open to whatever comes up, whatever shows up for you as an answer to the question, and test out: does that seem like it’s true for you in your experience. And don’t get too hung up on whether it’s a right answer or not. It’s just feeling your way into something that captures your experience as best as we can. All right?
So when you put your attention on this fear, this feeling of No!, if you were to say that the actual, felt experience of this is located somewhere in or around your body, where would you say that seems to be?
S: Heart level, starting mid chest, just below my heart, up probably to my jaw. So through my throat.
J: OK. So mid-chest, just below your heart, up probably to your jaw. So all the way through your throat. Is it just the front part of your chest, or does it go all the way through to your shoulder blades?
S: No. Just on the front.
J: And in that region, if you were to say that the actual, felt experience of this has qualities of substance, would you say that it seems more like a solid, or a liquid, or a gas, or some kind of light or energy, or something else?
S: Solid. Definitely solid.
J: OK. And hard or soft?
J: Heavy or light?
J: OK. Anything else to notice about the substance quality? Does it resemble anything from the material world?
S: Well it feels like a steel plate.
J: What temperature would you say this steel plate seems to be?
S: Slightly cooler than body temperature. Like not freezing cold, but I experience it as cool compared to my body temperature.
J: OK. And if you were to say that this feeling, this felt experience, this substance, this steel plate has color, what color would you say it is?
S: It’s silver, I mean like stainless steel color.
J: So the color of stainless steel. And would you say it’s opaque then, like steel, you wouldn’t be able to see through it at all?
S: Yes. It’s definitely opaque.
J: OK. And is it shiny like stainless steel then?
J: OK. And is this stainless steel plate moving in any way?
J: So it’s perfectly still, no pulse or vibration?
J: Any force or pressure that you notice?
S: Yeah, a little. I mean, I’m sitting up, so it’s not like it’s weighing on me, keeping me from breathing. But it is as if it’s pressed solidly against me.
S: So I’m very aware of but I’m not feeling crushed by it.
J: OK. And if you listen internally, do you notice any inner sound that arises with this feeling?
S: Kind of a hum, like mmmmmmmmmmm.
J: OK. What note is that?
S: It is kind of a low tone.
J: A low tone, yeah.
S: And more a minor key than a major key.
J: All right. Is there anything else you want to notice about what this feels like?
S: Well it feels like it covers my chest up to my collar bone, so like from my collarbone to my jaw, my neck and throat, I feel like a little upward pressure. You know, like if someone were, like if I press on my chest, then there’s kind of a pressure up in my body.
J: OK. Got it. So the actual steel plate doesn’t come up to your jaw, but…
S: No. Just to my collar bone.
J: But then there’s the experience of something pushing up.
In this portion of the session, we map the first feeling state. I introduce the mapping process by giving Susan full latitude to explore, letting her know there are no “right” answers to the questions I’ll be asking and putting the responsibility on her to find the best ways to capture her experience. My primary job is to guide her attention; her job is to report what she finds. Along the way I’m also taking detailed notes to support her reflection and integration of our work after the session.
Susan is a bodyworker, and has studied a couple of somatic therapy methods as well, so she finds it easy and natural to answer the Feelingwork questions. She is able to place her attention on her inner, felt experience of No! and quickly report back about its qualities. Some people will have an easier time than others.
- The questions themselves follow a standard form in this mapping. I’ve found that most often, things flow most smoothly when attention is led through the feeling experience in this order:
- Location, size and shape
- Substance, including the possibilities of solid, liquid, gas, light, energy, or other. (Providing a list of options makes it easier for the explorer to say “no” to specific qualities and notice which one fits best. It’s a little harder when the question is left wide open. We’ll notice later, though, that Susan doesn’t need this careful guidance.)
- Color and transparency.
- Movement, force and pressure.
At the end of this section, we see that the force of the steel plate pushing inward on her chest is eliciting a responding sensation of something behind the plate pushing upward. These kinds of interactions between feeling state forms are common, and in this example, I choose to explore that upward pressure in her chest.