A Feelingwork Session in Detail: Receiving Love

Preparing to Move Shame


J: So before we shift this I want to just establish a couple of frames. One, I want to acknowledge this part of you, this Shame. It took this form at some point in your life when it seemed like this was the best way to serve you. So I want to thank it for doing that. And I want to reassure it that if it ever needs to serve you in this way again, it can do so. Yes, we are going to move this today, but it’s safe to move because you can always put it back. We’re adding to this part’s repertoire of feeling, not taking anything away.

And so because of that, because it’s safe to move, you might as well go for it. What could this part of you be in an absolutely perfect world, where all your needs are met, exactly the way you want them, fully and completely, and you know how to keep them that way?

Also, I want to acknowledge that, as you see, this Shame is connected to the No! and the Fearful Fear and the Love, and there are other parts it’s connected to that we haven’t identified. I want to invite all the other parts of you to participate in this process passively, as witnesses only, to experience for themselves what’s possible for every part of you. But if there is some other part of you that is needing to contribute something crucial to the process, you’ll notice another feeling coming to the foreground, and just let me know. All right?

S: Yes.

This preamble to moving a state sets up three essential frames to make the moving process effective. Throughout all three of these, we begin referring to the feeling state as “this part of you.” This is an essential concept for understanding Feelingwork. Every feeling state is a specific expression among a full repertoire of possible feeling expressions for a particular part of your being. That part is indelible, indivisible, unmergeable. In this moving process, it will transform its expression to a new feeling state.

First, feeling is naturally fully responsive to whatever is going on, and responds in ways that support your well-being. What has happened in most cases where you’re doing Feelingwork is that this natural responsiveness has become compromised and the feeling has become locked into a specific state that no longer serves our highest good. How this happens is a (big) topic for later. What’s important here is that we acknowledge the inherent, positive motivation of this part of someone to serve the highest good of the whole person. We want to acknowledge that even though the state might seem to be a detriment from our current perspective, its response was originally entirely appropriate given the situation, the level of development, the lack of resources, etc. 

Acknowledging this relieves a potential burden of guilt or shame for it having more recently been creating distress. It also affirms a fundamental trust in the part’s inherent nature, a trust which is essential for the success of the moving process. We want to support this part in finding its truest expression. Because of our culture’s incessant messages in conflict with that core trust, it will do that only if it feels welcome and appreciated for being what it naturally wants to be. When we explicitly acknowledge it in this way, we clear the path for it to find its essential expression.

The second frame invites a full transformation. This part of Susan which has become locked into the state of Shame actually has access to a wide repertoire of states. The Feelingwork moving process reconnects the part to its full repertoire. The idea is not that the part will lock into a new, better feeling state. The idea is that by reminding it of its full repertoire, it will regain access to the full spectrum and regain its natural, fluid responsiveness to the ever-changing landscape of life. When we set the frame of “in a perfect world,” we explicitly invite this part to discover its ideal state. We identify the far boundary of its repertoire.

This perfect world frame, in combination with the acknowledgment of positive intent, creates a generous, supportive container for conducting the moving process. The relief and freedom most people feel simply in hearing these two frames is significant and important to the process.

The third frame acknowledges the interconnectedness of parts as experienced through their specific feeling state expressions. Inviting the other parts to “participate passively, as witnesses only,” creates the space for these other feeling states to be felt from time to time without disrupting the moving process for the part in focus. At the same time, it explicitly invites the explorer to give voice to any state that might be pushing into the foreground of their awareness and getting in the way of fully inhabiting the transformation underway. 

Opening the door to receiving input from other parts makes it likely that any part that has an investment in this current part remaining in the originally mapped state will come to the foreground. For example, if we attempted to move Love before moving Shame, it is very likely that the Shame would come to the foreground as if to say, “That’s not OK. I don’t feel safe here.” When that happens, we organically shift attention to the state that’s asking for attention. It often happens that we will discover hidden states this way. We’ll be inviting a part to move, and it will dig its heels in, resisting the movement. Then we’ll ask what other feeling is present, and discover a new state which is dependent on the current state remaining in its place. We shift attention to that new one, map and move it, and return to shift the original state with no problem.

Let me add further perspective here. When we have the gift of this mapping process, a tool enabling such precision in our perception of actual feeling states, we discover all sorts of complexity we didn’t know existed. We humans are complex beyond our current understanding, and that complexity becomes beautifully evident in Feelingwork. In other modalities, the interaction of parts often lies behind a veil of limited ability to surface the true complexity, and when people experience challenges in making desired changes in their lives it gets labeled pejoratively as “resistance.” In Feelingwork, there is no such thing as resistance. Every state that arises is welcome and included in the process.