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a feelings machine

What are you feeling? Can you locate the feeling in your body? Can you locate your body? Can you locate a doctor who can locate your body? If you don’t like doctors, try a lover. If you don’t want a lover, perhaps a personal trainer.

To host a feeling in my body. The lost art. To find the feeling, identify it, hang out with it, watch it, let it travel to the end of its journey. Is there an end? And then to describe the experience for the benefit of others. The trick is to systematize the witnessing of these feelings. How about a “feelings machine”?

This machine could be an artistic process that involves paper and paint or crayons. It could also be a writing exercise, a table, a format, an inquisition. Maybe it’s something like the AA Fourth Step, which I’ve been doing every couple of years since I first crawled out of the ashes of my failed SELF mission and hit the relaunch button in 1992. I was 25.

An aside: A smart Harvard-educated guy once said to me snidely that I was “really into process.” Yes. I am “really into process.” Life is process. Love is process. Death is process. What isn’t process?

The “fourth step process” in Alcoholics Anonymous is a personal inventory. You’re not supposed to do it until you’ve done steps one, two, and three, which involve God (the loosest, most liberated concept of God imaginable but, still God). In the primary AA book (the Big Book) the authors compare Step Four to going through a grocery store and taking an inventory of everything on the shelves. The idea is to keep the good stuff and throw out everything that’s expired. This works well with cartons of milk and jars of peanut butter. It’s trickier trying to list and triage emotional habits and personal failings/flaws.

My fourth step here is highly erratic and not at all the same as the format suggested in the AA book. The way I do step four has evolved and changed over the years, partly based on what level of crazy I’m battling. The last seven years –give or take– I’ve been trying to free myself from codependency. So I’m showing you a personalized, relationship-focused version of step four. It might be a good place to start with building or inventing a feelings machine?

The sheet pictured here is based on the wording and basic structure found in the AA book. The difference is, I start with Who Did I Hurt. From there, I follow through and explore how I have contributed to my own problems. Yep. The question: what is my part in all of this? Ouch. I painted and scribbled on my step worksheet because I paint and scribble on everything. You can see that I push pretty deeply into the meaning of MY PART. I do this in order to survive myself. Some of it might not even be true. I just go for it. I consider all possibilities. How well can i know myself? How honest can i get? So honest that it isn’t even true, it isn’t even me. Doesn’t matter. Say it. Anything for freedom!

surviving myself for 54 years

All of this is a secret.

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