The Ladybird Guide to A Process Model
These were written for the second, third and fourth years of the course ‘Focusing and
the Power of Philosophy’ which I taught with Rob Foxcroft and Barbara McGavin on
the Isle of Cumbrae in 2002-2004. The ‘Ladybird’ title is taken from a series of short
books that was popular in the 1970’s – each gave a brief, but accurate and informed
summary of knowledge in a particular field.
I have left them as they were for the Cumbrae course; a modified version of the
material on A Process Model can be found in ‘A brief guide to A Process Model‘ in
The Folio: A Journal for Focusing and Experiential Therapy. Vol 19, No. 12 (2000-
2004), pp. 112-120. Gene read this through and suggested some changes, which I
The Ladybird Guide to A Process Model – Part 1
In a note to Rob Foxcroft Gene says “I do know that the Process Model is difficult to
read partly because I don’t explain what I am doing until the last section of III and the
section IVAd. These might be put first. I also think that some part of VIII is
understandable near the beginning because that’s where the concepts come from.”
The last section of III is the one titled ‘Some motivations and powers of that model so
far’. In this section Gene says that his project is ‘to create an alternative model in
which we define living bodies in such a way that one of them can be ours’. And –
‘We can speak from living, and we can make rudimentary concepts from speaking-
from, and especially from focusing and from the process of explication. Since these
are possible in reality, they can lead us to an alternative set of “basic” concepts of a
“reality” in which we would not seem impossible.’
Gene believes that our current ways of thinking don’t really allow for the existence of
human beings in the world. Our current ways of thinking separate ‘the world’ from
‘what the world means to us’; once that is done ‘what the world means to us’ is
outside the world. Gene wants to bring meaning back into the world. But there is no
place for meaning if we think of human beings as physical (physiological) systems.
So to make room for meaning in the world, the world has to be re-thought. Gene’s
concepts constitute a framework for this re-thinking.
The central concepts which he develops are drawn from focusing and the process of
explication. It might seem strange to base a whole way of looking at the world on
these things, but it is not really so. Focusing and explication are activities where there
is the creation of meaning, so that in them we have the crucial thing which is left out
of the current way of thinking. If we can develop a new way of thinking which
allows for focusing and explication, then we have a way of thinking which allows
there to be us.
In focusing a felt sense forms which carries us forward in a way that is different from
the way we are carried forward in logic or mathematics. In these disciplines what was
there, such as ‘7+5′ carries us forward to ’12’. Or, from ‘All men are mortal’ and
‘Socrates is a man’ we are carried forward to ‘Socrates is mortal’. The premises of a
valid argument imply its conclusion. But in focusing, in explication, in the
completing of a poem, the next step is ‘implied’ in a different sense of ‘implies’.
This new sense of ‘implies’ is one of Gendlin’s central concepts. Implying is the
converse of ‘carrying forward’: if one event implies another then the second event is
carried forward by the first.
Gendlin introduces this new sense of ‘implies’ in Ch 2, where he says that hunger
implies feeding. This is not a logical implication (it is not part of the meaning of
‘hunger’ that it is always followed by eating). Nor is it a causal implication (since
hunger can occur without eating following it). It is rather that eating is what will
satisfy hunger, that hunger will continue until eating – or something else (such as
intravenous feeding) – takes place. In the hunger there is the implying of feeding, but
what ‘feeding’ amounts to can’t be specified as any particular form of event. Feeding
has to be defined in terms of ‘that which removes the implying of feeding’.
Gene says (p. 9) ‘hunger is being about to search for food, find it and eat it’. Hunger
is both an occurrence and an implying. In Gendlin’s scheme nothing is just itself – it
always implies other things. In this way his scheme is different from the one that is
familiar in science. In science we usually start with separate things (e.g. atoms or
cells) which can in principle exist on their own. Then complex bodies are seen as
being built up from these elements. Of course there are connections between the
elements in the shape of the laws of physics or chemistry, but the laws could in
principle change without the elements changing. In the ‘atomistic’ view a thing
doesn’t imply anything beyond itself. Everything is, in Hume’s phrase, ‘loose and
separate’; the connections are supplied by us, by our theories.
In Gene’s scheme there are no loose and separate entities. Each entity implies others.
One ‘other implied entity’ is that which will carry forward the implying. For instance
eating is what carries forward hunger. But there are also other implied entities –
hunger implies a body, and a body implies an environment. There is a distinction
here which Gendlin suggests lies at the basis of our concepts of time and space. He
sees these concepts as being less fundamental than the concepts of implying and
occuring. Time is a more abstract notion which derives from the fact that there are
implyings which are carried forward by occurrings; space derives from the other
implyings. Rather than begin with space, time and matter, as in current ways of
thinking, Gene begins with implying and occurring. The detailed discussions of
space and time strike me as some of the most difficult parts of PM, but I think we
need to appreciate that what Gene is doing is quite radical, so that we can get some
feel for why PM starts in such a peculiar way with the b-en terminology.
In his introductory note Gene says that he will ‘lay down some terms as if they came
out of nowhere’. Of course, the terms do come from somewhere – they come from
what is needed if he is to be able to talk later (in chapters VII and VIII) about
meaning, focusing, and human things generally. But at the start he wants to construct
some concepts for talking about living things which will later allow there to be human
beings and meanings in the world. There is an important sense in which PM starts
with Chapter VIII, with the fully human world in which we discover/create meanings.
This world can’t be constructed out of the physical-biological world as it is presently
understood. So Gene reformulates the physical-biological world in a way which
inevitably seems very odd if we don’t know why he is doing it.
Section IVAd-2 is the next section in which Gene pauses to reflect on his strategy.
He says ‘Our model begins with concepts which begin with interaction’. This is the
principle which he calls ‘interaction first’. In the model there are no fully separable
things, events or processes. Everything is what it is through how it is affected by
other things, which themselves are what they are through how they are affected by the
first thing. Gene’s story of the IF cans (in IVAe) may help us to get a first feel for
this. It is the same point as is touched on by Paul Weiss on p. 26 of ECM. (But
remember that the IF cans are only a machine analogy. They differ from ‘interaction
first’ in that (1) the adjustments are made in sequence, whereas in ‘interaction first’ or
‘interaffecting’ everything is there in one time instant, and (2) the adjustments are
made from outside the system in accordance with a human goal, whereas in organic
interaffecting the ‘goal’ emerges as what Gene calls the ‘focaling’ of the
interaffecting. See IVAf for ‘focaling’.)
In this section (IVAd-2) Gene says that ‘interaction first’ applies as much to temporal
as to spatial relations. The present is a carrying-forward of the past, and the past
implies the present. What we experience in the present clearly depends on the past,
but what we experience as the past depends on what else is happening in the present.
The notion of a time sequence in which events occur in sequence without inherent
connections is a late development in human thinking, which belongs with the notion
of a physical world as made up of independent particles moving in empty space. The
real, lived world, however, is one in which nothing exists independently of its
relations with everything else.
In the sections following IVAd Gene continues to develop the concepts he requires.
Sections I-V of PM are his general model. The model applies equally to bodily
processes, behaviour, culture, language and focusing. In Chapter VI he uses the
model to rethink behaviour, in Chapter VIIA he uses it to rethink prelinguistic human
culture, and in VIIB does the same for language. Roughly speaking, Chapter VI is
concerned with the world of animals; in it Gene develops his ‘interaction first’ notions
of behaviour, consciousness, perception, and motivation. These form a cluster of
concepts which have application in the case of animals (sentient beings), but not in
the case of plants. Human beings come into the picture in Chapter VII. Here all the
concepts which applied in Ch VI still apply, but now there is another conceptual
‘layer’ which is associated with the symbolic ways in which human beings interact
with one another. Chapter VII is concerned with what one could call ‘traditional’
ways of being human; the kind of human life which is rooted in standard cultural and
linguistic forms. Gene sees the modern world as going beyond such forms (while
retaining them in the same way as the human level ‘retains’ the animal level). The
modern developments involve a growing awareness of alternative conceptual
schemes, with the result that there is no longer a single agreed tradition of what will
carry us forward. Focusing can be seen as a response to this situation, in which all the
available ways of seeing a situation are brought together in a felt sense. Then action
carries forward from the felt sense rather than in any of the traditional ways. This
way of being human (Chapter VIII) is different from the traditional way (Chapter
One way of thinking about the structure of the book is, then, that Chapers I-V lay out
the new conceptual scheme which centres around ‘interaction first’, and show how it
applies to organisms in general. Chapter VI applies the scheme to animals, Chapter
VII to ‘traditional’ human beings, and Ch VIII to ‘modern’ human beings. There is
an important sense in which the concepts developed for organisms in general are
retained, but elaborated on, in the case of animals. Then the concepts which apply to
animals are retained but elaborated on in the case of traditional human beings, and
similarly for the transition from traditional to modern human beings. This scheme, in
which the human world elaborates the animal world, and the animal world elaborates
the vegetative world is very similar to that of Aristotle (Gene is among other things an
However the way in which each level is transformed into the next is unique to Gene’s
philosophy. Roughly speaking, the transitions occur where a process at one level is
not carried forward at that level. It is familiar in focusing that a process at the VII
level (traditional human) may not be carried forward by anything which is
traditionally (culturally) available. For instance, in a traditional society the response
to an insult might be to throw down a gauntlet, which would lead to a duel, and hence
to a resolution of the conflict But that is hardly an option in contemporary society.
One might, in more metaphorical ways, throw down a gauntlet, but the modern human
being will more likely reflect on what really would be the best thing to do here, on
what it would be authentic for me to do, being me. They would in short do something
like focusing. The environment no longer provides a traditional solution to the
problem, so rather than make a symbolic gesture (as one does at the VII level) one
does something quite new (focusing – level VIII) which nevertheless involves
symbolising. One symbolises to oneself all the possible ways forward, but does not
yet act on them. Action, when it comes, comes not from the traditional symbolic
context but from the individual’s felt sense.
But just as focusing (VIII) presupposes symbolising (VII), so symbolising
presupposes behaving (VI). In chapter VII Gene outlines the very complex way in
which symbolising can arise out of situations where behaving does not carry one
forward. The natural behavioural response to an insult would perhaps be anger and
attack, but in human cultures such ‘natural’ responses may not carry us forward
effectively. Instead of actual fighting, something is said, or gestures are made, and
the situation carries forward on that (VII) level. Gene shows how this transition is
prefigured in animal threat displays. Nevertheless, speaking or gesturing is still a
(specialised) form of behaviour.
Then again, behaviour presupposes biological tissue processes. Speech and gestures,
like any other behaviour require muscle movements and nerve firings. During some
portions of an organism’s life behaviour is not required. (Plants don’t have behaviour
at all – their needs are satisfied without any moving around). However, in the case of
animals, the environment does not provide for all physiological needs without the
necessity for behaviour. The physiological processes associated with hunger stir the
animal into action which continues until feeding has taken place. Then the animal
rests, becomes more like a plant for a while. The behaviour is the animal’s way of
carrying forward physiological processes which are carried forward in plants without
behaviour. With social animals the patterns of behaviour become increasingly
complex: the animal may not only have to hunt but also to threaten another animal
which is about to steal its food. If it is a traditional human being it may express this
threat verbally, and if it is a modern human being it may reflect on whether this is a
situation which, for them, is best met by assertiveness or patience, or … something
more subtle but more appropriate to this situation.
However, even the modern human being focusing on their dilemma has to say
something, saying something involves physical behaviour, and physical behaviour
involves tissue changes. Focusing in itself involves the manipulation of symbols,
symbolising involves a complex background of changing behavioural potentials, and
these involve physiological changes. It is for this reason that focusing can ultimately
be seen a a physical process which has physical effects. Of course it must have
physical effects if a person is to be different in their actual living. But what the
‘physical’ is, has to be re-thought in a way which allows us to understand how
focusing can do this.
I have said something about the structure of PM insofar as that structure relates to the
different ‘layers’ of bodily process, behaviour, culture, language and focusing. There
is much more to the details of each of these: in the chapter on behaviour (VI) Gene
shows how sentience and perception can be seen as arising out of behaviour that does
not involve consciousness, and how this involves a new kind of space (behaviour
space) in which the animal moves. In VII he discusses how symbolic and linguistic
forms of behaviour can develop and, with them, the forms of space and time with
which we are familiar. In VIII he elaborates the theory of focusing on the basis of
what has been developed previously, showing how in focusing we again enter a new
kind of space with its own characteristic objects. It becomes clear hear that focusing
as we know it is just one example of a way of experiencing associated with all
creative innovation. There is much more also in the section (I-V) on the general
model, some of which will be familiar to readers of ECM.
In addition to all this there is another theme running through PM. As we have seen
Gene pauses at times and reflects on what he is doing. What he is doing comes from
Chapter VIII, the chapter in which creative innovation is discussed. PM is itself a
creative innovation; Gene builds PM through developing concepts in a way that is
theoretically underpinned by the material in VIII. He himself sees the method of
concept formation (which is formalised in TAE) as more important than the theory
which he has developed to explain it. This is the same attitude as that which he takes
in Let Your Body Interpret Your Dreams, where he says “If you don’t like this theory,
don’t let it get in the way of the experiential steps which the book describes. They are
not based on theory. You don’t need the theory for them…Theory does not represent
what “is”. Theory makes sense, but sense-making is itself a kind of step which
expands what “was”. That opens to further steps, and these need not stay consistent
with the theory.”
For more on Gene’s theory see Appendix B of Let Your Body Interpret Your Dreams,
from which the above quotation is taken, and also the theory section of his paper ‘The
client’s client: the edge of awareness’ in RL Levant & JM Shlien (eds) Client-
centered Therapy and the Person-Centered Approach. New York: Praeger (1984).
These are much easier to read than PM itself, but of course they omit much important
detail. You might also look at Greg Walkerden’s useful summary of PM ‘How I read
the structure of the PM text: what is a “kind” of process?’ This is on the Focusing
The Ladybird Guide to A Process Model – Part 2
This part is in two sections. The first section is taken from my chapter on Focusing-
oriented psychotherapy in The Tribes of the Person-Centred Nation (edited by Pete
Sanders, PCCS Books, 2004). It is meant to give an overview of the main themes inA
Process Model . The second section goes through some of the themes in more detail,
especially material in Chapters V – VIII.
Gendlin sees human nature as being essentially interactional. A child is born into a
relationship with the world and can survive neither physically nor psychologically
without interacting with the world. There is a level of interaction which we share with
inanimate things: as physical beings we are the way we are through the interplay of
physical forces which constitute and act upon us. Then there is the level we share with
plants: our bodies are complex organic systems in which each element is what it is
partly as a result of the impact of other elements, which are the way they are partly
because of the way the first element is. In Gendlin’s terminology a living organism is
an ‘interaffecting whole’ which cannot be reduced to the sum of its parts. The
interaffecting extends beyond the physical boundaries of the organism: organisms are
what they are partly because of the way the environment is, and the environment is
the way it is partly because of the way the organism is.
Then there is much that we share with sentient animals, in whom there is a new kind
of interaction: an interaction between the animal and how it registers or perceives its
environment. Unlike a plant, an animal reacts not exactly to its environment but to
how the environment is for it . If the animal’s temperature-regulation system is faulty,
for example, it will behave in terms of the temperature it registers rather than in terms
of the actual temperature. With sentience comes a whole new kind of interaction with
the world. Finally, human beings have a mode of interaction with the world which
involves our construing it in terms of concepts and general principles. This has both
advantages and disadvantages. The advantages are that we can guide our lives by
general principles which we can learn from others, without the need always to start
from scratch by ourselves. For instance, we may know that it is not a good thing to
drink salt water in order to quench our thirst, and this may make a difference to
whether we survive when shipwrecked. All that which comes through language and
tradition comes to us in terms of general truths or helpful principles, that is, the truths
or principles of the culture which we are born into. But there is a catch, which is that
where there are truths and helpful principles there can also be falsehoods and
misleading principles. We can get caught in the general and fail to check whether the
general principle really applies in our particular situation.
Gendlin emphasises that our situations are always more subtle and intricate than can
be articulated in terms of general concepts. For example, suppose that a person is in a
state which may correctly be described as ‘angry’. That is an application of a general
concept. Yet there is more to that person’s experience: they are angry , but with an
undercurrent of hurt, and not even exactly angry, but more full of resentment in
connection with what was done to them, yet also angry with themself for letting it
happen, and upset because they have let this happen again when they had only
yesterday realised that this is what they always let happen… There is an intricacy in
the lived experience which is fully captured by the concept of anger.
For Gendlin, human life is an interplay between the rich, intricate sensed experience
of our situations and the concepts which we employ to articulate those situations. It is
an interaction between this – my immediate sensed experience now, and the forms or
concepts in terms of which I express it. However, it is not as if my experience is
sitting there, whole and complete, and just waiting to have the appropriate labels put
on it. Immediate experience is not like that. It is something which prior to
articulation has no fixed form; or we could say that the forms which are to come are
there only implicitly. If we give our attention to our experiencing we can often sense
something there which cannot yet be articulated adequately. (It can be articulated a bit
just by saying ‘I feel something there’, and that is already to draw it a little into the
realm of the explicit). But what it is cannot yet be said. Gendlin often uses the
example of a poet who is trying to get the final line for a poem. The poet tries out
various possibilities, but as they do so they feel – physically feel – the not-rightness of
these proposed endings. There is a physically felt sense that these endings are not
right. They don’t connect with that other felt sense of what the poem needs. In order
to get a satisfactory ending (and it may never come) the poet has to stay with the felt
sense of what is needed, and wait for what may come. When the right line does come
there is a sense of release, perhaps a deeper breath – ‘Ah! – That’s it’. Now that the
last line is there the poet may sense the need to change some of the earlier lines before
the work is done. This last point shows vividly that one could not possibly get from
the earlier lines to the last one by any process of logic.
In Gendlin’s terminology the earlier lines imply the last line in a novel sense of
‘imply’. It is not that the last line is determined by the earlier lines, but nor is it that
any old last line would have done. There is an implication, but it is one that arises out
of the felt sense of what has come before and of what is now needed. The example of
the poet is just an illustration of what is involved in any aspect of our life which is
not entirely governed by explicit principles. Much of our life is governed by such
principles, and it would be foolish not to employ them when appropriate, but general
principles, by their nature, are inadequate when we are faced with novel situations, or
situations where we can all too clearly sense that none of the standard options are
going to be satisfactory. In these situations we are stuck, and we have to let go of the
general principles and familiar concepts for a while and dip down into the felt
intricacy of the situation.
In that felt intricacy there is much that is implicit, and which may be of help to us.
After all, we have built into our natures millions of years of evolution, and many
years of experience with complex situations; also many imagined situations, situations
about which we have read in novels or myths or biographies and so on. All this could
not possibly be set out in an explicit way, but it is there in us, in an implicit
interaffecting way which, if we will give it a chance, may give rise to a creative
possibility. What emerges may not be right; we will have to see…how would it feel if
I tried that?…Liberating? Constricting? What is the felt sense of this new possibility
that has come? What, actually, does this new thing amount to? Even if it would be
absurd to do exactly that, I might be able to find some non-absurd thing which still
preserves the spirit of what has come.
In brief summary, Gendlin’s view of human beings is that we are beings who are
always moving between our own immediate individual experiencing and the
expression of that experience in words, images, dance, music and so on, which allows
our experiencing to be in communication with others’ experiencing through its
formulation in some way which is not just ours, but sharable. What we are able to
share makes a difference to the cultural forms in which we live, just as much as the
cultural forms make a difference to how we construe our experiencing. Human life is
an experiential interaction process between what is private and individual and what is
public and communal.
I will try now to summarise the essential points in the first part of PM (chapters I –
V), focusing especially on points which there was not time to elaborate on last year.
Gendlin’s model is a process model. The more familiar model starts with individual
things (such as atoms) and then develops the notions of change, and connections with
other things. The things in that model are essentially separate, and are only linked
externally through being existing in the same space-time framework, and being
subject to the laws of motion. In this model the problem is how to explain change and
interdependence within a basic framework in which the things (the atoms) stay the
same, and are separate from each other.
In Gendlin’s model the problem is the opposite: we need to be able to account for
stability (lack of change) and for individual entities, within a basic framework in
which everything is in flux, and everything depends on everything else.
The Process Model begins with change, process, interaction.
It starts with ‘implying’, which is already a concept involving connection and change.
Into the implying something occurs, which may or may not carry the implying
If the implying is not carried forward, the process is stopped, and the implying
remains the same. This is the first point at which, in starting from change, we get to
something which does not change.
When something occurs which resumes the process it is as if that something is
‘recognised’. There is again something that is ‘the same’.
We don’t yet have the concept of a body, but there is already a distinction between the
stopped process and the other processes which continue. Here is a first separation
within the interaffecting whole.
We can say that the body is what continues when a process is stopped.
The body carries the stopped process.
Processes interaffect. They are what they are through being affected by other
processes which have already been affected by them.
An occurrence is a focaling of all the involved processes.
pp. 75-7 Intervening events develop in a stoppage – Gendlin calls them ‘stop/on’s’.
Some of these involve repetition or reiteration (leafing) – the first bit of the stopped
process repeats with minor differences.
We will see this pattern itself being repeated at different ‘levels’ later – what is
stopped at one level carries forward on another level.
The reiterations are versions of the stopped process. (They version that process).
(Consistently with the model, Gendlin tends to turn noun forms into verbs, so that we
get terms like ‘versioning’ and ‘sequencing’).
80-82 There are two distinct kinds of change, that of interaffecting, and that of
occurring. This is important, but needs some explanation:
Consider two processes, such as those of walking and breathing in some organism
such as a bug.
Walking and breathing interaffect since the bug is an interaffecting system
The walking would be different if the breathing were different and vice versa.
Any change in the walking is also a change in the breathing, and vice versa.
Any change in walking happens at the same time as a change in behaviour, and that is
the end of the matter. The walking and the breathing are two aspects of what is
occurring. In interaffecting it doesn’t take time for one aspect to affect the other.
‘This is basic to what an implicit order is’ (p.82). But if this were the whole story,
there would be no sequence of changes.
Now suppose some dust falls onto the surface on which the bug is walking. This is an
en-change which is not an interaffecting change (the falling of the dust is not caused
by the bug). The bug’s walk now stirs up the dust, and its walk changes because
walking in the dust affects how its legs can move.
This change happens immediately the dust falls, but nothing more happens as a result.
In the new en the bug has a different walk. Again, there is no ongoing sequence of
However, in reality there are both interaffecting changes and en changes, and it is this
which generates the sequence of changes:
The bug’s walk changes because of the en change. The changed walk stirs up the
dust. The dust affects the bug’s breathing. The changed breathing by interaffecting is
also a change in the walk. This changed walk makes a difference to how the dust is
stirred up, and that again affects the breathing etc.
The changed walk/breathing is an actual occurrence, caused by the en change.
The change in the walk due to the change in the breathing is an interaffecting change.
One kind of intervening event (occurring within a behaviour stoppage) is reiteration,
where the first bit of the stopped process repeats. These repetitions version the
stoppage. If there are many such reiterative processes we can think of these as a
special sector of the organism. This sector is ‘pulsing’ (as if sending out radar
signals) and changes in the en or in the rest of the organisms body are registered by
the changes they make in the pulsing.
The reiterative sector (‘the registry’) of the organism is thus especially sensitive to
changes. It registers changes, both in the en and in the rest of the organism.
It is not only that changes in the en and in the rest of the body produce changes in the
registry. Also, the changes in the registry produce changes in the organism – the
organism changes; it moves as a result of what it is registering. These movements are
not simply effects of en changes (like a hole being worn in a shell by the sea), they are
movements the organism itself makes because of what it is registering. The organism
is now behaving, not just moving.
Its movements are themselves registered along with the changes in the en.
93-4 A new kind of carrying-forward develops here. The behaviour is a version of the
stoppage of a process. That process is still implied in the behaviour. If the
appropriate en-aspect occurs the process will resume (in a sense the process ‘is still
there’, it is there implicitly). It is as if the organism ‘recognises’ the en-aspect. (That
is the old kind of carrying-forward). But while the stoppage is there, and the
behaviour is occurring, there is a new carrying-forward: the organism’s movements
result in changes in the registry, which in turn affect the organism’s movements. The
organism’s movements come to imply changes in the registry, and if these registry
changes actually occur they carry forward the implying. If what is actually registered
is different from what was implied then that behaviour sequence stops (the lamb stops
at the cliff edge).
95 The organism now is registering the changes as it moves – it is feeling them. It is
conscious. The registerings themselves can be thought of as perception. So far,
feeling and perception occur only as aspects of behaving. (Feelings and perceptions
separate from overt behaviour only come later, in Chapter VII). The behaviour
continues until the stopped process resumes: this resumption could be thought of as
the ‘goal’ of the behaviour (though this would be a ‘too-early’ use of ‘goal’). We can
also say that the behaviour is motivated by what would resume the stopped process.
102 Many behaviour sequences develop. They form a ‘space’ in which each has
implications for the possibilities of the others. As we shall see, with the development
of a new ‘level’ there comes a corresponding kind of space.
109 Behaviour sequences can generate stable objects, such as the registry of the bird
when the cat chases it. Objects ‘fall out from’ the animal’s behaviour. What these
objects are for a particular animal depends on that animal’s life and behaviour.
Objects are not just there, the same things for all animals.
122 Much behaviour occurs in relation to other members of that species. When a
behavioural interaction with another species member is stopped, the first bit may still
occur, and repeat. This is gesturing, ‘the dance’. This is the beginning of the next
The first animal gestures and the second responds to that gesture. The first animal’s
gesture is a rendering, a versioning, of its current behavioural context. In responding
to the gesture the second animal reflects back to the first this versioning of its
behavioural context. The first animal which already has feelings and an awareness of
its environment, now has some awareness of its own feelings.
This self-awareness happens initially only in the presence of another animal, but later
such awareness can be triggered by objects which are relevant to the behaviour
At the same time a new kind of space is forming, a space in which there is the
possibility of standing back from behaviour, symbolising it without actually
performing the behaviour. This kind of space is very different from behaviour space,
which is constituted by all the possible implications of one behaviour sequence for the
The new kind of sequence involves both self-awareness and awareness of the looks
(sounds, images) of things. This is the beginning of the form of awareness in which
there are kinds of things – a look is the look of that kind of thing, although ‘kinds’
have not yet fully appeared.
Sounds are similarly the sounds of kinds of things. Moaning is the sound of that kind
of behaviour context – it is how the wounded animal is expressing its situation. It is
inherently connected with how the body of the animal is a that point. But then other
things can begin to have looks or sounds. There can now be the moaning of the wind
as well as the wind itself.
Sounds, especially, come to express behaviour contexts, and this is the beginning of
language. At the start the sounds are ikonic (onomatopaeic) symbols – they are the
sounds of that behaviour context. But as the sounds of various behaviour contexts
develop and interact in new contexts, the direct link between sound and context
becomes attenuated. The sound patterns begin to form a system of their own.
Nevertheless language is not a matter of mere convention; it is rooted in the body and
behaviour processes out of which it emerged. (This is why rituals can have deep
At the same time the interactions between the animals become more prominent and
significant. Instead of gesturing (communicating) being an occasional pause in
action, action now becomes oriented towards communication. The world is now
transformed into one in which there are kinds of things which are determined by
human interaction-contexts. This is the FLIP (165), after which we are in a fully
Summarising up to the end of Chapter VII:
Body-process can be stopped, and behaviour then emerges as a detour in the process.
The behaviour is still body-process, but has in addition a new form which is ‘layered
over’ the original kind of body process. The behaviour is a version of (it versions) the
stopped body-process. It is a sequence of changes in the stopped process (it
sequences the process).
Similarly behaviour can be stopped, and gesturing, symboling, language then emerge
as a detour in behaviour. Symboling is still behaviour, but has in addition a new form
which is ‘layered over’ the original kind of behaviour. The symboling (gesturing,
speaking, dancing) is a version of (it versions) the stopped behaviour. It is a sequence
of changes in the stopped behaviour (it sequences the behaviour).
Now in the same way symboling can be stopped, and as before something new
emerges. Symboling is stopped when we can’t find the word (image, gesture, etc)
which will carry us forward. This is the situation we are often in when focusing. As
in the other cases of stoppage, the first part of the usual process occurs – we try out
first one word (image etc) then another. But we are beginning to do something new
here: we are sensing into ‘all that which we can’t yet express’, and awaiting what
comes. There is still symboling going on, but it is going on in a new way, just as in
gesturing behaviour is still going on, but in a new way. And just as gesturing brings
with it a new kind of space (symbolic space, image space), so focusing brings with it a
new kind of space. It is a space in which we can stand back from our experiencing as
a whole. This space is different from image-space, which belongs in VII. We know
for example that if we imagine (visualise) putting a problem down while focusing,
there still remains the question of whether it has really been put down. It can be put
down in VII space without being put down in VIII space.
It is only with the concepts of VIII that Focusing can be described adequately. But
because each level is built on previous levels, changes which occur through Focusing
are at the same time changes in symbolisation, in behaviour and in bodily process.
That is why Focusing can change us.