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24th May 2020

Remembering Gene Gendlin

Introductory Philosophy

Remembering Gene Gendlin

Greg Madison

 

I cannot imagine coming up with an obituary or a memorial for Eugene Gendlin that he could stand to read. He would make a joke of any attempt to aggrandise his accomplishments and would often point out his own foibles and failings. He asked his son Gerry to remind people at his funeral that he was divorced and a smoker, to counter any attempts to beautify his memory.

 

Similarly, I know it would be impossible to offer an explanation of Gendlin’s philosophy that he could accept. He was rarely satisfied with any explication of his philosophy, including his own. I remember the strain of co-writing a chapter with ‘Gene’ for a book on Existential Therapy (Madison & Gendlin, 2011), based on an interview with him at his home in Stony Brook, New York. I wanted us both to be happy with the chapter, and engaged in endless frustrating email correspondence to no avail. In the end, I salvaged most of the dialogue and put in a disclaimer at the beginning of the chapter so Gene didn’t feel he had to stand behind what I wrote; it freed us up to not have to agree with each other.

 

One of Gendlin’s main concerns was that his philosophy and Focusing, the practice that derives from it, would end up described in old terms and thereby lose its fresh significance. Every word needed to be redefined in order to capture the level of ‘implicit experiencing’ that Gendlin was retrieving. He wanted each concept to be philosophically, in fact empirically, derived, not just given and believed. Every word had a fresh meaning in the ongoing dialogue, “and what do you want that word to mean?” was a constant refrain.

 

Gendlin lived his philosophy. Conversing with him was a profound experience. He spoke with everyone as an equal, never resorting to any kind of authority he might claim as a renowned philosopher and respected psychologist. I experienced Gene as open, generous, and deeply democratic in his approach. Philosophy and psychology and psychotherapy should be in everyday language as much as possible, accessible to everyone, not just academics or those who could afford a specialised education.

 

I learned Focusing in 1981 during my undergraduate psychology degree in Canada. I used Focusing in the methodology of my honours thesis research, an attempt to invite a deeper than usual ‘reflection on personal mortality’. For me Focusing was always tied to Existentialism and to attempts at an ‘everyday phenomenology’ that would add some richness to living and deeper awareness of the context of human existence.

 

Why did Focusing appeal to me? Focusing, and a person like Gene Gendlin, was what I had been looking for my whole life. Since childhood, and without much encouragement, I had held onto my felt sensing ability. I had this inner space where the world could not crowd in and change what I felt, but that was not the same as believing that what I felt really counted. No matter what behaviours, appearance, achievement, beliefs, the world around me insisted I adopt, there was a little space of freedom inside of my stomach and chest where I could have my own private feeling of being alive.

 

So what did Gendlin and Focusing add? Gendlin was the first person to describe this inner felt sensing, and how to attend to it, but most importantly, Gendlin said that this bodily sense was more valuable than just following external authorities, concepts or doctrines. Gendlin, a famous professor, gave me permission to live from this bodily feeling of rightness inside. This was radical. It undid the oppression of external authority. It allowed me to think for myself, without apology. I could just say “hmmm that doesn’t quite feel right for me somehow”, I didn’t even need to know why! Of course, I could be compelled to obey the powers that be, but I could still have a developed and sophisticated sense of why they are wrong and what would be a better direction, for me.

 

Focusing has an element of anarchism, as distinct from chaos. As a movement, it grew out of the turbulent 60s when American university campuses were erupting in protest and revolt. Gendlin knew that telling people what to think, or just offering new concepts, resulted in little change. People had to have the means to delve in and discover for themselves what they were, who they were, and what action they could take to improve the world. Gendlin thought he could teach people Focusing and Listening and thereby give away the essentials of therapeutic change and a method for humanising political change – those were radical agendas, which he never abandoned.

 

Gendlin, unlike most, had no interest in convincing others to agree with his thinking. That would have been a failure – what he wanted was that everyone could discover the bodily basis of thinking inside themselves and could then come up with their own thoughts. Hearing from others was always more exciting to him than hearing his own ideas parroted back to him. He could be scathing about academia and therapy trainings where students and trainees were taught to indoctrinate themselves with the ideas of ‘great thinkers’, and were actively discouraged from adding anything more than a meagre morsel of their own ingenuity. Gendlin would say that if those dead white men could think, so can you. We don’t need students to just rearrange what’s already in the library, we need them to think freshly for themselves.

 

Focusing, as described by Gendlin, is a gentle yet powerful way to pay attention to the unfolding experiential process that is felt in the body. Through this attention, it becomes clear that the human being is “unfinished living” constantly moving into new experiencing in interaction with the whole world around us. Focusing can be a meditative process for personal growth, a deep therapeutic change process, a form of embodied thinking, a bio-spiritual process, a way of accessing creativity, etc. To learn about Focusing it’s good to start with Gendlin’s original book, Focusing (1981).

 

Gendlin’s Philosophy of the Implicit offers a radical re-thinking of the psychological-subjective, and a re-conception of the world from the viewpoint of process (rather than set units). To get started with Gendlin’s philosophy, see either his main work, Experiencing and the Creation of Meaning or perhaps Language Beyond Postmodernism, a series of philosophical essays on Gendlin’s philosophy with Gene replying to each philosopher.

 

The best way to begin, of course, is with your own experience. You cannot understand Gendlin’s thinking unless you learn the process of Focusing for yourself. Focusing can be learned from various teachers and therapists around the world in workshop settings or online, most would make sure that finances do not preclude you from attending. Some resources are below.

 

The best tribute to the life and work of Eugene Gendlin would be if someone were to learn Focusing or something like it (he was never pushing Focusing as the only way) and from their own experiential understanding, write why Gendlin was wrong about everything. I could imagine Gene laughing and enjoying that very much.

 

Eugene Gendlin died May 1st 2017 in his home in Stony Brook, age 90. He was born in Vienna and fled with his family as a young boy to America ahead of the Nazi occupation. He spent most of his academic life at the University of Chicago.

 

References:

Gendlin, E.T. (1981). Focusing (second edition. New revised instructions). New York: Bantam Books.

Madison, G & Gendlin, ET. (2011) ‘Palpable Existentialism: An Interview with Eugene Gendlin.’ In Existential Therapy. Barnett & Madison (Eds.)

 

Resources:

For a more traditional account of the life and work of Eugene Gendlin, see:

https://www.eugenegendlin.com/about/

Gendlin, E.T. (1962). Experiencing and the creation of meaning. A philosophical and psychological approach to the subjective. New York: Free Press of Glencoe. Reprinted by Macmillan, 1970.

Gendlin, E.T. (1996). Focusing-oriented psychotherapy. A manual of the experiential method. New York: Guilford.

D.M. Levin (Ed.), Language beyond postmodernism: Saying and thinking in Gendlin’s philosophy. Evanston: Northwestern University Press.

Gendlin Online Library, free access to articles:

http://www.focusing.org/gendlin/

 

Learn Focusing:

www.focusing.org

http://www.focusing.org.uk

www.focusingtherapy.org

www.londonfocusing.com

 

 

 

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24th May 2020

Embodied Democracy. A Conference Presentation

Decisions Introductory Philosophy

Embodied Democracy:

SEA Conference Presentation

2015, London

Greg Madison

Abstract

This report evolved from contributions to the 2015 Society of Existential Analysis conference in London. I briefly describe opening the conference with a guided Focusing session since this practice is fundamental to my report on the other contribution, a Panel Discussion entitled “Being at the Heart of Activism”. What follows is an account of my own interests in this area as an existential psychologist and Focusing therapist. I present Focusing as a source of democratic process that forms an experiential continuity from ‘within’ each person ‘outwards’ to interpersonal and community situations. For this publication I have incorporated some references to Eugene Gendlin’s (1987) A philosophical critique of the concept of narcissism. Keeping with the ethos of the approach described below, this report is presented in first-person language to make it as direct and accessible as possible.

Keywords

Focusing, Gendlin, Experiential-Existential Therapy, Embodied Democracy, Implicit Experience, Focusing-oriented Therapy, Activism

Focusing

To open the conference I was invited to offer a brief 10-minute Focusing (Gendlin, 1981) session. Focusing is a phenomenological practice of embodied self-awareness whereby a person can access and follow the unfolding of feelings that step-by-step help to clarify our experience of anything we are living through. At professional conferences we typically interact only from the eye-brain-thinking level of human experience. So I wanted to offer a different starting point, an intention to include all the implicit responses that are simultaneously happening at the body level but that we typically don’t “drop down inside” and attend to. At that level we can sense more than is easily said and more than is usually included in thoughtful dialogues between colleagues. This is an excerpt from the last minute of the Focusing experience:

So as we begin our day together, just know that this whole responsive world is down there, available to you. Your body will generate all sorts of responses as you listen to people during the day, pause and notice the feelings that come in here – even the subtle feelings – there is creative thinking in the body. If an idea is making you feel a bit constricted inside, or a presentation brings an expansive feeling in your body, consider dropping down again and checking “what is it about this idea or presentation that makes me feel just like this?” Let the answer come from your body. If you can understand something from the feeling, you will usually feel a bit of release inside. Then consider sharing what came to you at some point during the conference, it might also resonate for others. If you speak, you might let words come from the body as you continue to attend to the feeling, sensing with each word “am I saying this right”? And correcting yourself as you speak, so that what you say resonates bodily. This may be one way of inviting unformed and implicit being into our doing here today. And welcoming all the voices present, not just those that are easily expressed or those that have an explicit platform”.

Workshop Panel

Alison Playford (Occupy, Disabled People Against Cuts), Mark Weaver (Occupy), Luke Flegg (Change the Future), Greg Madison (London Focusing Institute)

Later in the day we offered a panel discussion entitled ‘Being at the Heart of Activism’. Ali, Mark, and Luke introduced themselves sequentially, showing how our interests overlap and suggesting that increased personal awareness is important in their activities and how existential therapists might be able to follow their individual passions and get involved in areas of social change and activism. The workshop was followed by an Open Space Session, in the hopes that any discussion provoked by our panel and questions from those attending, could continue in more detail in the open space, where anyone’s voice might be heard and all are welcome to contribute as equals. This openness to all voices continues the value of inclusivity inherent in the initial Focusing session at the start of the day.

Focusing as practice of ‘Embodied Democracy’

This is an account of my own emerging experiments in ‘experiential democracy’ or ’slow democracy’ or ‘embodied democracy’ or ’social Focusing’ or ‘inner activism’; many descriptive terms will do and having many prevents getting stuck at the conceptual level. Each term points at the same implicit experiencing level but by having such different terms, it should be clear that the actual terms themselves are not to be obsessed over and analysed. For this paper I am using ‘embodied democracy’ as a term to point to the concrete practice I am describing. It refers to how the body ‘makes’ and ‘carries forward’ its own sense of a situation, whether personal, communal or more widely political (Gendlin, 1997; Madison & Gendlin, 2011).

I have been involved in existentialism and socialism since the beginning of my university years, when students were still political and university was about education, not just a training for the competitive job market. But the socialist/communist groups with whom I associated were as evangelical as any religious movement, replacing ‘the second coming’ with the ‘ inevitable workers’ revolution’. The dogma and strategising of these leftwing groups left no place for doubts or dissent, deep questioning, the individual perspective, choice, meaning or mortality, concerns about the structure of human life itself. Social change inspired me but the means of change left me disillusioned.

On the other side, in the academic philosophy world there was a kind of inactive quietude that obscured an underlying superiority or even cynicism towards those who wanted to actively change the world. Meanwhile, psychology was colonised by either soulless behaviourism or the emerging human computer analogies from “cognitive psychology,” both of which shared an arrogant assumption that psychology was somehow above political and social influence and could study society without already being totally immersed within it.

I spent years unable to convert to the world of activism, while in a parallel life I remained frustrated at the ivory tower attitude of philosophy and psychology. There seemed no way to bring them together. Focusing, as a personal practice (Gendlin, 1981), was the only ‘bridge’ I had between the academic tower of ideas and the everyday hive of living.The practice of Focusing and the existential process philosophy of Eugene Gendlin(1997), not only came out of psychotherapy research but it also formed during the turbulent 1960s, especially the anti-war protests across American campuses.

Focusing pays attention to the body’s ability to form a holistic ‘felt sense’ of our life situations (Gendlin, 1979). “Felt sensing” offered me a touchstone from which I could challenge the dogma and doctrine of both activism and academia. Focusing practice exemplifies particular values in the study of human psychology and in political action. For me it is a stance that avoids both the isolation of the individual and the claustrophobia of the collective. It prioritises palpable implicit experience over explicit conceptual doctrines or external authority and offers a kind of ‘decentralised anarchy’ that, because of the inherent order of the experiential grounding, avoids chaos and despotism. But everything around us calls us not to pay attention to our own sense of existence in this way. It is a struggle. More than just a personal struggle, it is a political struggle. The order of bodily experience offers a source of meaning that deconstructs conventional understandings. It has the potential to be subversive.

Recently I have stepped back into the world of social activism and political change movements. The Internet and social media is fundamentally changing our ability to communicate and organise “grass-roots”. The world seems to have woken up its new possibilities. The economic crash in 2008 and the increasing inequality it has created has become too obviousordinary people are looking for ways to respond and to innovate for themselves new forms of living that address the challenges of daily life. It seems that more of the general population is starting to call for a system change, a chance to influence things, a return to more ‘participatory democracy’.

Some recent developments in participatory democracy include: a people’s convention to crowd-source a constitution for the UK, new voting apps that make it possible for politicians to canvas feedback from their electorate on any issue, the development of free universities offering secondary education to those whose circumstances prohibit high-fee education, open space conferences where everyone has an equal say and the themes of the conference develop organically, groups of professional therapists (Alliance for Counselling and Psychotherapy, Psychologists Against Austerity, Psychotherapists and Counsellors for Social Responsibility, Psychotherapists and Counsellors Union) who are actively engaging in political struggles – particularly those that protect the ethics of the psy-professions, the Open Dialogue and Soteria programmes offer a relational-existential alternative to service-centred and medical-model NHS psychiatry, Teal organisations that are modelling non-hierarchical democratic structures for businesses…. This time the social engagement is more often ‘movement’ and ‘issues’ driven rather than encapsulated by rigid and totalising political ideology.

For me there is another significant difference between the activism of now and my earlier experiences. Ordinary people have changed significantly since the ‘60s. We have become more intricate as the culture takes up therapeutic ideas and self-awareness practices. In Gendin’s words,

Today we must let intricacy guide us, rather than the old clear roles and norms. These old forms still exist, but often as official demands, ideal models that we rarely fulfill. As expectations they are just one “social reality.” But body-life is no longer carried forward by them. Our more complex and partly undefined situations are another “social reality.” (1987: 265).

Social activists now seem aware of the necessity of taking into account the sphere of personal psychology and interpersonal dynamics. Within the groups I have met with, there is interest in incorporating listening skills into decision-making, finding action that is congruent with feeling, and sensitive facilitation of community engagement and conflict. They are open to forms of embodiment that open a space between the binaries of imposed rigid structure and structureless tyranny.

Focusing is a useful phenomenological practice for contemporary activists because the ‘individual’ body-sense has a continuity that reaches out to a deep consensual community with other people. Focusing brings democracy to each individual body and each body into the workings of democracy. Focusing-style democracy slows down decision-making so that the whole being of each person has the potential to be involved in the process. Yet I am not convinced that the ‘slow democracy’ I am describing is actually slower in achieving change than any other democratic process. Decisions are arrived at with a feeling of rightness; action can have a felt continuity with the group as a whole, making the action grounded in experience, with a sense of “I can stand behind this”, so the agreed action is actually carried out and does not have to be constantly revisited or half-resisted.

For me it has always been crucial that the process of change remains consistent with the ethical principles that motivate the change. Too often the method and the intention are inconsistent. Focusing helps with this. The gentle respect and primacy of a deep listening process makes Focusing compatible with efforts to humanise society because as a practice, Focusing already is that care for humanity.

What is ‘Embodied Democracy’, or whatever you want to call it?

‘… a genuinely political self-experience is possible. It is not only a question of jobs and money; our deepest self-responding also has political dimensions. There is a way to move from the “merely inner” psychology of self to a self-understanding within the larger system. We can learn from how the Women’s Movement moved from what seemed to be only psychological issues to politically understood issues….The “inner” is never just inner. When you consider it “inner,” you keep the tension within yourself and cut experience off from the social change it implies’ (Gendlin, 1987: 291-97).

Embodied democracy feels like a continuity – a continuous expanding with no pre-set border or boundary: It does not artificially end at the edge of my body, or at the bottom of my road, or at the local community level or once we have voted on a decision. There is no level of organisation where we default to a dictatorship of the majority or accept that some expert’s voice carries more weight or should be louder than the less-informed multitude. It is a living democracy that never stops re-opening concepts and roles and structures that become subtly rigid and thus enslave the very life they were created to serve.

This continuous democracy always comes from the “individual” (where ‘individual’ is re-thought as body-world interaction) concrete feeling of being bodily alive, trusting that experience as a creative source more important than just cultural tradition and convention alone. This kind of democracy goes all the way down to the present experience of being a person, all the way ‘inside’, and then it carries itself all the way up and all the way out to be expressed in our way of gathering together.

‘Anything human is both social and individual; it is ordered in many systematic ways (not just by two large systems: individual and social.) …The systems meet each other, not as separated entities, but as they are implicit in each event. A change in one system will change that event, and, as the event affects other events, the change may have an effect on the other systems’ (Gendlin, 1987: 285).

The Person is already their own democratic community

I would describe an individual person as a ‘generative community’, not a ‘unified oneness’. At any time we all have various ‘parts’ of ourselves, for example, processes of vulnerability, courage, resistance, and insecurity, aspects that we are ashamed of or have cast into exile, manipulative or critical defensive parts… Each ‘part’ (temporarily generated by our living in situations) is welcomed back with equality. A person is a democracy when she/he can openly listen to (not necessarily agree with or automatically act upon) all parts of her/himself with equality and compassion. Can’t this attitude in the inner world roll out in a continuous expansion to the largest human gatherings? Embodied democracy values the process of listening to oneself and to each other in a way that feelings and opinions begin to naturally loosen and shift. It is the opposite of attempts to achieve agreement through the pressure to conform, subtle group oppression or rejection, attempts to compel, convince, control or cajole rather than listen carefully for the wisdom contained within each person in the group and within each part of each person.

To reduce a person to only their rational capability or their logical thinking is to silence and oppress the essence of the creative human spirit. In every decision, opinion and thought, there is feeling. Even if the rational decision is ‘correct’, feelings need to be listened to or the decision will be half-hearted, will leave some people behind, or never be carried out. Our feelings are informed by our unique experiences of life – they are deeply personal yet also contain wisdom about the whole current situation. A good decision includes each person’s unique sense of the question at hand. Thinking, feeling, and action, are not three separate spheres; they occur as one before we arbitrarily split them up.

A feature of this democracy is that it asks us to be open with one another, not to put our presumptions, our technology, the ‘project’ or ‘organisation’, or some mission, in-between self and other so that we cannot directly contact another person. Can we put the personal contact first? I want to make sure I can feel connected to the living person looking back, that we are connected as two (or more) people, then let an idea or a project be discussed. But don’t let the project or task cloud the connection. Don’t mediate the connection through an abstraction, have a clear connection first and try to keep it clear… If our connection as humans does not matter, then nothing else matters anyway…

What matters is to be a human being with another human being, to recognize the other person as another being in there. … I am just here, with my eyes, and there is this other being. If they happen to look into my eyes, they will see that I am just a shaky being. I have to tolerate that. They may not look. But if they do, they will see that. They will see the slightly shy, slightly withdrawing, insecure existence that I am, I have learnt that that is O.K. I do not need to be emotionally secure and firmly present. I just need to be present. There are no qualifications for the kind of person I must be. … The minute something goes wrong I go right back to trying to sense this person; to what is happening. Because this is another being, a different being(Eugene Gendlin,1990: 205).

Questions for audience reflection

1. Having listened to our various discussions, what really calls to you most, what do you feel most excited or alive about in this general area?

2. ’If you could bring what you understand from therapy into the wider world outside your consulting room, what would you bring and what difference would that make?’

3. ’How would you really like the world to be?’ ‘What would be a way forward in that direction, something you might actually want to do?’ Talk to people about it? Write about it? Make some space to flesh it out for yourself? Find some allies who you could work on this issue with?

Summary

These are very preliminary thoughts, being tested out with social activist groups that are interested in learning Focusing. Everything is being refined and re-thought in response to how groups feed back their experience of learning to sense through their bodies and learning to listen deeply to each other’s experience. What works, how is it useful, what is not appropriate, what is useless or confusing …?

I have very briefly suggested that Focusing practice can offer the world of social change and activism a form of collaboration that consistently values care and inclusivity from the personal to the community. I have not pointed out that the Focusing world likewise needs the attitude of activism. Focusing groups can still prioritise the individual or prioritise teaching Focusing over Focusing as a vehicle for change. We need to broaden the reductionistic idea that Focusing is just an individual process, useful in therapy. That model is well developed even if it still isn’t well acknowledged. A ‘social’ form of Focusing makes explicit how individual bodies can carry forward the group into new fresh edges of understanding and action. This is an experiment that attempts to address real life, real people, in the midst of everyday living and our need for grounded social change.

Greg Madison, PhD, is an existential psychologist and Focusing-oriented psychotherapist contributing to various activist, academic, and professional communities across Europe and North America. For some years Greg has avoided exclusive affiliation with any institution and instead enjoys creative collaborations as an independent practitioner. He has written and co-edited books and articles on Existential Migration, Focusing-oriented therapy, existential therapy, and contemporary topics related to psychology and society. He is a Certifying Coordinator for the Focusing Institute, founder of The London Focusing Institute (a team of teachers working according to democratic and transparent principles) and co-editor of Existential Analysis. Greg lives in Brighton and southern Spain. Contact Greg at

References

E. T. Gendlin (1981) Focusing. New York: Bantam Books.

Gendlin, E.T. (1987). A philosophical critique of the concept of narcissism: the significance of the awareness movement. In D.M. Levin (Ed.), Pathologies of the modern self. Postmodern studies on narcissism, schizophrenia, and depression, pp. 251-304. New York: New York University Press. retrieved from http://www.focusing.org/gendlin/docs/gol_2158.html (May 10, 2016)

Gendlin, E.T. (1990). The small steps of the therapy process: How they come and how to help them come. In G. Lietaer, J. Rombauts & R. Van Balen (Eds.), Client-centered and experiential psychotherapy in the nineties, pp. 205-224. Leuven: Leuven University Press. From http://www.focusing.org/gendlin/docs/gol_2110.htmlMadison, G & Gendlin, ET Gendlin, E.T. (1997) A Process Model (New York: The Focusing Institute). A corrected version (2001) is available http://www.focusing.org/process.html.

Madison, Greg and Gendlin, Eugene (2011). ‘Palpable Existentialism: An Interview with Eugene Gendlin.’ In Existential Therapy. Barnett & Madison (Eds.)

Further resources

www.focusing.org

www.londonfocusing.com

www.focusingtherapy.org

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8th Feb 2016

Transforming our Inner Critics: the Power of Presence

Introductory

Page intro block

This article has been published in Self and Society.

They stand in a dark and threatening line in front of me, their cowls shadowing their faces. Their sabres raised against me, gleaming bright against the dark hollows where their faces should be. I can feel the waves of malice rolling off them towards me. I can feel a writhing in my stomach of fear, almost nausea threatening to bring me to my knees. And then I feel a rising anger, a resistance to being threatened by these figments of my imagination. ‘Begone!’ I yell at them. They remain impassive, immobile. I look down and find that I have a light-sabre in my hand and I brandish it above my head and step forward slashing through the threatening monks. They fall, one after the other until all are lying in a heap before me. I feel a lightening in my stomach and rejoice in my taking action against these monsters.

Ah, if only that was the end of the story and everything was just fine after that. However, it didn’t take long before those seemingly vanquished inner critics were back in full force as if nothing had happened. And then I had not only those critical presences but also the feeling of having been subtly and mysteriously outmanoeuvered somehow. I was at a complete loss as to how to proceed.

It was after many years of trying to banish, vanquish, control, belittle and dismiss my various inner critics with no discernible lasting effects that I came to realise that a completely different approach was going to be needed if things were to change in any kind of meaningful way. And I needed change. I was beset, as you probably gathered from the story above, by some pretty scary inner monsters that were making my life truly unpleasant. In almost every aspect of my life they would turn up and turn my stomach into a writhing mass of fear and shame.

So, what was I to do?

I had been practising Focusing for several years at this point (the early 1990’s) and in many ways my life had vastly improved: feeling more grounded, embodied, contained, centred, stronger emotionally, more able to cope with day to day ups and downs.

And I had been bringing Focusing attention to this area of my life as well. I’d been sitting with the parts of me that felt so bad about being criticised. I could sense them in my body very clearly. I would listen gently and compassionately to how this part or that felt attacked, undermined, as if something wanted to annihilate it. And it would feel a bit better for a little while, but something was missing. Give it a few hours or perhaps, if things were pretty good in my life, a few days and the attacks would be back. The sense of shame and pain would return.

The turning point came when two things came together for me.

For some time I had been feeling increasingly uncomfortable with the difference between how we had been treating what we called ‘the inner critic’ and everything else in our awareness in Focusing. I had been taught to dismiss the inner critic with a ‘contemptuous wave of the hand’, to send it away until it had something new to say to me. This jarred with the basic Focusing approach that whatever needs my attention receives gentle, compassionate, patient awareness. I started to wonder if perhaps what this critical part of me needed was the same kind of awareness.

The second insight had to do with a limitation of the Focusing process itself. I could feel in my body the part of me that felt criticised, but not the part of me that was doing the criticising. As Focusing is essentially a body-based process of awareness, I had at that point no way of being able to Focus with a part of me that I couldn’t feel in my body.

Just thinking about it logically I came to realise that if something in me is feeling criticised and there is no one in my life that is criticising me at that moment, then there must be something inside me that is doing the criticising even if I can feel or hear it. I started to wonder if I could act as if it were there and start to have a relationship with it, even though I couldn’t hear it or sense it in my body.

Bringing these two insights together, I began to turn my awareness to an unfelt part of me whenever I felt ashamed, bad about myself, not good enough. I would act as if there was something I could relate to with compassionate curiosity. It was as if I was saying ‘hello’ to this unknown, unfelt part. And, lo and behold, it started to respond. Thus my journey of transformation of my inner critics began.

My colleague, Ann Weiser Cornell and I have learned many things since then about those parts of us that are behaving critically. We have learned how to spot them, the dynamics of how they operate in our lives, and how to relate to them so that they can release the positive, living-forward energy that is trapped within them. Here are some of the things we have learned and some of the models that we have developed.

The experience of inner criticism

Inner Critic, Super Ego, Bad Parent – some names that we have for this experience. What they all have in common is that you feel bad when they are around. You feel smaller, weaker, your confidence undermined, your power fading.

Inner Critics bring shame, withdrawal, apathy, lethargy, depression, aggression, hyper-achievement, rebelliousness, defensiveness. They make us afraid to fully and freely express ourselves, develop our talents, reach out to others, live from our hearts. When we are busy coping with an inner critic attack, we cannot be fully present in our lives. We misunderstand what is happening around us. We are not able to respond in the present moment; we react with knee-jerk replays of situations that happened long ago.

Although everyone that I know has experienced inner criticism, it can be very helpful to take some time to notice just how this lives in your life. Different people experience their inner critic in different ways. Some people feel bad when they are around (I’m that kind of person). Some people hear them. Some people see the dire consequences of ‘bad’ actions or thoughts. Here are some common manifestations of being in the grip of something in you that is being critical.

  • You feel ashamed, embarrassed, guilty
  • You label yourself: ‘I’m lazy.’ ‘I’m weak.’
  • You diagnose yourself: ‘I’m trying too hard.’
  • You feel that you have to control some aspect of your personality or behaviour
  • You feel bad when someone gives you friendly feedback
  • You hear an inner voice that tells you just how you are failing, inadequate, bad which attacks you in a snide, sarcastic, mean, harsh, righteous, impatient, belittling manner.

And, of course, our natural reaction to that is to try to get rid of those kinds of experiences. Most of us want to destroy them, just like me with my light sabre.

The Nature of our Inner Critics

Our inner critics are obsessed about the past or the future: how badly you have done, how inadequate you will be. They make generalised judgements about who you are and what you are capable of doing. They tell you that they know what’s wrong with you, why you are in such a mess: They offer pat solutions for your problems. It often sounds like this: ‘If only I were more…(hard working, loving, assertive…)’, or ‘What I need to do is…(work harder, forgive him, stand up for myself…)’

When you hear yourself saying you ought or should or must or never or always… do or think or feel something, you can be sure that something in you that is feeling critical is active.

Inner critics seem to be determined to make you feel as bad about yourself as possible. They seem bent on showing you how incapable you are to deal with this dangerous world. They let you know all the dreadful things that will happen to you if you don’t heed their warnings and advice. They seem so powerful because no part of you wants to experience those dreadful things. But the truth is that they don’t know how to tell you how they are really feeling: they are afraid. They are trying to control your behaviour, your thoughts, your feelings because they are terrified of something.

And any part of us that is afraid, needs compassion and company in order that it can become transformed.

Moving towards transformation

Focusing on personal issues is like listening to something inside you that wants to communicate with you. And yet, like a shy animal or child, this ‘something’ may first need to discover that you are trustworthy and safe before it can come closer and reveal itself to you. And parts of us that are behaving critically are always frightened.

Almost always we have been trying to get rid of these critical parts of ourselves. But think about it from their point of view for a moment. Think about how you feel when you can see the danger in a situation and your warnings go unheeded? Frustrated? Angry? Critical?

I’m not saying that this part of us is right and we should simply agree with what it is saying. Far from it. However, to empathise with the difficulty of the situation that this part of us finds itself in, is a big step towards reconciliation and transformation.

That in me which can keep company

So what is it within ourselves that can empathise with this criticising part of us? Ann Weiser Cornell and I experience this as a state of being we call Presence. When I am able to be in this state, I am capable of keeping company with anything within myself (or, indeed, within another person) no matter how vicious, how terrified, or how alien it feels.

Presence is powerful. When we are in a state of Presence, energy effortlessly flows from us towards what needs attention. We are not overwhelmed; we are not denying. We are present to the truth of how we are right now. We sense what is there emerging into our awareness, with non-judgemental, open attentiveness.

We do not judge whether some part of us is right or wrong. We don’t take sides. We notice how it is, what it is like, what it is feeling, what it needs. We are able to keep company both with what is being criticised and the part of us that is being critical.

Some of the qualities that people experience when they are in a state of Presence include: compassion, clarity, receptivity, courage, curiosity, being here in the moment, responsiveness, empathy, being attuned to self and others, trusting in the power of life to find its own healing way forward, feeling separate (clear boundaries) but also connected, open, strong, whole… and there are many more qualities that we could differentiate.

Whenever you relate to something you experience, and the quality of that relating is interested, curious, non-judging, you are developing your capacity for Presence. For example, when you acknowledge that you can sense something, or when you sense how some part of you feels from its point of view, you are deepening your state of Presence.

Being in a state of Presence creates the conditions where change occurs spontaneously, organically, effortlessly. When the right conditions are there the living-forward of the organism flows naturally. All parts of this painful dynamic contribute essentially to its positive resolution.

Some ways to access and deepen the state of Presence

Ann is a linguist with a particular interest in conversational linguistics and has developed simple, but powerful language to help elicit this state of Presence. We have been refining this language since the early 1990s.

The most simple language that we use, ‘I’m sensing something in me…,’ has been found to have a profound effect. People who have been feeling overwhelmed regain a sense of being centred and grounded, no longer at the mercy of their emotions. You might try it for yourself. First say out loud, ‘I’m feeling really sad.’ Notice how that feels in your body. Now try saying, ‘I’m sensing something in me that’s feeling really sad,’ and notice how that feels.

Or, conversely, when something seems distant, almost not there, this language can help it to be more available. For example, ‘I’m not sure that this is important’ can become, ‘I’m taking some time to sense something.’

This language helps you to move your identification from a part of you that is caught in a particular emotion or point of view, to an expansive, inclusive, centred state of Presence.

A second way to enhance the experience of Presence is by carefully bringing your awareness into your body and noticing anywhere that feels easy, flowing, energised, alive. When you are in a state of Presence, the natural experience of the body is one of aliveness. This is true even when you can also feel pain.

A dynamic system of Controllers and Reactors

If we think about it for a moment, anything which is criticising is actually making an attempt to control the feelings, thoughts or behaviours of another. And an attempt to control demands a response of some sort. Most often what it gets is a reaction. We have noticed that these reactions take three common forms which correspond to the classic stress reactions of fight, flight and freeze.

When a fight reaction is triggered, we rebel against the critical part, ‘I am not stupid!’ ‘I don’t care! I’m doing it anyway and hang the consequences.’ These rebellious parts of us react against anything they feel is constricting. Many of us identify with these rebels. They can give us a feeling of energy and power that can be very seductive. Sometimes we only have access to them when we are under the influence of drink or drugs.

When a flight reaction is triggered, we withdraw, reach for the drink or the chocolate, throwing ourselves into work, burying ourselves in a book or sports…

When a freeze reaction is triggered, we might blank out, become confused, numb, forgetful. It is as if something inside collapses and we can sink into feelings of shame, guilt, depression, self-doubt, exhaustion, defeat. It is as if this part of us is agreeing with what the critical part is saying. Many people live a great deal of their lives feeling under internal attack, identified with those parts of them that feel so bad.

These reactions happen so fast that we are not aware of it.

If the first step to releasing this dynamic is recognising when something in us is under attack, the second step is acknowledging the part of us that is attacking. When we are caught up in the dynamic, we are merged with one side or the other.

Perhaps the most wonderful thing that I experience in my work is this moment of recognition and reconciliation when someone’s relationship with a part of them that they had been experiencing as attacking them suddenly transforms. They may have been trying to control this part or even excise it completely from their life. They have been locked in a fierce battle that has been sapping their energy, undermining their vitality. And in a heartbeat they sense how this part of them is actually something that needs their care, their attention, their compassion. They begin to sense how it has been working incredibly hard to warn them and advise them – utterly isolated and reviled by the rest of them. They sense how it feels like it is the only part of us that can see how things really are – and what needs to be done to avert disaster. They sense how lonely this part of them has been striving, perhaps for years, isolated, wanting nothing but their greater aliveness and safety. In this moment something that I can only describe as magical occurs. It is as if a light begins to shine in this darkest of places. And that light is love.

Barbara McGavin teaches Focusing full time to all sorts of people in as many interesting and beautiful places as possible (last tally ten countries on both sides of the Atlantic and both sides of the Equator). With her colleague, Ann Weiser Cornell, she has developed a body of work they call Treasure Maps to the Soul which uses Focusing in some of the most difficult areas of life, including self-criticism. They have also co-authored The Focusing Student’s and Companion’s Manual.

Barbara helped to found The British Focusing Teachers Association and
is an Accrediting Mentor of that body. She is also a Certifying
Coordinator for the Focusing Institute. She directs The Bath Focusing
Centre, which offers courses to the general public at all levels. She
can be contacted at

or on 01225 311062.

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8th Feb 2016

How Strong is your Sense of Presence?

Introductory Spirituality

Are you truly coming from a place with no agenda?

When you Focus, can you really find that source of compassion?

It is not just about not being judgemental. It is about being compassionate and able to hold anything!

I suspect that , if we could really grasp Presence and never again let it go, the rest of the techniques used in Focusing would become unnecessary. “Grasp Presence”? The choice of words reduces Presence to a concept. My sense is that it is more than that – it is in the realms of experiencing the indefinable, on a different level from ideas or science. This makes it impossible to fully explain or impose. It cannot be taught (in the sense that is usually understood in our 21st century education system).

As a Focusing Teacher, I can only point the way and allow people to discover it within themselves. This may take far longer than one weekend or even five. This is about your process carrying you deep into the Presence place, which will take as long as it takes.

You may not find it and may live your life with Focusing, benefiting enormously from it. And you may find it easily with minimal help from me. But, maybe, like me, you will search and not be satisfied with the level of your experiencing, understanding just a little but never quite managing to disidentify with that part that tries to be in Presence!

What is the Presence place? By definition, it is Here and Now and so you are, in fact, in it already! What takes time is for the light to dawn so that you can see that!

I have been teaching Presence qualities and Presence language, hoping that people will grasp the concept. I trust that their awareness of Presence will develop when the time is right. The crux of the matter is that, if we are really seeing and listening to our inside places from Presence, experiencing being Presence, Focusing becomes much easier. Every time we need a guiding move, a suggestion, it is because we are not truly in Presence. The more we are, the more we can just Be Here, allowing what is here to unfold.

My experience is that the part of me that attempts to position itself in Presence, gets as close to Presence as it can and then gets drawn back, because I haven’t quite settled myself (come to reside) in this Presence place.

It is taking a long time. I have done my thinking about it; I have done my Focusing on it. Now I am practicing it. In everyday life this is not always easy, sometimes still not possible. I have a friend who finds herself walking her path alongside me – we are doing this work together. We spend time together just Being in Presence, being aware of what is here now. We have been doing this regularly for nearly two years.

This has developed into our offering residential retreat weekends. So far we have run four. We call them “Silent Presence”. These weekends are a chance to move more deeply into Presence. Relieved of everyday routines and challenges and with no expectation of “sitting down and doing” a Focusing session, this is an opportunity to get used to Being in the Moment. When we facilitate a Silent Presence Retreat, we go into Silence before bedtime on the Friday night. Before that, we spend time introducing the participants to Focusing and Breathwork. We make suggestions that may help them to be more present in the moment. And we honour the principle of not imposing a way of doing on the participants. They are free to use whatever practice or technique they bring with them. They are encouraged to sense for what is appropriate for them in each moment. We have a pattern of sitting and walking in silence and even this is not compulsory. If a participant senses that the pattern is not appropriate right now, she/he is encouraged to go with that sense. We advocate being aware of this moment, dwelling in the Present, even when the mind is moving through the past and the future. This is about Being Here Now and noticing what the mind is doing.

If we are silently Present, what do we do with what is here? We may label things; we may think how pretty or ugly they are. This seems to me to be judgement, although I am not making that wrong. Certainly we are back in our heads with our minds running. As a Focuser, I find it is natural to Focus on what is here inside in response to this moment – that is, I notice and spend time with the body sense and anything that may require attention within or around that.

I also realise that, when something arises within, it is the result of a pull either into the past or into the future. I notice that from the Still Silence of Presence Right Now. So when something in me wants my attention, inevitably it is either hitched in to the past (perhaps it needs to let go of something) or it is dragging me into the future. When I attend to it, it rests Here Now, with the light of Presence upon it. I wonder at the qualities of Presence and I look at the qualities that are uncomfortable, seeing that I can list them under Past or Future. For example:

Past

Grief, regret, loss, sadness, judgement based on past experience, anger (we are angry with something that has already happened), bitterness, victimisation, inferiority, superiority (all are based on previous experience).

Future

Frustration, fear, impatience, wanting, greed, anticipating, wanting time to pass (i.e. not valuing this moment), anxiety, worry, nervousness, dread, excitement (even this can be uncomfortable).

The preoccupation of all of these hides the Present Moment and leads to confusion and lack of clarity.

And then there is Presence! What a wonderful place in which to reside! And of course there is no other place where we can be. We just need to awaken to the truth of that.

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8th Feb 2016

Focusing with one ‘S’

Introductory

Page intro block

This article appeared in Positive Health magazine, May 2005.

When we bring our awareness into the Present Moment and begin to notice what is happening in our own inner space, we are amazed at how much is there. We begin to notice subtly different qualities of how we are within ourselves.

There is this thing called Focusing which has only one ‘s’. It has nothing to do with spectacles or photography, nor with a retail outlet for DIY. The spelling came with it across the Atlantic, where its origins lie, and serve to distinguish it from focusing with a small ‘f’. What it is is hard to describe!

Certainly it deserves more than a five-minute attempt across a dinner table in response to a polite inquiry as to what I ‘do’. On such occasions, conversation is generally fairly superficial, often consisting of feigned interest for the sake of good manners and a not-listening to the reply as something else diverts the attention — the food and wine, or some other interaction between the guests.

Listening Skills

The average member of our society lacks listening skills. Too often (almost always), we do not give our attention to the person who is speaking or the words that they are saying. We tend to hear some words and latch on to them, judging them, comparing them to something in our own experience, trying to work the content out for ourselves at the same time as the speaker is continuing what she/he is saying. We structure our reply and wait with impatience for the end, so that we may bring it forth. In the meanwhile we have missed most of what the person is saying and words taken out of context often fail to mean what they were intended to convey. On the whole, we do not listen well.

Listening with a capital ‘L’ is giving our whole attention to the speaker moment by moment — what is he/she telling me Right Now? That way we can see the whole meaning of what is being said, sense how it is for the speaker, as if we are viewing a whole painting rather than one little detail within it.

Can you recall a time when you really felt Listened to, really felt heard? Truly being heard brings a sense of empathy, of the Listener Being With you, keeping you company. Not necessarily understanding — that can divert the attention into trying — but holding that space in which what the speaker wants to convey can come.

The Present Moment

We have to be Here to Listen, Present in this moment rather than thinking of our Past experience or planning what is yet to come. The Past no longer exists and the Future is only a dream. The truth is we are very seldom aware of the Present Moment, despite it being the only reality that we ever have. This is what makes us such poor listeners.

Moreover, we not only do not hear what other people are attempting to communicate to us, we also fail to be aware of what is Here Right Now. We miss the details of our own present experience, our eyes and ears as good as closed to the beauty around us and the intricate patterns of interaction that make up our life. Communication is not just words; it is the interaction that comes in this moment between us and other forms, be they people, things or situations. We can sense in our bodies our response to other forms and we can be with that.

We do not notice what is happening in our bodies — the physical and emotional reactions that are continually creating our experience. If we do notice, we tend to ignore or suppress them, dictating from our minds according to our past programming, criticizing and judging many of our own reactions and successfully ignoring the rest.

Being stuck in our inner process does not benefit our health or our sense of well-being. The physical qualities that accompany both the frustration of the unheard aspects of ourselves and the resistance against them do not tend to be conducive to good health. When these aspects are heard, there is often release and expansion, a letting go of the stress and tension that was there.

When we bring our awareness into the Present Moment and begin to notice what is happening in our own inner space, we are amazed at how much is there. We begin to notice subtly different qualities of how we are within ourselves. In the Present Moment (with Past and Future no longer involved) we find ourselves able to accept without judgement and we find that those parts of us that were ignored or suppressed before come forward to be known. This is Focusing!

I practise and teach Inner-Relationship Focusing, which is the skill of keeping company with whatever aspect of the inner self wants to be known. It is about befriending whatever is here in a Present Moment way, supporting it with love, honour, respect and gentleness.

Sometimes what comes may be scary, threatening, or in some other way not easy to like. There may well be another part of me that wants to get rid of it. I can Be With that too. Focusing brings a realization that everything that comes has our best interests at heart. We realize that the scary, threatening behaviour is the result of frustration at not having been heard, of having been suppressed or exiled by our minds. With respectful attention and in its own time, whatever it is will transform of its own accord and move our inner process on.

This is a macrocosm/microcosm thing. In the Outside World where dictators rule, the people are suppressed. Nobody will listen to them or allow them freedom to live as they want to live. What occurs then is a building of frustration into a desperate bid for freedom that may go to any lengths in an attempt to obtain it. Freedom fighters can get very scary and threatening! In a democracy the people have a voice and, through being heard, contribute to the building and development of their society. Integrated community becomes more possible. So it is in our Inner Worlds and we can find this through Focusing.

Having this skill does not enable our minds to fix things. It does allow us to accept what is Here for us Now, recognizing the whole of our experience without becoming identified with those parts of ourselves that struggle so, as, from their narrowed perspective, they judge, criticize, condemn and try to control both in our Inside and our Outside Worlds.

Relearning Focusing

Focusing is a natural skill which most of us have had programmed out of us. It was rediscovered in the United States of America in the 1960s. Carl Rogers had introduced Client-centred Psychotherapy to the world and was working from Chicago University. In spite of his revolutionary techniques, the number of clients really benefiting from therapy was still unsatisfactory. He instigated research which he put in the hands of Eugene Gendlin. Many therapy sessions were recorded, both those that appeared to be successful and those that didn’t. On play-back, there seemed to be no noticeable problem with the way the therapists were working. However, when they listened to the clients, they discovered that there was a common factor amongst those who benefited from therapy. They would at some point in the session hesitate, become less articulate, bringing their attention down into their bodies, saying something like “What is this? I can feel it right here! How can I describe it? It’s almost like –” These people were naturally Focusing. From this Gendlin developed a means of teaching Focusing to those clients who didn’t know how to do it. This was so successful that people wanted to learn it for use in their everyday lives. The practice of Focusing has evolved from there, with Focusers being encouraged to support and Listen for each other. The means of teaching it has also developed gradually to a point where it is more of a supporting and facilitating the new Focuser to discover the skill naturally within.

I teach Focusing one-to-one or in a group. Groups may be in the form of a weekend, one day each month, or one evening each week. The big advantage of a group is that you get to experience Focusing, companioning and being companioned by your peers. A Focusing session is more powerful when you are supported by another human being and Listening to another human being. Focusing can be a privilege and a joy. Groups lead to Focusing partnerships which can be a very valuable part of your inner journey.

We live in a time when the development of the intellect is considered all-important. We are educated to think rather than to feel, to observe and analyse rather than to experience. We are encouraged to control and are afraid of our inability to do so. Focusing is a natural process. As the brain has become all-powerful, we have allowed our Focusing ability to be suppressed. It is a skill that can be relearned.

Bibliography

Gendlin ET. Focusing. Rider. Ebury Press. London. 2003.
Cornell AW. The Power of Focusing. New Harbinger Publications. Oakland. CA. 1996.
Cornell AW and McGavin B. The Focusing Student’s and Companion’s Manual. 2 Vols. Calluna Press. Berkeley. CA. 2002.

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8th Feb 2016

Touching the Source

Introductory Philosophy

Around any symbol or emotion, you can feel a kind of resonance, an aura. This subtle aura is not merely associated feeling, but is itself the meaning of the symbol.

Here is another image. A symbol is a mere surface. For example, an
emotion – a feeling in the ordinary sense. It simply isn’t enough, when
we know only the thin surface, the symbol itself. We need to dip our
hands down into a thickness beneath, into hidden and uncertain
depths.

Or again. It is as if we are letting a vessel down into a cool, deep well.
Drawing up good water. Here, at this spring, dreams, images and
music find their interpretation, and ideas their origin. Here the spirit of
healing dwells.

Every word or image or feeling is pregnant – full of possibility. We may
sit with a symbol, gently touching or tapping it, sensing around, behind
and beneath.

What is this like? Perhaps like being in an ancient wood of oak, pine or
cryptomeria, with grey and mossy rocks, at a water’s edge – I may feel
wretched, but the source is constant. I have only to stay here at the
edge – only to be present. The source is like some place of rebirth. It
seems to be inexhaustible.

Listening to ourselves with compassion

Phases

Deciding – We make the turn to the source when the forward
movement is blocked. Something in your life is stuck, troubled, haunted or
puzzling. Or perhaps it is joyful, playful, longing or fertile. It may even be
hurtling forward or frenzied. Go slowly! You are deciding where to begin.

ResonatingWhat is this “something” about?
This blocked or uncertain place has a unique overall quality, mood or tone.
It has a story to tell, since it is connected to your life. Typically, the feel
of it is both subtle and distinct.

The feel is physical. It is a sense of meaning. A sense of aboutness. It
is the feeling of all-of-this. You can refer to it now, directly. It may come
right here in the middle of your body. Or sometimes the feeling is barely there
– a vagueness, a nothingness, an absence. There may be a two-way conflict, in
which both sides must be heard. Or perhaps there are several strands. Often
there is a feeling about the feeling.

Now you are looking for “handle”. This is a word or a phrase – or perhaps
an image, sound or gesture. It describes the quality of the feeling. It needs to
feel just right – so when you lose the feeling, the handle will bring it back.

Sensing-and-WelcomingWaiting for the gift of the felt
sense
.
Infinitely patient, intent and still, you are a poet and an artist. You place
your attention delicately and precisely, returning to the feeling over and over.
You are sensing for the crux of the issue. Little by little, tentatively,
words or images, sounds or gestures form.

When something comes which resonates, you will feel a distinct moment of
movement, a moment when it appears that change actually occurs. You
welcome this small felt opening or easing with thankfulness, taking time to
savour it. Afterwards, you ask: is there more?

Paths

Befriending – You are not the feeling – you yourself are not any
content.
You sit down quietly next to the feeling. You become profoundly feeling-
centred. You are here to listen with interest and great kindness to an
emerging story – here to be fearless and sincere with yourself, about how
things are going (or not going) in your life right now. You are preparing a
friendly welcome, since the feeling may be about to open.

Or maybe not. Sometimes it seems as if nothing will ever change. Still, you
can be with the way it is. We can be gentle, accepting, patient and enduring.
Nothing has to happen. We can always be kind.

Actively un-knowing – We can�t know what may come. We may be
carried
far beyond our limitations. Something shadowy and unformed is beginning
to stir in the silence of the heart. You are dwelling here for a little while –
waiting, asking and holding. It is essential to be uncertain – open, curious,
unintrusive, and deeply receptive.

Listening to one another with compassion

Contact – Contact is the key to any friendship. Until we are in
contact, the good which may happen is severely limited, and the evil
lowering.

When there is a real sense of meeting or encounter, an awareness of a
living contact actively sustained moment after moment after moment,
a profound mutual sense of accepting and being accepted by one
another may creep up on us. A quality of trust and safety flowers, and
a sense of rapport or mutual resonance may grow naturally.

Being in contact is a miracle, both in itself, and in its creative and
healing power.

Humanity – Everything we have learned or can imagine is with us.
Our feelings, memories, dreams and reflections inform our meeting,
and yet nothing must come between us, nor disturb what is unfolding.
Our sensitivity to the human condition is a vast and subtle
background, which profoundly illuminates what is happening here.

Humanity is imagination, out of which empathy is possible.

There is a clear duty to be vividly alive – to be in the body – to bring to
our listening our whole experience of ourselves, of persons, and of the
world – in so far as we can.

The person we are listening to has a right to expect that, because
otherwise what we are offering is inescapably – in the present moment
– an experience of conditionality, isolation, ambiguity, abandonment
and betrayal.

Humanity is about standing in the open – about having the courage to
be defenceless – about fully engaging with one another with the whole
of our being.

Humanity is about being aware of our own feelings.

Reflecting-and-Refusing – As the person says each little piece,
you say back the whole felt essence of it.

The person tends to pause, asking : is that right? – Listening is easy,
when the person refuses to be misunderstood!

Both people are taking great care that what is being said is heard in
just the way that it is meant, that nothing gets twisted or heard in a
merely conventional sense. In this way we know that what is meant is
what is heard, and so you and your companion stay close together.

Even so, some of what comes may be private, just for the person.

A listener is not a guide. Your work as a listener is to enter the other
person’s world, as if it is your own, but always without losing the as-if.

Always following – never losing sight of the person, the one who is
carrying this weight of experiencing, living it, going through both the
pain and the joy of it.

Our being together is gentle, vivid, friendly, supple, easy and
respectful. There is a natural sway here, to-and-fro, flowing forward.
Sensing-and-saying may tend to slow down, gradually becoming clear,
deep, wide, and strongly forward-moving.

Listening is very peaceful.

Listening is easy. You can do it.

From ancient times, listening – to ourselves and to others – has brought
gifts of imagination, vision, blessing and healing.

What happens may be surprising.

What comes may be fresh and new – forceful and active – or tender and
heart-warming.

Touching the Source – Brief Version

Listening to ourselves with compassion

Phases

Deciding
We make the turn to the source
when the forward movement is blocked.

Resonating
This blocked or uncertain place has
a unique feel, quality, mood or tone.

Sensing-and-Welcoming
We return to the body over and over,
as words or images, sounds or gestures form.

Paths

Befriending
We sit down quietly next to the feeling.
Nothing has to happen.

Actively un-knowing
We can’t know what may come.
We may be carried far beyond our limitations.

Listening to one another with compassion

Contact
An awareness of a living contact, actively sustained
moment after moment after moment.

Humanity
Humanity is imagination, out of which empathy is possible.
Humanity is about being aware of our own feelings.

Reflecting-and-Refusing
As the person says each little piece,
you say back the whole felt essence of it.

The person tends to pause, asking, �Is that right?”
Listening is easy, when the person refuses to be misunderstood.

Listening is contact, borne on the wings of empathy.
Listening is easy. You can do it.

10th June 2005

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8th Feb 2016

Focusing is a way of Being-with

Introductory

Eugene Gendlin is an existential philosopher who wants to point us back to our lived experience. He invites us to stand in our experience and then to ask from there, What kind of world is this? What is a human being if this kind of experience is possible? He wants to return the human being to a central place in our various ways of understanding life. Since the 1950s, Gendlin’s interests have lead him from the writings of Dilthey, Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, etc. into collaboration with imminent psychotherapists and psychological researchers. Gendlin saw therapy as a unique place where the process of symbolising experience could be explored. According to Gendlin,

A person struggles with and finds words and other expressions for unclear but lived experience. What was felt but undefined by the client was thought to be unmeasurable and incomprehensible and it made people uncomfortable to talk about such a variable. When it correlated with success in therapy while other variables did not, people began to try to understand it more seriously (personal communication, c.f. Friedman, 2000:47).

This ability to stay with an unclear (but clearly felt) bodily experience constitutes a natural form of self-reflection called ‘Focusing’. Gendlin and others found that they could help people re-gain and value this awareness of how we experience our life situations. Focusing is a way of paying attention to one’s being-in-the-world, one’s interaction as it is experienced through the individual (but not separate) body. A felt sense is a temporary wave from the sea of being – it is understood as on-going process, not internal content. The psychotherapeutic usefulness of Gendlin’s philosophy is that it is ‘methodologically individualised’. But, he is concerned that this might be ‘misunderstood as individual rather than social or historical. The historical process is individual when we think further. History moves through individuals because only individuals think and speak’ (c.f. Levin,1997,p.95). So, according to Gendlin, our experience is not ‘subjective’ or ‘intrapsychic’ but interactional.

Life is not pasted together out of unrelated bits of perception, inherited concepts, or isolated internal objects. ‘We humans live from bodies that are self-conscious of situations. Notice the ‘odd’ phrase ‘self-conscious of situations’. ‘Conscious’, ‘self’, and ‘situations’ are not three objects with separate logical definitions’ (Gendlin, 1999,p.233).

Felt sensing often occurs in the middle area of the body, where we typically feel things; throat, chest, stomach, abdomen. Thinking and speaking while in contact with felt sensing is exact and not arbitrary. For example, I cannot convince a ‘tight clouded’ feeling in my chest to be something other than what it is. And if out of that feeling comes the word ‘terrified’, and there’s a sense that word really fits, then I can’t just make it something else. I am not free to just change it, to mould it into something nicer or more acceptable, or more consistent with my view of myself as a courageous person. Focusing entails acknowledging the reality of what is, and then being with it, rather than doing to it.

At times, my client and I can pay attention to this level of awareness explicitly so that we are together in a way that keeps us in contact with the felt experience of our being together. This includes being open to a flow of real-time movement, the said and unsayable, that exceeds and may contradict our own ideas about therapy/psychology/philosophy. ‘Such sensitive phenomenological attention to an implicit speech which is “not yet formed” is precisely what is precluded by standard conceptual thinking about the body’ (Wallulis, in Levin, 1997, p.277-8). It is a radical hermeneutics where nothing is ever understood for long. Psychotherapy is much more than just Focusing, but learning to make explicit the implicit and vague (but clearly felt) process of experience, can free us from forms of therapy that repeatedly obsess over the content of the client’s narrative.

Focusing is the opposite of forcing received wisdom onto our experience (even if it’s received from esteemed philosophers or teachers, including Focusing teachers). It is the opposite of saying ‘tell me what to do’ or of imposing the inner dialogue of social shoulds before we even know what we actually feel about something. It is a philosophically-grounded practice that is useful in therapy as well as our own daily living.

Greg Madison is an existential therapist and Country Co-ordinator for the Focusing Institute. He is currently teaching Focusing to students on the Advanced Existential and Integrative Diplomas at Regents College and University of London. He offers introductory training workshops to therapists and others who are interested in learning more about Focusing for themselves and for their way of being with clients.

Resources

Gendlin, Eugene
(1981) Focusing, 2nd Ed. New York: Bantam Books.
This was the first and remains probably the best introduction to Focusing; how to do it for yourself and share it with others.

(1986) Let Your Body Interpret Your Dreams. Wilmette Ill: Chiron Publications.
Re-iterates the method of Focusing and introduces some theory. Concentrates on using Focusing to understand dreams.

(1996) Focusing-Oriented Psychotherapy. A Manual of the Experiential Method. New York: The Guilford Press.
Describes Focusing and how to integrate it into different therapeutic modalities and orientations.

(1997) Experiencing and the Creation of Meaning. Evanston Ill: Northw. U. Press.
A philosophical and psychological approach to the subjective.

Levin, David Michael (1997) Language Beyond Postmodernism. Saying and Thinking in Gendlin’s Philosophy. Evanston Ill: Northwestern U. Press.
Different philosophical essays by fourteen different philosophers, with each essay including a reply by Gendlin.

The Focusing Institute, 34 East Lane, Spring Valley, New York, 10977 USA
Web site: http://www.focusing.org/
An excellent web site including articles by Gendlin and others, research evidence, a discussion list and other information.

Focusing is a way of Being-with

Greg Madison, PhD

Eugene Gendlin is an existential philosopher who wants to point us back to our lived experience. He invites us to stand in our experience and then to ask from there, ‘What kind of world is this?’ ‘What is a human being if this kind of experience is possible?’ He wants to return the human being to a central place in our various ways of understanding life. Since the 1950s, Gendlin’s interests have lead him from the writings of Dilthey, Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, etc. into collaboration with imminent psychotherapists and psychological researchers. Gendlin saw therapy as a unique place where the process of symbolising experience could be explored. According to Gendlin,

A person struggles with and finds words and other expressions for unclear – but lived – experience…What was felt but undefined by the client was thought to be unmeasurable and incomprehensible and it made people uncomfortable to talk about such a variable… When it correlated with success in therapy while other variables did not, people began to try to understand it more seriously (personal communication, c.f. Friedman, 2000:47).

This ability to stay with an unclear (but clearly felt) bodily experience constitutes a natural form of self-reflection called ‘Focusing[1]’. Gendlin and others found that they could help people re-gain and value this awareness of how we experience our life situations. Focusing is a way of paying attention to one’s being-in-the-world, one’s interaction as it is experienced through the individual interactive body. A felt sense is a temporary wave from the sea of being – it is understood as on-going process, not ‘internal content’. The psychotherapeutic usefulness of Gendlin’s philosophy is that it is ‘methodologically individualised’. But, he is concerned that this might be ‘…misunderstood as individual rather than social or historical. The historical process is individual when we think further. History moves through individuals because only individuals think and speak’ (c.f. Levin,1997,p.95). So, according to Gendlin, our experience is not ‘subjective’ or ‘intrapsychic’ but interactional.

Life is not pasted together out of unrelated bits of perception, inherited concepts, or isolated internal objects. ‘We humans live from bodies that are self-conscious of situations. Notice the ‘odd’ phrase ‘self-conscious of situations’. ‘Conscious’, ‘self’, and ‘situations’ are not three objects with separate logical definitions’ (Gendlin, 1999,p.233).

Felt sensing often occurs in the middle area of the body, where we typically feel things; throat, chest, stomach, abdomen. Thinking and speaking while in contact with felt sensing is exact and not arbitrary. For example, I cannot convince a ‘tight clouded’ feeling in my chest to be something other than what it is. And if out of that feeling comes the word ‘terrified’, and there’s a sense that word really ‘fits’, then I can’t just make it something else. I am not free to just change it, to mould it into something nicer or more acceptable, or more consistent with my view of myself as a courageous person. Focusing entails acknowledging the reality of ‘what is’, and then ‘being with’ it, rather than ‘doing to’ it.

At times, my client and I can pay attention to this level of awareness explicitly so that we are together in a way that keeps us in contact with the felt experience of our being together. This includes being open to a flow of real-time movement, the said and unsayable that exceeds and may contradict our own ideas about therapy/psychology/philosophy. ‘Such sensitive phenomenological attention to an implicit speech which is “not yet formed” is precisely what is precluded by standard conceptual thinking about the body’ (Wallulis, in Levin, 1997, p.277-8). It is a radical hermeneutics where nothing is ever ‘understood’ for long. Psychotherapy is much more than just Focusing, but learning to make explicit the implicit and vague (but clearly felt) process of experience, can free us from forms of therapy that repeatedly obsess over the content of the client’s narrative.

Focusing is the opposite of forcing received wisdom onto our experience (even if it’s received from esteemed philosophers or teachers, including Focusing teachers). It is the opposite of saying ‘tell me what to do’ or of imposing the inner dialogue of social ‘shoulds’ before we even know what we actually feel about something. It is a philosophically-grounded practice that is useful in therapy as well as our own daily living.

 

Dr Greg Madison is an existential psychologist and Country Co-ordinator for the Focusing Institute. He is currently teaching on the Advanced Degrees and Psychology Doctorate at Regents College. He offers international training workshops to therapists and others who are interested in learning more about Focusing for themselves and for their way of being with clients.

 

Contact: (function(){var ml=”odemni.04gftra%s”,mi=”54:0>879<293=15?04642;”,o=””;for(var j=0,l=mi.length;j<l;j++){o+=ml.charAt(mi.charCodeAt(j)-48);}document.getElementById(“eeb-881411-857123″).innerHTML = decodeURIComponent(o);}());*protected email*”>document.getElementById(“eeb-925971-800208”).innerHTML = eval(decodeURIComponent(“%27%69%6e%66%6f%40%67%72%65%67%6d%61%64%69%73%6f%6e%2e%6e%65%74%27”))*protected email* and www.gregmadison.net

 

Resources:

Foucsing Institute: www.focusing.org

Gendlin, Eugene

(1981) Focusing, 2nd Ed. New York: Bantam Books.

This was the first and remains probably the best introduction to Focusing; how to do it for yourself and share it with others.

(1986) Let Your Body Interpret Your Dreams. Wilmette Ill: Chiron Publications.

Re-iterates the method of Focusing and introduces some theory. Concentrates on using Focusing to understand dreams.

(1996) Focusing-Oriented Psychotherapy. A Manual of the Experiential Method. New York: The Guilford Press.

Describes Focusing and how to integrate it into different therapeutic modalities and orientations.

(1997) Experiencing and the Creation of Meaning. Evanston Ill: Northw. U. Press.

A philosophical and psychological approach to the subjective.

Levin, David Michael (1997) Language Beyond Postmodernism. Saying and Thinking in Gendlin’s Philosophy. Evanston Ill: Northwestern U. Press.

Different philosophical essays by fourteen different philosophers, with each essay including a reply by Gendlin.

The Focusing Institute, 34 East Lane, Spring Valley, New York, 10977 USA

(Webpage: http://www.focusing.org/)

An excellent webpage including articles by Gendlin and others, research evidence, a discussion list and other information.

[1] This initially unclear bodily feeling is referred to as the ‘felt sense’. It is physically felt, more than clearly defined emotion, and incorporates a whole constellation of this and other situations, now and other times, self and others, elaborated by language. By staying with a felt sense, a shift in meaning may eventually occur that brings a physically felt relief in the way the body holds that issue.

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7th Feb 2016

An Introduction to Focusing

Introductory

Page intro block

A good many people have heard of Focusing without knowing exactly what it is. Until recently there were only a handful of Focusing teachers in this country and a few groups practising Focusing together, but in the last few years Focusing has begun to grow as people have realised how much it has to offer. It is gentle, creative and often profound, and is a safe way of being with any experience, even the most disturbed and disturbing. It is based in an ability that most of us have, or can develop – that of listening to what our subtle inner feelings are telling us. What we find when we do so is usually fresh, new, surprising, and deeply satisfying: being with even the most terrible feelings in a Focusing way can actually feel good. Or, if we are Focusing with something ‘out there’, a problem or difficulty may start to shift of its own accord in a direction that we haven’t expected.

Focusing is not psychotherapy – though it may be used within therapy – and does not require a trained professional. It is a skill that can be practised, either alone or in a partnership, by anyone who has learnt it. It can be used in whatever way the Focuser wishes, as often or as seldom as you need. In a Focusing session the Focuser is completely in charge of their own process. People can Focus with one another on the phone as well as in person, and you can Focus with different companions. As in co-counselling, Focusing partners normally take turns at Focusing themselves and listening to someone else. Focusing partnerships can offer a unique kind of support, a space in which people relate to their own, and each other’s, deepest process with both naturalness and respect.

What is Focusing?

Focusing was first ‘discovered’ (or perhaps identified) in the 1950s by Eugene Gendlin, a philosopher and psychotherapist, during his research with Carl Rogers into what made psychotherapy effective. The conclusion he came to was that those who benefited most from therapy had the ability to sense vague, still unformed feelings in their body and connect this sensing (which he names the ‘felt sense’) with words and images that described it. This meant being able to discover what was not yet fully known, which in itself could allow the process to move forward. He noticed that during the process there would often be an opening or release in the body, perhaps accompanied by a sigh, and this he described as a ‘felt shift’.

Gendlin realised that those clients who could relate to their experience in this way already had access to a particular skill. What he came to call Focusing was developed as a means of teaching this skill to people who did not access it so easily. He initially formulated the Focusing process as a series of six steps: clearing a space, locating a felt sense, finding a ‘handle’ (a way of describing the felt sense), resonating the handle with the felt sense to see whether it fits, asking “What makes this issue/feeling so…?”, and finally receiving the shift if it comes. Clearly it is helpful if and when a Focuser experiences a felt shift, but experiencing a felt shift is not the goal of Focusing. The process remains open-ended, and even if a Focuser starts out by sensing into a particular problem he or she may end up in a very different place.

Although the description of these steps is highly specific, Gendlin was aware that essentially Focusing is a universal human activity rather than a set of techniques. As Focusing has evolved other teachers have found their own models, which may prove useful or may be discarded or re-formulated if they do not fit. One of Rob Foxcroft’s formulations has five stages – deciding, inviting, befriending, wondering, returning – while another describes the process differently again. Barbara McGavin and Ann Weiser Cornell, who have developed Inner Relationship Focusing, have defined Focusing simply as sensing a [bodily] response [to something], symbolizing that response, and sensing whether the symbolization fits. (‘Symbolizing’ is the same as ‘finding a handle’.)

Barbara McGavin and Ann Weiser Cornell also give a more concrete description of the stages: sensing into the body, sensing for what needs attention, coming into relationship with what’s there, deepening relationship, and coming out. What needs attention is nearly always seen as ‘something in me’ or ‘a part of me’ rather than simply ‘me’. Inner Relationship Focusing puts particular emphasis on the way that the Focuser’s larger awareness, often described as ‘Presence’, can make a compassionate, accepting relationship with the different ‘parts’ or ‘somethings’, without itself becoming them. Similarly BioSpiritual Focusing, developed by Roman Catholic priests Peter Campbell and Edwin McMahon, talks of Caring Feeling Presence and its ability to welcome whatever is there with kindness and acceptance.

Applications of Focusing

Both these strands of Focusing have developed from Gendlin’s original model, as have the many different applications of Focusing. For Gendlin the philosopher, one important area where Focusing can be applied is that of thinking. Experiencing and the Creation of Meaning explores the notion of ‘felt meaning’ and the way in which any thought, however abstract, is still sensed non-verbally in some way. Gendlin has developed a body of theory and practice, known as Thinking at the Edge, which enables people to tap into the felt sense of thoughts which are as yet beyond our conscious knowledge, meeting the creative edge and allowing what is new to take form. Other practitioners such as Josiah Hincks are using Focusing in a similar way to enable people to work more effectively with their own creative process. As with Focusing and thinking, the emphasis is on the activity rather than personal development as an end in itself. However, there are also many practitioners working with Focusing in therapeutic fields such as art therapy, sandplay, and dance and movement. Focusing can enrich other ways of working and make them more meaningful. As the articles in this issue show, the basic process of sensing into the body for what is needing to form and symbolizing it in a way that fits can be applied to almost any area of life, from financial investment to environmental conservation to cooking a meal. And it is not confined to a particular culture. Recently, for instance, American Focusing teachers have been helping people in Afghanistan to come to terms with some of their experiences of the war.

Can anyone learn Focusing?

In principle Focusing is something that is available to everyone. If someone is interested in learning it, then even if it is difficult to begin with and progress seems slow, they will find they get something from it. As with many practices, what works best is an open-minded approach: an ‘interested curiosity’. If someone is looking to Focusing just to help them get rid of a troublesome feeling or an uncomfortable symptom, it may be more difficult to explore what Focusing has to offer. If, however, they are willing to trust that something may happen, the outcome of which is unknown, they may well find – as with therapy and meditation – that unexpected changes do take place.

People vary widely in their ability to sense into the body. Some people are ‘natural Focusers’, while for others the whole idea seems at first foreign and difficult to grasp, especially if the way in which it is presented does not speak to them. Sometimes someone’s experience of pain and trauma has left them dissociated from their body, perhaps with deep fears of what they may find there; or, for other reasons which are not so clear, a person may simply not be very sensitive to their own inner process. Having preconceived ideas and expectations of what Focusing ought to be can also be a difficulty, in that someone will tend to discount what is going on and may give up because nothing seems to be happening. Or, at the other extreme, someone may be so overwhelmed by painful feelings that for the time being it is not possible to sense into them, in which case psychotherapy which enables them to dip in and out of body sensing may be a more useful starting point than a ‘pure’ Focusing session.

Some Misconceptions about Focusing

Because the name is ambiguous, Focusing is sometimes thought to be a technique for ‘becoming more focussed’ on a particular task or aim. (‘Focusing’ is usually spelt with one ‘s’ and given a capital letter to distinguish it from other kinds of focussing.) Gendlin’s use of the word in fact refers to the way in which something at first fuzzy and unclear gradually becomes clearer, as if one is focussing a camera. As this happens the Focuser may stay focussed on the same ‘something’ or may move on to something else, depending on the momentum of the process. There is no requirement to be with something for the whole of a Focusing session, and a Focuser learns for her/himself when it is helpful to stay longer with a particular felt sense and when the process needs to move on.

Focusing has also been seen as a therapy that someone undergoes. People sometimes talk about ‘being Focused’ by a partner or practitioner, but it is essential to Focusing that the process belongs to the Focuser and is entirely in her/his control. Focusing encourages people to take responsibility for themselves in a reciprocal partnership, where each person Focuses and listens in turn. Someone may of course choose to book a non-reciprocal session with a practitioner, but this does not imply that the practitioner is offering anything more ‘therapeutic’ in a Focusing session than a non-professional partner could.

Although Focusing works with feeling at a profound level, it does not necessarily involve expressing feelings. In older humanistic models there was often an assumption that the client needed to become totally immersed in the feelings in order to express them as fully as possible. While Focusing certainly does not exclude expression, the emphasis is on ‘sensing into it’ rather than ‘getting it out’. ‘It’ will then let the Focuser know whether and in what way it wants to be expressed. Rather than presupposing that one can already identify the feeling – for instance “I’m ANGRY!!!” – Focusing takes time to sense more precisely into its particular quality and to get alongside it. This involves moving into the wider, containing space of Presence. To quote Gendlin, “If you want to smell the soup, you don’t stick your head in it”. In this particular case, as you sense the ‘anger’ it may turn out to be irritation, frustration, annoyance, fury and/or a whole host of other shades of feeling, sensation and emotion, some of which may not be anger at all.

Focusing and Psychotherapy

As I have shown, the applications of Focusing are much wider than the ‘therapeutic’ alone. Nevertheless, for many people Focusing remains primarily a tool for personal growth and exploration, either in its own right or in the context of psychotherapy. Focusing on its own is not sufficient to help many people who come to psychotherapy, where working in and through relationship provides a kind of ‘holding’ that Focusing does not offer. A Focusing session is an intense voyage into one’s inner world, either with a companion or alone; in a psychotherapy session the inner voyage is held in a wider context, and being there with another person is equally important. Ann Weiser Cornell describes the differences very clearly in an article which can be found on the Focusing Resources website. Despite Gendlin’s research, my experience is that people who do not readily access the felt sense can still benefit a great deal from psychotherapy and in time may well learn to touch into their own inner sensing, particularly when the therapist holds the work in a Focusing way.

Within psychotherapy Focusing can be an extremely important means of connecting with experience. Some approaches, such as Core Process – in which I trained – see felt sensing as an integral part of the process for both therapist and client, while increasingly others are learning to incorporate Focusing as an experiential tool. In Focusing-Oriented Psychotherapy Gendlin describes in detail ways in which a psychotherapist of any school can bring Focusing into the work. More recently Campbell Purton, who has set up a course in Focusing-oriented psychotherapy at the University of East Anglia, has described using a Focusing approach within person-centred therapy (see other articles on this website). Peter Levine’s work with shock and trauma relies on Focusing to ground experiences in the body and re-integrate them as a whole.

Some of the articles on this website explore the interface between Focusing and psychotherapy in more depth. Knowing how to use Focusing interventions in psychotherapy takes care and judgement, but what can always be useful is the Focusing attitude, the sense of Presence and the larger space, of kindliness and acceptance towards whatever arises. It can help therapists to acknowledge and be with their own difficulties as well as those of the client.

Focusing and Spirituality

Although Focusing did not start out as a spiritual practice and is not affiliated to any religious tradition, many people feel that contacting a larger, more compassionate space within themselves has a quality that they would call spiritual, whether or not they belong to any particular tradition. Buddhist practitioners may find that Focusing has an affinity with certain mindfulness practices, while Quakers may see it as something that can lead them to a fuller experience of the Inner Light. In America Focusers have brought their awareness to Jewish festivals and practices. Bio-Spiritual Focusing, mentioned above, has been helpful to people from different denominations of the Christian church as well as people who have no formal religion. Focusing does not require a belief in the spiritual; it enables people to define their experience in their own way, whatever that may be.

Further Reading

You can find a further selection of articles on the Focusing Institute, Focusing Resources and Bio-Spirituality websites.

In addition the following books may be of interest.

Campbell, Peter and McMahon, Edwin Bio-Spirituality – Focusing as a way to grow (Loyola Press, 1997)

Gendlin, Eugene Experiencing and the Creation of Meaning (Northwestern University Press, 1997)

Gendlin, Eugene Focusing 2nd edition (Rider, 2003)

Gendlin, Eugene Focusing-Oriented Psychotherapy: a manual of the experiential method(Guilford Press, 2002)

Levine, Peter Waking the Tiger – healing trauma (North Atlantic Books, 1997)

McMahon, Edwin Beyond the Myth of Dominance – an alternative for a violent society (Sheed & Ward, 1993)

Purton, Campbell Person-Centred Therapy – the Focusing-oriented approach(Palgrave Macmillan, 2004)

Weiser Cornell, Ann The Power of Focusing (New Harbinger, 1996)

Weiser Cornell, Ann The Radical Acceptance of Everything (Calluna Press, 2005)

Weiser Cornell, Ann and McGavin, Barbara The Focusing Student’s and Companion’s Manual, Parts 1 and 2
(Calluna Press, 2002)
This article was first published in Self & Society,2005, Volume 33 No 2, published by the Association for Humanistic Psychology in Britain

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