beach at sunset

Focusing as a way to understand self-criticism

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Focusing helps us understand why we criticise ourselves.

Most of us have heard that inner critical self:

I’m too fat / too thin

I work too hard / not hard enough

I don’t give enough of my time to: my children / parents / partner / great aunt Hilda who lives in Timbuktu

Why haven’t I: done the housework / finished that report / played football with the children / got an immaculate garden / read War and Peace?

I’m stupid because I don’t understand something.

There’s something wrong with me because I’m feeling …

I should have / shouldn’t have …

I should make more time for myself (even after we’ve criticised ourselves for not doing all of the above!)

and a myriad of other things that we berate ourselves for.

This inner criticism is about a part of us that thinks we have to change ourselves to be okay. We feel we need to live the life that is expected of us, rather than the life that is right for us. And this causes us difficulty. We might harbour inner resentment, even if on the outside we disguise it. And that little voice inside us criticises us for not matching the ideals that we’ve set ourselves.

Ann Weiser Cornell and Barbara McGavin realised that these critical parts of ourselves are afraid for us – for our own safety or well-being. As these parts see us blind to their cautions, they try all sorts of tricks to make us listen, and so the self-critical voices get louder and ever more scathing.

How can Focusing help with this?

I have found no other method that works so well at helping us to listen to these parts of ourselves that are struggling to be heard .  Parts that we have been ignoring for so long.  We can be kind to these parts – remember they think they’re looking after us, wanting the best for us. Then we can really listen to what they have to say, hear and stay with them until they feel understood, and then we can move on.  And I find that when I have a Listening companion, it is much easier to stay with these self-critical internal voices.

“When we peer with compassion into the soul of a part of us that is criticising, that it believes it is helping us. It has to help by criticising because it fears that the other part of us which it is pushing or holding back has no other hope of changing”.  (Ann Weiser Cornell)

Contact me to find out more.


Is there a part of you that yearns for freedom?

FootpathIt may be that the job for which you’ve studied so intensively is not as fulfilling as you thought it would be, or you feel that your skills and experience are not being used as you hoped. It might be that you find you are living by someone else’s values, and what you find ourselves doing on a day-by-day basis doesn’t ring true. You might even feel stifled.

Some of us, when we find ourselves in this situation, wait and see what will happen next. But maybe nothing much changes, other than our desire to make a change – not knowing what that change might entail.

This stage can eat up our energy, and some strong feelings and emotions might find their way to the fore. We might make a change, only to find ourselves in another unfulfilling job, or relationship, or living in another place where we don’t feel happy.

We might know that there are other options out there, but choosing which option will work for us best can feel overwhelming, or any change might feel too scary. It might even be that none of the options of which we’re at first aware seem attractive.

Focusing can be of real help here. Using the special technique of Focusing can help us see where the difficulties are, and help us feel much more confident about the next right step.

And then we can combine Focusing with practical steps to help you to work out where you would like to put your energies in the future. Contact me to discuss my approach to supporting you in this way.

Scott’s experience of Chair-based Yoga Classes

YOGA, YOGA, how can I possibly do yoga? 

“I’m 67 years old, overweight and have Parkinson’s disease.  

My wife smiled knowing I had fallen into the trap, ‘Aah, but what about the chair based yoga classes in Hythe’? 

So, I reluctantly attended my first class and to be frank, have not looked back.  The hour long sessions fly by and the period following the session is usually the best I have felt all week. 

It is amazing how many moves one can achieve while sitting on a chair and those combined with a “warm up” period and a closing relaxation period makes the experience a highlight in my week.”

Scott is a regular attender of my Chair-based Yoga class at Physiologic in Hythe.  Use my contact page to find out more about this class, and if you would like to join us.

A felt sense is much like electrical power in a wire before the switch is thrown

IPorous rocks NSWn today’s post I am quoting directly from Campbell and McMahon’s book: “Bio-spirituality: Focusing as a way to grow“, because I can’t put it any better!

“Perhaps you know from personal experience what it means to be suddenly gifted with purpose and direction in your life. It may not always be what you would have chosen for yourself. Yet the unexpected arrival of such meaning can release enormous reserves of energy and, in some instances, lifelong commitment.

Such an experience rarely provides a solution to the practical, sometimes tragic difficulties (and not always tragic by any means*) you may confront. But sitting down with a tragedy (or experience*) in a bodily way can sometime bring a profound resolution in the way the pain (or other feeling*) is carried.

This is why the behaviour of felt meaning is so difference from the behaviour of meanings that can be conceptualised and thought. The function of felt meaning is different. It’s goal is different. The most important aspect of a felt sense is not content but movement. It is meant to unfold!

The initial obscurity of a felt sense, your feeling something without being able to label it accurately, lies not in some as yet unnamed and murky content. It is an incompleteness that arises from the pre-process nature of this experience. A felt sense is much like electrical power in a wire before the switch is thrown. It is meant to go somewhere, to move, to unfold. Felt shift … is the first forward movement of an implicit meaning.

Most people who seek change in their lives look upon their feelings as either good or bad. They feel good when they are happy and challenged. They feel bad if they are depressed and anxious. Personal change is usually thought of as some sort of transformation in the content that is felt. But such a view is not really on target. It doesn’t pinpoint the actual source of frustration.

The central issue in any blockage to human growth has relatively little to do with the content of feeling and felt meaning. But it has everything to do with whether there has been a breakdown of movement in the unfolding of bodily felt meaning – the felt shift that Gendlin has identified.

It is an over-simplification to think of personal change as some sort of magical substitution which replaces bad feelings with good ones. If looked at superficially, this may appear to be what happens whenever things get better. But close examination will show that the restoration of inner process is the actual vehicle of transformation.”

* these are words and phrases I have added, because for me, Focusing doesn’t always deal with ‘the dark and murky’ – it is often a joyous unfolding, with many postitive and enlightening messages from my bodily felt sense.


To help when Focusing on your own

Blue mountains waterfall

In a recent post I talked about Solo Focusing – Focusing when you don’t have a Listener – and I have written a sheet to help you with this on the Free Resources page here.

I have also recorded an audio file for you which you can download here.



Eugene Gendlin – the man who gave us Focusing

I’ve mentioned and quoted Gene Gendlin a few times on my website, so I thought it was time to tell you some more about him.

Eugene Gendlin is a philosopher and psychotherapist. He was the first to coin the term Focusing after his research and work with Carl Rogers, the psychologist who helped develop the humanistic approach to psychology. In his studies, Gendlin found that psychotherapy clients who could become aware of their ‘felt sense’ usually progressed better in therapy, and needed fewer therapy sessions. His research led him to the conclusion that any person who could enter this special kind of awareness, different from our everyday awareness, could benefit – not just those in therapy. And it is something that we can all do. Some people find that they can quite quickly become aware of their felt sense, others need a little practice.

Gendlin observed that unresolved issues actually exist in our physical bodies. By Focusing on them, we can identify and change them – and we know they are changing, because as we do so our bodies release tension.

“Focusing grew out of the observation by Gendlin and his co-workers that many people were not being helped by traditional therapy. Those greatly improved were distinctive in their ability to tap an internal process ignored by most clients. [He] determined to understand this process so it could be taught and used by anyone.” (

Gendlin taught at the University of Chicago from 1964 to 1995, has written a number of books, and has been honoured several times by the American Psychology Association for his development of Experiential Psychotherapy. His first book in this field, called ‘Focusing’, has been continuously in print since 1978, and has been translated into 17 languages, and since then he has written several more.  

What is a felt sense and how can it help me?

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What is a ‘felt sense’?

A felt sense is a sense of ‘something’ in the body, at first unclear and vague. It’s an inner knowledge of awareness that has not been consciously thought or verbalised; and it’s first experienced in the body. It’s not the same as an emotion, and at first it’s difficult to express it in words. As we notice our felt sense, we can become curious about it, and gradually it becomes clearer, and new insights to an issue, problem or question can come.

Eugene Gendlin, who coined the term ‘felt sense’ said:

“What is split off, not felt, remains the same. When it is felt, it changes. Most people don’t know this. They think that by not permitting the feeling of their negative ways they make themselves good. On the contrary, that keeps these negatives static, the same from year to year. A few moments of feeling it in your body allow it to change. If there is something bad or sick or unsound, let it inwardly be, and breathe. That’s the only way it can evolve and change into the form it needs.”

I would like to add to this, that Focusing need not only be used for negative feelings. I have experienced real joy in Focusing sessions, and some people use Focusing to help with many aspects of their lives: e.g. creativity, in business, as a spiritual practice, health care, education, decision-making, stress management – there are many, many ways that Focusing can help each of us.

Gene Gendlin did not ‘discover’ Focusing and the felt sense – these are part of many people’s everyday lives, without knowing the terms he gave them. What Gendlin has given us is a way for those people who have found it difficult to acknowledge their felt senses, to work with them, pay them attention, be curious about them and get to know them better. In this way we can choose to react differently to feelings and emotions that arise within us – ways that might be surprising to us, yet feel ‘right’ and help us to move forward.

Ann Weiser Cornell says:

“In our culture we are used to associating intelligence with the brain. Learning and practising Focusing will bring you in touch with a larger intelligence inside you, an intelligence that is body-based and that can sense what needs your attention – that you can trust and follow.”

Chair-based Yoga Class

Would you like your body to be:

  • stronger?
  • more flexible?
  • less prone to injury?

Would you like all this without straining and without going to the gym?

You may have heard that Yoga can help with all of these, but thought that it’s not for you. 

You might have an image of Yoga as something that very flexible people do in tight T-shirts and leggings.  They sit on the floor in impossible cross-legged positions, or stand on their heads.

I have a Yoga class at Physiologic in Hythe, Kent which is different.

This class is suitable for anyone with mobility difficulties, or who would prefer a chair-based practice.

We sit on chairs for most or all of the time.

We practise Yoga in ways most suitable for your body.

You will not strain, or be in pain from the practice.

You will feel a benefit.

Would you like to know more?

Please contact me via the Contact page, and I will email or call you back.-

focusing conference 2016

International Focusing Conference in Cambridge, England 2016

Meet Focusers from all over the world

This year the International Focusing Conference is being held in Cambridge University, England.  I am really looking forward to it.

The conference is open to Focusing people from anywhere in the world.  Whether you are new to Focusing or have been practising it for years, it is a wonderful opportunity to explore the extraordinary diversity of the worlds of Focusing.  You can experience how others are using Focusing, and you can present what you are doing with it if you wish. Everything in the conference is led by the participants – there are no keynote speakers.

To find out more, and to book a place, go to the website.

Anyone who is interested in Focusing can come.  You need to have learnt at least the basic practice of Focusing and Listening so that you can be in a Focusing partnership with someone else.  And it’s advisable to have learned with a recognised Focusing teacher, either one to one or in a group.

Not yet learned Focusing?

If you are interested in going but have not learnt Focusing yet, the organisers suggest you find a teacher and get started. I am very happy to tell you that I can support you in this – please contact me using the contact page on my website, and I can tell you more.

In the past two years I have attended Focusing gatherings in the UK: the Focusing School in 2014 and the AGM in 2015. Based on my experience at these two events, I can assure you that this conference will be unlike many conferences that you have attended before.