waterfall

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.

 

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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.” (Focusing.org)

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.

Dadirri

Isn’t it wonderful when someone gives you a perfect present – and one that you didn’t know existed?

My daughter knows I like books, and she knows I like words, and the book she gave me recently is perfect. For a start, it has a beautiful cover – in blue, turquoise and gold, the paper is smooth and a creamy white, and it’s a good size to fit in my handbag . It’s called “The Greeks had a Word for it” by Andrew Taylor and it’s full of words that “you never knew you can’t do without”.

This is a book to savour – no rushing through. Andrew Taylor enjoys these words, and enjoys giving us the background as well as the definition – and some evocation of how the word is used in its national context.

There’s one word which links well with Focusing. It is dadirri, a word from Australia’s Northern Territory Ngangikurungkurr language meaning “contemplation of one’s place in the world involving wonder and humility”.

“Dadirri is a “single word that draws together much of [people’s] affinity with the natural world. It is generally translated into English as ‘contemplation’, but it has a much richer and more spiritual meaning than that. Another translation is ‘deep listening’, which catches more of the sense of quiet, stillness and attention than the word suggests”. Dadirri “focuses attention on both the vastness of the external world of time and space, and on the inner thoughts and emotions of the individual as a part of that greater whole… How much better to be aware of oneself not just in the present moment but in the context of hundreds or thousands of years of history. Several Aboriginal writers and thinkers have suggested that dadirri could be the gift of their peoples to modern Australia – an idea and a word whose time has come”.

New Year’s Resolutions

Going forward

Have you made New Year’s Resolutions?

Have you avoided making New Year’s resolutions?

At this time of year there is a lot of talk of resolutions, what we should and shouldn’t be doing, and whether we will be keep to them. It’s hard to keep to them, isn’t it? When we resolve to improve our fitness, lose weight, stop smoking, learn a language, or get a new job, we really do mean it. However, often a few weeks or a month into the year we find it’s been difficult, so difficult that we not keep to the diet or exercise regime, or give up the language class. We may even avoid talking about our resolutions again.

And then when we seek advice, often we’re told ‘You ought to do it this way’, or ‘You should be doing that’.

What if we were to think differently? What if, instead, we were to say to ourselves something like:

    • I would like to enjoy communicating with people from different cultures
    • I would like to feel comfortable in my body
    • I would like to feel free from habits that don’t serve me well
    • I would like to feel valued for the work I do

How does this sound now? Does it sound a bit more achievable?

And how could we approach this in a Focusing way?

We can start by spending some time settling into how we are feeling right now – noticing our surroundings, and how our bodies inhabit the space we’re in. (I will soon include an audio file to help you with this – look out for it in the Free Resources section).

And I invite us all to be kind to those parts of us that seem to think we are not good enough, and that we ‘need’ to change, and notice how that feels to us in this moment. Let’s spend some time with this and notice what it’s telling us about the whole thing around ‘resolutions’.

Then we can notice how the intention feels for us – how would it feel right now to be free of smoking (for example)? We can stay with the feeling, and be curious about it. We might find that we know more about this issue than we thought we did. Sometimes words, metaphors or images help us sense more deeply – about what we really want, or don’t want.

And often with that, we can sense a forward step, something that feels right and that we may not have been aware of before. That step may include seeking advice from someone else – this time, though, we would be more certain if it is a right step for us. Or it may be something else entirely. With Focusing we know we can trust this feeling, as it feels true and authentic for ourselves.

Approaching New Year’s Intentions in this way has made me feel much more positive, and more likely to explore my intentions in ways that suit me better, rather than methods suggested or prescribed by others, however well meaning.

Have you used Focusing to explore your New Year’s resolutions? I’d love to hear from you if you have.

Do you have a questions about Focusing? Please contact me using this link.

 

moth

Pausing

One of the great lessons of Focusing is to pause.

How often do we make our decisions automatically, doing things the way we’ve always done them, or because other people do it this way?

MothMe? I was always a list-maker. Pros on one side of the piece of paper, Cons on the other. Even so, often in the past I would not go with the longer list; something would not feel right about it.

Focusing has taught me how to trust that intuitive voice. I can pause and see how the whole of the lists feel in my body. It may be that my body turns that way; one list seems more vibrant; an image forms. Then I can sense how that feels. When I know it’s right I can make my decision much more confidently. And it feels right when there’s a sense of relief – ‘Oh that’s what it’s all about!’ Sometimes it feels obvious and I’m not sure why I didn’t realise earlier.

And sometimes there’s no clear-cut response from my body. A felt sense forms but my body is still waiting for ‘something’. This is when I might choose to pause again and wait for my body to respond. It doesn’t always happen immediately, or in ways that I was expecting, but if I’m patient something usually does come – even if that ‘something’ says I need more information. As I learn to trust my body more, I find I’m able to make decisions more easily.

How many times have you been poised to send an email, or pick up the phone and something stops you? You’re not sure what, but there is something niggling at you. Pausing gives us a moment to check our inner sense, and check if it’s really right to go ahead.

buses in Guatemala

I am a list-maker!

Do you ever use lists for making decisions?

BusesHave you listed all the benefits of doing X on one side of a piece of paper, and those of Y on another side?  I used to make decisions this way.  One memorable example was when I was planning a trip of four months abroad volunteering.  I’d wanted a gap year all my adult life, but life conspired against me (or so it felt to me at the time.)  I’d waved off my children on their adventures to parts of the world I’d dreamed of going.  Then when they seemed settled, I thought I would take my turn.

For reasons better known to me at the time, I decided not to take a year, but four months (more of that in another blog post).  I researched and planned and was almost ready.  I had arranged for my cat to be looked after, my home to be looked after, where to leave the car, what to pack, how to access money, insurance – and a dozen other things.  However, I couldn’t quite decide where I wanted to go!

Through some easy decision-making, including what skills I could offer, what parts of the country I’d like to visit while I was there, climate, safety, … I’d narrowed it down to either Uganda or Central America.  Both were equally attractive, and I could offer some useful skills in each.

I wrote my lists of pros and cons, and whichever had the most ticks didn’t feel quite right.  Then I pondered.

I hadn’t learned Focusing skills at that time, however I now see that I was using Focusing to make my decision.  I had confused myself with the practicalities.  Once I quietened my mind, and listened to what ‘felt right’, my decision was clear.

I organised the trip in a very short time after that, and had a brilliant adventure – and even though I saw had some really sad days, when I found the conditions that some people live in, it is a trip that I still remember with great joy for a myriad of other reason.

If I had learned Focusing then, I could have made that decision much more quickly, and trusted myself more to know what was the best way for me to move forward.