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

P1030329 - Copy

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.”