Focusing - by Eugene Gendlin

You can sense your living body directly under your thoughts and memories and under your familiar feelings. Focusing happens at a deeper level than your feelings. Under them you can discover a physically sensed "murky zone" which you can enter and open. This is the source from which new steps emerge.

A felt sense is the body's sense of a particular problem or situation. A felt sense is not an emotion. We recognize emotions. We know when we are angry, or sad, or glad. A felt sense is something you do not at first recognize--it is vague and murky. It feels meaningful, but not known. A felt sense doesn't come to you in the form of thoughts or words or other separate units, but as a single (though often puzzling and very complex) bodily feeling.

One effect of the focusing process is to bring hidden bits of personal knowledge up to the level of conscious awareness. This isn't the most important effect. The body shift, the change in a felt sense, is the heart of the process. But the bringing-up of bodily sensed knowledge--the "transfer" of this knowledge, in effect, from body to mind--is something that every focuser experiences.

A felt sense will shift if you approach it in the right way. It will change even as you are making contact with it. When your felt sense of a situation changes, you change--and, therefore, so does your life. The nature of the problem changes with each shift. You make contact with a feeling and you say, "Yes that's it!" Then you feel something below it or behind it or alongside it and you say, "Well, no, that isn't it after all." The problem, when you finish, is not the same as you thought when you began. The felt sense of the problem changes.

It often isn't possible to deal fully with a given problem in one focusing session. A dozen steps may be necessary, perhaps even a hundred, before the problem feels resolved. The process may take many months. You continue with each session until, simply, you feel you have had enough for the day. You reach a point where you say, "Well, I haven't beaten this problem yet, but I'm at a stopping place that feels pretty good. I need a day to let my body live with this much changed, and perhaps also to go out into the world and see what happens." Steps of focusing and steps of outward action often alternate. Each aids the other.

Some healthy life-enhancing processes are: taking up for yourself, defending the way you see it, allowing yourself to be free to feel as you do, reaching out for someone, trying to do something that you haven't been able to for some time, exploring, wondering about yourself, trying to meet people, sexuality, a sense of cosmic significance or mystery, seeking peace, letting someone see you, trying something new, taking charge of a situation, telling people how you need them to be, being honest, hoping, refusing to give up, being able to ask for help. These are all good life-thrusts.

Focusing: Short Form

  1. Clear a space: How are you? What's between you and feeling fine? Don't answer; let what comes in your body do the answering. Don't go into anything. Greet each concern that comes. Put each aside for a while, next to you. Except for that, are you fine?

  2. Felt sense: Pick one problem to focus on. Don't go into the problem. What do you sense in your body when you recall the whole of that problem? Sense all of that, the sense of the whole thing, the murky discomfort or the unclear body-sense of it.

  3. Get a handle: What is the quality of the felt sense? What one word, phrase, or image comes out of this felt sense? What quality-word would fit it better?

  4. Resonate: Go back and forth between word (or image) and the felt sense. Is that right? If they match, have the sensation of matching several times. If the felt sense changes, follow it with your attention. When you get a perfect match, the words (images) being just right for this feeling, let yourself feel that for a minute.

  5. Ask: "What is it about the whole problem, that makes me so--?" When stuck, ask questions: What is the worst of this feeling? What's really so bad about this? What does it need? What should happen? Don't answer; wait for the feeling to stir and give you an answer. What would it feel like if it was all OK? Let the body answer: What is in the way of that?

  6. Receive: Welcome what came. Be glad it spoke. It is only one step on this problem, not the last. Now that you know where it is, you can leave it and come back to it later. Protect it from critical voices that interrupt. Does your body want another round of focusing, or is this a good stopping place?

What Focusing Is Not

  • Focusing is not a process of talking at oneself. Try to pass up all the glib, familiar answers that come very fast. They are the same old answers you've heard in thousands of self-lectures down through the years. Firmly reject them. Wait quietly for fresh answers to come from the inside, from the bodily felt sense of whatever situation is troubling you.

  • Focusing is not an analytic process. Resolving a problem is very different from merely understanding it. In focusing, one doesn't merely talk about a problem. One experiences a physical shift in how it feels. If words keep coming into your head, explanations and ideas and accusations and so on, keep repeating an open-ended question of your own. For example, keep repeating, "What does this whole thing feel like?" That way you control the word-making part of your mind yourself, so it can't run off with you.

When To Express Yourself

  • Express yourself when you want to make a relationship closer.

  • When you are in a group and nothing is happening, express something about yourself. This opens things up for others to express themselves. Give them something personal and meaningful from within you.

  • When the other person isn't up to relating with you, it may help if you just freely express anything about yourself. This way you don't have to be carried by the other's energy.

  • Express yourself when you are being idealized. Share some personal trouble or not-so-nice feeling you find in yourself.