Main website focusing.org
The Focusing method was developed by Eugene Gendlin1 who conducted a 15 year study analyzing the effectiveness of psychotherapy. He discovered that the success of therapy had more to do with how the patient behaved than the therapist’s technique. He found that what the patient does inside him or herself was the constant for progress. He noticed how talk therapy kept patients “thinking” about their problems rather than accessing the root issue.
Focusing is a simple skill to learn. It is a natural process that can easily become second nature after a little practice. It teaches you how to consciously live from the inside out rather than the outside in—living from your core truth. Once learned, it is yours for a lifetime and can be passed on to others in a simple conversation.
The “felt sense” is a name Eugene coined which represents the pre-verbal sense of “something” in the subjective environment. The deep awareness inside that has not been brought to the surface of conscious thought. It is a bodily awareness of a situation such as an old hurt or fear of or perhaps an idea or insight. It is always more than verbal expression. Most importantly, it is that which is vague and unclear.
Focusing is as natural as breathing. We humans do it on a regular basis but we tend to remedy inner discomfort by talking, drinking, smoking, entertainment, sex and other distractions. What focusing teaches us is that our inner experience is a language, it is information offering insight and guidance. The painful emotions and negative thoughts are messages, signals, trying to bring to our attention something that which is in our best interest to understand.
The following is from the Focusing Institute’s website on the six essential steps for learning how to focus.
The inner act of focusing can be broken down into six main sub-acts or movements. As you gain more practice, you won’t need to think of these as six separate parts of the process. To think of them as separate movements makes the process seem more mechanical than it is, or will be, for you later.
I have subdivided the process in this way because I’ve learned from years of experimenting that this is one of the effective ways to teach focusing to people who have never tried it before.
Think of this as only the basics. As you progress and learn more about focusing you will add to these basic instructions, clarify them, approach them from other angles. Eventually, perhaps not the first time you go through it, you will have the experience of something shifting inside.
So here are the focusing instructions in brief form, manual style. If you want to try them out, do so easily, gently. If you find difficulty in one step or another, don’t push too hard, just move on to the next one. You can always come back.
Clearing a space
What I will ask you to do will be silent, just to yourself. Take a moment just to relax. All right—now, inside you, I would like you to pay attention inwardly, in your body, perhaps in your stomach or chest. Now see what comes there when you ask, “How is my life going?” “What is the main thing for me right now?” Sense within your body. Let the answers come slowly from this sensing. When some concern comes, do not go inside it! Stand back and say, “Yes, that’s there. I can feel that, there.” Let there be a little space between you and that. Then ask what else you feel. Wait again, and sense. Usually there are several things.
From among what came, select one personal problem to focus on. Do not go inside it! Stand back from it. Of course, there are many parts to that one thing you are thinking about—too many to think of each one alone. But you can feel all of these things together. Pay attention there where you usually feel things, and in there you can get a sense of what all of the problem feels like. Let yourself feel the unclear sense of all of that.
What is the quality of this unclear felt sense? Let a word, a phrase, or an image come up from the felt sense itself. It might be a quality-word, like tight, sticky, scary, stuck, heavy, jumpy or a phrase, or an image. Stay with the quality of the felt sense till something fits it just right.
Go back and forth between the felt sense and the word (phrase, or image). Check how they resonate with each other. See if there is a little bodily signal that lets you know there is a fit. To do it, you have to have the felt sense there again, as well as the word. Let the felt sense change, if it does, and also the word or picture, until they feel just right in capturing the quality of the felt sense.
Now ask, what is it about this whole problem that makes this quality (which you have just named or pictured)? Make sure the quality is sensed again, freshly, vividly (not just remembered from before). When it is here again, tap it, touch it, be with it, asking, “What makes the whole problem so ______?” Or ask, “What is in this sense?” If you get a quick answer without a shift in the felt sense, just let that kind of answer go by. Return your attention to your body and freshly find the felt sense again. Then ask it again. Be with the felt sense till something comes along with a shift, a slight “give” or release.
Receive whatever comes with a shift in a friendly way. Stay with it a while, even if it is only a slight release. Whatever comes, this is only one shift; there will be others. You will probably continue after a little while, but stay here for a few moments. If during these instructions, somewhere you have spent a little while sensing and touching an unclear holistic body sense of this problem, then you have focused. It doesn’t matter whether the body-shift came or not. It comes on its own. We don’t control that.2
There are numerous books on Focusing and you can find informative videos and articles on their website. I hope this short introduction sparks your interest in developing a relationship with your whole self. I truly believe that the world is lived from the inside out and that “war” begins within human beings who project what they reject inside. This method called “Focusing” is one of the most important tools for our species. I also recommend Byron Katie’s “The Work” which you can learn more about at the website (www.thework.com).
We are a species that has become trapped in our inner world. This has resulted in the creation of a painful world. Use these methods for breaking identification patterns and pass them on to others along your way. They are tools for a lifetime—pearls without price.