Focusing

Focusing is a term given to our ability to turn our attention inward, to notice our experiencing of a life situation.   We are trying to get a “felt-sense” of a situation.    Felt-sensing is the process of inwardly gathering our bodily experience of a life situation.   Felt-sensing is different than “getting in touch with feelings,” or “thoughts,” and it is not strictly meditation, yet it includes all of those ways of experiencing too.    Through the work of ‘felt-sensing’ clients are able to bring a richness of new meaning to their problems and their life.

Focusing-oriented psychotherapy is a way of helping people  become increasingly attuned to their bodily experience.    In this way of relating, body-awareness becomes an avenue of sensing what’s  true in a situation, what’s fresh or what kind of experience might be leading to a dead end.  By dead end, we mean emotions that repeat and repeat or new thoughts that should be freeing but instead remain inhibiting or restrictive without change.

In my work with clients, focusing has a prominence that creates an equality between myself and my clients.  Sometimes, a client’s (or my) felt sense suggests that something more or different is needed in the therapy.  We then check it out with each other, and it’s as if there is a helpful guide for the therapeutic process as well as the client’s own work.  Following, is an example of six focusing steps that can lead to new insights and direction for change:

Nature vive

Focusing brings us into our true nature

SIX FOCUSING STEPS:

1. CLEAR A SPACE: Find a comfortable place to sit, breathe in and out and be aware of your breathing.  You may want to close your eyes, but you don’t have to.  Then,  ask yourself, what’s between you and feeling fine?  Don’t answer, let what comes into 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 sense 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 HANDLEWhat 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 best? E.g.:  Is it prickly, round, bright or dark?

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.

5ASKWhat 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 aswer.  What would it feel like if it was all okay?  Let your 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?

*  These six steps are adapted from Gendlin, Eugene (1981).  Focusing.  For more information on Focusing please visit their website:  www.Focusing.org.

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