Focusing - Eugene Gendlin
Introduction to Focusing
Most people find it easier to learn focusing through individual instruction than through simply reading about it. The actual process of focusing, experienced from the inside, is fluid and open, allowing great room for individual differences and ways of working. Yet to introduce the concepts and flavour of the technique, some structure can be useful. We offer one approach here: six steps. Although these steps may provide a window into focusing, it is important to remember that they are not THE six steps. Focusing has no rigid, fixed agenda for the inner world; many focusing sessions bear little resemblance to the mechanical process that we define here. Still, every Focusing Trainer is deeply familiar with these six steps, and uses them as needed throughout a focusing session. And many people have had success getting in touch with the heart of the process just by following these simple instructions.
So, with the caveat that what follows is simple scaffolding for you to use as long as it’s useful and then to move beyond, we offer to you six steps, a taste of the process.
[What follows is a lightly edited excerpt from The Focusing Manual, chapter four of Focusing.*]
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 seems 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; 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 you 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.
* Translated in Greek by the Hellenic Focusing Centre (Scientific Editions Parisianou, 2006)