Gendlin’s term Felt Sense was coined in the sixties to help people become aware of a felt experience we had no language to speak of in Western society yet. It was discovered as the crucial ingredient that made change happen (in therapy), and firstly described as an “inner referent”, “just outside awareness”.
The Felt Sense is vague, murky, unclear, initially wordless and nameless, yet clearly there in a bodily way if we invite it to form. It will disappear as soon as we judge, analyse or try to be logical about ut too soon. If we pause and sit next to it with open, active, non-intrusive, non-judgemental curiosity, it will open up and come, with surprise and deeply felt meaning.
Descriptions of Felt Sense are often metaphorical, poetic, image like, or come as a gesture or body posture, rather than as clear, already known labels. The mind or a listener may not be able to make any regular sense of it when it first comes, but when the right description is found, it brings a bodily felt, bodily meaningful shift, called just that: a Felt Shift.
When that bodily Felt shift comes, you know it because it’s surprising, gives sudden relief, or a sudden, deeper breath, or it’s like fresh air or sudden, fresh, and bodily knowing, an inner sense of space, calm, groundedness or being larger.
When we have spent time with a Felt Sense we feel deeply changed without necessarily knowing how or why. Fresh perspective that we wouldn’t have been able to think of seems to come out of nowhere afterwards, and we find ourselves capable of acting differently in the world without necessarily having planned it. We also become more spacious and empathic towards ourselves and others.
To help people learn to contact and be with this bodily felt experience, Gendlin developed Focusing, which is now taught all over the world in different shapes and forms, by certified practitioners such as myself (Vera R. Fryd Lyngmo).