Focusing is not, as the name might lead yo to think, a way of becoming more focused in life (even though that might actually, somehow become one result of your work with Focusing). This is the reason why I sometimes prefer to call it Felt Sensing. I also call it that because that way of saying it tells us that Focusing is about feeling something.
“Focusing is the next development after getting in touch with feelings. It concerns a different kind of inward attention to what is at first sensed unclearly. Then it comes into focus and, through (…) specific movements(…), it changes in a bodily way” (Gendlin, 1978 p. 9, Gendlin 2003, p. 8)
One thing that I find is very common in the (Western) world today, is a kind of a fear of our (especially so-called negative) feelings. One reason for this might be that we don’t really learn ways of feeling without being overcome and stuck in our feelings, but Focusing lets us do exactly that! In Focusing, or Felt Sensing, we get in touch with how and what we feel, not only without getting stuck or lost or overwhelmed, but also in a way that lets the feelings make the sense that they are actually making:
“What is split off, not felt, remains the same. When it is felt, it changes. Most people don’t know this! They think that by not permitting the feeling of their negative ways they make themselves good. On the contrary, that keeps these negatives static, the same from year to year. A few moments of feeling it in your body allows it to change. If there is in you something bad or sick or unsound, let it inwardly be and breathe. That’s the only way it can evolve and change into the form it needs.” Eugene T. Gendlin, Let your Body Interpret your Dreams (1986, p. 178)
Focusing came about through research
Focusing was discovered by Eugene T. Gendlin and his associates (1968), to be a natural human process; the very process that makes people successful in therapy. They discovered in their reserach into what is effective (i.e. results in change) in therapy, that the clients who were successful were those who would attend inwardly in a particular way. Gendlin coined the word “Focusing” and decided to find a way to teach this process to as many people as possible. He also coined the “thing” that people were attending to, as the researchers found, the Felt Sense.
Luckily, you don’t have to be in therapy to do Focusing! It is a “skill” that can be learned (or re-found), and exchanged with a partner, any partner who also knows the process, and who can openly, attentivly, and non-judgementally listen without interrupting that process.
“Bodily experience is always incomplete, and always leads to further steps of development if we make room for it in our bodies” (Gendlin 2014).
Focusing is, as you can see, reaserch based and lets you deeply listen to yourself in a partnership where you don’t recieve any advice or even opinions from your partner, because you (your body) are the expert.
“Focusing with a small ‘f’ refers to a natural human process of putting attention onto something. With a capital ‘F’, Focusing is a method that helps to develop the process of focusing on internal experience“. Peter Afford &Barbara McGavin (2015).
Wanna try it out?
I offer beginners courses and sessions where I teach people this process, so if you’re curious to experience it for yourself, let me know!
Wanna read more?
All of (or parts of) Gendlin’s published works can be found in the Gendlin online Library, and here are some on Focusing:
Here is an article on Focusing-Oriented Psychotherapy:
Here are some more philosophical articles if you are interested:
Gendlin, E.T. (1978). Focusing. Bantham Books
Gendlin, E.T. (1986). Let your body interpret your dreams. Chiron Publications
Gendlin, E.T. (2000). When you feel the body from inside, there is a door. In Jeffrey K. Zeig (Ed.), The evolution of psychotherapy: A meeting of the minds. Phoenix, AZ: The Milton H. Erickson Foundation Press.
Gendlin, E.T. (2003). Focusing. Rider.
Madison, G. (2014) Theory and Practice of Focusing-Oriented Psychotherapy: Beyond the Talking Cure. London: Jessica Kingsley