Laura talks with Samantha Richardson about Eugene Gendlin's Focusing method and shares some of her personal journey.
So, what's Focusing all about? Can you briefly explain what it is?
In the late 1950s and 60s, Professor Eugene Gendlin, PhD from the University of Chicago and his colleague, the renowned psychologist Dr. Carl Rogers investigated the factors that make therapy successful. Together, they analyzed and observed therapy session recordings, searching for elements that led to shifts, progress, clarity, 'ah ha' moments, and relief.
Gendlin made a critical observation when successful therapy clients encountered an "unclear edge" - a place where they struggled to articulate their feelings and couldn't put their finger on what they were experiencing - they would remain in that space, pausing and waiting.
He noticed that by staying with this "unclear edge," clients could sense steps forward that hadn't been present, that transcended verbal expression, and previous understandings.
This process often enabled clients to progress and uncover deeper connections, resulting in shifts in their bodily sensations and overall perception of the situation.
Gendlin named this phenomenon a "Felt-Sense" and developed the Focusing method to teach others this powerful approach to listening within and overcoming personal obstacles.
How is Focusing for you in your personal life?
That's a great question! Many years ago, on my ongoing lifelong personal growth journey, I encountered Focusing.
At that time, I was a bit of a mess - spiritually, emotionally, physically. I understood the concept of "listening to myself" or "my inner knowing" but I wasn't able to live from that place in an intentional, conscious way. All I knew was, "This is not working for me," and "I need to feel better." I explored various somatic and body-based healing modalities. Among some of the numerous exceptional therapeutic and curative approaches I studied, Focusing resonated with me deeply.
Over the years, the shifts I experienced in my personal life were not only noticeable; but quite remarkable.
Every bad feeling is potential energy toward a more right way of being if you give it space to move toward its rightness - Eugene Gendlin
My anger transformed into more acceptance, feelings of overwhelm and anxiety diminished significantly, and I began approaching life decisions with increased confidence and clarity. For instance, when significant interpersonal disruptions arose, I navigated them with more grace and trust in the direction I took myself and my life. Oh, my intuitive capacities strengthened, my patience increased, and my listening skills improved through Focusing.
Additionally, practicing Focusing has supported my creativity as a musician and artist. I engage with my bodily Felt-Sense during the artistic process, which helps me know when to make another brush stroke or when the painting is complete and to step away from the canvas!
Then there's the rich spiritual depth, foundation, and healing that I experience and which continues to unfold. Focusing is a process-orientated process, not a goal-oriented process.
I'm noticing how passionate and excited I feel as I contemplate and reflect on the improvements to my well-being and quality of life over the years.
"I learned to listen to my whole Self."
I keep unpacking the depths of myself by Focusing - this is an unfolding process.
Over the past nine years, I have dedicated myself to maintaining a respectful relationship with my whole Self through my Focusing practice, engaging in weekly peer-to-peer Focusing sessions.
I'm curious, what sparked your interest to become certified in it?
Years ago, I returned to university to pursue a second degree in psychology, aiming to become a creative art therapist specializing in drama therapy. I felt drawn to working with others in an organic, creative, alive, embodied, and experiential way. However, upon discovering Focusing, my plans immediately shifted as I found what I was seeking and even more. I delved into Gendlin's traditional 6 Step Focusing process!
The person-centred approach, the self-governing nature, and the implicit invitation to embody your higher Self captivated me. I found myself aligning with the value placed on understanding from an experiential, bodily Felt-Sense level. After diving into the traditional 6 Step Focusing process, I studied Wholebody Focusing, Focusing with Children, Inner Relationship Focusing, and BioSpiritual Focusing, eventually becoming a Certified Focusing Professional and Trainor in Inner Relationship Focusing under the guidance of Ann Weiser Cornell, Barbara McGavin, and Fiona Parr.
While I may or may not complete the master's degree, the Focusing work I'm currently doing feels profoundly right and meaningful. I am deeply honoured to walk with individuals who feel called to work one-to-one - and teaching Focusing Training courses brings immense joy and delight to my life!
This is such meaningful work in the world.
It's an incredibly respectful process.
What kind of problems or issues do people usually come to you with?
Over the years, I've welcomed people from all walks of life, each expressing interest in the transformative process of Focusing. This diverse group spans various professions, including spiritual directors, therapists, healing practitioners, parents, teachers, artists, meditators, lawyers, engineers, students, CEOs, and medical professionals. They all find resonance with this somatic approach.
These individuals come to sessions burdened with various life situations and challenges, seeking genuine, enduring improvement. Some are looking for help with emotional regulation, trauma from childhood experiences or more recent events, or chronic pain. Others feel plagued by self-doubt, low self-esteem, indecisiveness, and a tendency to second-guess their decisions. Still, others flounder with uncomfortable thoughts, emotions, or feelings: often putting up a façade of wellness, insisting they're fine - I relate to this personally, as I once built my life around these very tendencies!
Many clients come with the desire to reconnect with their spirituality, hoping to experience the divine within themselves, access their creativity, or manifest their higher self. As of late, I see an increase in individuals feeling lonely, stressed, or disconnected from their lives - they struggle with feelings of isolation, finding meaning, or engaging in everyday activities.
However, it's crucial to remember that these are merely examples of the life situations people may bring with them. Each individual and each session is unique, with emerging experiences and needs. I approach every session freshly - tailoring it to meet the current unfolding Felt-Sense of each moment.
As a Focusing professional, I aim to provide a safe, welcoming, and respectful environment where you can listen to your whole self and reconnect with your mind-body wisdom. Here, you can gain clarity and self-understanding, leading to lasting life change.
If someone wants to give Focusing a try, either as a client or a student, what would you suggest they do?
Perhaps you can find some articles, research papers, or books to read on the specific topic that interests you. Although, that's still generally "conceptual" knowledge. I think the trick is to experience Focusing! See for yourself, know for yourself. Knowing Focusing from the experiential level or the "inside" is typically accomplished through one-to-one Focusing sessions or in a workshop or course. I've found that people keen to learn, practice, and internalize the Focusing modality itself often resonate with my Focusing Foundations Training Part 1 and 2 courses.
When looking to try a new modality, I often book a free consultation or discovery call with the practitioner I'm interested in working with. I've found those calls to be clarifying and illuminating! I provide free video calls, guiding you through exploratory questions to understand your unique needs and challenges in improving your well-being. Throughout this interactive process, you'll grasp how our customized one-to-one Focusing Sessions or courses can aid you in self-awareness, emotional healing, and personal development. By the end, you'll comprehend my offerings and receive personalized recommendations for your next steps, tailored to your unique needs and desires. We will pause sense the body to ensure your next steps are a "good fit" for you.
You're also welcome to email me with your Focusing questions - and I can try my best to answer them!