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What Is Focusing?

Understanding The Essence of Focusing

Emotional Recovery and Self-Awareness

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In the intricate dance of mind and body, few modalities illuminate the connection as profoundly as Focusing. Developed by Dr. Eugene Gendlin, this somatic technique not only deepens self-awareness but also promotes emotional recovery. It is a unique approach that teaches us to listen to the 'Felt-Sense'—a bodily sensation reflecting our inner emotional states. This article explores the essence of Focusing, its origins, and the multifaceted benefits it offers.

"Focusing is a way to pay attention to what your mind and body feel to help you grow and heal," Dr. Gendlin described. It’s about noticing your body’s feelings about things without judging them. This skill, innate in everyone, often gets lost as we age. Rediscovering this intrinsic ability can lead to significant personal transformation. Dr. Gendlin emphasised that this practice differs from conventional attention to feelings, as "it begins with the body and occurs in the zone between the conscious and unconscious."

Historical Roots

Eugene Gendlin's journey as a key figure in psychology began when he joined the University of Chicago, where he worked closely with Dr. Carl Rogers. Under Rogers' influence and a shared dedication to the person-centred approach, Gendlin integrated his profound grasp of European phenomenology to focus on the pivotal role of bodily-felt experiences in psychological change, which he termed the ‘Felt-Sense.’ His groundbreaking research showed that sustainable therapeutic change is greatly dependent on a client’s ability to tap into this non-verbal, bodily sensation of their issues. Gendlin discovered that the ability to connect with and express the Felt-Sense was innate and could be taught, ultimately leading him to develop the method of Focusing, designed to empower others to harness this deep, intuitive understanding for significant therapeutic benefits. Inner Relationship Focusing is a further development of Focusing created over many years of work by Ann Weiser Cornell and Barbara McGavin.

The Core Process

During a Focusing session, practitioners guide individuals in connecting with their internal Felt-Sense to deeply explore and articulate emotional, bodily, and psychological experiences. This process enables individuals to truly listen to their entire self, uncovering deep-seated feelings and thoughts. It is amazing how often (and how quickly) a seemingly unshakeable issue shifts and moves once we create space for a focusing connection. By tapping into the body's wisdom, participants can discern clear paths forward and gain profound insights. Additionally, each session provides compassionate, respectful, and customised support, ensuring that individuals feel seen, heard, and acknowledged.

Although there are some similarities, Focusing differs from mindfulness because the aim is to move towards our feelings and thoughts rather than releasing them.

Practical Applications and Benefits

Originally developed for peer-to-peer personal growth, Focusing has expanded its applications to an impressive array of fields including therapy, business, correctional facilities, humanitarian aid, midwifery, education, the creative arts, meditation, and spirituality. According to a practitioner, "Focusing helps people gain clarity and guides them in determining the next appropriate steps in their lives." This method is particularly effective in managing intense emotions, overcoming obstacles, enhancing decision-making, and fostering creativity.

"People have often expressed how surprised they are by how gentle and yet very deep and powerful this work is. The changes that occur spontaneously and naturally come from deep within the person themselves and are always in the direction of greater aliveness. These changes are progressive, unmistakable, and permanent." - Fiona Parr, Therapist

Focusing has demonstrated significant benefits globally, enhancing lives in numerous ways. Individuals report improved communication skills, reduced stress, and a deeper connection with their own body and emotions. It notably enhances the effectiveness of counselling and psychotherapy by fostering a collaborative relationship with the body and promoting greater self-direction.

Artist sensing inwardly

The applications of Focusing are vast and varied, encompassing areas such as social justice, play therapy for children, education, conflict management, and family dynamics. It also improves communication techniques, contributes to philosophical discourse, and aids in business management. In urban planning and community psychological wellness, Focusing has been instrumental in addressing issues faced by refugees, alleviating poverty, and supporting environments such as schools and orphanages in regions including Afghanistan, El Salvador, and Pakistan.

Moreover, Focusing has been integrated into healthcare, assisting in the management of chronic pain, stress, addictions, trauma, cancer, and hospice care. It complements medical treatments and is linked with approaches like polyvagal theory, movement, and dance. Additionally, it enhances spiritual practices, strengthens attachments, and facilitates interpersonal neurobiological integration.

For a comprehensive overview of its documented successful outcomes, more information can be found on the website of The International Focusing Institute.

Training and Resources

For those interested in learning Focusing, several effective pathways are available to develop this valuable skill. You can engage directly with a Certified Focusing Professional through personalised one-on-one sessions, providing a tailored learning experience. Alternatively, for a more structured educational approach, you can enrol in courses such as the Focusing Foundations Training Part 1 and 2 offered by Focusing With Laura. These courses are designed to build your foundational Inner Relationship Focusing skills. Throughout this journey, The International Focusing Institute (TIFI) provides extensive support, offering a wide range of resources and materials that cater to both beginners and experienced focusers.

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