Professor Eugene Gendlin
Focusing was developed when Professor Eugene Gendlin of the University of Chicago worked with Carl Rogers in the 1950s and 60s. He researched the question: ‘Why is psychotherapy helpful for some people, and not others?’ He and his colleagues studied tapes of hundreds of therapy sessions and made an important discovery, that successful therapy clients had a vague, hard to describe inner awareness; a bodily felt sense about their problems.
Paying attention to the ‘felt sense’ in specific ways proved to be the key component of successful psychological change. Gendlin discovered how to teach this skill, which he called ‘Focusing’.
Eugene Gendlin’s work was notable for how he bridged the fields of philosophy and psychology, as well as bridging serious academic work with popular self-help. He studied and taught philosophy at the University of Chicago, one of the world’s top academic institutions. While engaged in the study of philosophy, he became a student and colleague of one of the great minds in psychology, Dr. Carl Rogers, who was revolutionising the study of psychotherapy at the University of Chicago.
Gendlin’s extraordinary intellectual gifts were matched by his extraordinary compassion for people. When he saw that the research he was conducting at the university could have profound meaning for the ordinary person, he wrote Focusing as a popular self-help book so that his discovery would not languish in academic circles
He studied under Carl Rogers, the founder of Client-Centred Therapy, during the 1950s, receiving a PhD in philosophy from the University of Chicago in 1958. Gendlin’s theories impacted Rogers’ own beliefs and played a role in Rogers’ view of psychotherapy. Under Rogers’ guidance at the University of Chicago, Gendlin developed one of the first outcomes studies on psychotherapy.
He founded The International Focusing Institute in 1985 to promote the practice of Focusing and the philosophy behind it, which he called the “Philosophy of the Implicit.” Focusing is an experiential, body-oriented method for generating insights and emotional healing.
Gendlin was a pioneer of “embodiment” in philosophy and psychology. Gendlin wrote in his book, Focusing:
‘When I use the word ‘body’ I mean more than the physical machine. Not only do you physically live the circumstances around you, but also those you only think of in your mind. Your physically felt body is in fact part of a gigantic system of here and other places, now and other times, you and other people. In fact, the whole universe. This sense of being bodily alive in a vast system is the body and it is felt from inside.’
Dr. Gendlin passed away on 1 May 2017 at the age of 90 in Spring Valley, New York.
What Dr. Gendlin says about Focusing:
‘Focusing is a mode of inward bodily attention that is not yet known to most people. It differs from the usual attention we pay to feelings because it begins with the body and occurs in the zone between the conscious and unconscious. Most people don’t know that a bodily sense of any topic can be invited to come in that zone, and that we can enter into such a sense.’
‘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, sick, or unsound, let it inwardly be and breathe. That’s the only way it can evolve and change into the form it needs.’
You can find out more about D. Eugene Gendlin and his work, by going to www.eugenegendlin.com.