What does it mean to ‘find the right distance’, when you are focusing?
Gene Gendlin explained it by saying, ‘if you want to smell the soup, you don’t put your head in it!’
It’s the same principle when you are Focusing.
You are being curious about what you find inside yourself. You want to know more; to find out where a feeling is coming from, how it relates to your life situation, and what it needs so that you can move forward.
If you are ‘merged’ with a feeling, it’s like having your head in the soup.
You can’t see anything else. Your whole experience is the soup.
It may be anger, upset or anxiety, or any other emotion or experience.
A problem is created when you are merged because you don’t have a sense of perspective and your options are narrowed.
What helps is if you can find a way to ‘step back’ from the emotion, thought or feeling, so that you can see it more clearly.
‘Stepping back’ is not always easy to do.
What you can do is to look for the overall quality feel of the whole thing, and see if you can describe it out loud to your Focusing partner, or to yourself if you have no partner.
You can also sense for how big it is, what it looks like and feels like, where you can sense it in your body, and where it’s edges are.
You can sense for what kind of distance it would like.
In that case, you are beginning to sense its point of view; again, without actually merging with it. As you sense for the quality feel of it, you may find that it wants to take up a big space, and that it needs lots of space to do that.
So you can give it that space in yourself, and notice how that feels in the body. Perhaps it has more room to breathe, and be itself, in the way it wants to be.
Or, it may be feeling tender and vulnerable.
It may want you to be close to it, taking care of it or protecting it.
You can be close to those aspects of yourself that need that kind of contact or care. There is a sense of a warm and friendly inner relationship developing, where you can listen to all parts of yourself.
What if you don’t find it easy to be with something in your experience?
For instance, if you don’t like it, or it brings discomfort or unpleasant feelings?
It helps if you can acknowledge those feelings, and allow them to be there, just as it is.
If you find that difficult to do, you could imagine yourself moving away from it, to a place where you can feel safe enough to just touch into it lightly and then move away again.
There is a subtle sensing happening, when you are touching something lightly, or tapping it gently.
All the time sensing it and describing what it’s like; and you are also sensing for the quality of your inner relationship with it.
How close can you be with something in your experience, without being merged with it?