How I work with Focusing…
Q. ‘I have had a Focusing session before and I found it very powerful.
I suppose my hesitance is concerned with not knowing the way you work. I bought a CD by Ann Weiser Cornell sometime ago and was surprised and a little disappointed that she didn’t seem to use the stages that Gendlin outlined. Her style didn’t work for me at the time. Could you tell me how you approach Focusing?’
A. Thank you for this timely question, and I welcome the opportunity to explain and clarify the way that I work.
Every Focusing teacher develops their own style of teaching, just as every Focuser develops their own Focusing practice, because each of us is unique, and our way of Focusing is also unique to us.
Like a finger-print, or the iris of our eyes..
Gene Gendlin, who developed Focusing, said Focusing always ‘crosses’ with something else. It isn’t a standalone practice, because you change it by being who you are. Your personality, past history, current interests and understandings all inform your Focusing practice. I cannot separate myself from my past, my nature, or my way of being. Focusing crosses with who we are.
I see the steps of Focusing as being the ‘scaffold’, or the support structure, that makes Focusing possible.
It provides the best possible environment within which Focusing can happen. The actual Focusing process is wild and natural. By that I mean it has its own momentum and direction, which cannot be controlled or predicted. It brings the natural next step, fulfilling the organism’s implied needs and wants.
Having said that, there are recognisable ‘schools’ or approaches to Focusing, that bring out, or emphasise different key aspects of the Focusing process. I have a short summary of various styles that I know about in one of my Level 4 handouts. Please contact me if you would like a copy of the handout, and I will send it to you.
The steps that Gene Gendlin developed follows the body’s natural process.
- What would be an easy, natural next step in the body’s unfolding process?
- What would help it to unfold its wisdom?
- What is implied here?
This provides a structure, a scaffold, for the Focusing process.
I am also standing on the shoulders of Barbara McGavin and Ann Weiser Cornell, who developed ‘inner-relationship Focusing.’
This is based on the understanding that the quality of our inner relationship with our felt senses and our emotions, is crucial to the success of Focusing.
Gene Gendlin said, can I be friendly, can I be curious, about this.
And this is the starting point for developing a positive accepting attitude to whatever we are being with, no matter how painful, angry or ugly it looks like at first.
Inner-relationship Focusing increases your capacity for Presence, and this is what empowers you to be friendly and accepting with yourself.
It teaches you how. Without Presence, it is hard to Focus. It feels sticky and slowed down.
Inner-relationship steps are both more nuanced and more simple than the Gendlian 6 steps. They are a development from what Gene Gendlin originated.
They show you how each step works in practice. So when you describe something that you are experiencing, you are being curious.
When you settle down and keep company with something, you are being friendly. You then start to ask it things, when it feels safe enough for that kind of contact. You let it know you hear it.
This is the ‘receiving’ step. Barbara and Ann might say, you are acknowledging that, or letting it know you hear it. The ‘asking’ step might be sensing for what it wants, or doesn’t want, which gives the part or the felt sense opportunity to open up to more of what it wants to show you.
It’s more simple, because there is a beginning, a middle, and an end to the session, and you do something different in each stage.
My main departure from the 6 steps is the first, that of ‘clearing a space’, which I teach later in the course, usually in Level 4.
Some people like to do this at the start of their Focusing session, and some don’t.
I found it was difficult for me to do when I first learned Focusing. Now I prefer to take an inventory, or make a mental note of all that I find inside when I start a session. And then I ask what wants my attention now, out of all that I am experiencing.
Then I wait for what feels strongest, or what has most aliveness for me in that moment.