Focusing Tip #403: What do you do when you run out of hands?

Focusing Tip #403: What do you do when you run out of hands?
November 6, 2013 Ann Weiser Cornell

“I’m finding it impossible to Focus on any one issue – because the others all come at me.”


Julie writes:
What do you do when you run out of hands?

I’d like a way for your method to work when I am dealing with more than just one or two painful internal stimuli at a time. I’d like help Focusing on, listening to, cuddling with one or two children in my lap when others are clambering loudly for attention every time I sit down in the rocking chair. Either that or a way to listen attentively to each child, to make each feel it’s been given its own, sufficient individual lap time while dealing with them not individually, but rather en masse. I’m finding it impossible to focus on, to listen to any one of the issues because as soon as I set myself to listen to any, all the others come at me in a jumbled, chaotic rush.

I’ve never really had much problem with my emotions before. They are what they are. I’m aware of them when they’re obvious. If they’re inconvenient at the moment, I’ve never had a problem telling them, “Yes. But not now. Later. I promise.” But now there are too many of them, and time is too limited to allow me to sit with each one until it’s comfortable climbing back in its cave.

Dear Julie,
When many emotional states and feelings crowd in at the same time, and don’t allow you the space to listen to any one of them, it might be that they don’t trust you yet. Even if you are quite trustworthy now — and by that I mean that you wouldn’t dream of pushing your feelings aside as soon as they are quiet — there might be a past history of ignoring or setting aside emotional states…and they know that.

If these inner parts have had the closet door repeatedly closed on them, when the door is finally open they wouldn’t be very willing to settle down so it can be closed on them again.

Emotional states can be your friends and allies. They can bring you a richness of connection with yourself, with other people, and with the world around you. I hope I can persuade you that your feeling states can contribute more to your life if you let them live outside that cave.

If your motive for doing Focusing is to get the feelings back into the cave…well, believe me, they know that. And it isn’t going to work so well.

When parts are clamoring for attention, try moving quickly between them.

The analogy of a crowd of children clamoring for attention is a really useful one. Let’s follow it.

You’ve got all those children surrounding you, crying, demanding, each one hurting in a different way. (The ache in your heart about the loss of a friend, the pain in your shoulder from an injury, the anxiety in your stomach from an overdue deadline…and many more, perhaps.)

What I’d suggest is that you move rather quickly from one to another, at first. Just an acknowledgement: “Yes, I know you are really there,” and then move on to another one, “And yes, I know you are really there, too.” Take long enough to really acknowledge…about as long as it takes to touch a child on the head or arm. Then move to another, and another.

Over time, if you are really Self-in-Presence (and not identified with a part of you that is doing this as a technique so they will all go away), they will calm down enough to let you spend two minutes each with the others…and then three…and then four. And then fifteen. But it does take time.

Because trust takes time to build. And it’s worth it.

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