Does it ever feel like being with your family is being trapped in a web of unspoken messages?

By Ann Weiser Cornell on December 22, 2016 in Blog, Tips

Focusing Tip #540

“This year, because I had learned Focusing, it was worse…”

Holiday tangles…

Today I am remembering the very first Christmas after I learned Focusing. I was 22 years old, in grad school in Chicago, and I flew home to Stony Brook, NY, to be with my family for the break. It was like flying into the heart of the tangle. I dreaded it.

In my family, we never talked directly about feelings or needs. So even the simplest communication carried layers of assumptions and obligations that could not be addressed – because they were unspoken.

It had always been that way… but this year, because I had learned Focusing, it was worse. At least at first. Now I was aware of the pressures and pulls in my body from being in the midst of my family – but I didn’t know how to make it better.

It all came to a head on Sunday morning. I was in my room and my mom came to the door and asked me, “Are you going to church this morning?”

Simple question, right? No! It felt like the question itself pinned me down and allowed me no breathing space. It contained so many other unspoken questions, all the way down to, “Do you care about me?”

I couldn’t answer my mother’s simple question about going to church – and truth be told I didn’t want to go to church – without also telling her that I didn’t care about her. I felt trapped – pinned – and there was no way out.

But then something new happened. Inside me I heard the voice of my Focusing partner, saying “Mh!” with a tone of interested curiosity. Suddenly, miraculously, my unbearable inner tangle had become something I could acknowledge and be curious about. I had some space.

And with a loving smile, because that’s how I felt at that moment, I said to my mom, “No thanks, you go ahead and I’ll see you later.”

Later I was able to talk to my family about Focusing and they got interested in it too. But I’ll never forget that moment of getting free, with just one inner “Mh!”

About the Author

Ann Weiser CornellView all posts by Ann Weiser Cornell


  1. Hayley December 22, 2016 Reply


  2. Audrey Gran Weinberg January 26, 2017 Reply

    I think that “Mh” is like a friendly nod of the head, the body leaning just a little forward to listen…

    • Allison Jones January 27, 2017 Reply

      Yes, exactly!

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