What is Focusing, anyway?
Focusing is an awareness process – something you do internally – that is based on the idea that a certain kind of body sense called a “felt sense” can help us discover and follow the best next steps of our life.
Most of us pay more attention to the shouts all around us than to those little whispers within. Yet the inner whispers have huge importance for getting calm, clear, centered… and moving forward.
What is an awareness process?
Well, right now, as you read this… Are you sitting? Now just pause and just pay attention to the sensation of your body touching what you are sitting on… Got it? You are bringing awareness to a feeling that, a minute ago, was merely going on in the background. Internally, you shifted your awareness.
So far, so good. The next part is a little trickier. Bring awareness into the inner area of your body: throat, chest, stomach, belly… What do you feel in there? We aren’t looking for something strong, necessarily. It might be a very subtle uneasiness. It might be a subtle sense of being OK. There’s no right or wrong here.
If that’s not easy to feel – or to trust… well, that’s what Focusing training is all about!
Here’s a Focusing exercise that can bring you some relief, right away, if you’re struggling with a strong emotion.
Much of the time our attention is directed outward. But what if we turned that attention inward? It’s simple to do, though not always easy to remember.
Think of a situation in your life that is not going well, or is not ideal.
Now ask yourself how you feel about that. Frustrated? Sad? Upset?
Take some time to find the right word. Maybe there is more than one feeling. That’s OK.
When you find that ‘inner’ feeling, here’s a radically different way to relate to it…
Perhaps you feel upset (for example).
Normally we’d describe that feeling as, “I’m upset.” or “I feel upset.” But what if, instead, we said, “Something in me is upset”? Try that out with whatever feeling you found inside:
I am ______________
Something in me is ________________
Notice the difference? Do you notice that you now feel it in your body (at least a bit)?
Why is this small shift powerful?
Because when we are the feeling (I am), we’re merged and we get stuck. With the phrase “something in me,” we start to step out of that merged place and we’re able to be in relationship with the feeling. What is amazing is that through this little door – being able to sense the subtle feeling of right now, in your body – there are so many big possibilities!
For Now: Try practicing awareness and the “I am/ Something in Me Is” processes for the next week or so and see how you feel. My guess is you’ll experience a shift. This is just a small taste of the benefits that Focusing has to offer.
3 Things That Set Focusing Apart
It’s research based.
Focusing has been linked in over 50 research studies with positive outcomes in therapy.
Typical outcomes from Focusing include greater emotional regulation, more satisfying relationships, and increased self acceptance.
Listening is the key.
In this noisy world where everything is constantly vying for attention, people learn to tune out to survive. Focusing helps you tune back into the most important thing – You! Not only do you become more attuned to yourself, but you get to work with someone who is right there with you deeply listening to your every word.
You’re the expert.
As the person doing Focusing, YOU are the expert. We believe that you know YOU the best. That’s why, with Focusing, you don’t need an expert. Many other methods require a practitioner to facilitate, but not Focusing! Focusing empowers YOU to make your own choices and get in touch with your own truth.
Where Did Focusing Come From?
Focusing was discovered in the late 1950s when Professor Eugene Gendlin of the University of Chicago researched the question: “Why is psychotherapy helpful for some people, but not others?”
Gendlin and his colleagues studied recordings of hundreds of therapy sessions and made a fascinating and important discovery: successful therapy clients were able to do something more than worry about the future or react to the past. They could pause and pay attention to what was happening in the present moment, in their bodies, in response to the problem at hand. Sometimes in ways that words could not easily convey. Gendlin called this a “felt sense,” and developed the method he called “Focusing” so that anyone could learn this profound way of experiencing breakthroughs in whatever has been holding them back.
Focusing allows you to get past what has been making you stuck, using the body-mind’s inherent ability to heal and live forward into new possibilities. Inner Relationship Focusing is a further development of Focusing created over many years of work by Ann Weiser Cornell and Barbara McGavin.