Focusing is a reflective practice, generally done with a partner, which enables connection with inner knowing through the doorway of ‘the felt sense’ in the body. Focusing was developed by philosopher and psychologist Eugene Gendlin in the 70’s following the discovery that real shifts in psychotherapy came to those clients who were able to access felt senses in their bodies. Gendlin presented his ideas in his book Focusing, published in 1978, which became a best-seller, and has been reprinted many times.
Here is a description of what Focusing is by well-known American Focusing teacher and author Ann Weiser Cornell:
“Focusing is the process of listening to your body in a gentle, accepting way, and hearing the messages that your inner self is sending to you. It’s a process of honoring the wisdom that you have inside you by becoming aware of the subtle level of knowing that speaks to you through the body. The results of listening to your body are insight, physical (and emotional) release, and positive life change. You understand yourself better, you feel better, and you act in ways that are more likely to create the life you want. Focusing is the fastest way I know to get to the truth of ourselves and live it.”
And from Eugene Gendlin:
“Focusing will enable you to find and change where your life is stuck, cramped, hemmed in, slowed down. And it will enable you to change – to live from a deeper place than just your thoughts and feelings.”
Focusing in Practice
In Focusing, the process is: sensing what is happening in your body; finding words that describe this; speaking your experience aloud to your partner; hearing/receiving your experience reflected back; looking afresh at what is now happening in your body. This process has the effect of taking you as the Focuser more deeply into your inner experience than would normally happen in everyday life.
This vocalising and reflection process brings about a sort of resonance which causes a shift in body experience. The Focuser tends to keep her eyes closed to support connection with inner body sensation, whereas the companion will keep her eyes open to observe the body language of the Focuser (which can also be reflected) as well as listening to the spoken words.
After some initial training or introduction, most Focusing is done by people finding a ‘Focusing partner’ (or partners) and arranging to meet periodically – weekly, fortnightly or whatever. A typical length of time to focus for is half an hour (for each person) but session length can be anything from 10 minutes to an hour.
The Power of Focusing by Ann Weiser Cornell
Focusing by Eugene Gendlin
These two books together would provide an excellent introduction to the theory and practice of Focusing, and both are readily available from Amazon and other suppliers.
The British Focusing Association (BFA) website carries information about Focusing, a list of qualified Focusing teachers in the UK, various Focusing resources, and details of different course options available throughout the UK. You can also sign up to receive a regular free newsletter.
Practitioner: Gordon Adam is a BFA recognised Focusing Practitioner and offers 1-1 Focusing sessions, day and weekend ‘Introduction to Focusing’ workshops, a monthly Focusing Group in Bristol (or online), 5-day Focusing Retreats in Dartmoor. Gordon is also the editor of the BFA newsletter.