What is Focusing?
Focusing is a simple self-integration tool that anyone can learn to use. It involves holding an open, non-judgemental attention to an internal knowing which is directly experienced but is not yet conscious. Focusing can, among other things, be used to help one become clear on what one feels or wants, to obtain new insights about one's situation, and to stimulate change or healing (Cornell & McGavin, 2008). Focusing utilizes the felt sense of the client to direct inner explorations into sensations that inform other feelings, thoughts, behaviors, and beliefs on a not-yet-conscious level. Creating presence for these "parts" allows them to emerge in one's consciousness.
Developed by psychotherapist Eugene Gendlin, Focusing emerged from a collaboration with Carl Rogers, the founder of humanistic psychology. Ann Weiser Cornell, a linguist and former student of Gendlin, later expanded the theory to incorporate the ideas of presence, neutrality, and the inner witness.
In my experience, using Focusing to make the unconscious conscious can produce many positive and powerful effects such as:
• Illuminating the difference between thoughts and feelings, thus granting access to a wider array of experiences.
• Engaging the mental and physical body, as well as the subtle bodies, in the healing process (as opposed to traditional talk therapy that can be over-identified with the mental body).
• Allowing one to name and release previously unconscious feelings, thoughts, behaviors, and beliefs that were “running” one’s life.
• Accessing and integrating parts of oneself that are unconsciously perpetuating unhealthy personal or interpersonal patterns.
• Encouraging the empowering ability to choose how one feels (e.g., having the power to choose to feel joy instead of fear joy).
• Release from unconscious stories or beliefs that keeps one from accessing one’s true self, potential, and aspirations.
• Creating more compassion for self and others.
Despite our culture’s general stigmatization around psychotherapy and other healing modalities, embarking on personal work requires great courage and integrity. The idea of connecting and making peace with our hidden or unknown parts can seem daunting. Yet Focusing is a gentle and compassionate approach that when used correctly can produce substantial expansions in consciousness. It is a rich and rewarding process that creates lasting and permanent change in one's health, relationships, and life-purpose.
"Focusing is like a flashlight you shine inside yourself, validating the places that need help." - J.K., client
Weiser Cornell, Ann and McGavin, Barbara (2008) The Focusing Student’s and Companion’s Manual: Part One. Calluna Press. ISBN 0-9721058-0-8.
“Focusing gave me a way to tolerate the anxiety, sadness, and guardedness I hold within myself—and allowed me to witness this process, instead of feeling enslaved by it.” -A.Y., client