Focusing

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The focusing technique (Gendlin, 1981) does not use conventional visual imagery but a form of imagery work based on body feelings and sensations. The description below is a brief and subtle outline of the process, for a more detailed account of the technique, see Gendlins book. The central act of focusing can be broken down into six phases:

  1. Clearing a space, sitting quietly, relax and ask yourself ‘how do I feel?’ ‘What is bothering me especially today?’. Remaining quiet, listen, allowing your thoughts to come through, list all the problems that are stopping you from feeling content at the moment until your hear something inside you say ‘Yes, except for those I’m fine’.
  2. Felt sense of the problem, ask yourself which problem is worst at this moment, stand back from the problem and sense how is makes you feel in your body when you think of it as a whole. Ask yourself ‘what does this whole problem feel like?’ don’t answer in words but feel the problem, sensing ‘all that’. When you have felt the whole problem stay with it for a while, just letting it be felt.
  3. Finding a handle, what is the quality of the felt sense? Find words and short phrases. You are trying to locate the centre of the felt sense – the crux of all that. When a word or picture image is right, Gendlin calls it a ‘handle’. When you say the words (or you visualise the picture), the whole felt sense stirs calmly and feel a little relief. This is an indication of ‘This is right’, analogous to recalling something you forgot. Let the words and picture come from the feeling. Allow it to label itself. Examples of such words phrases are;
    • ‘Sticky,’
    • ‘Heavy’
    • ‘Like in a box’
    • ‘Have to perform’
    • ‘Scared-tight’
    • ‘Jumpy-restless’
  4. Resonating handle and felt sense, using the work or image you got from phase 3, check it against the felt sense. Ask (but don’t answer): ‘is that right?’ You should note a felt response telling you the words are right. However if this feeling of just right is not felt, wait letting more precise words come from the feeling. Should you lose the felt sense, allow it time to return – it may not manifest itself in the same form, which is fine. Allow both sides – the feeling and the words – do whatever they do, until they match just right.
  5. Asking, spend some time (up to a minute) with the unclear felt sense, employing the handle to help you to make the felt sense vividly present again and again. Then ask it was it is. For example, if your handle was ‘jumpy’, say ‘jumpy’ to yourself till the felt sense is vividly back, then ask it: ‘What is it about this whole problem that makes me so jumpy?’ Wait. This time is essential to help you sense it (returning again and again to it). It can help to ask: ‘What is the worst of this?’ or ‘what does the felt sense need?’ or ‘what would it take for this to feel OK?’
  6. Receiving, you may find you go through many such cycles before a given problem feels resolved. Whatever comes in focusing, welcome it. Assume that you will be glad your body spoke to you whatever it said, sense that you can leave this place and return to it later and once you know where it is and how to find it you can leave and come back tomorrow. Sense if your body wants to stop focusing for the time being, or to continue for another cycle.