LIFE – and how to accept it using Focusing
Focusing is all about how we experience life and it is a valuable tool to get into your own life and make friends with it.
It could be argued that when we connect with ourselves, we connect with others. Science tells us that connecting is sharing neural pathways – we share neurology with the ones we love.
Your physically felt body is in fact part of a gigantic system of here and other places, now and other times, you and other people – in fact, the whole universe (Gendlin 1996).
This is exactly why alienating or devaluing ourselves, shaming ourselves or criticising ourself is a really bad idea. Because as we’re being hostile to our (possibly!) very best friend – ourself – we´re automatically being hostile to others too – sharing neural pathways as we are. We are polluting not only our selves but everything around us too.
Hostility seems to breed hostility!
So how do we change this?
First we need to realise that it’s an inside job – the problem so to speak is not external even though it might appear to be something on the outside – our mother or our circumstance etc..
It’s deeper than that.
The difference between a real friend and a not so real friend is in how it feels to be with that person – it’s a bodily felt sense or maybe one could say it’s a neural sense – a recognition of a feeling in our self.
Bottom line – we feel it in our gut or in our heart – it’s a complex and very often strange feeling – because we don’t have words for it – it’s on the tip of our tongue and we feel it in our neck. It can be like a symptom – something that can’t be measured directly – but is very real when we experience it.
In Focusing we call this a Felt Sense – something waiting to emerge that we don’t have a handle on yet. Something coming from below the normal threshold in our body – mind.
How do we experience this in every day life?
Let’s take an example like friendship. Real friendship is different than just saying the word “friend” it has something to it, that can’t easily be described – but intuitively and in our body we know – one could say that our body knows in a deep way what a real friend is. Look at the picture above it’s obvious that words aren’t needed.
When we are with a real friend we breathe differently and we don’t feel judged. It’s like there is a space for us to be just like we are right now – this is what a bodily felt sense can be – a release from pretence or to much thinking – just being with this friend – being our self – recognising self – befriending our deeper self – having self empathy.
Why fight then?
Many people don’t realize that they are at war with themselves most of the time.
This has to do with some of our more primitive brain functions – we start a fight and forget to end the war – or something keeps popping up in our mind that keeps triggering the Fight-Flight-Freeze response. This could also be a victim’s perspective – life sucks or doesn’t deliver.
We miss out on life while fighting, running or defending our selves.
So how does Focusing change that?
I have made a L.I.F.E Saver model of how Focusing can work. This is a work in progress.
L: Listening in (clearing a space – acceptance )
I: The “I” – my point of reference right now (Who is experiencing this?)
F: Focused – noticing what’s going on in my body (what’s wanting my attention?)
Emerging Felt Sense – getting to know a sometimes mysterious phenomenon and letting go of thought – pausing – listening – knowing that the “answer” will appear.
E: Empathy – being a friend with your inner wisdom – receiving it – carrying it forward- enjoying peace and clarity.
It spells L.I.F.E and it is a lifesaver
So Focusing is Love of life – inner perspective – focused attention on what is emerging – or one could say what is being created in a meaningful way on the inside and the art of embracing it with love. The true wisdom is in the implicit once we get out of the way our Felt Sense – body/mind will create the shift we need to thrive and let go – not through analysis but by listening long enough to get a clear answer.
This is a life saving approach to change and the wisdom Gendlin has given to us.
This process is sometimes like art – imagine a painter getting ready to paint a blank canvas. Or like thinking – imagine thoughts and words merging into meaning. Or like feeling – imagine how your body reacts and speaks to you in subtle or not so subtle ways. Or like in empathy – self empathy – where we are kind and caring to our selves – caressing or just laying our physical hand on our heart and accepting whatever comes. Feeling a shift in our body and mind.
The deep process of Focusing heals us and reminds us that true healing is when we listen and become present to life.
This is what I call Making friends with life through the process of Focusing.
As a Focusing Trainer I help people discover “the bleeding obvious” (Faulty Towers)
We need to become our own best friend – whatever the circumstance we are “stuck with” ourselves for life. This is a paradox because much of life in our head is about getting away from this very obvious fact – the “me” and the “I” of life.
In Focusing we learn to have perspective and get to know our “felt sense” as Gendlin puts it:
“A felt sense is not (only) a mental experience but a physical one. Physical. A bodily awareness of a situation or person or event. An internal aura that encompasses everything you feel and know about the given subject at a given time-encompasses it and communicates it to you all at once rather than detail by detail. A felt sense doesn’t come to you in the form of thoughts or words or other separate units, but as a single (though often puzzling and very complex) feeling.”(Gendlin, G., 1981)
My understanding of Gendlins words are that by contacting and waiting for this emergent felt sense we are experiencing life in it’s creative birth form – being a part of the picture but also holding the paintbrush – meaning is created and there is a flow from the deep unknown that we only can sense in a bodily way – words are just symbols or pointers. We need language to understand and reflect – but if we only use words and are in our head we miss out on life and mistake our thinking for reality. One could say that there is much more to life than my opinion about it.
Focusing is a great tool of clarity – clarity in life and in love.
It is an ongoing path and a sacred journey
Timothy C. Nunan