What is Focusing?
“Focusing” -- as developed by Eugene Gendlin -- is a way of deeply listening to yourself, to your own inner knowing held in the wisdom of your body. As a result, you feel calmer, smarter, clearer, free of old emotional patterns, and your life moves forward in just the ways that it needs to.
- You can learn Focusing for yourself
- You can do Focusing with friends and family members
- You can bring Focusing into therapy sessions (as a therapist or as a client)
- You can have Focusing with you through all the ups and downs of life
Focusing is simple: It’s just bringing non-judging awareness to a special kind of body sense called a “felt sense,” and then staying with it. But Focusing can take a while to learn because it is truly revolutionary -- it turns our usual cultural assumptions on their heads.
- We think we have to fix ourselves or get someone to fix us -- but actually, positive change is inherent in us if we learn how to give ourselves a certain kind of attention and get out of our own way.
- We think we have to get over or get past our emotional states -- especially the ‘ugly’ ones like fear or shame -- but actually, even the very ‘worst’ feelings contain gifts of positive energy if we learn how to allow them to be as they are.
- We think our bodies are purely physical and that intelligence is in the brain and the mind -- but actually, body-wisdom is much vaster and includes the wisdom of the mind.
Focusing is a process for tapping into your bodymind’s enormous resources for emotional (and physical) healing, by bringing awareness to felt senses that are your body’s way of telling you what’s needed in your life situations.
This is different from just having emotions or just getting in touch with feelings. Focusing involves having a different kind of relationship with emotions and feelings. It’s as if you are becoming your own good listener. The result is greater calm, wiser choices, and a deeper sense of connection to your own life and being.
Focusing can help you get through the upsets of daily life and it can help you unwind and move forward from difficult old traumas, that can manifest in such painful life issues as addiction, procrastination, anxiety, depression, emotional overwhelm, and dysfunctional relationships.
There are three ways to make Focusing part of your life. Some people do all three!
- You can learn to do Focusing yourself, on your own, all day any time you need it. Read an article on Ten Ways to Use Focusing in Daily Life.
- You can learn to do Focusing with a “Focusing partner.” You exchange Focusing turns, for example half an hour each. You learn facilitative listening skills to support the partner’s Focusing. (These listening skills are useful in other relationships too!) Learning Focusing partnership -- including meeting people to partner with -- is the heart of our Focusing Training Program.
- You can receive guided Focusing sessions from a professional Focusing Practitioner. This is a great choice if you are working with one or more difficult life issues, and you want to get expert help in bringing Focusing to those issues. We have a range of practitioners to choose from.
How Focusing Works
Typically when something is distressing us, and we feel upset and agitated, we have a tendency to want to figure out a solution. Our reasoning is, if we can figure it out intellectually, we think that means we’ll be able to solve the problem and implement the solution. And this works well… until it doesn’t. Life’s toughest problems, especially the ones involving emotions and other people, can’t be solved this way.
With Focusing you bypass the intellectual analyzing. You go directly to the place where you have a deep body knowing about the situation. There is wisdom in our body-mind which we tend to ignore, partly because our modern, fast-paced, head-oriented culture is just not set up that way.
Our bodies know how to sum up a whole situation, including what’s needed to move forward, into a special kind of experience called a felt sense. Felt senses are fresh; they look ahead; they are about what’s needed. When you learn Focusing, you learn how to get felt senses, be with them, and listen. From there, your whole life can change.
What are the essential qualities of Focusing?
Focusing is gentle and respectful. We think we need to be forceful with ourselves in order to make something change – but force just creates resistance. Gentleness can be the most powerful force in the inner world. Likewise, self-criticism sets up resistance to change. Treating ourselves with kindness and respect is key.
Focusing is inclusive. All your feelings and aspects are welcomed. There is no “getting rid of” anything. You learn a way of being with your emotional states from a larger, calmer state. (We have a free program for just this part of the process called Get Bigger Than What’s Bugging You.)
Focusing is positive. It’s about your next steps. You don’t have to tell your story again or get sunk in what’s wrong. Focusing lets you get in touch with the forward-moving energy that belongs to you, but without pushing anything away.
How do you learn Focusing?
That depends on you.
Some people can learn Focusing from reading a book or listening to a CD. So I wrote the easiest, most practical and accessible book that I possibly could, and I wrote and recorded the most transparently helpful CD set that I knew how to make. Both of them are based on over 20 years of experience helping all kinds of people learn Focusing, and you can learn more about each of them by clicking on the pictures here.
But many people cannot learn Focusing from a book or a CD. I was one of them. I needed the patient help of Focusing teachers, working with me one-to-one and in groups, and also a lot of practice with Focusing partners.
Why such a big deal to learn something so simple?
Because Focusing is a really different way of relating to ourselves, that goes counter to most of the messages around us. We are told how to feel, or to “get over” how we feel, and we are never ever taught about the body felt sense that is the real way through our difficulties.
Why do you feel so stuck? Why do you feel like you’ve tried everything and nothing has worked? Why do you go around in circles, repeating what hasn’t worked, feeling the same emotions, and no farther along than before?
It’s not that there’s something wrong with you. I really want you to hear that! So I’m going to say it again.
It’s not that there’s something wrong with you, it’s that the whole way our modern culture is set up leaves us cut off from our bodies and our source of wisdom. And if you suffered traumatic experiences or came from a dysfunctional family (like I did), that makes it even harder to stay in touch with yourself.
If you’re like me, you probably need to learn Focusing from a teacher.
And that’s why I set up the Focusing Training Program. It’s the lowest cost, most efficient and effective way that I can imagine to give you Focusing for the rest of your life, in every situation where you need it. In that program, you’ll receive one-to-one guidance, group instruction, and lots of practice in peer partnerships… and it really works.
Just one more thing about how this works. You still might be wondering what this is. Is it therapy? Is it coaching? Is it meditation? Is it positive self-talk or positive visualization?
Focusing isn’t any of those things…. But it has similarities to each of them. (And can be used with those other methods to enhance their effects.)
As in therapy or coaching, you can get positive change on deeply held, long term issues, as well as releasing blocks to taking practical action. But unlike therapy or coaching, you do Focusing on your own or with partners in a free exchange. You learn a way of being that you have with you at all times, and once you learn it, it costs you nothing more.
As in meditation, Focusing has an essential quality of acceptance, and you can find greater inner peace and detachment from stressful emotional states or thoughts. But unlike meditation, Focusing is more engaged, practical, issue-oriented – being about a particular life situation.
As in positive self-talk or visualization, you can access the very best of your potential for moving forward with your life without getting stuck in negative emotions. But unlike positive self-talk or visualization, Focusing is grounded in your whole self, inclusive of all your feeling states, so you aren’t leaving out aspects of yourself that can return in a backlash later.
If you’re ready to learn more, here are some suggestions:
Learn more about one-to-one sessions
Learn more about the Focusing Training Program
Read articles about Focusing
Listen to recordings of actual trainings