Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Focusing, The Felt-Sense, The Felt-Shift

What is this Focusing method and why am I all about it?

Focusing was developed by Eugene Gendlin in the 1960's and has been used in psychotherapy ever since and has been rigorously empirically studied. Eugene was a grad student who was working with Carl Rogers, the founder of humanistic psychotherapy. Eugene, having a degree in phenomenology (the philosophy on direct subjective experience) wanted to precisely know what was the difference in the experiences of those who were successful in therapy versus those who were not. Through interviews and recordings of therapy sessions he discovered that a subtle but very precise inner listening took place with those who were successful.

This inner listening was a natural ability some patients had to feel an amorphous sensation of their problems in their bodies and recognize it and let it more cognitively unfold through recognition and bringing out the implicit. This amorphous sense of things in the body was coined the Felt-Sense. Being able to stay with and describe the felt-sense until it became more focused caused enfolded meaning, as in thoughts, feelings, memories, impulses, images and the like to arise out of the felt-sense. This would soon cause what Eugene coined a Felt-Shift.

A felt shift is a sense of the felt-sense of inner experience changes and is not like it once was. To use another one of Eugene's phrases: experience is "carried forward."

Compare this to the majority of meditation and spiritual approaches: they emphasis creating an experience or simply attending to experience. Focusing goes a step further from attending: it works so that deeper implicit meaning flows from experience and the mind-body system becomes fluid and unblocked.

Forget self-actualization, enlightenment, divine union or whatever spiritual systems expound. All that matters is that experience is carried on to the next step, or shift, however small. (Few in the transpersonal world have come to the same place: see Claudio Naranjo, or A.H. Almaas.)

Unlike most psychotherapy schools, Eugene and the humanists have always tended to be more libertine about what is done in psychotherapy. The magic of change that occurs in the best therapy offices can be brought out for the average person. Thus Focusing has not just carried on as an inside therapy technique for experts. It has been taught as a self-help method throughout the years. In fact, Eugene's first book in 1980 called Focusing, was just that. Eugene has even spoken of "giving therapy away." That is: breaking the taboo of psychotherapy technique by teaching it to the lay person.

I believe that just about anyone can benefit from Focusing. It helps us build that lost sense of intuitive inner listening that more "undeveloped" cultures still know and live by. It gets us out of our heads and into our bodies and emotions, without denying our heads. In fact, the head comes secondary, but simple recognition or representation of inner experience with images.

Unlike other self-help techniques Focusing can become a way of life. The more it is practiced, the more a person lives through their felt-sense. A felt-sense exists at all times. The only time it ceases to be is in death. So all of humanity can benefit by living by their felt sense, their contact boundary between inner and outer. Their sense of themselves and life and everything stuck and unresolved. Deeper knowing and wisdom can flow. Energies and motivations can be released. A deeper sense of self and truth can eventually arise.

Eugene did not intend to create a spiritual technique and has not been explicitly a spiritual person himself, but the majority of his colleagues and other Focusers have made it a very spiritually oriented technique, although it does not have to be.

Go to for much more on the subject.

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