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📙 Focusing

Author: Eugene Gendlin

Full Title: Focusing

Highlights from October 16th, 2020.

This book will let you experience and recognize when actual change is happening in you, and when it’s not. There is a distinct physical sensation of change, which you recognize once you have experienced it. We call it a Body Shift. When people have this even once, they no longer helplessly wonder for years whether they are changing or not.
Another major discovery is that the process of actually changing feels good. Effective working on one’s problems is not self-torture. The change process we have discovered is natural to the body, and it feels that way in the body.
One of the chief new principles is that the change process feels good. It feels like inhaling fresh air after having been in a stuffy room for a long time. The moment it doesn’t, you stop and back up just a little bit.
A felt sense is the body’s sense of a particular problem or situation.
A felt sense is something you do not at first recognize—it is vague and murky. It feels meaningful, but not known. It is a body-sense of meaning.

Highlights from October 16th, 2020.

The most exciting characteristic of all is the fact that a felt sense, when you focus on it well, has the power to change. You can actually feel this change happening in your body. It is a well-defined physical sensation of something moving or shifting. It is invariably a pleasant sensation: a feeling of something coming unstuck or uncramped. I can best describe it to you by starting with a familiar human experience: the odd feeling of knowing you have forgotten something but not knowing what it is.
This is one of the key characteristics of a shift in a felt sense: it always has that easing and sometimes very beautiful sensation of bodily release. It feels like exhaling after holding your breath.
There are no words in the language to describe the felt sense and its physical shifts. Therefore, I must give a name to that feeling of coming unstuck inside. I call it the Body Shift. Not everybody feels the shift taking place specifically in the belly. It may seem to happen all over the body, or it might feel like a loosening in the chest, or it might be a relaxation of a tight throat. I call it Body Shift mainly to suggest that it doesn’t happen in the mind. It is always, in some way, a physical sensation. You often can see it and hear it when it happens in somebody else. There may be a long audible sigh of relief, a sudden loosening of some tight facial grimace, a quick, comfortable relaxing in the posture.
Stuck places Inside you that spoil parts of your life, ways in which you feel trapped and helpless. In all these cases, exactly as with those forgotten snapshots, your body knows much that you don’t know, much that you cannot possibly figure out.

Highlights from December 19th, 2020.

The first movement is the one in which you give yourself what might be called a “positive set.” You put yourself into a state of mind and body in which the other focusing movements can take place freely. Your inner actions in this movement are much like the overt actions of artists when they start to work each morning. They make sure their brushes are cleaned and free of hardened paint, scrape dried residue off the palette, stir the pots and knead the tubes to work out any stiffening or coagulation that may have taken place in the paints overnight. This may seem to be peripheral to the main work, but until it is done, the rest of the work can’t begin at all.
Think of the first movement as a brief time when you allow yourself to stop being a monument to your troubles.
Most people harbor a feeling that they must make their bodies express their troubles constantly. We live life with our bodies. Every trouble and bad situation is like a cramp in the body.
It copes with the trouble while being the trouble.
Your body, with its sense of rightness, knows what would feel right.
It knows the direction. It knows this just as surely as you know which way to move a crooked picture.
The sense of what is wrong carries with it, inseparably, a sense of the direction toward what is right.
The moral and ethical values we think about and try to control may be relative and various, but the values by which our bodies move away from bad feelings are much more objective.
It does not sense every possible value already. But it senses vastly much more than we can think. The body is an incredibly fine system within Nature and the cosmos.
When I use the word “body,” I mean much more than the physical machine. Not only do you physically live the circumstances around you, but also those you only think of in your mind.
This sense of being bodily alive in a vast system is the body as it is felt from inside.
The body knows what its own right state feels like and is constantly checking and adjusting its processes to stay as close to that state as possible.
Your body knows the direction of healing and life.
You put your attention in your body, and you propose to your body that you feel totally fine and joyful about how your life is going.
After the five or six things that usually come in this way, there is one more: There is usually, for each person, a “background feeling” that is always there (for instance, “always gray,” “always a little sad,” “always running scared,” “always trying hard”). What quality is always there, now too, and comes between you and feeling fine?
By this means you can sometimes come to an opening out, a sense of a vast space. Under all the packages each of us carries, a different self can be discovered. You are not any of the things you have set aside. You are no content at all!
People can always think of some long list of things that might, or ought to, trouble them. This is not the list we want.
The body doesn’t answer that quickly. It takes about thirty seconds.
Suppose you are interviewing a rather shy person who hasn’t been allowed to say much for some time, perhaps some years. You would not get impatient and yell at the person after five seconds.
One must go to that place where there are not words but only feeling. At first there may be nothing there until a felt sense forms. Then when it forms, it feels pregnant. The felt sense has in it a meaning you can feel, but usually it is not immediately open.
Notice how little of your love-feeling the words actually say. Yet the words are somehow right in relation to the felt sense
To ask what it feels like, now, to be a person with this problem, helps widen the scope, so that the felt sense of the whole problem can come and then give you other specific feelings.
If words keep coming into your head, explanations and ideas and accusations and so on, keep repeating an open-ended question of your own. For example, keep repeating, “What does this whole thing feel like?” That way you control the word-making part of your mind yourself, so it can’t run off with you.
That is why you need not stop with feelings that seem to come with readymade labels. Welcome especially those that come without names.
Nameless horrors and weird states are not lying there “Inside” you, like poisonous snakes locked in a cage. Many people talk of themselves this way. “I don’t want to open the lid,” they say. “I don’t want to let all that bad stuff come out.” The truth is that you are not a cage full of snakes. You are not any kind of container in which feelings writhe around with lives of their own. You are a process, and your feelings are a part of that process.
Focusing involves letting a felt sense form something wider than and different from your old familiar bad feeling. Stay out of the old familiar sinkhole, stand back and take in a wider sense of the whole problem area that the bad feeling is part of.
Focusing takes a few minutes, ten, fifteen, let’s say even half an hour. But not more. Then it’s time to talk, rest, do something else. Do not grind away at things.
As you focus on a felt sense you may get further emotions coming out of it. But a felt sense is not an emotion like anger, fear, hate, joy, or anxiety. It is a sense of your total emotional situation, a feel of many things together, in which an emotion can be embedded or from which an emotion is produced.

Highlights from December 19th, 2020.

Thinking in the usual way can be objectively true and powerful. But, when put in touch with what the body already knows and lives, it becomes vastly more powerfull.
Experience can never be equated with concepts. But experience is not “undefined” either. It is more organized, more finely faceted by far, than any concepts can be. And yet it is always again able to be lived further in a new creation of meaning that takes account of, and also shifts, all the earlier meanings.
In my philosophical works I have found ways to deal with the well-known problems surrounding the word “experience,” the activity of language beyond what can be represented and other problems that currently seem to make the above possible.

Highlights from February 1st, 2021.

Our structured institutions today offer little opportunity for personal living and speaking. The real living of people is mostly dulled and silent, Inside them, alone. In terms of social institutions, that space is empty.
Once people experience what is at first vague and murky opening into step after step of one’s inner detail and change, then living without this in people becomes lonely and shallow. Without some people who listen, it is hard to hear oneself. One is often frustrated with people who don’t know focusing. Every little while one wants to say, “Could you go see more what that is?” but the person doesn’t know what that means.
People think they already know what they feel. They may be in excellent touch with their “gut feelings,” but then they let it go at that.
Focusing makes all other methods more effective by putting them in relation to the body’s felt sense. We don’t make a “sect” of focusing. It goes well with, and can be added to, anything a person already finds helpful.
Focusing is a different, further step. Beyond contacting feelings there is a different inward “place.” A holistic body sense, at first unclear, can form. It is a sense of the whole meaning of a particular concern. It is from this “place” that a series of inward shifts, a road of many steps, can arise. An inward texture of detail reveals itself and changes. We
Human experience, we now understand, does not really consist of pieces or contents that have a static shape. As one senses the exact, finely complex shape at a given moment, it also changes in this very sensing.
Nonconformity has always been possible, of course. But those who rejected traditional Patterns often found themselves adrift, lost, without values and standards. Focusing replaces those Patterns with a way of making new Patterns.
If we are busily discarding old forms and Patterns, what will replace them? New forms that are equally fixed and painful? New forms can come from inside each person instead of being imposed from outside. A world in which this happens won’t be a world in which people get forced into forms that cramp and hurt. It will be a world in which forms are used in a new way.
Many people today are struggling with a baffling fact: The old Patterns that are supposed to make life work—and once did—no longer serve. Being a parent today, for example, doesn’t work if we try to do it as our parents did, yet no other form is established for us to follow. We have to make it up as we go along— often learning that what we just did was wrong.
Similarly, some women find the housewife role empty and intolerable, but are often unprepared for anything else even if they know what it might be. The Pattern of being a woman is changing, but people argue whether it is changing into this or that new Pattern, as if eventually, somehow, a fixed form must be imposed.
These old Patterns once were useful. The mass of people (always with odd exceptions) fitted themselves into the roles and routines they were assigned and which gave them an inner life of emotions. Only a small number of educated and thinking people created roles and Patterns. But today this dependence on routines and roles has changed. A large part of the mass of people are educated and literate. The creativity and creative needs of people have expanded, and now the routines are too confining. People find that they have feelings that are far more complex than accepted roles either demand or offer.
Focusing is only a piece of an answer. It lets people find their own Inner source of direction. It can be a source of new Patterns, devised freshly by each individual.
Instead of static structures we need structure-making. This would not be unstructured. Without structure nothing happens. It would be an expected and understood constant restructuring.
Instead of having only the predictable, expected emotions the roles call for, we often have unclear feelings. They are unclear because “clear” feelings are those that are already Patterned. We must make new phrases to express these unclear feelings, and new forms of action to carry the feelings into daily life. This is the process of form-making.
The holistic felt sense is more inclusive than reason. It includes the reasons of reason as well as what made the feeling, and much more. That holistic sense can be lived further, and has its own directionality. It is your sense of the whole thing, including what you know, have thought, have learned. It includes both what you think you “ought” and what is not yet resolved. Thought and feeling, ought and want, are not now split in it.
A society of Pattern-makers is coming. It cannot help but be a society in which people are also more sensitive to, and intolerant of, social brutalities and oppressions, and more able to act to change them.
In focusing one pays attention to a “felt sense.” This is felt in the body, yet it has meanings. It has all the meanings one is already living with because one lives in situations with one’s body. A felt sense is body and mind before they are split apart.
Focusing applies to more than personal problems. Creativity, originality and depth require something like focusing in any field: the capacity to attend to what is not yet verbalized.

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