Focusing is a natural process of listening in to the body. Our embodied experience contains a richness of information about what is going on in our lives, how we feel and what we need. If we can learn to listen to it in a certain way then we can develop a kinder relationship with our inner experience, gain confidence in our ability to manage difficult feelings and gain insight into the right next steps to take.
Focusing was discovered by Eugene Gendlin in the 1960s when conducting research into what makes for good outcomes in therapy. His team discovered that clients who gained more form therapy had moments when they slowed down, seemed to grasp for what they were experiencing, described this in a particular sort of way and seemed to experience a physical change having done this.
You might notice the times when you’re talking about something that’s troubling you, that the moments when you shed some tears you feel you have got closer to the heart of the matter. You might notice some feeling that tells you a situation is bad for you, whether it’s a specific feeling like a knot in your stomach or a vague feeling all around. You might notice that when you feel you have hit the nail on the head in describing your worries or finding a new insight, that you take a deeper breath and feel more spacious. These are all ways of Focusing!
We can be aware of such times when what we say is more connected to what’s going on for us inside. We can make space for feelings to emerge and we can develop new habits of keeping gentle patient company with what is there in us. By creating space, noticing and acknowledging the body’s felt meanings a shift may often occur. Sometimes this is subtle, sometimes very powerful. Focusing as a regular practice, whether alone, in a peer partnership or in therapy, can allow us to develop our ability to relate to what’s going on inside in a way that helps us move forward.
Focusing can be particularly supportive in times like these when need to feel more grounded and resourced to deal with the stress and anxiety of big changes and unknowns. This is because Focusing helps us to pause, and listen inside, which in itself can help us feel calmer and stronger. Through this practice we are supporting an inner relationship where we know that there is me here listening to and keeping company with my experience. We can find the right distance to be from our experience in order to relate to it but not feel overwhelmed by it.
Focusing can also allow us to sense our connection with our wider body – how it holds and supports all of our experience – and with our wider environment – how we may be able to gain a sense of support from our body’s contact with the world around us both through direct contact and through, for instance, evoking our feeling of being somewhere or with someone that we find calming, comforting, supporting.
Suzi Mackenzie is a BACP Senior Accredited Person-Centred Counsellor, Qualified Supervisor and BFA Certified Focusing Teacher. She offers one to one and group training in Focusing and regularly runs Introduction and Skills Certificate courses in Focusing. She is able to offer this work online during this period.