what is focusing
On July 1, 2018, I wrote a blog post called “The Truth Teller.” It was a piece on the intelligence of the body – body wisdom. Over the last few years, I have come to greatly appreciate and to depend on the body as a messenger of truth, the bringer of clarity, the well-spring of loving wisdom. The truth is, it knows more than we do. By this, I mean it knows more than our brain’s ability to answer life’s most essential questions.
The frontal lobe is a remarkable feat of evolution. It is what put a man on the moon, what produced the Salk vaccine, it is what conceptualized the world-wide-web and the Human Rights Movement. It’s what organizes our days, what allows us to analyze data, to predict through statistics, but it is absolutely ineffective at answering questions about the soul – the deepest, truest aspect of the self: Who am I? What is truth? What is love? What is the ultimate nature of reality? Those are the questions we bump up against when we hit a block in the road, when the way forward is unclear, when all our programmed resources are no longer enough. When we find ourselves up against a dead-end, the problem-solving mind is not too helpful, although, it really wants to be. Present it with a problem and it immediately jumps in to solve it – through analysis and statistics, through the scientific method. It’s brilliant in that sense, it’s just that analysis and statistics and the scientific method can’t bring us to authentic clarity or peace of mind or an expansive heart. For that, we have to drop down out of our heads and into our bodies, our hearts and our deep intuition.
As a therapist, I help clients access this reservoir of wisdom through a process called Focusing. Focusing is a form of Somatic Experiencing – a therapeutic process that moves clients out of their story-telling minds, out of their conceptual thinking and their frantic monkey-brains into their felt-sense of things. It helps clients access a qualitatively different form of inner intelligence that resides in the body that can literally be felt, sensationally. The process, originally developed by Eugene Gendlin at the University of Chicago begins with a relaxation technique which focuses on the here and now. It then moves into a sorting process that results in the one issue that is causing the most inner disturbance. While focusing on that inner disturbance, the client is then asked to notice what she feels in her body, paying particular attention to the throat, the heart space, the diaphragm and the abdomen. Sensations are then described with adjectives like: “tight “or “stuck” or with phrases, like “a lump in my throat” or with metaphors like, “It feels like I am blocked by some kind of wall.” These sensations are then acknowledged inside the self with a simple, “Hello” and then, “Thank you for coming,” treating the sensations as if they were friends who have come to bring information or insights that could not be accessed through the problem-solving mind. Focusing takes the client into another dimension of the self that is experiential rather than cognitive. In fact, the information that is discovered along the way often doesn’t make any sense to the client’s normal way of thinking, making it important to allow the process to unfold organically without any judgment from the rational mind.
The sensations that are noticed and acknowledged are little carriers of hidden or unconscious information. Inevitably, they have come to show the client where she has left her truth, where she is blocked to her awareness of love’s presence in her life. Following the trail of sensations and corresponding messages often has a way of leading the client back to childhood wounding or to a fresh new insight or to a deep experience of loving wisdom that resides in the heart, creating connections to be made with lost parts of the self. Rather than merely bringing greater cognitive understanding, an inner integration takes place that is felt experientially and registered in the cells. And it is this cellular experience of connection that brings the potential for healing.