Going In Doesn’t Mean Going Deep
What’s wonderful about focusing is that it can disabuse us of the misconception that ‘going in’ (turning our attention inwardly) has to be going deep. Going inside can feel threatening in that it’s unfamiliar and intangible. If we go in, we might feel we cannot modulate how fast or far we go. There may be concern of being overwhelmed by negative emotion or exposed to more than we can handle. Once we see what’s there, what if we don’t know how to handle it, and can neither unsee it, nor force it back into hiding? Going within can seem as daunting as the horizon line appeared to early explorers — what is over the edge of the earth?
Focusing provides a way of turning inward that makes it possible. Without losing control, without traumatizing one’s self, and with a guaranteed passage back (round-trip ticket included!). There are five aspects of the focusing process that make ‘going in’ an exciting exploration that is manageable and safe.
- It’s there anyway – Whether or not you are consciously dealing with it, whatever you are turning towards in focusing (or away from in life) is there anyway. You are in fact already living with it, as Gene Gendlin, the originator of Focusing, instructs us. Whether you shut your eyes to it or not, what is still is. What makes it better is the being with it differently — relating to it with a friendliness.
- Being Grounded – To begin, the focuser centers himself in his body and environment. He brings his attention to his physical self and scans it for sensation. He returns to grounded awareness throughout his inner exploration. This means returning to a bodily awareness, sensing the physical feel of his weight in the chair, feet on the floor, temperature of the air on his face. Only from this sturdy ship can the exploration begin.
- A Companion – The focuser is not alone, but works with a companion who is also trained in focusing. The companion helps hold the space of compassionate curiosity, reflects what she hears, gently checking with the focuser with reminders to return to the bodily sensation, perhaps asking whether slowing down at certain places would feel right. The relating with the focusing companion encourages the interrelating needed for this work.
- Pace – The focuser sets a pace that feels right for him. Focusing requires a slowing down in order for a ‘checking in’ and ‘sensing into’ the bodily experience and how to verbalize it precisely so it is matched with the exact word and fully expressed. This necessitates a sort of zig-zagging dialogue between the verbal, intellectual, and the bodily response to what is being expressed. Do these words capture the feeling in a way that is just right? Is there another word that better fits? Time is given so the focuser can listen inwardly. This inner listening and care taken to understand and fully express — to get it ‘right’ — this is the essence of reparative communication. In this way, whatever needs attentive mirroring receives it and healing occurs.
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