Gendlin’s Focusing

Gendlin’s focusing seems to encourage short introspection sessions (more like 20 minutes than an hour, which isn’t enough time to get much done), but is otherwise a good entry-level skill that does the same thing as vipassana. Post copypasted from here.


What do you get out of it?

  • The good.
    • You know more about yourself and your emotions.
      • This makes you able to handle emotions more skillfully, as well as stay true to your deep desires.
    • You have better access to subtle intuitions.
      • There’s much happening in your brain that you aren’t aware of, and sometimes all the answers you need are already in there somewhere.
    • You recognize more easily when other people are being honest.
      • When you get the hang of the skill of connecting to your deep emotions, it will also be easier to tell if other people are doing it or not.
  • The bad.
    • You have the reality of your mind rubbed in your face.
      • You won’t always like what you see.
      • Depending on your pre-existing assumptions, it might trigger a serious re-evaluation of your self-image and life philosophy.
    • You might be more easily frustrated with shallow conversations.
      • Discovering emotions together with other people is a very powerful and enriching experience. But it’s not always appropriate, and you can’t always do it.

How to tell if you have it?

Note: this skill is naturally easy for some people, and quite tricky for others.

  • You find it easy to talk about your emotions.
    • It sometimes takes time to find the right words, but it’s not often that you find yourself completely stumped.
  • You can systematically resolve vague, nagging doubts into clear insights.
    • Whenever you sit and think about your issues, they tend to become more and more clear (as opposed to more muddy and confused, forcing you to give up).
  • You are able to make quick decisions which you don’t regret later.
    • When there is no time, you act in agreement with your deep emotions, and even though it’s not always the best possible decision it’s also nothing you are ashamed of.

How to learn it?

  • Note: Working on this skill gives you indirect benefits, which are much more important than any particular insights coming out of a single session.
    • Putting effort into it will train your mind to be more responsive to emotions in general, even when you aren’t paying attention.
    • If this is already your second nature, you’ll probably feel that any specific instructions about how to do it are pointless. Don’t worry – the purpose of the detailed instructions below is limited to initial stages of learning, and you are supposed to go beyond them.
  • Method 1.
    • Learn from the original book or audiobook by Eugene T. Gendlin.
      • This book is quite well known, so there’s a chance you can borrow it from a friend.
    • Alternatively, follow the short version of the original instructions on the website of the Focusing Institute.
  • Method 2.
    • Follow the simplified instructions below and wing it.
      • Step 1. Felt sense.
        • Bring up something that you’d like to work on together with your subconscious mind. It can be a question, feeling, memory, desire etc.
          • Focus on the wordless blob of intuition that represents it, rather than any names you might have for it.
          • It’s usually a good idea to let the topic “pick itself” as much as possible.
        • Hold “delicately” it in your attention.
          • Don’t assume that you know any answers! Your mind is likely to surprise you, and you need to give it space to do so.
          • If your intuitions seem murky and hard to access, stay with the feeling for a minute or so, to give your mind time to bring up the full richness of related thoughts and feelings.
        • Find a corresponding sensation in your body.
          • Emotional disturbance tends to influence muscle tension, and this can often be felt as physical sensations in the body.
            • Some common examples include feeling tightness in the chest, belly area, or throat.
          • Even if you can’t feel anything in yourr body, you might still have some success with the next step.
      • Step 2. Match a verbal description.
        • Try to bounce some guesses off the felt sense, to see what feels right.
          • Give your mind lots of space! If your guesses don’t stick, let them drop away without getting attached.
          • If something just pops up in your mind, try going along with it for some time and see what you can find. Just don’t lose track of what you’re trying to do.
        • Often, you’ll hit on some words or phrases that “click”, but aren’t a complete answer. Build on them and explore the most promising areas.
      • Step 3. Felt shift.
        • At some point, you’ll finally hit on a description that “clicks” really well, and feel a release of tension.
          • After you manage to get this to happen once, you’ll know exactly what you’re looking for, and the whole process should become more straightforward.
    • If the short version above is not enough to get you started, you might have more luck with the original book.
      • Doing it together with someone more experienced might also be helpful.

Further progress

  • The instructions above aren’t really how you use the skill when you’re good at it.
    • You don’t need to do anything in any particular order, as long as it works.
    • You also don’t need to use any verbal thoughts. In fact, mental images or impressions might be more powerful.
  • Try to stay in touch with your body and your “felt senses” all the time.
    • In this case you don’t need to use the technique at all, because you already “get it” automatically.
    • However, before making a big decision, you might still want to take a longer time to consult your inner feelings and thoughts.
  • Change how you communicate.
    • If you learn to speak directly from your deep emotions, especially in a setting in which other people are willing to do it too, your relationships will be greatly enriched.

Next post: Sense Your Body with Clarity

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