A general outline of volume Ι
+This volume (volume Ι) is divided into seven sections, following an Introduction by Judy Moore. The sections begin with reconsidering Focusing and reconsidering the Felt Sense then expand into reflections on Focusing in different cultures and contexts, Focusing and Existential Challenges, developing new practices, different ‘takes’ on the body, and conclude with Body Mapping and Children Focusing. Of course, you can read the chapters and the abstracts of the chapters one-byone, in depth, at your own pace, but we thought that a general outline of volume Ι would also be useful for a quick ‘grasp’ of this volume’s ‘body’.
+In Judy Moore’s Introduction to volume Ι, Focusing is presented in its broader context as a universal human phenomenon and Gendlin’s work seen as part of a more general mid-twentieth century Western desire to capture ‘the feel of perceptual experience itself ’ that has far-reaching creative, social and political implications. She explains how the significance of focusing on the felt edge of experiencing came to be identified initially in the field of psychology through Eugene Gendlin’s research collaboration with Carl Rogers and colleagues in the 1950s and 1960s. Gendlin’s understanding of Focusing as a process that can be broken down and taught in steps was refined and developed through subsequent research with colleagues at the University of Chicago in the 1960s and 70s, leading to the establishment of the ‘Changes’ groups, the publication of Focusing (1978) and the eventual founding of The Focusing Institute.
In Section 1 (Focusing reconsidered)
+Focusing is located by Pavlos Zarogiannis (Homo experientialis) as part of contemporary ‘psy-culture’ and considered in the context of some of the philosophical and socio-political trends of modern and postmodern times. He considers the rise of experientialism in the Western world in the Middle Ages and how it has resurfaced in the 20th and 21st centuries as part of the ‘manufacturing’ of ‘individualised experiences’ that characterises contemporary culture. ‘Experiencing’ itself, at the heart of the Focusing endeavour, despite its positive therapeutic and philosophical character, is called into question as a ‘postmodern colonial Trojan Horse made in the West and exported to the whole world’.
+In his chapter Stop to appreciate Gene’s legacy and then step forward, Akira Ikemi brings together his understanding of the philosophical origins of Focusing with his own experience as a teacher to shed new light on the six ‘movements’ of Focusing, demonstrating both how Focusing occurs naturally and exploring in more detail the 2nd to the 6th ‘movements’ as they are often are taught. He goes on to explain some of his own developments from Gendlin’s work—‘crossing with animals’, ‘space presencing’ and ‘Kanga Focusing’—and how his understanding of Gendlin’s work has led him to develop his own ‘separate channel’ of practice, while continuing to engage in discovery of the as-yet ‘unrevealed’ treasures of Gendlin’s heritage and legacy.
Watch Akira Ikemi talking about his chapter, in the following video interview:
Hideo Tanaka’s chapter (Tapping it lightly and the short silence) examines published verbatim records of Focusing sessions viewed from the perspective of the term ‘direct reference’. Hideo Tanaka points to the significance of ‘tapping’ the felt sense in the ‘silence’ that occurs in the Focuser after the felt sense has been symbolised, concluding that the importance of what may ‘come’ in the ‘silence’ means that ‘forming concepts and checking them against felt meaning’ cannot be the ‘core’ meaning of ‘direct reference’. It is the ‘short silence’ itself that is ‘implicitly meaningful’.
Sarah Luczaj (Focusing is not a ‘thing’) examines the ‘alarming paradox’ that can happen when Focusing, ‘whose entire purpose is to dwell in and articulate the unquantifiable’, becomes ‘commodified’, part of a more formalised organisational and professional context. Drawing on Buddhist and Taoist traditions, she points to the danger of becoming overly concerned about whether or not what is being felt is a ‘felt sense’ so that a mismatch occurs between what is being thought or felt and concern about whether or not it is ‘right’ in terms of Focusing (or other) terminology. The ‘no-self ’ perspective of Buddhism/ Taoism enables a process awareness that is prior to the terminology of any discipline and, while both are needed, ‘it must not be forgotten that the no-self context, the implicit intricacy, is wider and comes first’.
Nikolaos Kypriotakis (Sense, no-sense, non-sense) writes of and from a deep understanding of Ancient Greek thinking/awareness. Random thoughts and associations—philosophy, geometry, Aristotle, Plato—question the creation of meaning and consider the role of epoche (ἐποχή), the suspension of the intellect, a reversal of attention that permits the opening of an intuitive process and awareness, as in Focusing. The Zen paradox of the disciplined accessing of ‘nomind’ points to how Focusing ‘can play a role in our spiritual birth’ and Gendlin’s body-environment unity is seen in terms of the poetry of Homer whose work is presented as ‘a living, still vibrating, endless resource for vital perspectives on identity, psychology and life in general’.
In Section 2 (The felt sense reconsidered)
Campbell Purton’s chapter (The role of the body in Focusing) is that while the body can be important in Focusing the ‘felt sense’ is not itself a bodily sensation. Drawing insight from Wittgenstein’s philosophy of language, he points to the complexity of what may come to us as we consider a situation that we are making the subject of our Focusing, where words cannot express what is ‘on the edge’ and images, symbols or gestures may be needed instead. He suggests that bodily sensations are simply more prominent for some Focusers than others and need not be vital to a successful Focusing process.
Watch Campbell reading a few paragraphs from his chapter in the following video:
Here you can watch a short interview. Campbell Purton speaks about his chapter and Focusing:
See more here:
+In her chapter (Felt sense—a beautiful yet misleading term) Donata Schoeller demonstrates through her understanding of Gendlin’s philosophy that concepts such as the ‘felt sense’ cannot be regarded as either simple or easily defined.
Pointing to the ‘violence’ implicit in the use of concepts when we try to speak of that which cannot be easily expressed in words, she invites us to be aware of an ‘experiential process that includes the coming of words’. Giving attention to the felt sense involves ‘becoming aware of the aspects of the complexity we are’ that can be brought to bear on our living and thinking where we have a choice whether ‘to reduce complexity or open it up’.
See more here:
+Both Ann Weiser Cornell and Barbara McGavin (Outside our awareness: Focusing with what is not felt) were already experienced Focusers when they discovered separately in each of their own lives that there were ‘stuck’ parts of themselves-manifesting as writer’s block, alcoholism, depression and low self-worth—that remained ‘untouched’ by all that they had learnt through Focusing. In this chapter they describe how they learnt to relate to destructive parts of themselves that were initially out of awareness and eventually to develop ways of working with others where the relationship between often-conflicting parts ‘can be felt’, held by ‘Self-in-Presence’ and worked with in a gradual ‘Untangling’ process.
In Section 3 (Focusing in different cultures and contexts)
+In his chapter (Understanding Master Dogen’s ‘Genjo Koan’ from the perspective of ‘A Process Model’) Tadayuki Murasato illuminates 13th-century Japanese Zen Master Dogen’s ‘Genjo Koan’, the most famous chapter from his classic work, the Shobogenzo, using Gendlin’s thinking from A Process Model. He gives particular attention to how Gendlin’s terminology explains the ‘process’ experience of satori (enlightenment), which for Dogen, seen in Gendlin’s terms, was a ‘monad of religious truth, from which he wrote his Shobogenzo’. Gendlin’s development of Focusing and Thinking at the Edge can help us to reclaim ‘our inner lives’ through bodily knowing, and Murasato’s view is that Dogen’s understanding of enlightenment has ‘almost the same direction even if it is a seemingly very different path’.
Jun Xu (A brief history of the felt sense in East Asia) identifies Focusing as an ancient human phenomenon that has commonly appeared over centuries in different manifestations of East Asian culture. He considers how the felt sense operates to bring a new level of understanding in examples from Chinese and Japanese poetry, explains how it features in ancient divination practices such as the I Ching, how it relates to the Tibetan concept of Dewu (a form of riddle), the Chinese practice of Qigong and the practice of Hua Tou (a form of koan) in Chinese and Japanese Zen Buddhism.
+In her chapter (Recovering your strength, passion and love in life) Akiko Doi describes how she has successfully run workshops for Japanese company workers and health professionals to help deal with burnout and promote resilience. The workshops are informed by research findings, including insights from Positive Psychology, and practical details and tips for how to organise such workshops are given, featuring various Focusing-based exercises created by Japanese Focusing professionals. Participants have experienced empowerment and a renewed sense of positivity about their lives as a result of attending such workshops.
In Section 4 (Focusing and existential challenges)
+The chapter The body as phenomenologist by Greg Madison and Ernesto Spinelli examines the implications of a polarising ‘identity politics’ which, fuelled by ‘the immediacy and superficiality of social media formats’, is characterised by emotional language and the identification of a common enemy in such a way as to close down constructive dialogue. Madison and Spinelli argue that extending our ability to be in touch with ourselves as embodied beings, such as through Focusing, enables us to become aware of our aliveness within the universe.
+This phenomenological expansion enables a horizontal perspective from which more refined and constructive dialogues might emerge. Facing our existential demons: Avoidance of our ultimate fears can lead us into stuck, ‘structure-bound’ places where we lose vitality and Claude Missiaen and Siebrecht Vanhooren consider reasons for the difficulty we find in experiencing this ‘existential layer’. A way forward is proposed by implementing an experiential-existential method developed by Claude Missiaen specifically to help people explore, contact and transform their relationship with what he terms our ‘existential demons’. Engaging with the ‘demon’ from a safe space within the body enables us to ‘accept and embrace life as it is’, leading to greater wisdom and resilience.
Alan Tidmarsh (Focusing with elephants) writes of the difficulty we experience in engaging with ‘the elephant in the room’, where, in challenging situations, such as the bitter divisions that have arisen from the recent Brexit decision in the UK, the most important issue in the room often remains unacknowledged.
To enable contact with the unspoken ‘elephant in the room’ he has devised a three-step process of ‘pausing’, ‘noticing’ and ‘owning up’, the latter being a willingness to engage in the uncomfortable recognition of one’s own biases and prejudices in order to facilitate deeper self-understanding, greater compassion for the position of the ‘other’ and ultimately more constructive dialogue.
Joan Klagsbrun and Julian Miller (Acknowledging the dark and embracing the light) write from the heart of the Covid-19 ‘darkness’ that threatens each one of us at the time of writing. The confrontation with our own mortality and the fears that threaten to engulf us at this challenging time can, they propose, be ‘metabolized’ by Clearing a Space and Focusing, processes which enable us to ‘find some space between who we are and what threatens us’. They share how insights from Positive Psychology have helped in their own daily living and, together with a regular Focusing practice, ‘been instrumental in helping us endure what is painful, and to move towards a greater state of wellbeing and joy’.
In Section 5 (Developing new practices)
Kathy McGuire (Empathy Focusing and the power of ‘I-Thou’) was a member of the original ‘Changes’ group that was formed by Gendlin and colleagues in Chicago in 1970, a politically-aware group committed to the principle of engaging in Empathic Listening as well as to spreading Focusing within the local community.
This chapter proposes the continuation of such an interactive model for decision-making and community building as well as for the enhancement of ‘I-Thou’ communication between individuals. Practical suggestions as well as resources are offered to promote what is a more empathic, relational, ‘feminineist’ way forward for a troubled world.
+Opening the process, processing the opening: Open process Focusing. This account of the development of Open process Focusing is informed by Mary Jean Larrabee’s academic training in phenomenology as she explains the unfolding of her questioning of the original ‘six movements’ of Focusing and her subsequent development of a Focusing method that includes giving attention to ‘lower and deeper levels of process that we were not paying attention to’. This involves being ‘open’ both to inner process and to the manifestations of that inner process, including ‘Creative Expression’. Larrabee also notes that Gendlin’s identification of a means to access inner experiencing has ‘pointed toward a future of unfoldings into the multiplicity of modalities about which my essay and the volume it is published in is concerned’.
+In his chapter On Focusing Therapy, Johannes Wiltschko describes how he and German colleagues have developed a distinctive form of therapy, rooted in both Focusing and Client-Centered theory. Their practice and training includes work with the body, ‘movement and drawing, expression and action’ and also takes into account stuck or ‘structure-bound’ patterns of behaviour that may have remained resistant to change over a lifetime. At the heart of the therapy is the ‘I’ of the client which gives consent to the different practices within this therapy that may move the experiencing process forwards.
In Section 6 (Different ‘takes’ on the body)
+Building on Gendlin’s distinction between ‘old model’ thinking and ‘process’ thinking, Frans Depestele, in his chapter A process theory of physical illness, distinguishes between the body as ‘object’ (as it is generally viewed in medicine) and the body as ‘subject’, the ‘experiencing body’, that, he argues, also needs to be taken into account in medical treatment. Supporting his argument with research evidence and case examples, as well as through reference to Ancient Greek philosophers and to more recent phenomenologists, such as Gendlin and Merleau-Ponty, Depestele argues that a more psychotherapeutic approach needs to be brought to the treatment of physical illness. The discoveries of medicine need to be fitted into a model that includes the whole experiencing of the patient.
+The focus of Tine Swyngedouw’s chapter (Exploring the quality of life with chronic illness or cancer) is what she has learnt from her own experience of working with clients whose lives, either as patients or loved ones, have been affected by chronic illness or cancer. Building on Depestele’s view that we need to see the body in terms of the whole experience of the person in interaction with their environment, she has developed a practice of inviting the client first to pause, then make contact with their bodily felt experiencing, acknowledging what is there and then finding a way of symbolising what comes, a process that is summarised by the acronym PEAS. This four-fold process is complemented by an understanding of the ‘four dimensions’ of the person (physical, social, psychological and spiritual), another layer of understanding that connects with the image of the four-leaf clover that underpins this chapter.
+From her own extensive background in different forms of somatic body work, her experience of Wholebody Focusing as devised by Kevin McEvenue, and her understanding of Gendlin’s philosophy, Astrid Schillings (Focusing with the Whole Body: the Bodying person) has formulated her own distinctive way of integrating ‘wholebody’ awareness into her work as a practitioner. She explains how some of the process elements of her work took shape and demonstrates how they operate in practice through case examples. At the heart of her individual client work and training programmes is a commitment to working ‘in embodiment’, thus opening up ‘a relationship space in which the living human body finds the next step’ to become ‘the bodying person’.
In Section 7 (Body mapping and Children Focusing)
+Working on the premise that trauma strikes directly into the body and cannot easily be processed verbally, Bart Santen describes, in his chapter Focusing-oriented body mapping: scanning the imprint of trauma, his method of working with traumatised children where they are guided to scan a body map with their fingers to begin a process of dismantling the painfully stuck and ‘structure-bound’ places held inside themselves. As the child scans the body map with their fingers they slowly begin to make contact with the dissociated part of themselves and, invited to symbolise what is there through colour and imagery, they begin to process the trauma that they have held inside for so long. Examples of Santen’s work with three adolescent girls demonstrates the process of how the body becomes able to ‘talk back’ and release the pain of the original trauma.
Atsmaout Perlstein gives the history of body mapping as background to her own integration of this particular method into her own Focusing work. In her chapter Working with KOL.BE Body Mapping, she names her particular variant of body mapping ‘KOL.BE’, which has two meanings in Hebrew: ‘the voice within me’ and ‘all that is within me’. The movements and principles of KOL.BE Body Mapping are described and illustrated through examples of her work with three adult clients.
Rene Veugelers (Listening in three directions) breaks down the essence of how he works with children into three elements: listening to your own process, being aware of the interaction with the child and how the child listens to their process.
He gives two case examples to demonstrate his work, which involves holding ‘an moves or movements, like the body relaxing, being more open, etc. that indicate when the child’s process begins to carry forward’.
Sara Bradly’s time-limited work with children in the public education system in the UK means that she has to be ingenious in how she creates safety, making it possible for her young clients to be emotionally open in a relatively short space of time. In her chapter Introducing Focusing to children using a story, she describes how, using a set of animal-themed Russian dolls to represent different ‘parts’ of the self, she tells the child a story that demonstrates how it is possible to relate to these different ‘parts’, each of which is characterised by a different feeling. Through a case example, she shows how a young boy comes to be more accepting of his own uncomfortable feelings and is then able to engage with other creative therapeutic methods, including body-mapping, to move towards resolution of the emotional issues that caused him to be referred for therapy.
See more here:
Senses of Focusing, Vol. I
About the Editors
Notes on Contributors
Notes on style and conventions
Foreword, by Catherine Torpey, Executive Director, The International Focusing Institute (TIFI), New York
Preface (with ‘A general outline of volume Ι’)
Introduction: What is Focusing and where did it come from? by Judy Moore
Section 1: Focusing reconsidered
1 Pavlos Zarogiannis, Homo experientialis
2 Akira Ikemi, Stop to appreciate Gene’s legacy and then step forward: Developments from Gendlin’s Focusing
3 Hideo Tanaka, Tapping ‘it’ lightly and the short silence: Applying the concept of ‘direct reference’ to the discussion of verbatim records of Focusing sessions
4 Sarah Luczaj, Focusing is not a ‘thing’
5 Nikolaos Kypriotakis, Sense, no-sense, non-sense: Paradoxes, dialectics and inquiry
Section 2: The felt sense reconsidered
6 Campbell Purton, The role of the body in Focusing
7 Donata Schoeller, Felt sense—A beautiful yet misleading term: trials, errors and opportunities
8 Ann Weiser Cornell & Barbara McGavin, Outside our awareness: Focusing with what is not felt
Section 3: ‘Senses’ of Focusing in different cultures and contexts
9 Tadayuki Murasato, Understanding Master Dogen’s ‘Genjo Koan’ from the perspective of ‘A Process Model’
10 Jun Xu, A brief history of the felt sense in East Asia before the appearance of Focusing: The Chinese Book of Changes, Dewu and riddles, Qigong, the way of ‘Hua Tou’
11 Akiko Doi, Recovering your strength, passion and love in life: Focusing for empowering helpers and company workers
Section 4: Focusing and existential challenges
12 Greg Madison & Ernesto Spinelli, The body as phenomenologist: The existential challenge to Identity Politics
13 Claude Missiaen & Siebrecht Vanhooren, Facing our existential demons: A Focusing-oriented and existential approach
14 Alan Tidmarsh, Focusing with elephants
15 Joan Klagsbrun & Julian A. Miller, Acknowledging the dark and embracing the light in the time of Covid-19
Section 5: Developing new practices
16 Kathy McGuire, Empathy Focusing and the power of ‘I-Thou’ in healing self, other, world: A feminine-ist analysis of Focusing together and Focusing alone
17 Mary Jeanne Larrabee, Opening the process, processing the opening: Open Process Focusing and modalities of Creative Expression Focusing
18 Johannes Wiltschko, On Focusing Therapy: Questions about and answers to some essential aspects
Section 6: Different ‘takes’ on the body
19 Frans Depestele, A process theory of physical illness: Medicine and psychotherapy
20 Tine Swyngedouw, Exploring the quality of life with chronic illness or cancer: The experiential four-leaf clover
21 Astrid Schilllings, Focusing with the Whole Body: The Bodying Person
Section 7: Body mapping and Children Focusing
22 Bart Santen, Focusing-oriented body mapping: Scanning the imprint of trauma. My experiences with dissociated adolescents
23 Atsmaout Perlstein, Working with KOL*BE Body Mapping in Focusing-Oriented Therapy
24 René Veugelers, Listening in three directions: A dynamic and fresh way to be in a Focusing process
25 Sara Bradly, Introducing Focusing to children using a story: Enabling children to connect and work with emotional issues in the context of humanistic brief therapy
Gendlin’s spoken words, recorded by Nada Lou
Fragments from video clips: Transcription of extracts from video clips
Focusing is not something that I invented
Focusing comes from philosophy
Tell people about Focusing
Focusing is… the murky edge
Very slight bodily feeling we call felt sense
Focusing fits in Japan
Our bodies are at least plants
Why Focusing works
Does Focusing bring hope?