Abstract Fairy

Shortest Introduction to Gendlin's focusing

(A few disclaimers: First, this thing is still a rough draft, but it's pretty much at the minimum viable format for my goals. Second, this is aimed to be the shortest introduction to Eugene Gendlin's Focusing, more details below. And third, this stuff is very psychedelic and hands on, you might find yourself crying and laughing if you try this, and you will find yourself much much better off than when you started.)

  1. Below language, below emotions, there is a layer of pure meaning. You experience this more in your body than you do in your mind. Your body Knows a lot more than you can articulate, and you can Feel this Knowing because it Resonates with you
  2. You know what is good and bad in this way even if you can't articulate it, and even if it changes. This knowing/resonance is in felt in your body, and its slower (90s at the very least, probably several minutes or mroe). You will pause a lot if you're trying to speak while doing this as you search for it, which is natural.
  3. When you feel bad you can use that to find what is good. Most people dissociate, and avoid feeling bad. They might seek pleasure in whatever comforts them or just distracts them from the bad feeling(drugs, media, video games, work, etc.) You can relate better to your "bad" feelings. They always desire something good for you
  4. Most people are too tied up in feeling bad when they feel bad. They are absorbed and devoured by the feeling. They get dragged around in catastrophizing "this is the worst thing ever, and i shall suffer for this for all of eternity." You can instead pause, set the problems aside for the time being (we will come back to them later) and ask yourself with the exception of xyz, do I feel good. If something else comes up, you can set it aside too, keep repeating this until you feel good. Having some space from the problem will give you room to breathe (and feel good, which is also very helpful. you not only have my permission to feel good, but a request to do so)
  5. Your understanding of what is good and bad will change several times as you search. Look for what resonates
  6. What comes up might not be It, it might not resonate. What comes up could be a confused/scrambled message that is not yet at the core of meaning. Keep checking for resonance
    1. e.g. y'know how couples can argue about the dishes, but the argument isn't about the dishes its actually about the relationship? people usually have at least 3-5 layers of that in themselves before they reach the good stuff (and a few of these layers will not make sense, and might not even be verbal)
    2. avoid lecturing yourself, be kind and gentle with yourself and give yourself space and time to find what resonates with you
    3. Use whatever resonates more with you. For me that's mostly images. words, sounds, gestures, whatever works for you use it.
    4. some useful things that can help your search
      1. keep checking how it feels in your body
      2. take your time with it
      3. having a partner to talk to can help out a lot as they can ask clarifying questions or highlight some good stuff. Only do this with people you trust intimately
      4. keep checking for resonance
      5. imagine how it would look like if it was a living being. How would it breathe, act, be, etc. Chat with it (this one works like crazy for me)
      6. ask what your feeling wants/needs, ask what it would feel or look like if the wants and needs were satisfied
  7. When you do find It, you will feel more resonance. This on its own can be a great source of relief. You might often find yourself crying and laughing by it
  8. You can align yourself more with this sense of resonance by asking it what it wants and what it needs (sometimes you might not even need to do so, it'll just reveal itself to you)
  9. appreciate the beauty of the experience you've just been through

Some more historical context

This is aimed to be an introduction to Gendlin's Focusing, a theraputic method built on his philosophical works. Gendlin was born an Austrian, but moved to america due to WWII.

Despite being more known for his work in psychology, he was originally a philosopher with his work focusing on how we create and experience meaning, and later on he did some psychological experiments to see if his work can help people, which was so good that he was recognized by the APA (American Association of Psychologists)

He conducted a study (with another psychologist) where they analyzed several hundred audio recordings of therapy sessions, and found that you could reliably predict whether or not people would benefit from the sessions or not. The main predictor was whether or not people had lots of pauses and filler words while they were talking in therapy. Why? Gendlin believed it was because they were comparing what they were saying with what they were feeling, which encouraged him to create his "Six Movements" of Focusing.

He's written a very short and simple book called Focusing that explains his work and how to use it. Highly reccomend reading it!

This introduction was aimed at being very short and easy to link to in discussions, so there's a lot of ommission. The ideal format for explaining focusing is probably a transcript of a discussion where the participants are attempting focusing but that would be too long for my goal.

There are also other theraputic frameworks that are similar to Focusing, or build off of it, or play nicely with it. I do however think that focusing highlights something important and is a good base for almost everything else.

Some more personal context

I really cannot shill this enough

On a directly personal level, I'd say I've had some experiences which were very relieving and transformative as a result of playing aroud with this proccess, I've even had a few experiences which I can only describe as spiritual as well. It's so good, and I want everyone to have it as well.

Perhaps one of the weirdest experiences was experiencing some back pain (100% sure it was purely somatic, nothing physical), meditating on it for a few days, having what I can only describe as a spiritual experience which also resolved some unaddressed anger issues and the unexplained back pain. That on its own is amazing, but I also remember walking around the next day and everyone was getting out of my way, including police officers which was very weird.

I've also found Focusing to be very useful with friends. I wouldn't explain it to them, but if they ever came to me with something bothering them, I'd keep asking them questions that would nudge them towards Focusing. Things like:

(also worth noting that the timing is the important part. I'm not bluntly cycling through four questions, I'm trying to help them find out what they're feeling, and help search for resonance)

And, almost always, they'd find themselves laughing and/or crying. Sometimes both. They'd always feel better afterwards.

So, yeah. I want everyone to have the chance to experience this.

Further Reading

Focusing by Eugene Gendlin: a book by the man himself, on the topic itself. Very short and simple, has a few transcript examples, lots of trouble shooting if needed.

Intro to the Bio-Emotive Framework by my good friend Tasshin Fogleman. It discusses something called the Bio-emotive framework which was inspired by focusing and adds a few more details.