When I tell people what I do, they usually ask me – “What is Focusing?” I have written a fair amount in an attempt to answer this question, and have stuttered in conversations too. For some reason, I find it much harder to talk about it than to write, and still…
What is Focusing? A body-mind therapeutic technique? A dialogue with the body? Listening to sensations and feelings?
For me, Focusing is a way of life that does not necessarily entail closing your eyes, using a special language, or following a protocol. Nor does it even require an explicit relating to the body, although the body — in its very wide sense — is of course part of the essence of Focusing, of our essence.
The definition of Focusing underlying my approach of HomeFocusing is this: Focusing means paying
attention to what is inside me, and expressing it in an allowing environment.
A Cure for Loneliness
We are familiar with 'paying attention inside' — the entire field of mindfulness does this: Observing feelings, emotions, thoughts (yes, thoughts are also part of our body).
The other two components, expression and an allowing environment, are what make Focusing what it is: Something that unfolds in interaction, in a relationship.
The interaction can be internal: The primary relationship in Focusing is the one between myself and what is within me — those parts that we normally refuse, fear, or are unable to listen to, and therefore they attract our attention through pain, physical or emotional.
Focusing invites those parts inside to express themselves so that we can tell them: I am here with you, and I agree to listen. I am the place that accepts you, that welcomes you to be, to talk, to stay just as you are, for as long as you need.
The interaction may be internal, but anyone who has practiced Focusing alone and with a partner would say that the qualities of Focusing in the presence of another are deeper. The other person greatly expands the allowing environment, widens it to allow expression of whatever is inside us that needs it, and enables us to reach deeper into what is within us.
But as we mentioned, Focusing does not only happen when we practice Focusing in partnership. Attuning inward to allow full expression of what we find inside in an accepting way, is what we want to take home with us, too. We want to bring this approach to our relationships: So that our children can feel confident enough to tell us everything; so that we can be be honest, real, and meaningful with our life partners, friends, colleagues and family members. We want to be accepting as caregivers for our loved ones and for our clients, just as we would wish to be accepted by others.
For instance, we would like to say to the person next to us: I am sad, so that she will be able to be with us there, without trying to encourage or reassure us, without taking away the sadness and the legitimacy of feeling it. We would like to be able to say – I am scared, or angry, without the other person collapsing, or drowning into a whirlpool of guilt, blame, or fear.
Focusing invites us to look inside, to discover what is in there, and to give it expression in an allowing space, and as such it is the opposite of loneliness. Focusing is the cure for loneliness.
We want to bring this approach to our relationships: So that our children can feel confident enough to tell us everything; so that we can be be honest, real, and meaningful with our life partners… We want to be accepting as caregivers for our loved ones and for our clients, just as we would wish to be accepted by others.
Listening is not Easy
The magic that happens during Focusing is facilitated by the allowing environment that lets us rest there in safety as we are revealed. But even more than that, it engenders internal movement, development, and healing. When whatever is inside us can finally be allowed to express itself in the presence of an accepting other – it can move, change, and thrive.
For example: When I am faced with a dilemma, a turning point, or difficulty in my life, I want to find someone who can listen to me. Just listen, without giving me advice ("flip a coin"), without choosing a side for me ("Obviously option A is better"), without interfering (which often happens when my decision might affect them as well). Just listen, and give place to everything that's there. When someone listens to me like that, everything I notice inside me is revealed to me in greater depth. Things I did not know about it are brought to my consciousness. Parts that were stuck in me suddenly begin to move. The answers come from within me, and they are the most right for me.
For the other person, that kind of listening is not easy. It is contrary to everything we were taught to do ("don't cry, it's nothing serious"), it seems to contradict all our good intentions (mainly, to help). It require us, and the other person, to really be an open, allowing space, first of all for what is within us – fears, identification, fatigue, did we mention a desire to help? – then towards the other.
It's not easy, and this is why I believe the main thing that Focusing teaches us is the following: To be the environment that allows everything inside me, including the "forbidden" feelings, the self-criticism, and the internal contradictions – to be expressed. To be the space where everyone who interacts with me – the focuser, my partner, my children, my parents – will be able to express their feelings.
The magic that happens during Focusing is facilitated by the allowing environment that lets us rest there in safety as we are revealed. But even more than that, it engenders internal movement, development, and healing.
A Space of Permission
The three components of Focusing are essential and cumulative : Looking inward, expression, and creating an allowing environment.
The first two are more accessible to us: Looking inward requires us primarily to agree to pause and turn our attention inward, with curiosity, with patience. Expression is something we know how to do, which is why Focusing is so simple: We live in a world of words and are very skilled at using them. Creating the allowing environment is the most elusive of the three, and it is the one we want to build, expand, and deepen.
So what do I do? Mostly this: I create an allowing enviroment, I open a space of permission. A place where it's ok to be angry (with myself, too), to be envious, and to want what is impossible. Where it is allowed to say "I fancy that!" or "I don't feel like it." A surrounding that invites you to check in on what is accurate, and to give it full, complete expression, in any way that suits you. A space where there are no external “have to's" but an internal examination of a need, and its expression outward, into a respectful relationship.
This is what I do, and with each experience, person, couple, group – I grow and expand further, and my space becomes more and more enabling, both for my inner pains, also for the pains of those dear to me. And I pass on the experience of being an allowing environment to other people, and through them to their children, their spouses, their parents, their clients. Because the more the qualities of Focusing become more present in all of our lives, the more our world will become an allowing environment.
With each experience, person, couple, group – I grow and expand further, and my space becomes more and more enabling, both for my inner pains, also for the pains of to those dear to me