During my Diploma in Integral Coaching, I learnt the art of self-healing through the practice of Focusing. It has become my go-to tool for inner work and processing. It was developed by psychotherapist and philosopher Eugene Gendlin from the University of Chicago in 1978. He did research over 15 years on psychotherapy and discovered that patients who are able to engage with their inner wisdom and intuitive felt sense have the best outcomes.
Focusing can be used anytime we feel like we need to connect with our inner wisdom: when we are feeling indecisive, uninspired, anxious, upset, depressed or like we can’t relax. It can also be used to access joy and peace.
Here are the steps:
1. Tune into your body- for most people this is in a quiet space, sitting or lying down. When you get used to the process, you can practice focusing anywhere.
2. Once you are tuned into your body (relaxed and receptive) ask yourself- where do I feel this [indecision, restlessness, anxiety, depression etc.] in my body? Where is this discomfort?
3. Wait for your body to show you the answer. Don’t block it. Don’t judge it. Don’t resist. Many people give up here and think, ‘I can’t do this. I can’t feel anything.’ Be patient. Something will arise and ask for your attention. You will get what is called a felt sense. You will feel a dominant sensation somewhere in your body that is a response to your call. It might be butterflies in your stomach or a vice around your neck or daggers in your back.
This is your body communicating an image to you that represents the discomfort. It might also shift as you bring awareness to it- just follow it. Let it go wherever it needs to go and let it transform into what it needs to become. I’ve had butterflies that turned into fire that turned into a snake and kept changing. You need to get really clear on this felt sense- the clearer the better. Describe it to yourself in as much detail as possible. It may stay the same the whole time, but it will eventually settle into something.
4. Once you are clear on your felt sense, take this next transformative step- ask the felt sense what it’s like from its point of view. Ask the butterflies what they’re feeling, ask the vice what it’s like and ask the daggers about their point of view. This is the moment that you access your inner guide and the wisdom of your body. Again, be patient, open and receptive. Don’t resist it because you feel inhibited. Just trust the process- it works every time. The answer may come in the form of a new image or an emotion or a clear thought. You just know what the answer is. If you can’t feel it, stay with it. Stay connected to the felt sense. It will communicate with you.
5. When you have an understanding of what it’s like from the feeling’s point of view, then ask the felt sense what it wants. This is a powerful and often surprising process. The answers you get might be really simple, like ‘I need to get some rest. I’m under too much pressure’ or ‘I don’t feel comfortable taking that on.’ They could also be life-changing: ‘I need to transform my lifestyle. I can’t keep eating/drinking like this. It’s toxic and destroying my body’ or ‘I need to leave this relationship. It is not aligned with my highest good.’
Focusing allows us to tap into our inner wisdom, which flows through our soul. Our soul and our body are intricately connected and often our ego-mind gets in the way and drowns them out. The art of focusing allows us to bypass the ego-mind and communicate directly with our soul-body. It is a practical healing and empowerment tool that can be used at any time by anyone. I hope it is as powerful for you as it is for me.
Extra resources: Focusing by Eugene Gendlin PhD (1981) (2nd ed.) Bantam Books, and The Power of Focusing: A Practical Guide to Emotional Self-Healing by Ann Weiser Cornell.