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Gendlin, E.T. (1999). The first step of focusing provides a superior stress-reduction method. The Folio, 18(1), 178. From http://www.focusing.org/gendlin/docs/gol_2085.html

[Page 178 ]

THE FIRST STEP OF FOCUSING PROVIDES A SUPERIOR STRESS-REDUCTION METHOD

by Eugene Gendlin, Ph.D.

In relaxation and meditation a physical residue of tension often remains in the body in spite of the fact that one is deeply relaxed. Sometimes this is noticed as a gray climate or unpleasant atmosphere. Most often nothing of that sort is noticed, but the body continues to carry tension outside of awareness.

People who know focusing rarely employ only the usual methods of stress reduction, because they know a superior way of dealing with stress, which they employ before the usual methods. Deep relaxation would be moved to after this procedure. The procedure itself does also bring a degree of relaxation, but not to the usual degree, not deeper than the entry level to altered states.

We find a much greater stress reduction if we first institute the bodily release attained by the first movement of focusing. The stress most people carry in their bodies almost always consists of several life issues, not just one. It is typical to find that one's body is carrying one or two major long-term stresses along with several minor but acute stresses from events of the day. All the stresses are what we call crossed in the body. Rather than being next to each other, each "gets into" the others so that they add weight to each other. A large overall stress weight results.

The usual methods of stress reduction deal only with the overall stress weight as a whole. In the first step of focusing the stresses are "sorted out". In our procedure a single stress comes up, and separates itself from the rest of the overall weight. We have a way in which this is "put down" (placed outside the body). Now there is a way to attend so as to check whether that particular stress has indeed gone out of the body so that the body feels somewhat released. If not, there are more specific ways to insure that it will. Then our procedure lets another stress come up, again single and separate. It is "put down," and so on, until one has put down the stresses that were being carried just then. A much greater degree of stress reduction is attained and directly experienced in this way, than with the usual methods. We find that each stress is far lighter when released from crossing with the others. Even when working on them is the aim, rather than stress reduction, sorting them out makes them much more bearable than they were before. They do not reconstitute the same degree of weightedness as when they were crossed.

The first movement of focusing can be taught to people who don't know focusing, although it will be natural to continue into some focusing instruction from it. Some people can find this procedure immediately upon being given our series of instructions. Others must first learn to sense their bodies from inside, then a certain kind of inward bodily attention characteristic of focusing. Average training time is about four or five one hour sessions.

ŠEugene T. Gendlin

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  • Biographic Note: Eugene T. Gendlin is a seminal American philosopher and psychologist. He received his Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Chicago and taught there from 1963 to 1995. His philosophical work is concerned especially with the relationship between logic and implicit intricacy. Philosophy books include Experiencing and the Creation of Meaning, Language Beyond Post-Modernism: Saying and Thinking in Gendlin's Philosophy edited by David Michael Levin, (fourteen commentaries and Gendlin’s replies), and A Process Model. There is a world wide network of applications and practices (http://www.focusing.org) stemming from this philosophy. Gendlin has been honored three times by the American Psychological Association for his development of Experiential Psychotherapy. He was a founder and editor for many years of the Association’s Clinical Division Journal, Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice. His book Focusing has sold over half a million copies and has appeared in seventeen languages. His psychology-related books are Let Your Body Interpret Your Dreams and Focusing-Oriented Psychotherapy.
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