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Gendlin, E.T. (1982). New specifics [Part 1 of 2]. The Focusing Folio, 2(2), 44-47. From http://www.focusing.org/gendlin/docs/gol_2171.html

[Page 44]

NEW SPECIFICS

DON'T DO VIVISECTION: In focusing, when we speak of "a problem" or "a concern" we do not mean the problem as you already define it. Rather, we mean the problem as it happens to be in the body—with whatever goes with it (you don't know all that) and in whatever shape and form the body will now show it to you (different from what you call the problem). To let the bodily felt sense of a problem come, you have to let it come as it happens to come. If you insist on your problem-definition as you cut it up on your mental map, there may be no bodily sense of it that way. But, if you begin with "however you have defined it," and then ask your body about "all that" (however it discovers the problem and whatever now goes with the problem), the felt sense of "all that" will come.

People will think many thoughts which give them very real "gut feelings." On my mental map I can cut myself up into various pieces. Every time I cut, it hurts. I can sure feel that! What I feel is the pain of cutting myself up that way. It isn't just head trips. It is what we call "vivisection." Don't cut your gut. The body-sense feels whole, it feels good when it comes. However you mentally cut, ask your body for whatever the problem is as the body has it. If you ask in that spirit, then it doesn't matter how you have defined the problem mentally. Your problem might be very specific, but still you want the body sense of all that, which will come and be how the body really does carry that (newly grasped) specific.

HOW TO KEEP A BIG SHIFT: See if you can repeat it several times. What did you just say or think, which made that shift? Was it......(No, that doesn't bring the shift again.) Was it...... (No, not that either.) Was it......Ah....there is the shift again. Now repeat that, get more shifting every time you say it. Then keep and remember that. Later in the day or tomorrow, see if it still makes a shift. (If not, see then what freshly comes.)

It also helps to recall what you said or felt just before the shift came. ("Oh, first I said there are many points of view, then I suddenly [Page 45] said to myself, "No, only one way is The Right Way, and that gave me a shift and a laugh and a breath...")

Protect your shift against all the arguments that often come instantly in your mind. ("Yes...yes, it may be unrealistic, but I'll look at that later. I want to stay with what just came.")

IF IT IS NEW, GO WITH IT. IF IT IS OLD AND FAMILIAR, YOU LOSE NOTHING TO PASS IT BY: We have been taught to feel every feeling all the way, especially bad ones. But if it is a familiar path you have gone many times, don't go. One more time won't help. Wait for a new edge. Anything you directly sense which is new offers hope that there might be further new steps. Stay with that and see if more comes.

KEEP A POSITIVE SET AROUND ANYTHING, SO YOU CAN ASK WHAT IS IN THE WAY: "Oh...yes...that's my old isolation feeling. Now I'm stuck." Have a mental set that of course you could, ideally, not be isolated. Instead you would be just right, whatever that might be. Then you can ask: "What keeps this isolation?" "What's in the way of me not being isolated?" "What does it need to be O.K.?"

LET YOUR BODY KNOW IT CAN MOVE AND EXPRESS ITSELF: If your body doesn't know it, or is not used to it, just for a moment exhale as if you felt a big relief. Let your shoulders slump totally eased. Then, just as if you were feeling much energy for moving forward, straighten your shoulders and imagine moving strongly forward. Later, when you focus, if your body feels like moving in an expressive way of this sort, you have let it know that it would be welcome. It need not do that, just that it would be welcome if it wanted to. Most people at first try to focus with so much bodily stillness and concentration, it may be difficult to sense a bodily expressive movement if it did want to come. Of course a felt shift doesn't always involve bodily movement or change in posture, but it may.

CHECK BY ASKING, "WHAT IF IT WERE NOT THIS WAY?": If your felt sense seems to respond to something, but you are not sure ("I had this sense [Page 46] that said "No, don't go into this problem...just No...and then I asked what this No is... and I got: You'll get hurt. Now I'm not sure is that it?" Try saying "If I could be sure—of course I can't be, but if I could be sure I wouldn't get hurt......?......yes, it budges then.") Of course you would do this "If..." only to check if that's really right in a bodily way. Then you would go further steps of focusing to let it open. The "If..." is only to check the connection. ("Yes, if I say what if I wouldn't get hurt, it eases, but when I remember that I don't know that, it tightens again. Yup, that's what it is all right. I might get hurt. Now I'll go another step to sense what that hurt would be.")

THERE IS NO "GETTING RID" OF ANY PART OF YOU: Anything that has some of your life energy in it needs to be heard in a friendly way. However bad you think it is, it didn't get that way for nothing. There is no lopping it off until its life energy has spoken and shifted its form. What you want to get rid of, push away, refuse to be friendly with, only remains stuck. Assume something right is in it, perhaps in a wrong form, and let it speak to you, and say its own good sense. (Even the attacking critical super-ego which one must usually push away, can turn out to have fear, crying, or certain experiences behind its attacking front. But the super-ego is a special case. Here we are speaking more of child parts of us, and ways we are and feel that we are consciously "against.")

PETRIFIED REPETITIVES: "Whenever I focus I get to the same thing. Something seems like a new problem but very soon it falls into the same one all the time." Say: "O.K., part of this new problem is that same old one. What else is in the new one?" Let the new problem divide into these two parts.

Notice the spot where it would slide into the old problem.

NOT SO INTENSE: A felt sense is not usually anywhere near as strong as the emotional feelings we are used to. You might be missing the felt sense because it can be so slight and fleeting. (Of course, intense feelings can come from a felt sense, usually new ones, not the same old ones.)

[Page 47]

IF YOU ARE ACCUSTOMED TO MEDITATION, RELAXATION, HYPNOSIS: You may from habit go directly to a very relaxed level as soon as you turn inward. If that is the case, try focusing while standing, or put your arms behind your head, so as to come to a medium relaxation level, not all the way down. Focusing is not possible if the body "melts away." (Deep relaxation is valuable in other ways, but not for focusing.)

PRACTICE PUTTING THINGS DOWN: Many people resolve to practice focusing and then don't. They think of working on heavy problems, but that is done when one needs to. What is best to practice every day and often during each day is just sensing if you feel wonderful and joyous in the middle of your body, and if not... (usually we don't) why not? Then one or two things from that day come, and each can be allowed to say what it is, and then be placed down. One's steady big problems can be just barely touched, ("Oh yes, that's there, sure..."). One or another of these may need to tell you something, or not. You ease your tension level and are ready for whatever comes next in your day. When that becomes easy to do, you'll do it between each task and the next, all day. Among other advantages, this reduces stress.

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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