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Gendlin, E.T. (2007). Introduction. In Focusing [Reissue, with new introduction]. New York: Bantam Books. From http://www.focusing.org/gendlin/docs/gol_2176.html

Introduction

Twenty-five years ago when focusing was new, I shocked a colleague at the University by saying "The unconscious is the body." By now an emphasis on the body as a source of information and innovation is not new. But exactly how one can tap into this source is not yet widely known. Only from the Focusing Community can one get well-developed and tested instructions for direct access to embodied knowledge and the new steps that come from it.

Today people live at various distances from this bodily source. I tell therapists: When your clients say something important, put your hand between your own stomach and chest, and ask them: "If you attend here, what comes in your body about this?" Therapy will immediately deepen with those clients who are already close to this source. The other half will ask: "What do you mean?"

Check yourself. Notice where in my next few sentences you no longer know what I'm talking about. We can take you on further, from there.

You have a bodily orienting sense. You know who you are and how you come to be in this room, reading this page. To know this you don't need to think. The knowing is physically sensed in your body and can easily be found. But this bodily knowing can extend much more deeply. You can learn how to let a deeper bodily felt sense come in relation to any specific situation. Your body "knows" the whole of each of your situations, vastly more aspects of it than you can think. Here you find an intricate bodily knowledge and new steps that want to come, and will come if you can wait here.

After you find this deeper level, it takes practice to stay here. In a difficult moment most people cannot hold on to the body-sense of the situation long enough for steps to come. We can train you to do this. Most people don't know how to let the unclear felt sense "open" into a whole field of intricate detail from which new steps of thought and action emerge.

Focusing is now a worldwide network. People who know focusing ask: "What would be a right next step here?" But this has can seem insane to the rest of our society. How could new realistic ideas and action steps arise from the body? Isn't the body just a machine? How can more come from the body than evolution, language and culture have built into it?

In philosophy the "objectivists" hold that human experience is an illusion emanating from brain structures and chemistry. Their opponents, the "relativists," hold that human experience is just a product of one of the many cultures, histories and languages. Underneath the variety there is nothing at all.

My philosophy leads to new concepts in physics and biology, to understand the human body differently. Your body is not a machine, rather a wonderfully intricate interaction with everything around you, which is why it "knows" so much just in being. The animals live intricately with each other without culture and language. The different cultures don't create us. They only add elaboration. The living body is always going beyond what evolution, culture and language have already built. The body is always sketching and probing a few steps further. Your ongoing living makes new evolution and history happen—now.

You can sense your living body directly under your thoughts and memories and under your familiar feelings. Focusing happens at a deeper level than your feelings. Under them you can discover a physically sensed "murky zone" which you can enter and open. This is the source from which new steps emerge. Once found, it is a palpable presence underneath.

Social policy still assumes that human beings and animals are nothing but what science presents. For example, genetic engineering is now creating a cow-pig. It will have all lean meat. The company will corner the market for agricultural animals, never mind that the cowpig is in pain. How we treat each other is often similar. Humans disappear in the current kind of science. Our science cannot even study the scientists themselves, and how they make the scientific concepts.

Science is not a game. Its truth is based on empirical testing. You wouldn't want to get on an untested airplane. We need our wonderful machines to work. But the basic method of this science renders everything it studies as machines.

This kind of science need not be the only kind. The holistic science of ecology shows that more than one kind of science is possible. My philosophy adds another kind, a first-person science that can study itself! It centers on the body sensed from inside, where new things arise. Using focusing, we have developed "Thinking At the Edge" (TAE), teachable steps to articulate something new in the field in which you work.

Our research on focusing is a small example of this potentially great new science. A long series of studies show from tape-recordings and tests that therapy has better outcomes when clients focus. Many other effects of focusing have also been measured, for example better functioning of the immune system. Focusing has been applied in many contexts including schools, businesses, spiritual groups, creative writing, and many settings.

When people first discover the power of focusing, they may think it is all they need. But focusing adds a deeper bodily level to other methods and can improve them. It cuts across the others and should be combined with anything else that can develop us as persons.

More than 600 certified focusing trainers around the world are available on your private telephone. They can show you the beginning of focusing in one or several hours. Then you can also find a "Focusing Partner" on our web site with whom to divide time, take turns, usually also on the phone. Focusing Partnerships are not friendships, not therapy, not family. Focusing Partnerships are a new social institution. Let me explain the need for it.

Currently the cultural routines and roles that used to connect us are insufficient. We have to innovate all day, find new ways to be a woman, man, wife, parent, teacher, executive, old person, young person. Our close relationships tend to fall apart. "Nobody seems to fit with me," people say. Each person is intricate inside, and lonely. Modern urban society is atomized.

For a while it seemed that just expressing our feelings would help our close relationships. Just blurt everything out. But what the other person hears can be so very different from what you meant to say, and sometimes hurtful. Similarly, we often react in ways that shut the other person down.

Therapists can listen to clients much more easily than to their own people who are closest to them. With close people one's whole life rises or sinks with each little bit one hears. But one can peacefully accompany clients to deeper levels where the steps of change and healing come. Then the clients can relate much more deeply and freely to their own close people. The new pattern of Focusing Partnerships makes this advantage of therapy available to everyone. A Focusing Partner costs nothing. You take turns. This new institution is changing the atomization of society.

During my time I am silent for some stretches and I speak some of the time. I say nothing I don't want to say. Speaking from far inside lets me hear myself and live connectedly in a receptive interaction.

Partners give no advice, judgments, or comments. They may repeat something back just to check: "I think you are saying .....". But they need only say when they cannot follow, so that I can rephrase what I said. But my partner will pay close attention, wanting to grasp every wrinkle of what I mean.

A regular Focusing Partnership improves one's life immensely. I would not want to do without mine. In fact, I have two. I use my time for focusing or for whatever I wish. When my turn begins I feel how inviting it is—it is just for me. I might know what I want, or spend some minutes, scanning. I think: "I might talk of this..., or, perhaps that..., well, perhaps first focus quietly..." I could have any of those things.

We provide a few hours of telephone training in focusing, listening, and the experience of being listened to in a focusing way. Then you can select a partner from our Partnership Pool on the Web.

With focusing one knows that the human being in front of us is more than any method, any set of beliefs, purpose, or project. We limit whatever we do for the sake of what is always more important: keeping people unobtrusive company with whatever they are up against. To give people just our simple presence lets them be and breathe. We listen for what they mean to convey, and add nothing else. It makes for maximal closeness with minimal imposition.

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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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