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FOCUS ON: Christiane Geiser Juchli

By Ellen Kirschner, M.A., Member, USA

Christiane and Ernst Juchi live in Wil, a little town in the north of Switzerland, near Zurich. She's at cg@tbwil.ch and the Ausbildungsinstitut GFK 's website is www.gfk-institut.ch.

Two years ago Christiane Geiser Juchli and her husband, Ernst Juchli, attended their first Focusing International in Pforzheim, Germany. (2000) There they met Mary Hendricks Gendlin, director of the Focusing Institute. Mary welcomed them into the larger international community, inviting them to become Coordinators for Switzerland. But Christiane and Ernst are not newcomers to Focusing. For the past 20 years they have been practicing, teaching, and utilizing Focusing in their lives, their psychotherapy practices, and at the postgraduate psychotherapy-training institute they run. The Ausbildungs-institut GFK has twenty staff members and conducts a five year training program. In addition, Christiane and Juchli have been active members of the Focusing network in German speaking countries, helping to develop a curriculum to train people to practice and to teach Focusing in Germany, Switzerland and Austria.

"We first got to know about Focusing from Johannes Wiltschko, Friedheim Kohne, Agnes Wild Missong and Linda Olsen," Christiane said. "Johannes and Ernst developed a training program in client-centered psychotherapy that included Focusing and body work. I joined some years later. We began to collect Focusing literature and started to teach Focusing in conferences in the German-speaking countries. In 1981 we started the Focusing Sommerschool at the Humboldthaus. That was followed by the Winterschool and the Focusing Wochen Achberg."

Christiane said that in the early days of Focusing, while working with partners and teaching trainees, she and Ernst realized how different people are. "That's an old truth," she said, "but it was important to understand how differently they Focused!" From close observation of many Focusers they developed a theory of "Focusing modalities," describing precisely the way meaning may go from an implicit unknown to symbolization.

"For example, the way people perceive and construct the world outside and inside could be in the field of the ears," she explained. "In the inner experience there emerge words, sentences, melodies, noise. And the symbolization can be written down or spoken out loud to someone who listens. But this is only one way to do Focusing. Other people are specialized in the modality of the eyes. They have images, colors inside, and can talk about them or paint them. Others have bodily felt sensations and can move or show us the way their bodies express the symbolization.' And there are some people who have emotions inside and express them.

"Of course," she continued, "all these parts belong together. But we found that people have their specific entry. As a client-centered companion I have to pick them up where they are and then follow their track. As time goes on I can make some proposals to enlarge their understanding. I can ask, 'As you hear these words, is there a picture which fits?'"

Christiane added that discovering different modalities was important for her because "at the beginning I never had pictures. The whole group and the trainer produced pictures, so at first sight I thought I never could learn Focusing!"

Christiane and Ernst also linked their client-centered understanding of bodywork with Focusing. "We enriched Focusing with interventions as to breathing, moving, and touch," she said, adding, "We are the only client-centered training institute in the German speaking countries which integrates bodywork."

"For example," Christiane went on, "a client sits or lies down, eyes closed. I sit nearby. While being with him doing Focusing I realize that he is hardly breathing. I say, 'Do you realize that while talking about this subject you stopped breathing?' The client says, 'Yes, there is some narrowness in my chest, and in the belly there is something like a hole." In addition to the 'classical' Focusing questions that unfold the process I can ask for permission and then put one hand on the chest and another one on the belly to follow the breathing movement, and be with this movement as the meaning unfolds for the client."

Christiane and her colleagues have also developed a theory about "structure bound behavior, feelings and thinking." The theory is based on the notion that each person has their own special way of "being in the world," and that understanding what it is can be valuable both in Focusing and also in the overall therapeutic process.

"We have found that there are often three basic 'planets' people live on with regard to themes like communication, contact, being with themselves and being with others. The first one we call the 'seeking for existence' planet, where people feel first of all good with themselves, do not expect that it is easy with others or that there is something coming from other persons. They have a strong and rich inner life, but it's hard to communicate it to others. The second planet is the one where people are seeking their own form and shape, their special kind of being. The are always looking outwards to other people to check who they are. They are talented in fields of togetherness and weak in staying with their own feeling and thoughts, and not losing them in the presence of others.The third planet is the one where people know who they are and that they are welcome to exist, but they always have questions around the topics of giving and taking, nurturing and being held, togetherness and loneliness, being truly connected. How difficult and challenging and interesting it is to meet each person on his or her planet -- especially if you live on your own one believing that it is the only one that exists, and you have never heard of the other ones in your neighborhood."

In closing Christiane talked about going beyond the individual, looking at politics and society. "During the last 15 years we studied group processes and the role Focusing could play in the organizational space. We learned a lot about something we call 'group felt sense,' a sense of clarity, of something 'we all know' that sometimes emerges in a group if we are patient enough to be with all our individual assumptions and the whole complexity of each situation at any given point. This can happen if we carefully listen to all our different meanings, to our own process and to the process of the whole group. If we are willing and able to suspend our certainties, to allow that there my be 'a different way to see it,' then there can emerge something like a 'group intelligence.' So we try to avoid hierarchical structures as we lead our institute and the Focusing Network. This is real social engagement, peace work, if you want to call it that -- an investigation into how larger groups can perhaps change the world a little bit."

 

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