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With a Focusing Partner, one often feels more known than by the people one has lived with for years. This is odd. In a few short hours one develops a life-affirming bond to which the body responds with eagerness. We say only what feels safe. It can be very little and yet we expand, breathe and take up space.
Another way I've been using Focusing with writing is to spend whole Focusing sessions reading my work aloud to my Focusing partner. When I do this I stay with my felt sense and check (just like in "regular" Focusing) whether the words and images resonate precisely for me with the felt sense of what I'm trying to say. My partner from time to time reflects back from her felt sense what she's getting from what I'm reading, and that way I also get to see if my words are conveying the felt sense of what I'm writing to a "reader." We're still at the experimenting stage with this, but so far it has been VERY effective.
I have been in a focusing relationship with Lisa for the past five years. I met Lisa through Luke Lukens, who taught both of us the focusing process. When Lisa and I started, we met every other week for about two hours, and for the past two years, we have been meeting about once a month. We meet in each others' homes, alternating every other session. At the beginning, we decide who will go first, according to what each of us feels is right for that particular day. We usually have hot tea during or after the session, which adds an additional calming effect to the evening.
I have derived enormous benefit from the focusing sessions. It has been like therapy for me. It was just what I needed to take the next step in my personal growth process. I was feeling stuck in some areas, and traditional therapy, I felt, couldn't help me. Focusing gave me a method of looking deeper into myself, finding things I never knew were there, and getting some movement and change in very "stuck" areas. This has been a blessing.
My relationship with Lisa has been another benefit. Lisa knows me better, in some ways, than almost anyone else in my life. She knows the deeper parts of me that I rarely share with others, and this means a great deal to me--to have another person in the world that understands and values my inner life, my deepest thoughts and feelings. Because of her steady and caring presence, I can safely look within. I must say that I have tried focusing with one or two other partners, and it was not as gratifying because I did not feel the other person's presence in the way I feel Lisa's--and this makes a big difference for me.
Gene and Zak meet one evening every week. For them it is a routine of long standing. They meet right after work and go out to dinner. They discuss many things at dinner, but they do not ask, "How are you?" That is reserved for the two hours of their focusing partnership right after dinner. Gene may say, "Is it all right if you go first?" and it seems important to him. Generally, either order is acceptable to Zak
Zak likes his hour to take place in the car, so they will park in a quiet spot. Then Zak is silent for three to five minutes, scanning. He senses how he feels and finds the sense of himself more deeply. What comes there, that needs working on? The first thing he often says is something like:
Zak: "Well, what's real for me now is, I have been not only facing this situation I told you about last week. I have been going at it with real actions. I am moving with strong integrity, and that's true, but there is also a scared feeling. I want to work on that scared feeling."
Gene: (says the gist of that back to him) "You've been moving, and with strong integrity, and that's real, but you want to work on that scared feeling."
That seems to fit smoothly, and he goes right on about that scared feeling:
Zak: "I don't feel it right now, but I know it's there, ah ....."
Gene is silent, knowing that Zak is looking for that feeling inside.
Zak: "I hear something saying, `Who do you think you are, expecting this to succeed?'"
Gene: "and that voice is making the scared feeling?"
Zak : "Well, I don't know yet. You're jumping ahead a little."
Gene: "It says, `Who the hell are you to think it will succeed?'"
Zak: "Yeah, and a bunch more, uh ....."
Then he falls silent for a while.
Here you see that the listener instantly accepts any correction. Gene thought Zak meant to say that the scared feeling came because of the inner attack, but Zak didn't find it so, at that time. So Gene went back and repeated (reflected) only what Zak had meant to say.
Jill and Kathy don't do any saying back. Their way is to say nothing at all unless they simply don't grasp something that is said. They have agreed that they can't skip over something they don't understand. They must say: "I didn't get that. Tell me again."
The one who is listening keeps a very concentrated attention on the other, whether speaking or silent. Kathy usually looks down while she focuses inwardly, but if she looks up she finds Jill right there, looking at her. It's the same when Jill focuses. Jill usually closes her eyes for a while, but when she opens them, there are Kathy's eyes looking right at her. She doesn't let her gaze fog over, or her attention drift away while Kathy is focusing silently.
|Doralee and Barbara are using a partnership pattern to
develop their theories. In this excerpt it is Doralee's turn. She is trying to think
through a sense of why people return to their addictive behaviors. She is a
psychotherapist. She has been articulating her own and her clients' experiences of
addictive patterns, so that her theory will emerge from experience, and not just be
Barbara has been writing down Doralee's main points to keep track of them as Doralee builds her theory. Barbara also says back Doralee's points. Hearing them said back helps her go further.
Doralee: There's something about the fear...where did we write those sentences?...
Barbara reads back some of them
Doralee: So yes, there is something scary about moving through the preciousness of life...that still brings a lot of feeling.
Barbara: That's brings a lot of feeling right there.
She is thinking into a certain fear, which might prevent addictions from changing.
Doralee: I've had these moments of this well being and when I'm in that state it's like...this is more important than anything else...It feels like I would do anything to live from that place....But then I don't, really. The clients don't, and I don't.
Barbara: You don't do anything to live from that place. This place says, "I would do anything...but then in this other place, you don't. There are two instances here: Your client says "breaking the addiction pattern is the most important thing, but I don't." And you say, "I would do anything to live from that well being, but I don't." So somehow there is some sort of structure here.
Doralee is formulating a theoretical principle concerning why even the greatest importance does not lead to changed action. Her partner says back the point she is getting at.
Doralee: Yes. Like wanting and not wanting. Or something....When I've gotten to this place before, that's where the fear is ... there is something about feeling that good, or feeling that centered and whole ...(silence)...
Barbara: Um humm....so right there....yeah....
It seems to be a fear of a large state of well being. But why does this make fear?
Doralee: I don't know if this is right, but the words are coming, "it's not my birthright." (cries)
Barbara: It's not my birth right to live from this wonderful wholeness.
Doralee: (big body sigh) umhumm. ...
Well, to say it that way mitigates the fear. ( breath) ...
This theoretical explanation came out of her experience, so she tests out saying it and finds that it actually has an effect on the fear.
Doralee: (silence. ) So let's see what that does now to my theory. I need your help here... will you read me back my sentences?
Judith and Floyd are one of many long-distance, telephone partnerships that exist today. Judith never manages to set a regular time because she has too much to do and can never know in advance when she will have enough time. One calls the other in the morning to set the time for later that day or to postpone it till the next day. At some point they found that during the call to set or postpone the time they could do a little something. Each of them takes "a minute," in silence to go deeply down inside. Floyd says, "When I go to see how I am while she's on the phone, I can go much deeper. I find where I get buried under a lot of stuff. I might see one or two troubles I've gotten into. Just seeing them makes me more OK. I usually get a deep breath, and I feel like I'm whole again -- all the way down. Then it's her turn."
You would think this would take a long time, and in fact it can -- if there is a lot of time to use. At the beginning of his minute Floyd sometimes looks at his watch, and then again when he's done. What seems like a very long time of being inside, is almost always less than the full minute.
Judith and Floyd might not have the ability to get anything meaningful out of a minute if they had not spent many full hours actually hearing each other and keeping each other company. But since they have done that for a few years, now the presence of the other lets each of them have a deep and seemingly long process in only a minute.
Christel says, "Our "focusing like" interactions started from the first day of our now 45 year marriage. I had a "focusing listener", a wise woman, back in Germany when I was a teenager. So when I came to Canada to marry Siegfried, I needed someone desperately who would listen to me in that way, and he was the only one I knew in this foreign land.
Siegfried on the other hand was used to carrying everything inside and not sharing his innermost feelings. I felt shut out and gently poked and poked till he opened up. I listened as I knew how from my own experience. For myself, I asked for his listening to my long-winded "sorting myself out" till my vague felt sense would open up.
When I found the Focusing book in 1982, I realized that this wonderful "thing" that had been my life line for all these years had a name. It was also "teachable". I learned that "Focusing" can have many faces. With Siegfried, I had to learn how a "head person" finds what for me comes so easily with murky feeling/sensations. I had to keep on "sensing" his way of accessing the illusive leading edge – and to respond from my inner listening to those clues.
Do I need to say that all this was not an easy, but it is definitely an exciting road for both of us, which has and is still enriching our lives.
Part of what has helped Christel and Siegfried's Focusing partnership succeed, is that they often do not share the content of what they focus on. Christel says, "I suggest for partners that they do not need to share any content. Focusing is process and sharing the process, having the process reflected, is all that is needed to feel listened to. Not sharing content is particularly crucial for Focusing sharing in intimate relationships, when the "issue' might in some way involve the partner. My over twenty years experience of Focusing partnership in my marriage has taught me that staying away from sharing any content makes room for the most profound, forward-moving inner process.
Gena, a friend of Robert's says: "Robert is a painter. In his turn, one of his focusing partners will accompany him as he is actually painting or drawing, saying back to him what he says as he speaks from his on-going process. I did this with him once. It was totally fascinating and such a privilege to be with him as his process was unfolding. Then, in his partner's turn, Ellen reads one of her sentences and, Robert reflects it back, and if it sounds dead or like a cliche to her, she will go in and get a felt sense of what she was trying to say--going, deeper--under the cliche for the original felt sense."
Annette and Daniel live in Switzerland and have been focusing together as a couple for five years.
How do we structure our partnership?
We don't. Our continuous practice is to check into our bodies at any given time. When we have a felt shift, we communicate.
How Does it work?
It helps us avoid an either-or relationship: there is always a sensible next step. It keeps us from compromising. Neither of us has to make vital concessions. It nourishes our conviction that life doesn't stop getting better, for each of us and for our partnership.
What it has meant to us?
It has contributed to make our partnership more sensuous. It allows us to enjoy a great deal of harmony and be at ease with our distinctly different personalities. Plus we get feedback from others that they are comfortable being with us as a couple.
Allan and I carpooled for a period of time. We took turns driving and also focusing. It was my turn up to the bridge, and his turn from the bridge to Hyde Park. Traffic is slow in the morning; it wasn't too dangerous.
Despite the fact that I am extremely familiar with the standard, six-step focusing instructions (I wrote them, after all), it regularly helped me when Allan would give them to me, one by one. I discovered that I always skipped the step of resonating the handle. Just hearing his voice say an instruction seemed to make it work for me.
Partners rarely make a routine from those six steps, but we thought it might work, and it did.
Cindy always needs a few minutes of quiet time, just to enter into herself. So when it is her turn, she and Fritz just sit quietly sometimes for five or ten minutes. They both know that this is just how Cindy is.
It doesn't seem to matter at all how quickly or slowly a person can go inside, or how quickly or slowly they get to new steps in there. It is entirely unrelated to how deeply or well others focus, or anything else. Fritz can be inside himself in a split second. That doesn't mean he doesn't get stuck soon. Cindy and Fritz are used to these things about each other.
The following excerpt is from the transcript of a work partnership session in which one partner is preparing for a conference presentation. His purpose is to guide participants who are unfamiliar with Focusing to begin to use it in their learning. The session is an instance of how effective it can be to have this kind of working relationship for support, when engaged in challenging tasks where one might otherwise feel stuck or overwhelmed. In contrast to the feeling of 'this is just too big', with this kind of support such tasks can actually become engaging and exciting.
Robert: um... so let me just sort of get a little sense of what I did so far...... [long pause] Okay, basically, what it looks like to me right now is... that um...what the project is here right now for me... is really getting to that place of naming the room as a learning situation and then addressing them as learners.
Robert: And from that um... It's going to be very responsive to the situation and what comes... from the audience... but somehow, uh, there needs to be some kind of... um, some information or some... defining of terms...
Kye: Yes, right
Robert: ...to get to that place. And, um... okay, so that's sort of, I mean that makes the project much clearer right now.
Robert: It's not that the first segment wouldn't have any of that responsiveness in it, but that's not going to be the main thing...
Robert: ...and there wouldn't be as much attention drawn to it.
... [long pause]
Robert: okay, I don't know, maybe say something now... I mean, maybe just reflect, or, I don't know what, but, I just feel like hearing your voice now.
Kye: Okay, um... so there is a sense of this room, this time, being a learning situation, and they are learners in it... and there is a need for defining terms, for bringing focusing in somehow,... and then transitioning into more fluidity, kind of responsiveness to their questions and what's going on with them, in the situation.
... [long pause]
Milt finds the qualities he needs in a partner are the same as the Focusing attitudes he holds towards his inner life as he is focusing.
"My Focusing partner is someone I trust to:
To others, my journey might not make any sense. It might look innocent, silly, confused - - - no big deal - - - yet with the life line (that I tug on from time-to-time to see if you are still there) and my leadership (I'll let you know a bit about the journey so far and what I expect of you) there is a freedom to be more attentive, patient, curious, internally focused.
I am in a safe container. Someone is watching the door. I don't have to do it all. I may or may not invite them in, yet I have made the space sacred and safe for my journey - - - for my meeting the shy ones inside - - - the ones I have ignored and misunderstood. I need this safe sacred space where I can hunker down and develop a better inner relationship with myself. I will help you understand what I need from you as you help me build this safe place we call a Focusing partnership session.
This page was last modified on 05 November 2003