Home > Philosophy > How to use some of the basic PM concepts in Thinking at the Edge

[PDF format available]

How to use some of the basic PM concepts in Thinking at the Edge

by Greg Walkerden

'Thinking at the edge' and 'the Process Model'

"INTERACTION FIRST"

"IMPLYING", "OCCURRING" and "CARRYING FORWARD"

"DOUBLING" AND "CROSSING"

The "more" of the Process Model ...

 

'Thinking at the edge' and 'the Process Model'

When we 'think at the edge' we work our way to a place where we sense a "more" that we are "unclear how to say" ... a place where knowing exceeds saying ... and we work with this edge, taking time, sensing the pull of what we know how to say on what we don't know how to say ... letting terms, concepts, structures, principles emerge, form, ...

To work in ways that carry a recognised tradition forward, we usually ground our exploring in the riches of public discourse ... we take time to learn the tradition, its usual forms of discourse, its discriminations, its sensitivities, ... and so on.

And yet, there are some places where we sense a 'more we don't know how to say' from which it is especially difficult to move ... where unease and discomfort keep resurfacing, where inklings of forward movement regularly evaporate ...

In some of these places we are bumping into assumptions so widely shared in our culture, languages, theories that it seems that any words that come pull us back from our edge, back towards the embedded assumptions ... and we notice we have re-evoked our sense of unease or discomfort ... we feel stuck ...

The Process Model helps with some of these recurring difficulties.

To move forward in these places our default option is to spend a lot of time felt sensing in them: a lot of time sitting with the unease, the discomfort, exploring crossings, ... With some of these places the Process Model provides a way to think in new ways, a way to sense new possibilities as natural, obvious, evident; as making sense, ... there can be places where Gene's explorations seem resonant of our own problems, or, in the same family, or, on similar terrain, ...

Places where the Process Model might help us find our way ...

These evening sessions are going to explore a number of these places ... noticing how we feel sucked into vortices, keep tripping on edges, or dropping into gravity wells ... and then noticing how other ways of talking, discriminations that it is hard to say in ordinary language, can carry us forward, opening up whole new possibilities for theorising ...

"INTERACTION FIRST"

Consider some theorising, some 'making sense', work that you are doing.

Perhaps there are places where you feel uncomfortable ... uneases, tightnesses, difficulties ... that have resonances with:

"Its a bit the person, and a bit the society" doesn't seem to make sense, doesn't feel right ... So what would make sense?

Consider your reading of a text. Can you cut up your reading and say: its easy to see that all this is from me, and all that is from the author?
We know we can't, so we can sense here that our language, our usual ways of talking, are forcing us to say something that doesn't make sense ... so, where else might this be happening in our thinking?

Consider some traces of the tension:

The Process Model is trying to create a space in here for talking clearly and simply about what's 'missing', what's 'in between', ... that's why it is a process model: its key concepts include:

From Gendlin's 'A Process Model'

Our concepts stem from the intention to put interaction first. We began with body and environment as one event, and only gradually developed certain limited ways in which they are separable. "Interaction first" comes from many sources. I will now cite a few of them.

A great deal comes from ECM. Focusing is its application. Some instances and stories from focusing can move us on. From the process of any kind of explication we say (know, feel, wait for .....) how the body always implies its next bit of living process, and thereby also the environmental objects. But we have no specific terms for any of this as yet.

The model is intended to differ from mathematical-perceptual kinds. The few concepts we have so far generate an odd kind of time and space.

For example, two people in a close relationship may find the following pattern: "If she were a little bit better or more loving (or different in this and this way), then I could be so good, or I could be in this and this way ....). But I can't be. Why not? Because she won't let me. She isn't that little bit better. And why not? Because of the way I am. If I were a little bit better then she could relate to me the way I need her to do, so that I could be a little bit better, so that she could."

Individuals are commonly thought of as separate originative causes. In a relationship between two people, each is said to "contribute some of the trouble" and carry "some of the blame." On the other hand, family therapists say about a troubled family that "the system is sick". They rightly consider the interaction as a single system. But there has been no way to conceptualize this so that we could think much further about it.

If one person could begin to be different, and stay steadily different, then the other would change. But as often as one tries, one is soon pulled back into the interaction pattern. Perhaps if both could be that little bit different at the same time, they could leap out of one interaction pattern into another. But it would be a leap; there seem to be no steps and no way to think from one pattern to another. To think further, our model begins with concepts that begin with interaction.

My example and those to follow show that one occurrence can consist of two or more people, and that the occurrence can assign them their character in the interaction (much as an interaction in quantomechanics defines the particles).

In the West people are accustomed to think in units and nouns, and to attribute causality to individuals. "There is a boy over there" is an acceptable sentence; it is optional information whether he is running, or sitting. But one would not easily accept the sentence "There is a running over there," adding only later that the running is a boy. Nouns can stand; verbs not. Similarly, it seems we must first have a boy and a girl. Then they can interact. It seems we cannot first have an interaction.

The very word "interaction" sounds as if first there are two, and only then is there an "inter." We seem to need two nouns first. We think of two people living separately into adulthood; then they meet. A good deal of their interaction is explained by their antecedent lives. But not all of it. To an important extent it is their interaction which determines how each acts.

It is commonly said that each of our relationships "brings out" different traits in us, as if all possible traits were already in us, waiting only to be "brought out." But actually you affect me. And with me you are not just yourself as usual, either. You and I happening together makes us immediately different than we usually are. Just as my foot cannot be the walking kind of foot-pressure in water, we occur differently when we are the environment of each other. How you are when you affect me is already affected by me, and not by me as I usually am, but by me as I occur with you.2*

We want to devise concepts to capture this exact aspect of "interaction first": What each is within an interaction is already affected by the other.

This will also lead to a new way to think of time. Usually one traces cause and effect separately one after the other: "She affects me and then this makes me act so as to then affect her". In our model they cause each other by "original interaffecting" and "coordinated differentiation." One need not precede the other in time.

For example, a therapist described a difficult therapy relationship with a man. He traced the trouble back and found that it was already there in the first hour, and even at the start of the hour. But he was so used to attributing causality to individual entities, and to find causality always in a time before, that he could not imagine that the interaction itself originated the trouble. Finally he said about the client: "I must have been affected by the sound of his walk when he came down the hall before I saw him." To explain something seems to require showing that it was already so at an earlier time. But such an explanation does not get at the interaction, the system of the two together as one event. Instead of "the sound of his footfall" (just him), we need to be able to think howone event determines what each is with the other.

Two requirements for our concepts are: interaction first, and a new conception of time in which we can explain something, without having to show that it was already there in a time before. The usual type of explanation and the usual concept of time deny novelty. They deny that anything actually happens. Instead, we show that it was already so, and needed only a bit of rearranging.

A third requirement is to include structuring or patterning, rather than only structures and patterns. If everything must be thought of in terms of existing patterns, then even if an interaction precedes, there seems to be no way to arrive at one that isdifferently structured. We would have to jump from one interaction pattern into another, (or wish that we could).

For example, Piaget thinks in terms of interaction patterns between knower and known (called "child" and "object"). But he cannot show how the child develops from one interaction to another more developed one.

Here is a fourth requirement: For us an interaction (a process, body-environment) implies its own changing. It has to be nonlaplacian. Laplace was the man who said "If I knew where all the particles of the universe are right now, and the speed and direction at which they are moving, I could tell you the whole past of the universe, and predict all of its future. What he did not recognize is that this assumption was built into the good old mathematical concepts he was using. He might as well have said that if he knew 2+2 he could know its future. We would never want to do without mathematical concepts and logical inference, and we use it in building this model, although we use other powers as well. But we require concepts of something happening, something that cannot be found already there before, as one must always do in mathematics.

...

A sixth way in which our model will differ is that we do not assume a given set of units. Units are generated from interaction, from making sense. They can be newly generated and regenerated, both in regard to their number and what they are.

This is like saying (as we did just above) that interaction process is not determined by the antecedent participants. Our rudimentary conceptual model already says this.

If one looks directly at the assumption of units, one may not wish to hold it, but it is a silent assumption that inheres in the structure of most concepts. If we ask someone whether they assume that everything comes in already fixed mathematical bits, particles, time units, space units, chemical units, they may say that the assumption is simple-minded. But this assumption is nevertheless built into how most concepts function when they are used to explain something. The explanation consists of an assumed set of fixed units, pieces, elements, constituents that remain the same and are traced through. Such explanations are highly useful, but need to be considered within the larger context which is not reducible to them, and in which other units can be generated.

Looking back over two centuries from Kant and Hegel to the present, notice that nature, life process, and animals were given over to mathematical mechanics, time and space units, graph paper, deterministic logical necessity, Laplacian uneventfulness. Only humans were thought to have events, and even this was a puzzle. Even very recently, still, human bodies seemed completely determined by logical mechanics, so that creativity and novelty were possible only in art, which is to say only in "illusion." Novelty-making had to hide in "transitional objects" (Winnicott), "ambiguity" (Empson), or bizarre exaggerations (Bakhtin, Bataille). So convinced were thinkers that nature is graph paper. How odd! Logic, math, and graph paper are quintessentially human creations -- nothing natural comes in equal units that can be substituted in logical slots. Every leaf and cell is a little different. Only humans make graph paper. Where do you ever see it in nature? The larger process is creative, and generates among other things the wild and world-shaking production of graph paper.

So we surely need not give nature and bodily life-process over to fixed units and logic -- however powerful their use is. We need not think of nature as artificially constructed out of separate pieces, although it is useful (and dangerous) to construct and reconstruct them.

We have as yet no good conceptual model with logical links that does not assume fixed individuated units at the bottom. I do not mean to slight much elegant work which is moving in the same direction as we are here. On the contrary, I hope to contribute to it. I am only pointing to a difficulty that is often in the way. It helps if one recognizes the assumption of units directly, so that one can let what makes sense stand, even if it does not assume such units.

We also need to recognize the way time is assumed in what I call the "unit model." At time one (t1) some set of basic elements have to be already there, so that t2 is a mere rearrangement of them. In such a system of thought nothing can ever happen. When something happens, it is an embarrassment and an anomaly.

In our new model process is happening. An occurring is a change. We are devising concepts for real change, not just rearrangement. So we forego the type of explanation which requires t2 = t1. (The latter can be derived as a special case.)

When the past functions to "interpret" the present, the past is changed by so functioning. This needs to be put even more strongly: The past functions not as itself, but as already changed by what it functions in.

 

"IMPLYING", "OCCURRING" and "CARRYING FORWARD"

Consider some theorising, some 'making sense', work that you are doing.

Perhaps there are places where you feel uncomfortable ... uneases, tightnesses, difficulties ... Are there places in your work where it would feel uncomfortable to say something like: what comes (an event, an insight, an outcome) is somehow a product of, determined by, made from, a logical consequence of, what was there before? Where you want to say something like: there is something fresh, new, creative here, and it just doesn't do justice to it to say that, in some sense, it is a playing out of what was already there, of what was there before?

For some kinds of problems this assumption presents no difficulties, for some it even nurtures insight ... for others it evokes a sense of unease; we find ourselves asking: how do we reflect our sense of newness, freshness, creativity in the language we use; and most challengingly, how do we reflect the sense of openness to the possibility of the new, the fresh, the creative, in our models, theories, philosophies?

What kind of openness to freshness, to newness, does our theory need? Have we found a way to say it, or are we frequently drawn back to some kind of assumption about how it was there before, in some incipient sense? Some assumption that uncomfortably denies the kind of fresh coming, in situations, that we feel? - a fresh coming that is beyond rearranging what was there before?

And can you sense how to talk of the "new" - if it is to be more than a rearranging - we feel forced to say some kind of: it is radically new, it is a break from what was there before? Some sense that we are pushed to say: there is a discontinuity between the old and the new?

Consider conversation. Can you say how what you say is, or can be, fresh and alive ... new in an important way for you and your companion ... can you say how what comes is (sometimes) rich and surprising, yet when you look back, it makes sense? Do you feel forced to say: this is something new I put into the conversation?, or, somehow this possibility was waiting to unfold?

Can you sense how our language is pushing us to say something that doesn't fit, that doesn't feel right? ... there is some kind of embeddedness with creativity that isn't being said here ... so, where else might this be happening in our thinking?

Consider some traces of the tension:

 

The Process Model is trying to create a space in here for talking clearly and simply about what's 'missing', what's 'in between', ... ; its key concepts include:

So, life processes imply their own forward movement (in a way that texts lead into their 'readings') ... but in an open way (in the way that a text can be faithfully explicated in many directions).

From Gendlin's 'A Process Model'

Living cannot well be thought of as unit events related to other events only by position, that is to say single events that one could rearrange in any order. I don't mean that anyone claims that living events can occur in any order. But why this is not possible is thought of only in terms of externally imposed relationships of things in an observer's space. Let us instead allow the spider to generate time and continuity. The spider's own process has its own order.

...

Life process is "temporally organized," but here this does not mean only that someone notices hunger coming before eating. It means rather that hunger is the implying of eating. And eating? There is that special relation again: If hunger is the implying of eating, then eating is the "....." of hunger. The term we want is implicit in the "....." and when we get the term it will do to our "....." what eating does to hunger. We can try out saying that eating satisfies hunger, that it carries out what hunger implies, that eating carries the hunger into some sort of occurring. Hunger is the implying of eating (the "need" for food we say, making a noun out of this implying). Then eating is the satisfaction (another noun). The nouns make separate bits out of the process. But actually it's no fun eating if you're not hungry while eating. The eating happens only with hunger. Eating happens into hunger. The bits have both in them. The process is both implying and occurring, A bit of life process is always also the implying of further bits. Right here "implies" means just this well known and little understood fact.

...

We are setting up a new conception of the living body, one in which the body means or implies. So far we have defined three ways in which the body implies: within body-en, the next occurring, and the stopped process and object. We will now develop a fourth: When there are many processes, how they imply each other.

...

[...] we derive the fact that there are many processes, and that they become many in such a way that they are already coordinated. Let me show this:

In our new model the processes are originally and inherently coordinated. In phases when a process is resumed, the rest of the body occurs only together with it. Whenever that process is stopped, the rest of the body lives without it. So the other processes have phases during which they are always together with this one process, all one with it, not differentiated from it, and other phases during which they have gone on and formed without it.

The processes may seem independent along their whole sequences, but they are different processes only during phases in which one went on without the other. When a process goes on, it goes on together with a lot of other processes. Each phase of each process developed only together with some, but only without some others. All the phases of each process developed during the stoppage of some others, and only together with some others.

Therefore how any one of them is, at a certain moment, is part of the bodily whole that includes just certain phases of the others. We can now say:

The exact way a process is in each of its phases implies how the others are. This is a fourth sense of "imply".

It is an empirical question whether all processes imply each other in this way, or just which ones do, or what shall be considered "a" process. We are not saying that two processes cannot be independent, even if our model so far does not formulate such independence. The empirical intricacy can always again exceed any conceptual model. Once we know this, we can use many models.

When one defines separated processes or bodily "systems," their interactions can be puzzling. They are often much more coordinated and affect each other mutually in more ways than one can account for. Then "holistic" medicine seems to be outside of science.

...

Past experience does not alone determine present events, yet it does function in some way, now.

Sometimes the role of the past is viewed along the lines of Freud's transference: I am not "really" perceiving and feeling you, just my father. In revolt against this view, many current psychologists emphasize the " here and now." But these notions of "present" and "past" come from what I call the "unit model." The present is supposed to be just itself, as if the past is just another thing. They are placed in successive positions along a line. Then one seems to have to choose between them.

Instead, we need a new conception of time, to speak from how we experience the present , but experienced (with and through and by means of .....) the past. Let us enter into this more closely.

Obviously I am not experiencing the past as such, when I experience the present, else I would be thinking and feeling the past events, and my images would be of those incidents. If that is happening I am missing what is going on in front of me. This happens when I day-dream or relive the past. But the past does play a role when I am fully in the present. Obviously, the present wouldn't be what it is, if it were not for how I have lived up to this point. I experience the present, but my past experience is part of what makes up my present.

My actions and thoughts come out of me from out of my body. I don't know a great deal about how they come. Mostly they are new; they belong now and have not been heard, known, or felt before, but although they are new creations they obviously involve what has happened before.

The past and the present cannot be understood if we think of them only as two different things in two different positions on a time line. The present is a different whole event. The past functions in every present.

If we can develop concepts for this, we can then differentiate the different ways in which the past can function now, for example so as to force the present to repeat it, or so as to become part of a fresh new whole implying, or in many other, more intricate ways. Our actual experiences cannot be understood very far with a merely positional conception of time.

 

"DOUBLING" AND "CROSSING"

Consider some theorising, some 'making sense', work that you are doing.

Perhaps there are places where you feel uncomfortable ... uneases, tightnesses, difficulties ... that have resonances with:

Are there places in your work where it would help to have ways to talk about the different kinds of 'spaces' we experience (movement space, social space, interior space, ...) that don't implicitly cut them off from each other?

Consider massage ... we have a massage and feel relaxed, peaceful, friendlier ... we gaze more softly, we talk to people in a gentler way ... What has happened here? How has a different way of relating emerged from being touched? To say "the masseur's kindness evokes further kindness" would drop out the touching. To say "the tissues were stretched and this 'caused' the person to interact more gently" suggests too mechanical a connection ... So how do we describe how tissue processes are in play in social life?

Consider some traces of the tension:

We can discuss our physiology, and we can discuss moving our bodies, and we can discuss our social lives, and we can discuss our inner exploration of our sense of 'the ground of our being', but how do we connect them to each other, how do we understand that they belong to each other, that they are deeply part of the one universe?

The Process Model is making a space for talking clearly about new layers of processing emerging in aliveness ... new layers that enrich and carry forward aliveness; key concepts include:

Doubling: Consider, for instance, having a conversation and starting to feel uncomfortable, ... then we sit with the discomfort in a focusing way, and a new sense (a felt sense) of what's been happening / what needs to be said emerges, we listen to it, and we take the conversation in a new direction ...
In a case like this our felt sense is a different kind of occurring from conversing: it occurs in its own space, a distinctive kind of interior space, that is quite different from the social space we share with the other person. The felt sense is a sense of the whole of where conversing has carried you to,with the discomfort focaled (in the first instance). So we have: something occurring in a new kind of space that helps us work with the whole of what was happening in the earlier kind of space ... In the Process Model this model is generalised: simpler kinds of process open out, they double: a new kind of process - a new space or environment - emerges that encapsulates the whole of what was happening in the simpler space.

Crossing: After we have done a little focusing, we continue the conversation differently. But how does this continuing differently arise? Not via mechanical self control, by and large; often "we simply act differently now", as it were. The Process Model unpacks this: our focusing process 'crosses' with our conversing ... they "interaffect" ... Here we need a whole new language for how the partially differentiated somethings we experience (evanescent strands, evolving presences, tacit ground, ...) occur, and occur together, ... The Process Model provides a great deal of new, much needed, language here.

From Gendlin's 'A Process Model'

Postmodernists want to reject any conceptual model. I call the rudimentary outlines of a model "basic" not because someone believes that a conceptual model is the foundation of anything, but because the "basic" structure is acquired by all the other terms. The usual "Western" model is widely rejected today, but it remains "basic" not as an assertion, but because it inheres in the structure of most concepts, and seems to be the only way to make new concepts. This will remain so as long as we lack an alternative "basic" model. By rejecting all models, the postmodernists make themselves right. But a model ceases to entrap as soon as we have an equally "basic" alternative. Then we are able to devise concepts beyond the old model -- and beyond the new one too.

We can devise an alternative, if we fashion the "basic" terms from the living bodies that we have (are, act from, speak from .....). With basic parameters that are "too early" versions of human processes, we can make the later definitions of meaning and symbol possible. We won't darkly announce later on, that humans have a symboling power, as is usually done in the currently disconnected social sciences. We want to understand that power and its continuity with less than human processes. We are not pretending to be without or before language. Of course we are devising concepts from some aspects of how we are and live. The usual mathematical "reality" is also derived from human processes, of course. Nothing is more exclusively human that mathematics.

We can speak from living, and we can make rudimentary concepts from speaking-from, and especially from focusing and from the process of explication. Since these are possible in reality, they can lead us to an alternative set of "basic" concepts of a "reality" in which we would not seem impossible.

Our rudimentary model will develop into a connected matrix of concepts with which we can "derive" human behavior and symboling. Then it will have the concepts with which to speak-about itself (VII and VIII).

It is known that symbols and rituals have deep bodily effects but there is no way to think how that can be. We are building a way to think from and into those effects. And of course we spend much of our lives speaking. The old notion that symbols "stand for something" never opened this relation. It is left like an external relation. What lets symbols be "about" things? We are told about "signifiers and the signified" -- but the signifiers float. The old terms about language and signifying do not internally explain themselves nor do they relate to living bodies. Even our little primitive model with its few terms is already further along than the usual model. With body and environment making up one event, and with the concept of "implying," the body implies its participating environment, as well as special objects that can be missing and can resume a process.

What makes something a symbol is usually said to be that it "stands for something." Our definition so far is not yet of a symbol, also not yet of an object that is present and perceived by a body. So far the "object" disappears as soon as it recurs. And yet it already "stands for something", namely the process it resumes when it recurs. But "stands for" comes from the old model, as if symboling were an external relation. I say instead that the body "implies" the object by implying the process which the object resumes.

...

If you attend to the middle of your body just now, you will find your intricate (more than defined) body-sense-of the present -- which consists of my words and also a vast amount more. Language is always implicit in human bodies, so that a present body-sense always leads to the formation of fresh phrases if you allow it. Even before those come, you can sense the past that functions in this moment, much of your thinking and reading, (more than you could explicitly remember), your reasons for reading this, what you hope for, your curiosity, excitement, perhaps even disgust at some of what I am saying, but also what else went on today that allowed you the time for this now, what your alternatives were, perhaps what you wanted to avoid, perhaps what you are always good at in philosophy, also what has often been hard for you, many past events bearing not just on this reading but on what else is going on in your life just now. These are my words. You would first find only a slight seething body-quality (often just ease or unease) which can open into your version of "all that."

...

Behavior goes on in behavior space, a "filled" (we said) space consisting of all the implied behavior sequences. The simple gesture movements go on in another space, bodylook space, or gesture space or simple movement space. But this space is doubled. It is the doubled space of simple movements. The behavior context is not being changed as it would in behaving. Rather, it is being versioned, rendered, sequenced, had, felt, while staying "the same." (Of course, this is also a major bodily change sequence, but not as behavior would cf the behavior context away into another behavior context.) We have generated a symbolic space, that is to say a double space, the space of movements that symbolize. The behavior context is versioned. Behavior is not going on. The movements do not, as movements, alter the implied behavior possibilities, the implicit behaviors, and the focally implied next behavior. Therefore these movements move in an empty space.

...

Sentience in ordinary behavior is of course conscious. Feeling and perception are conscious. In behaving the body is conscious of the changes in its environment and in itself that are the behaving. The behavior context (the way behavior space is, just then) is bodily implied, and as carried forward it is felt. And now there is a sequence about what is felt, a new string of body changes and environmental changes (the end is now the body-looks) in which one sequences, has feels . . . what one feels, namely, one's being in that behavior context. Now to be very exact: it isn't right to say that the new sequence lets one feel about what one felt before. Exactly, the behavior context one feels is not the one from before, but the one that is being versioned now. It is now like looking back and perceiving and feeling what was, but more exactly the new sequence is doubled. The new sequence reconstitutes "the same" behavior context, as a result of versioning, and not as remembered or looked back to. What we are self-conscious of is not what was before but a new creation of the self-conscious sequence. "The same" behavior context across the new sequence is of course related to the behavior context before versioning, but it isn't some mysterious reflecting, like a mirror, on what was already there. It is a new product.

I would be unhappy if you take away from this only that through bodylooks a sequence can be about a behavior context. It is really about something quite new, "the same behavior context" that results from the symboling sequence itself. Symboling creates anew world, as is well known and will become clearly thinkable here.

...

"For hours I would stand quite still, my two hands folded between my breasts, covering the solar plexus. My mother often became alarmed to see me remain for such long intervals quite motionless as if in a trance--but I was seeking and I finally discovered the central spring of all movements, the crater of motor power, the unity from which all diversities of movements are born..." (Isadora Duncan, My Life, Liveright, N.Y.: 1927, p.75.)

Isadora Duncan stands still, sometimes for a long period. She senses dance steps she could move into, but they don't feel right. What would feel right is not sure yet. She is "seeking," she says above, looking for, waiting for the right feel to come, willing to let it come.

This seeking, waiting for, looking, and letting is a kind of action. It is a way of relating to, interacting with ... What? Where? It is interaction with a right feel, a new kind of feel which will come in a new place.

This feel, and this new space, are both made in this very interaction. (This is an instance of our principle "interaction first": Only from the interaction do the participants come. A new kind of interaction makes new participants. See IV-A.)

...

Feelings of the usual kind are part of how our situations are culturally structured. We have the feelings, and by "have" I always mean a sequence, a stretch of time-we have them in certain "slots" in the interaction. The usual, culturally patterned interactions would not continue on their regular way if one of the participants failed to have the "slotted" feeling. If you do not feel respect for the saint, chagrin when called to order by the authorities, pleased when given a gift, (and so on,) the culturally structured interactions would then fail to work, to continue as usual. Your body would then imply something else, rather than what usually happens next. Either nothing further, or something else would happen. (Even pretense is something else,of course.)

Thus, the sequences of feeling, although often private, are part of the routines. If someone defeats you in some conflict, the cultural pattern may call for you to feel frustrated anger and also not show it. Despite this privacy, the other participants have your private sequence implicitly as part of the situation they are also in, with you. How you and the others interact later on will then make sense to all, on the basis of what you have lived together here. Thus our private inner life is largely an inherent part of our patterned situations with others. (see VII-B)

Aside from such actual sequences during which we feel, there is of course also the simpler fact that any action (and, in animals, any behavior) involves feeling, but not as a separate sequence. Any action or interaction is a carrying forward of the body and so we feel our actions. I call such feelings the "in-behavior" or "in-action" type.

Since cultural situations are very complex, and each situation implicitly involves others too, which are also complex, a very great deal more is bodily lived and felt in this "in-action" way, than is ever sequenced as such in those rather few "slotted" sequences we consider our feelings.

This whole complexity is carried forward by an VII sequence, since it is implicit in every sequence. However, it is never felt as such. Neither slotted feelings nor in-action feelings are a feeling of the whole system of contexts as such. Implicitly, each carries that whole forward in a certain way, but another sequence would carry it forward in a different way. Each goes on in the implicit context that includes all the others, and therefore each is within the whole context of the others. In VII there cannot be a having of the whole, except as implicit in either this sequence or that.

Now, I am going to show that an VIII sequence carries the whole forward, and is having of that whole. The new "feel" is a feeling, having, sequencing, of the whole. Let me work up to showing this.

Take a VII example: See how the whole is not felt or had in the way I mean, although it is implicitly carried forward in some one way. For example, once I found myself grinding my cigarette out on the table top. It was what some people would call "very expressive." As I did it, I felt what I was doing, of course, and I felt the situation that led up to it (as we do in any ordinary action.) But I did not do what Isadora is describing. I did not let a feel of the whole situation form for me, first, and then act from it. I had and felt the whole situation only in-action, in this spontaneous act. I had to go back afterwards to try to see what made me do it.

Of course, what I felt was anger, but that is too simple. Emotions "break back," as we saw in VII, that is to say they don't usually carry forward (meet) the whole situation. (That is why we often regret later what we did emotionally. Other facets of the situation, which were not carried forward, are then in evidence.) So even if I had first felt my anger (in a private, slotted sequence) I would not thereby have felt and the whole situation. My spontaneous behavior also did not carry the whole situation forward. No sequence in VII symbols ever does, whether the symbols are verbal, or pictured and imaged, or acted out as in this example. Something new did occur (I don't usually do this,) but it was not what happens in Isadora's pause.

Duncan could have danced in this spontaneous way without waiting. Or she could have danced from any point during her waiting. Some dance would have arisen. Instead, she engaged in something else.

At each new moment after pausing she senses the whole context directly, as a "feel" (which isn't quite right.) No previous kind of sequence we have considered could do that.

We noticed that the space in which Duncan seeks her source of a right movement has some features in common with an interpersonal interaction space. She interacts with some "feel" even before it is quite there. She seeks it, looks for it, waits for it, lets it come, pursues and points to what has come, senses its rightness or wrongness, even before it is clearly marked as an it. These are like activities one might do in relation to a person or an object in ordinary situational space (which we derived in VII). Interaction is usually and (as discussed so far) with a person or a thing. One pursues someone or points to something. Now something like such interactions are occurring in a new space made by these activities, and these interactions are between some new puzzling sense of her, and this new kind of "feel."

The "more" of the Process Model ...

These sessions won't do justice to the Process Model, but they will give some sense of how it can be used. And hopefully they will help you in significant ways with problems / places you are thinking into.

Personally I think the Process Model has the seeds of a revolution in it. Some more thoughts:

Why do I think the PM matters more than Husserl, Wittgenstein, Heidegger?

  1. Fundamentally because the cultural potential of the PM vision is far greater than any of Wittgenstein, Husserl, Heidegger, etc. Its opening doors into a much deeper layer of human living (thinking from beneath / beyond [at the edge of] concepts) than we have in any of these great philosophers. To *understand* VIII space is to sense the potential of a radically different kind of humanness (and thence community).

    With *focusing* as a practice, we already have this in a sense. But *philosophy* produces a different kind of trust ...

    It's (for me) to do with a sense of *order*. Focusing as practice shows me there *is* something I can trust. The PM as philosophy shows me *the place* of that which I am trusting.

    And in doing this it deepens my trust. As it were: it shows me VIII space (the space we notice when focusing) as a carrying forward of an evolutionary process; and VIII space as an order of magnitude advance on language and reasoning as usually understood; and VIII space as understandably layered on more familiar aspects of human experience.

  2. Not only does the PM include a practice (I agree that great philosophical work demonstrates a method others can follow, as well as taking interesting positions), but it includes a practice of extraordinary power and generality compared to any of Wittgenstein, Husserl, or Heidegger ... each of whom developed methods that are mostly only of interest to professional philosophers.

  3. The PM delivers deeply on ordinary people's aspirations of professional philosophy. The naive hope is that philosophy will greatly deepen insight, and the appropriateness of actions taken. Most professional philosophical work is *very* remote from these aspirations. The PM is not; in that sense it reclaims (a corner of) philosophy for the wider community.

More examples of where the PM offers new ways forward through impasses

  1. Ethics. With no foundations, what can one say? *And yet*, focusing finds a *kind* of foundation. The PM provides a platform for talking about what *kind* of 'ground' we have to work with here ... A starting point for working out how to argue publicly the wisdom of trusting focusing insights as a guide (or at least point of reference). Pointing to ...

    a) the fact that there *is* an intricacy that FAR exceeds what we can say explicitly with concepts, so there *may* be insights coming that deserve respect *despite* the difficulty of saying or defending them in public-model-grounded debate;

    b) that there's something *intrinsic* to life process that leans 'forward': its *interior - and therefore in need of explication, and *not* amenable to being dismissed *simply* on the grounds of 'philosophical refutation' ...

  2. Another issue I've been sensitive to is the elision of the quality of lived experience from philosophy of science (e.g. the pleasures of seeing ... the play of light and colour, the delight of watching things happen) . The felt, or first person quality, of lived experience is left out in the traditional models. All that is honoured is the power of experience to influence assertions, theories. I couldn't find a way to do more than *point* to the fact that this was happening, and express unease. The PM carries forward my unease a *very* long way!

  3. The sense of intricate, preseparated flux, out of which one can validly draw multiple models, provides a new and much more convincing ground for pragmatism than I've encountered. And being a felt sense oriented person, I have long wanted ways to support pragmatism better, because it *affirms* trusting something deeper about / from one's sensitivity to situations, cases. Justifications I've previously read have felt unconvincing to me, for all that I warmed to the conclusions (e.g. Rorty).

In my view, the variety of familiar discomforts that the Process Model eases is one mark of its depth and originality. It also opens up new kinds of living at ease - new at least to Western philosophy: a possibility of "continuous philosophy". Imagine living from the felt sensed edge of everything.

Greg Walkerden
gregw@acay.com.au

Sydney 20 June, 2000


All contents Copyright 2012 by The Focusing Institute
Email comments to webmaster