Hey, you haven’t heard from me in a while. Today I wanted to share something interesting I learned recently – it’s a technique for introspection called Focusing. Focusing was created by a psychotherapist named Eugene Gendlin who, in the 1950s and 60s, did research analyzing thousands of recorded therapy sessions in an attempt to find what separated those that were successful from those that weren’t.
Gendlin made a surprising discovery – the factor that differentiated successful patient outcomes from the unsuccessful wasn’t the duration of the treatment, the behaviour of the therapist, or the particular style of therapy (both psychoanalytic and cognitive behavioural therapy sessions were studied) – rather what made the difference was something the patients were doing inside themselves. Gendlin and his team worked this out to such a science that by the end of their research, they could actually predict right from the first session whether or not a patient’s course of therapy would be successful.
Personally I learned about Focusing from some of the people at Leverage Research, a group I was connected with after attending a conference for Effective Altruism. I’ve been using the Focusing technique for about two weeks now and have found it to be very useful. I’ve been going through some relatively difficult times in recent months (which is part of the reason for the lack of posts) and Focusing has seemingly helped me sort through some of this.
I say seemingly because Focusing is almost entirely subjective, as it’s centred around what Gendlin calls a “felt sense” one has in relation to a particular problem or area of life. The Focusing process involves six steps and could be best described, in my opinion, as entering into a dialogue with your “felt senses”. No other term really fits here because, as Gendlin explains, none existed for what he was referring to and he had to invent one.
A way to think about Focusing is that it involves accessing and interacting with collections of physical sensations in your body, and in particular the way that these sensations are causally related to psychological or emotional issues in your life.
I have also sometimes viewed Focusing as a form of interaction or communication with the subconscious mind, by which here I mean the part of the psyche that has collected and stored large amounts of information through various sensory inputs over time, outside (or “below”) the purview of the conscious mind. Particularly when the process involves a lot of visual imagery, this is what Focusing has felt like for me.
The audiobook version of Focusing was recommended to me over the text version, as it includes guided instruction through the whole process. It’s only an hour and fifteen minutes long, so you can listen to it in an afternoon and start Focusing right away. I hope you find it as fruitful as I have.
Talk to you soon,