Focusing – it’s not what you’re thinking. I’m referring to a method for releasing feelings locked within the body. Developed in the 1930s by Eugene Gendlin at the University of Chicago, it is used by many coaches and therapists to this day. I’ve found it very helpful with my career clients.
Focusing is a process for accessing unwanted or upsetting feelings stored within the body. In my practice, focusing is typically conducted with two people: a client and myself as coach. Focusing can help the client bring such feelings safely into consciousness.
The coach asks the client to relax in a comfortable chair and close her eyes. The client is then instructed to relax into her body and wait for some feeling or sensation to surface. She is asked to describe, out loud, the nature of the sensation. (I’m feeling a tightness in my chest.) The coach repeats her exact words back to her and then asks “Can you be with this?”
The client is free to opt out. If so, the coach asks her “Can you be with that?” In this way, the coach creates a place of safety for the client. Most people, however, choose to continue.
The coach then asks the client to observe when the feeling or sensation moves or changes in some way and the then, out loud, describe the change. (“The tightness has moved up to my throat.”) The coach, again, repeats her exact words back to her.
The process continues in the same fashion. From time to time, the coach asks, “Would you like to continue or is it time to stop?”
At some point, the client decides to stop. The coach then asks her to return to the beginning and describe the course the first sensation took or changed until she decided to stop.
One of two responses invariably occur. The first and most common is when the client experiences what Gendlin called a “felt shift,” a palpable release in the tension held within the body. The second and less common is when the client experiences a burst of insight which previously held her back. In both instances, the client is freed from a block of barrier. Of course, coach and client may return to focusing to surface additional feelings or sensations that are carried within the body.