The 'something not quite right' - how focusing can help
Focusing is a technique which may be used in counselling, but also independently. It's a way of paying attention to felt senses. Felt senses are the kind of hunches, niggles or intuitions you get about a person, a place or your whole life that you can't explain. They are distinct but they aren't thoughts exactly, and they aren't feelings. You could say that you're angry, or that you think that your partner is wrong. But there's something not quite right about simply saying that. It isn't enough. It's different, there's more.
Focusing was discovered by the philosopher and therapist Gene Gendlin, while he was researching therapeutic effectiveness. He and his team noticed that clients whose therapy was successful had something in common, they had a tendency to grope around: "it's that… no that's not quite right... it's more this…". They were trying to match up a "something vague that they couldn't quite put their finger on" with words. It wasn't senseless mental rambling either, when they did hit on the right phrase there was palpable relief and a new kind of making sense, not only on the intellectual level. Things felt different, things were changed.
Gendlin investigated what these clients were doing as they talked about their lives in therapy, and broke the process down into steps so people to whom it did not come naturally could benefit too. His short book, Focusing, presents the method. But focusing is for many of us a very natural thing. When "something tells us" that what we're saying is just not quite right, we try to formulate it a different way and pay close attention to check whether the new way fits, we are focusing. And the point of it, is that it works. When the checking stops and we "just get it", we know it's right and this brings a fresh sense of relief, energy and new possibilities.
Abstract as it may sound, the "that's it!" moment is in practice, the most concrete thing. We might associate it with some kind of exceptional creativity, but it works in everyday life too, bringing clarity and change. Unclear understandings, memories, feelings, or whole life situations that have been causing stuckness and pain, gently break up and move forward, in a new way.
About the author
Sarah Luczaj is an experienced person-centred counsellor, influenced by focusing. Focusing is a gentle bodily-based technique for helping people make sense of their situations and move forward. She has particular experience with inter-cultural issues, and in addition to her native English works in Polish. She is also a Buddhist practitioner.
Related articles from our experts
Fiona Goldman, BACP Registered CounsellorJanuary 17th, 2017
SUSAN STUBBINGS Counsellor, Supervisor, Group facilitator Registered MBACPJanuary 17th, 2017
Tom KeelyJanuary 16th, 2017
Andrea Harrn Psychotherapist and Author of The Mood CardsMay 13th, 2011
Imi Lo: Psychotherapist, Art Therapist, Supervisor (MMH,UKCP,HCPC,MBPsS)March 29th, 2015
Keeley Townsend BA (Hons), Ad.Dip.CP with Distinction, MNCS (Acc)December 14th, 2009
Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.