The inner presence of focusing
How often have you said something like 'part of me feels really excited about this new job, but another part is scared stiff!'?
Focusing is a way of getting a feeling for both these seemingly conflicting parts of ourselves, and it often manages to bring resolution and understanding where other ways of 'thinking it through' just get stuck.
How often have you lain awake while some problem, challenge or recently annoying event rattles round and round in your mind?
Focusing is a brilliant way of helping the troubled mind step down and allow the inward bodily sense of the issue be experienced in a more gentle way. It's a way of relating to our inner self that really helps! Instead of trying to 'fix' the problem or 'solve' the issue with our overworked brain, we are able to find a place of what we call 'inner presence' - a calm centre from which we can then relate to the part of us that feels the trouble, and then give it our own compassionate curiosity and help it to become calmer.
If this sounds a bit 'touchy-feely', it's helpful to realise that though our cognitive (cerebral cortex) brain is dominant in our day-to-day life and conscious thinking, there is a lot of processing going on in other parts of our brain (sometimes described as more 'primitive'). This processing relates with much greater connection to our body, our emotions, and the automatic nervous system. It really helps to be able to tap into this complex system that is part of our make up as human beings, and be aware of it.
Just think: some of our greatest, most meaningful and profound experiences are transmitted through our body: dancing, singing, breathing the scent of a pine wood, bungee-jumping, eating a meal or savouring a special wine, cycling fast downhill, cuddling a pet, having sex, listening to music or birdsong, having a bonfire, skating, running, paddling in a stream...
Equally, some of our most traumatic moments impact us physically, whether or not we are physically hurt. We all have bodily memory as well as cognitive memory, and traumatic memories can be triggered by sensations as well as narrative thoughts.
Meditation, mindfulness, prayer and contemplation are part of the tradition in which, for centuries and all over the world, men and women have lived in and from their innermost self and found real meaning and benefit from it. For many, this is a spiritual experience, though not for all. Focusing opens a door of active connection with all of that, realising that we are embodied beings. Those who practice it learn to love it.
We are what we are; and what we are is incredibly complex. Focusing helps us know ourselves much better; not just with knowledge, but with love.
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About Elizabeth Halls
Elizabeth Halls had a varied career in the arts, heritage and tourism, before retraining as a counsellor, and 'coming home'. She is passionate about person-centred counselling, and uses a focus-oriented way of working within this long-established tradition.