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"Focusing" has been referred to as "a procedure for attending to, and being aware of, the body's 'knowing' of the various situations we live in." This way of describing Focusing can be misleading. It's perhaps more accurate to say that Focusing is what you are doing, any time you pay attention to the feel or quality of what you mean and enter into the murky, unclear "edge" of "all that", opening it up by the use of different kinds of questions or suggestions and describing what you find in words, images or actions.
Focusing was named by philosopher Eugene Gendlin while he was working with psychologist/psychotherapist Carl Rogers at the University of Chicago in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Thus the practice of Focusing grew up with the ambience of the Person Centred Approach, to which it has remained close.
Focusing is not a technique, but a naturally occurring human process. When we are focusing, we are intending to establish an interaction between our rational understanding and our somatically rooted “knowing”.
In order to help people use Focusing any time they want to, Gendlin and others (Ann Weiser Cornell and Barbara McGavin, Ed Campbell and Peter McMahon, Elfie Hinterkopf, Neil Friedman) have evolved a number of effective introductory teaching models, some of which use steps - for example these different variations.
Gendlin's "Philosophy of the Implicit" grew out of his experience and observation of focusing, as it occurs naturally. As always in Gendlin's thinking, experiencing comes first, and the forming of his philosophical system depended on the experiencing - and not the other way round.
According to Gendlin, Focusing is possible because 1) the universe is more intricate than our concepts about it, and 2) we are part of the universe and are literally interacting with it: we eat, breathe, excrete, work at jobs, etc.
Because we are interacting with a universe which is more intricate than our concepts, we have an implicit knowing "in the areas in which we interact", which is more than our concepts. Thus, for example, we "know" how to ride a bicycle, although we would have a hard time teaching someone else to do it if we used only words without demonstration or practice. This is because the activity of riding a bicycle is more intricate than our concepts about it, so the "knowing" is more than conceptual. In the same way, much of our knowledge of the world is implicit and more than conceptual; and yet this implicit knowing can be very useful in situations (including theoretical problems) where we are stuck. In Gendlin's philosophy, this bodily knowing is often called a felt sense.
For many years, Gendlin offered a course at the University of Chicago on "theory construction". This formed the basis of a second, more recent practice (which he has developed with Kye Nelson and Mary Hendricks) known as "Thinking at the Edge" or TAE. This is used for developing an implicit knowing (or felt sense) into an explicit and coherent body of related concepts. Thus if one had an inchoate knowledge of some field from years of experience, one could use Thinking at the Edge to explicate that inchoate knowledge into a coherent and explicit theory.
Focusing was originally described in the course of an attempt to understand what is happening in the client, when psychotherapy is working. However, Gendlin and his colleagues, especially Mary Hendricks, Jim Iberg, Allan Rohlfs were committed to a "politics of giving therapy away". So they began to teach people to do Focusing with each other.
Focusing is now practiced by thousands of people all over the world (who need have no professional training in psychology or psychotherapy).
There is now also a developing school of "experiential psychotherapy", within which Focusing-oriented psychotherapy takes its place. The Focusing-oriented psychotherapist attributes a central importance to the client's capacity to be aware of the meaning behind her words or images, the ability to sense into feelings and meanings which are not yet formed.
Important contributions to the development and dissemination of Focusing and TAE have been made by many people besides those mentioned above, including Mary McGuire, Doralee Grindler-Katonah, Bala Jaison, Nada Lou, Akira Ikemi, Mako Hikasa, Mieko Osawa, Tadayuki Murasato, Johannes Wiltschko, Dieter Muller, Teresa Dawson, Elena Frezza, Shirley Turcotte, Frans Depestele, Janet Klein, Fred Zimring, Les Brunswick, Kathy McGuire-Bowman, Zack Boukydis, Linda Olsen Webber, Robert Lee, Rob Foxcroft, Melinda Darer, David Rome and others.
- E. T. Gendlin. Focusing. Second edition, Bantam Books, 1982. ISBN 0553278339.
- John J. Shea. Religious Experiencing: William James and Eugene Gendlin. Rowman and Littlefield, 1987. ISBN 0819161365.
- E. T. Gendlin. Focusing-Oriented Psychotherapy: A Manual of the Experiential Method. Guilford Publications, 1996. ISBN 0898624797.
- E. T. Gendlin. What happens when Wittgenstein asks “What happens when...?”. The Philosophical Forum Volume XXVIII. No. 3, 1997.
- E. T. Gendlin. A Process model. Unpublished manuscript, 1997.
- Ann Weiser Cornell. The Power of Focusing New Harbinger Publications, 1996.
- Helene Brenner: I know I'm in there somewhere. Gotham Books; Reprint edition (May 2004)ISBN 1592400604
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