Developing self awareness is difficult for many people. But, it is the most important skill needed for effective mind control. Mindfulness Meditation and Focusing, a psychotherapeutic routine developed by Eugene Gendlin, have both achieved world wide success in developing self awareness. Learning to become self aware has calmed the minds of thousands of distressed people. Focusing requires the personal support of a therapist. Mindfulness Meditation requires the persistent practice of meditation.
The Self Improvment Plan (SIP) presented in this website can also help you to become self aware. You need to be comfortable with a computer to practice SIP. But, it develops self awareness quickly, by putting you immediately in lucid touch with your troubling concerns. By evaluating the big picture, you learn to feel comfortable with life. Gendlin's research suggested that many of his patients could not instinctively grasp the concept of self awareness. He suggested useful steps in the Focusing routine to assist such patients. SIP and Focusing are explained here.
Self awareness can begin with an understanding that a deep intelligence, with common sense resides within your mind. It competes with your own shrill inherited animal instincts.
Your tension is relieved, when, through “Focusing,” or SIP, your common sense recognizes the “Felt Sense,” - essentially the physical symptoms of your visceral reactions.
Gendlin found that Focusing was effective only on those people who were self aware. As such, he suggested certain routines for others to achieve such self awareness.
SIP has the following advantages over Focusing: You can complete the process in a couple of hours.
Gendlin Focusing - The Basic Concept
You have the capacity to look within and list the problems that bother you one by one. It is similar to writing a shopping list. When you evaluate the list later, RI, your common sense, takes charge, differentiating the facts from your emotional responses. Self awareness is the skill of consciously identifying your emotional outbursts. You gradually become familiar with the viewpoints of each of the numerous intelligences, which operate in parallel within your mind. In the process, self awareness isolates RI, your common sense, and frees it from emotional turmoil.
Eugene Gendlin Focusing - The Intelligences Within You
Your mind contains a triune brain, which switches controls in milliseconds between RI, a rational human brain and its emotional lower levels. Emotions are triggered by the lower organs, when they recognize problems in your life. Emotional signals trigger subconscious search drives and visceral reactions. Typically, anger searches for a successful aggressive strategy and fear, for a sound defensive one. In this milieu RI has an unemotional view of the problem.
Self awareness can empower RI, enabling it to recognize the physical symptoms of visceral reactions. When RI recognizes the artificial nature of the visceral reactions, the person is immediately “relieved” from his/her turmoil. In Focusing, patients achieve success by recognizing a “Bodily Felt Sense.” Such recognition leads to sudden insights, accompanied by body relaxation indicators and increases in EEG alpha frequencies. Verbalizing the “Felt Sense” is experienced as relief, tears and a whole body response. Gendlin's contribution is the articulation of the “Bodily Felt Sense,” as distinct from emotions, as the key to such therapeutic success.
Eugene Gendlin Focusing - Proved Success
The Focusing Institute reports that the therapy has been found to correlate with successful outcomes for prison inmates (Wolfus & Bierman 1996; Goldman et al 1996)), psychotic patients (Gray, 1976; Hinterkopf & Brunswick 1975; 1979; 1981; Egendorf 1982), the elderly (Sherman 1990) and in patients with health related issues (Katonah 1999; Shiraiwa 1998; Holstein & Flaxman 1997). Eleven more studies (Leijssen 1996; Clark 1980; Schoeninger 1965; Olsen 1975; Gibbs 1978; McMullin 1972; Hinterkopf & Brunswick 1975; 1979;1981; Bierman et al 1976; vandenBos 1973;) found that the Focusing ability can be increased by training, although such increase is not always maintained after training is completed. Focusing has been applied and researched in other areas, including medicine, business, schools, creative writing, churches and writings on experiential thinking.
Eugene Gendlin Focusing - Some Are More Adept
After examining transcripts and taped psychotherapy interviews, Gendlin found that clients who really benefited from therapy showed greater ability to talk of bodily felt experience. Such people were found to be more anxious, depressed and insecurely attached. But, they also had higher scores on "intelligence, ego strength, character and self-control, emotional stability, tender mindedness and introspectiveness." They repressed less, were less defensive, more self-disclosing and willing to attribute difficulties to internal causes. For people lacking the inherent skills, Gendlin recommended the following Focusing Steps to reach self awareness.
Eugene Gendlin Focusing - Step 1 - Clearing A Space
When faced with emotional turmoil, you should “stand back” from the problems and look at them. "How is my life going? What is the main thing for me right now?" Being an abstract exercise, a therapist is needed to define and explain the concept. You must look at the overall feeling you have about the problem, and not at the details of the problem. The first step in Focusing is to take all your problems and “put them away from you” and “clear a space” around you.
SIP works on the simple logic that your mind will give you answers, if you ask yourself the question "What is it that bothers me?" You need to write down each thought that comes up. If you don't write it down, it will be quickly forgotten. The routine works best, when you enter each thought in a few words, into a spreadsheet cell. In a natural process equivalent to writing a shopping list, all the related thoughts will come to you. By limiting each aspect of the problem to a few words, you effectively stand back from the problem. “This is an issue,” rather than “Oh, what am I going to do?” The very listing process prevents you from getting involved in the emotional implications of the problem. While Focusing “puts them away,” without recording the problem, the SIP method enters it into a spreadsheet cell. The list will be finished soon and later, you will not forget any issue. In one session of SIP, you will deal with all the issues related to your present turmoil, not in several successive therapy sessions.
Eugene Gendlin Focusing - Step 2 - Felt Sense
In the second step in Focusing, you look at each item in your list and try to sense the bodily feeling related to that item. Focusing seeks to find a composite feeling of the whole body for this particular thought. The Focusing, “Felt Sense” brings about a “bodily shift.” Such recognition stills the emotion and you no longer feel a “weight on your chest.”
Mindfulness Meditation is essentially the practice of becoming familiar with your thoughts. After you have come to terms with your problem in SIP, it is natural for some of the same troubling emotions to reappear later. An emotion always records the memories of a disturbing group of thoughts in the context of a related group of physical visceral reactions. The emotion artificially recalls those symptoms, whenever it reappears. With the self awareness of mindfulness meditation, RI will identify the physical symptoms of the emotion, as soon as they reappear. Independent recognition disconnects the symptom from the emotion. Disconnected, the emotion cannot exist. That is a pattern recognition compulsion of your mind.
Eugene Gendlin Focusing - Step 3- Handle
In the third step in Focusing, you try to name the feeling, such astight, sticky, scary, stuck, heavy, jumpy or a phrase, or an image. Just as identifying the physical symptom helps, a name for your turmoil helps. Your RI is able to identify it as a group of thoughts and expel them at one go.
This process is easier in SIP, since all your troubling issues are listed in the spreadsheet. When you label these thoughts, you provide a handle for the thought. Quite often, you may give different labels and find that one of them exactly defines the issue. The same healing process takes place.
Eugene Gendlin Focusing - Step 4- Resonating
In the fourth step, you must go back and forth over the label trying alternate words.
In SIP, you will find that when you label a thought, if it is not right, another thought will rise and you can note that down too. As you keep experimenting with the variations, more labels will come and one of these will describe your turmoil exactly. The SIP labeling process brings sudden insights.
Eugene Gendlin Focusing - Step 5- Asking
Focusing suggests that you ask "What makes the whole problem so ______?" Repeatedly questioning each issue elicits more information from your subconscious mind. Evidently, if you set aside your problems by creating a space, you will go back later for more therapy to keep asking these questions for each of the problems you “set aside.” Asking such questions can also result in a “bodily shift.”
In SIP, you have listed every issue in your mind concerning your present turmoil. That is a natural “shopping list process” of the mind. If it is in anyway important, it will come to your mind and be listed. When you label each item in the list, you are asking this question.
Eugene Gendlin Focusing - Step 6 - Receiving
In this final Focusing step, you should stay with the feeling of the “bodily shift,” evidently to absorb it into your mind. Focusing suggests that you will have succeeded only when you feel a change in your feelings about the problem.
In SIP, by sorting the various labels you will group all the thoughts related to your problem into categories. Such categories could be, say, "Needless worries," "facts to be accepted" and “to do lists." Thus you will get a global understanding of the problem, not just of oneaspect of the problem. Evidently, if, in the end, you don't feel differently about your problem, you will not have succeeded with that session of SIP.
Eugene Gendlin Focusing - SIP Advantage - Simpler Effort
When an emotion troubles you, three things happen. First, the system fires disagreeable emotion signals. Second, those signals trigger troubling visceral reactions. Third, frustrated search drives initiated by the emotion signals trigger more visceral reactions. Obviously, a “bodily felt sense,” is the combined effect of the three activities within your mind. In Focusing, such recognition grants you a sense of relief.
With Mindfulness meditation, you need to identify only the physical symptoms of the visceral reactions to achieve relief. That requires less complex pattern recognition. It is difficult to recognize the three internal reactions to “How I feel about losing my job,” as a physical entity. But it is far easier to identify a "knot in my chest," which you feel, when you think about "losing my job.”
Eugene Gendlin Focusing - SIP Advantage - Privacy
SIP is a private exercise on a computer, while Focusing involves a therapist. It is probable that a patient may not wish to reveal his innermost thoughts to a therapist. While Focusing will be difficult in such a case, a computer is impersonal and is unlikely to gossip, or pity the user.
Eugene Gendlin Focusing - SIP Advantage - A Neutral View
Focusing requires a “step back” to recognize the phenomenon. From agonizing about “What will I do?” the person has to think “I have a problem there.” Gendlin writes of patients, who repeatedly cry over their problems and remain unable to “step back” from the emotion. Such patients needed to be repeatedly advised how to “Set aside" the problem.
With SIP the objective is to briefly list your problems the way you write a shopping list. That process automatically enables the required “Step back“ from the problem.
Eugene Gendlin Focusing - SIP Advantage - Labelling
Focusing requires a patient to evaluate “How do I feel?” about each aspect of the problem. Since the problem is not clearly defined, the therapist may need to repeatedly bring the patient to a particular aspect of the problem.
With SIP, the aspect is a single entry in the spreadsheet and has to be evaluated on the spot. Naturally, such a process is faster.
Eugene Gendlin Focusing - SIP Advantage - All Aspects
With Focusing, the patient is required to “put away” the many troubling issues he faces and then attempt to label one. Since each aspect will be independently discussed with the therapist, the concerns of the patient will take many weekly sittings before resolution is achieved.
With SIP, all aspects of the issues that trouble you are listed and then each aspect labeled. Such a routine can deal with the major issues in your life in a couple of hours of private study. SIP is faster in delivering results.
Eugene Gendlin Focusing - SIP Disadvantage - Need Computer
SIP requires you to to use a computer to write down your thoughts. Many are not familiar with the use of computers. Others may not be able to write their innermost thoughts down. SIP is useful only for people who feel comfortable with computers and can verbalize their inner thoughts. For others, intimate interaction with a Focusingtherapist will be needed to achieve meaningful results.
This page was last updated on 31-Dec-2013
For my peace of mind, I earmarked 20 minutes for meditation on the terrace. With my eyes closed, I sense my hands on the chair and feel the numbness in my feet.
I feel my breath flowing through my nose, my throat, my chest and my stomach. I can hear the chirping of birds, the phut phut of auto rickshaws, the occasional roar of a truck and the insistent hooting of horns.
The wide sky and the treetops come to my attention, when I open my eyes, I see a pale moon over two hundred thousand miles away. I see the nuclear fires, blazing for millions of years in the pale globe of the setting sun. I see a single star millions of miles away in space.
I can see green shoots coming up on a tree, watch the dives and swoops of birds, the great circles of the hawks and flocks of birds flying home for the night.
Diffused light from the sun reflects off a parrot on the tree and enters my eye through a pinhole opening. I sense the bustling mood of the bird, even though it is smaller than a drop of water in my eyes.
All these things are seen and felt by me in a few brief minutes. In the distance, is the head of a man seeming to be no bigger than a pea. Yet, that head too sees and feels such things. Ten million people in this great city see and feel in ten million ways.
My mind wanders to a misty view of postwar London; an exciting glimpse of Disneyland. An awed view of Tiananmen Square. The looming Himalayan ranges. My mind takes me to distant galaxies.
It carries me into the heart of millions of invisible neurons, where electrical charges flash thousands of times a second powering my contemplation. I see the campaigns of Julius Caesar and Alexander. I feel the longings of Jehangir.
Already my mind has taken me to palaces, battlefields and even the stars. If I lost everything, but can just see and feel, in just a few brief minutes, my mind can travel the world, or imagine the cosmos.
While my thoughts wandered far and near, the thought "20 minutes is a long time" also kept floating in. And yet, life has already blessed me with over twenty million waking minutes! I have an infinity of time on my hands. Have I a right to expect more from life?
I really loved the self improvement plan post. Its great food for thought and the steps are actually actionable as compared to many other self help sites out there.
Joe Glen USA.
As a clinical therapist, I have found your site very useful!
I love it. ...
Andrew Montgomery USA.