Eugene Gendlin - Focusing
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.
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.
tension is relieved, when, through “Focusing,” or SIP, your
common sense recognizes the “Felt Sense,” - essentially the
physical symptoms of your visceral reactions.
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.
back and view your problems.
- In SIP, list your problems in a
Focusing, you try to identify a bodily sense about a problem.
defines it as the physical symptom of the feeling you have about
each problem, Focusing names the essence of the problem.
- In SIP,
you label the problem in a parallel cell in the spreadsheet.
involves repeated sessions to deal with each of the issues you face
- In SIP, you list and can recall each issue immediately.
succeeds, when you feel a “Bodily Shift” about the problem.
SIP sorting the labels in your spreadsheet enables you to
“understand” the problem.
- SIP has the following advantages over Focusing: You can complete the process in a couple of hours.
- You do not require
require repeated sittings with a therapist.
have greater privacy.
down a list prevents you from being emotionally dragged into a
assembling and organizing all your concerns as labeled bullet
points, you deal with the whole problem and understand it better.
Focusing may be better for people who lack computer literacy.
Over 2 Million Page Views - How Did It Happen?
I am not a physician, but an engineer. Way back in 1989, I noticed the unique speed of an AI algorithm for disease recognition and pieced together the implications of that phenomenon. The same algorithm could be applied by the nervous system for the management of its stored knowledge! The axon hillocks of neurons could store and retrieve memories of trillions of links between symptoms and known diseases. Neurons respond to received impulses in 5 milliseconds. The axon hillocks of neurons could use an elimination algorithm to eliminate (inhibit) unrelated relationships. Since its symptoms were not linked in memory to any other known disease, a doctor could locate one disease in milliseconds.
Functional regions could use precise combinatorial codes in feedback and feed forward links with incalculable eloquence. The axon hillocks of the neurons could store and retrieve memories of ancient jungle encounters and herd struggles. They could carry memories of the indications of danger, of strategies for survival and of motor control responses. One region could link sensory signals to potential trouble from people and things. That could cause other neural organs to trigger anger, or fear. In turn, these emotion signals could make a person flee, or fight. An insult could trigger stress in a split second. On the other hand, the self awareness tool could inhibit stress and still the mind.
Not metaphysical theories, but millisecond pattern recognition could explain human brilliance and folly. It could also offer the means for its control. Several years after my fortunate insight, a Nobel Prize acknowledged the astonishing power of combinatorial pattern recognition. Over 30 years, I have assembled much evidence supporting neural pattern recognition and published three books about artificial intelligence and the nervous system.
What Is The "Focusing" Concept?
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, PFR, 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.
Which Region Can Observe Your Internal Responses?
mind contains a triune
switches controls in milliseconds between PFR, 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
anger searches for a successful aggressive strategy and fear, for a
sound defensive one. In this milieu RI has an unemotional view of the
Self awareness can empower PFR, enabling it to
recognize the physical symptoms of visceral reactions. When PFR 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
Has "Focusing" Been Proved Successful?
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
Does "Focusing" Work For All People?
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
reach self awareness.
Step 1. How Do You "Clear A Space?"
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.
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
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.
Step 2. What Is The "Felt Sense?"
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
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, PFR 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
Step 3. What Is "Handle?"
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 PFR is able to identify it
as a group of thoughts and expel them at one go.
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
Step 4. How Do You "Resonate?"
the fourth step, you must go back and forth over the label trying
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.
Step 5. What Is "Asking?"
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.”
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
Step 6. What Is "Receiving?"
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
Why Is The SIP Effort Simpler?
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.
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.”
Does SIP Offer Privacy?
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.
How Does SIP Enable A Simple "Step Back?"
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"
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.
Gendlin Focusing -
Why Is SIP "Labelling" Simple?
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
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.
Why Is SIP A Global Evaluation?
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
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.
What Is The Disadvantage For 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 Focusing therapist
will be needed to achieve meaningful results.
This page was last updated on 31-Dec-2013.
JUST THINK... What happens when you begin to talk? Your nervous system has picked an emotion. It has articulated an idea around it, chosen apt words from a vocabulary of thousands of words, arranged them in lexical and grammatical order and adjusted the pitch of your voice. Before you speak you've no consciousness of the words you will use. Who's actually in charge? This question leads to the question "What is consciousness itself?" Is consciousness a spirit living in a human body? Is it a mystical life form that emerges from the nervous system? This is the hard problem of consciousness.