Eugene Gendlin’s key insight in his work as a psychologist and philosopher was that human beings have the capacity to access a bodily-felt experience of whatever situation, issue, problem, or intuition they are encountering: to be able to make sense of it; to know what it means in their own lives, and to give it expression in the world in language. He named this the ‘felt sense’.
His second great insight and contribution was to provide a way to teach or enhance this capacity in a simple, six-step process. In this way, many people would more readily be able to access a natural process and draw on the felt sense for deep intuitive insights and fresh life-affirming action steps. He named this process Focusing.
First application of Focusing
The first application of the Focusing process was in the area of personal development where it is widely used today. Using the Focusing process, people are enabled, often in a peer-to-peer Focusing partnership, to use it to deal with issues they may have been struggling with in their everyday lives – relationships, important decisions, sometimes critical inside voices that stopped them living life to the full. Focusing can bring clarity and support people in finding the next right step to move forward in their lives.
Many applications developed and developing
The range of applications of Focusing has developed in many fields since Gendlin’s initial work. Some examples include:
- Bodywork - all practices that have body awareness as the centre – from movement to yoga and mindfulness.
- Business/organisations – used in decision-making and in innovation practices and critical thinking.
- Coaching – supporting people to find what’s the next right step for them – from the inside.
- Contemplative practices – including mindfulness, meditation and spirituality.
- Community development – a key application here is listening and dialogue practice.
- Creativity and Arts– working with the felt sense to express ideas in fresh ways.
- Nature – relating to the environment in fresh ways.
- Parenting – developing skills as a parent to interact skilfully with children.
- Social issues and politics – a developing area exploring the interaction between private and public spaces.
- Therapy – including working with trauma and addiction.
This is not a comprehensive list and many other applications are possible – and they are developing all the time.
Forms of Focusing
As applications of Focusing have grown so too have different styles of teaching Focusing or facilitating it for different groups of people or situations. They all build on the foundation of accessing and interacting with the felt sense. They include:
- Inner Relationship Focusing and Untangling® (Ann Weiser Cornell and Barbara McGavin)
- Domain Focusing; Macroshifting (Changing the Unchangeable) (Robert Lee)
- Wholebody Focusing (Kevin McEvenue)
- Bio-Spiritual Focusing (Edwin McMahon and Peter Campbell)
- The Pause (William Hernandez and Soti Grafanaki)
- Focusing and Children (Marta Staapert)
Thinking at the Edge (TAE) – a second, related practice
Gendlin, with Mary Hendricks Gendlin, developed another felt-sensed based practice which they call Thinking at the Edge (TAE). This is a 14-step practice aimed at developing ideas, fresh thinking, new theories in a highly structured way. This is a developing area with developments and research on Embodied Critical Thinking (ECT) currently the subject of an international project led by the University of Iceland. https://www.trainingect.com/
It draws on Gendlin’ s Philosophy of the Implicit – more information on his philosophical work can be found here: https://focusing.org/more/philosophy-implicit
There is a wealth of information on application and styles of Focusing and Thinking at the Edge on the website of The International Focusing Institute (TIFI) in this section https://focusing.org/more/world-focusing