Eugene Gendlin, who developed Focusing, was born in Vienna in 1926, living there until the age of 11 when the Nazi takeover of 1938 made it mortally dangerous to be a Jew in Austria. Together with his parents he narrowly escaped, first to Holland and then to the United States. His early experience of Nazi totalitarianism deeply affected his thinking and shaped his unyielding opposition to any form of power over other people. He was also deeply affected by the many decisions his father made on the basis of deep intuitive feelings -- "felt senses," as Gendlin later termed them -- by which he navigated the family's escape amidst the chaos of their extreme circumstances.
Gendlin's work is exceptional in the way it bridges the fields of philosophy and psychology, serious academic work and usable techniques for personal development. While a student of philosophy at the University of Chicago in the 1950s, he became a disciple and then colleague of the great American psychologist Carl Rogers, who was revolutionizing the theory and practice of psychotherapy with his "person-centered" approach. Under Rogers' guidance -- and drawing on his deep grasp of both European Phenomenology and American Pragmatism -- Gendlin demonstrated that the key ingredient necessary for a successful therapy outcome was the client's pre-existing capacity for accessing a bodily-felt experience of the issues they were struggling with.
Some clients entered into psychotherapy with this innate capacity, while others did not. The breakthrough came when Gendlin realized that this ability to locate a pre-conceptual, somatic kind of knowing was a trainable skill. He developed a simple six-step practice for finding "felt senses" and drawing on them for deep intuitive insights and fresh, life-affirming action steps. In 1978 Gendlin published this new approach to personal growth in his book Focusing, which went on to sell more than half a million copies in 18 languages. Since then, Focusing is taught in many ways, rarely now conforming strictly to the six steps laid out in his original book.
The International Focusing Institute was founded in 1985 to develop and disseminate the work of American philosopher and psychologist Eugene T. Gendlin (1926 - 2017).
Timeline of Focusing
- 1952 - Focusing begins with the philosophical work of Eugene Gendlin, University of Chicago. He teamed up with psychologist Carl Rogers and later developed Focusing and Experiential/Focusing Oriented Psychotherapy.
- 1957 - The first research on Focusing begins. Eventually, over 100 research studies show Focusing to be a success variable in psychotherapy, and to correlate with personality and physiological measures.
- 1978 - Eugene Gendlin’s popular book, Focusing, is written to make the practice of Focusing accessible to the public.
- 1979 - The Focusing Institute is established, out of the University of Chicago office of Eugene Gendlin, to gather and create resources, and to develop a worldwide teacher training network. The International Focusing Institute, as it is now called, is an international, cross-cultural organization dedicated to supporting individuals and groups world-wide who are teaching, practicing and developing Focusing and its underlying philosophy. Today, Focusing is applied in many areas and taught around the world in workshops, clinical programs, and at national and international conferences. Focusing has become part of the fabric of our society.
- 1981 - The journal, The Folio, is started to communicate developments in Focusing.
- 1985 - The Focusing Institute begins offering workshops and publicizing Focusing. This leads to numerous reprints of the book. Over 500,000 copies of Focusing have been printed to date, and the book has been translated into 17 other languages.
- 1985 - The compilation of research and writings about Focusing applications in medicine, education, business, writing, the arts, architecture, environmental management, psychotherapy and child care is undertaken.
- 1986 - Eugene Gendlin’s Let Your Body Interpret Your Dreams published
- 1988 - Annual "Internationals" begin to bring together Focusers from all over the world to share developments in Focusing.
- 1995 - An international website is created which includes an online bookstore, in-depth publications, related links and referrals to Focusing teachers, therapists, and partners.
- 1995 - The Thinking at the Edge (TAE) method is developed by Eugene Gendlin to make the Philosophy of the Implicit operational.
- 1996 - Eugene Gendlin’s Focusing Oriented Therapy is published
- 1997 - Eugene Gendlin’s A Process Model is published
- 2000 - Focusing Partnerships become accessible via the Focusing Institute website, making it easy and accessible to connect and share information.
- 2016 - Eugene Gendlin receives a Lifetime Achievement Award from the World Association for Person Centered and Experiential Psychotherapy and Counseling. Later that year he receives a Lifetime Achievement Award from the US Association for Body Psychotherapy.
This piece is a extract from The International Focusing Institute's website.