Why Read Gendlin’s Philosophy (and How to Begin)?
Eugene Gendlin was, among other things, a philosopher. His philosophical study and his own thinking was applied to his therapy practice as well as his development of Focusing and Thinking at the Edge (TAE). Reading his philosophy is not only a way to enrich our own Focusing practice, but it is a way to understand more about what is means to be human. That’s a big statement to make. It’s based on studying his philosophy over many years, usually in small reading groups where with pausing, reflecting, reading again, we considered questions like, ‘what does this say about life’? There were lots of ‘ah ha!’ moments: “Yes, I recognise that is what I do/think/act and it makes sense now!” It’s exciting!
Yes, it takes time and effort to get into Gendlin’s work. Reading in small groups is not only a good way to start, it’s companionable and enjoyable (add tea and scones to the session for extra enjoyment). And Gendlin’s own words help: the way to read philosophy he says is “many times”!
Where to start? Get together with a few people and start reading. It’s that simple. Then keep going, meaning will emerge as you wrestle with the text together. Keep it light. You might only get through one paragraph at a time, but it’s worth it. The article Margaret Quinn and I wrote in 2021, On Setting Up a Reading Group to Explore Gendlin’s Philosophy, based on our own experience of being in a reading group and on the suggestions that emerged from a TIFI Roundtable on the topic, might be useful. You can read that article by clicking here.
Gendlin also provides encouragement in his paper on FIVE PHILOSOPHICAL TALKING POINTS TO COMMUNICATE WITH COLLEAGUES WHO DON'T YET KNOW FOCUSING*. In it, he writes:“To think and talk about experience, language, the body, values and thinking is philosophy”. Focusers are already doing philosophy! This paper might be your starting text. There are other suggestions on ‘core texts’ provided in the Philosophy of the Implicit section of TIFI website. https://focusing.org/more/philosophy-implicit These should be enough to keep you going for a few years.
*Five Philosophical Talking Points to Communicate With Colleagues Who Don’t Yet Know Focusing is available free to download from the Gendlin Online Library at http://previous.focusing.org/gendlin/docs/gol_2187.html