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This material is excerpted from writings of author and teacher Ann Weiser Cornell and is presented by Soul Support Counseling, West Hartford, CT. Call 860-223-2232 with your questions about Focusing.

Very often people struggling with anxiety and depression have a hard time coming up with words to describe what they’re experiencing. There’s just a vague something that fades in and out of their awareness.

Instead of ignoring the sensation or trying to figure out what it means or throwing our hands up in discouragement, we can pay attention to it and get to know more about this vague something through "focusing".

What is Focusing?

Focusing is a special way of spending time with yourself – your emotions, sensations, feelings, even thoughts. It takes you beyond just recognizing and being in touch with these aspects, as important as those are. What happens in focusing is that you start to become your own good listener.

Focusing is based on awareness that there is a bodily process that is more than the physical body as narrowly defined. Maybe you’ve heard the aphorism “the issues are in the tissues”. To get at the issues we have to go through a body-felt process.

The bodily process referred to here is not something the mind controls. We can trust this process even if we can’t understand it. Whereas the mind can deceive us, the body always tells the truth about how we’re experiencing circumstances of our life.

When you’re in the middle of anxiety and depression you might want to know “why is this happening to me?” A more useful question is, “What’s happening in me?” The focusing process is an effective means of exploring what’s happening on the inside.

Through focusing you can

  • get a sense of the whole way you are experiencing situations or issues in your life

  • develop greater acceptance of your self as you are right now

  • experience greater calm

  • generate a deeper sense of connection to your own life and being

  • make wiser choices

Where did Focusing come from: who developed it?

Focusing was discovered when Professor Eugene Gendlin of the University of Chicago researched the question: “Why is psychotherapy helpful for some people, but not others?” He and his colleagues studied tapes of hundreds of therapy sessions and made a fascinating and important discovery: successful therapy clients had a vague, hard-to-describe inner awareness, a bodily felt sense about their problems. Paying attention to the felt sense in specific ways proved to be a key component of successful psychological change. Gendlin discovered how to teach this skill, which he called Focusing.


What is the philosophy or guiding principle behind Focusing?

The Focusing process is based on a radical philosophy of change: that there is no need to do anything to what you are feeling in order to experience transformation. Instead, when we understand that feelings are in process, we realize that acknowledgment and Presence are what is needed for natural change.

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