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  独自聚焦
 
发布日期:2016/9/30 12:48:55 浏览次数:1082次
 

 

独自聚焦

笔者:Kay Hoffmann

中文译者:李

 

DSC059741.jpg  “我已经放弃尝试一个人做聚焦了,因为我从未成功过”; “我一个人的时候不能进入过程”; “我需要另一个人的临在来使一些东西变化所有这些评论都出自有经验的聚焦者。那为什么对于大都数人来说独自聚焦比起结伴的聚焦要难呢? 谁都能自己一个人有效地学习聚焦吗?为了寻找这些问题的答案我收集了15位聚焦者的亲身体验。他们都熟悉有用的技巧,而他们中的大多数人发现一个人聚焦很难。只有2个人说他们的独自聚焦与有陪伴的聚焦相同。

 

为什么独自聚焦这么难?

  主要是因为独自聚焦不能令人满意,就像聚焦者他们各自说的:

  • 我的心里很乱”“我很难集中注意力,结果就继续漂浮在白日梦里了。”(这里不管聚焦者在想些什么,他都标注为“漂浮”、“散乱” )

   • “当我一坐下来聚焦,我就开始觉得我还没有真正为它安排时间。”

       “我一直在分心思考要做的其它事情。”

  • “开始还好一点,然后我就陷在迷糊中了(一个相当于报告中“不清晰的”和“迷失”的区域)。”
  • “当我进入内在,那里什么也没有。”
  • “我总是可以发现体会,但是我不能让它变化。”
  • “我坐下来聚焦,但马上就害怕如果我走得太深会被一些东西淹没。”

  这些障碍有两个共同点它们发生在聚焦者开始直接关注内之后在有同伴临在的聚焦中一点都不明显evident而且容易克服。这表明,虽然聚焦者在过程中会碰到这些障碍,但其实每一个障碍都是“一个什么东西”,可以在正在进行的过程中给予关注。我们来用上面第二个人作为一个例子:真的没有时间所以毫无聚焦的打算与决定坐下来聚焦然后想“我没有时间来聚焦”这两者是有区别的。

  因此,一个人聚焦的主要缺陷可能是看不到最明显的东西missing the obvious --- 它直接就在我们眼皮底下。为什么聚焦者不对自己说:“我注意到在我的内在有一些东西,它感觉到我还没有时间聚焦”?同样,是什么妨碍了容易被淹没的聚焦者承认他们的恐惧,说“有什么在我的内在害怕我会被淹没”?显然,在每一个案例中,聚焦者都迷失在什么东西里 --- 但即使我的受访者报告他们的困难,这种可能性并不是总是对他们发生 --- 我相信所有被询问的聚焦者如果他们坐在同伴的座位上马上会发现这样一个迷失的实例! 似乎这里发生了一个特别微妙的活动,当我们一个人聚焦时可以对我们隐藏眼皮底下的东西。

  几乎所有我采访的聚焦者都报告说如果他们能坐下来觉察体会并开始进入步骤,此后的聚焦通常会进行的很顺利。在自我倾听的技巧还没有有意识地参与的情况下,主要的危险区域是在最开始的时候 --- 即在通常的思维模式和聚焦之间的过渡地带。

  借用安在咖啡馆会见一个好朋友的比喻,说朋友A有意要知道朋友B真实的感受。想象一下,她说“你今天怎么样呀?”朋友B回答说:“我现在真的没时间谈这个,因为还有很多今天要做的事”“我现在不想谈,因为我知道如果谈这个我真的会烦乱”“一切都很好 --- 此刻真的没任何好说的”。

  如果朋友A跟着来上这么一句:“你有什么问题吗?你总是用同样的可怜借口不跟我说话”“好吧,如果你要这样,我走了!”,她就会以与聚焦者有时回应他们的部分(译者注:部分是内在关系聚焦的概念)的相同方式来回应。毫无疑问这是固定的反应部分。显然,这些都不是临在倾听的例子 --- 至少很明显,如果聚焦伙伴出声作出这样的回应,就更不容易辨认出围绕在我们周围的念头。

  那么,为什么这些在聚焦开始时发生的想法特别难以被确认为“部分”呢?其中一个原因 --- 由观察证实了我们大多数人似乎有一个自己特定的反复发生(recurring的“障碍” --- 它变得更习惯,更无形。例如,如果某个人有过一个“飘到念头里”的体验,当他们最初几次尝试一个人聚焦,他们很快就开始把这个信息当做一个事实:“当我尝试一个人聚焦我就会飘走”。接下来这很可能会变成消极的预期,辨认不出它本可以认识的东西的了:“我内在有什么东西,它想要飘出去。”另一种可能性是,我们反复发生的障碍具有过程跳跃(译者注:越过边缘跳开去)的习惯形式,它与一个人聚焦难以共存 --- 在可能发生变化的地方我们倾向的机制是避免呆在边缘。在这种情况下,我们已经对我们使用的回避策略茫然不觉,而且如果这意味着在聚焦中被适应为边缘回避的话,我们将不太可能识别它。麦克马洪和坎贝尔写道:“我的防御针对着这样的身体-感觉,它连接得牢又强、自动、过程跳跃且无形, --- 至少我自己是这样” (Bio-Spirituality Newsletter, Winter 1998 )

 

为什么要一个人聚焦?

  任何事坚持不懈地去做一定是有好处。既然一个人聚焦这么困难,那它有什么陪伴聚焦所没有的好处呢?在一篇题为一个人聚焦的文章中,Dorothy Fisch说道“‘一个人’聚焦是当我感觉最连接生命整体的时候……我尊重结伴聚焦,但是它让我去到不同的地方” (TFC, Nov. 1992) 另一位经验丰富的聚焦者说:“独自聚焦是我聚焦实践的核心。”其他的人给出了各种理由说明一个人聚焦有时比结伴聚焦更好。这些包括了聚焦一个私人或敏感性质的问题、有时候需要立刻观察而又不可能有倾听者的场合、以及倾听者的在场让聚焦者觉得压抑的时候。

  还有,有时候需要的时间比练习中倾听者所能提供的更多,尤其是当它慢慢展开、只需要“保持陪伴”的时候。多萝西精美地描述了她的这段经历:“独自的聚焦……就像是在看一片橡树叶生长。它发生得非常缓慢。首先你会注意到一个鼓包,几天后一个芽,过些日子伸展开始发生,你有了一片叶子。”

  “一个人聚焦(Focusing alone”这个术语通常用来表示聚焦形式的类型 --- 一个“坐下来练习吧”,然而,另一种形式是独自聚焦(solo Focusing,它可以说是所有聚焦者的长期目标:在任何时候的都轻轻地觉察当下的体会。简单地沉下来感触体会一整天是一个特别有价值的练习,它有助于松动“外”与“内”之间的边界。它导致的是与自己更持续的连接以及与他人的互动更真实。

  一个人聚焦还提供了一个独特的机会去认出当伙伴临在时倾向于“隐出舞台(off-stage)”的部分。在我工作于这个项目时我决心定期进行一个人聚焦,我发现自己认出了迄今迷失的一部分。最终我坐下来,这个部分最后发展成了不同寻常但非常有价值的聚焦。我做了以下的记录:聚焦开始后我突​​然意识到我想了5分钟只是在想我是否应该做别的事情而不是聚焦。(体会的品质在括号中描述,我从体会“听”到的话用斜体表示;我自己的“听-我”感应用引号表示;…表示沉默/花时间来确认些什么)。

 

 “我感觉到有什么在说这真的对我很重要,说要想想我现在是否应该做别的什么事”.... (疼痛穿越躯干)...

我真的很讨厌它,当你感到不确定你想要做什么... ..我不想让你浪费时间纠结该怎么办。我恨它,当你感到紧张,分散和不确定......我可以看到有许多事情要做,而我不知道什么是最重要的......。我希望你能集中并在当下 - 在过程中。 ...

(紧张,绝望在推压下隔膜)...

有这么多的事要做而没有很多时间......得到一些东西 --- 任何东西 --- 然后我就可以放松... ..

“啊,你真正想要的是能够放松”... ..

是的...就像你与别人聚焦...

“像我与别人聚焦 - 那么你就可以放松了”..

是的..我知道聚焦对你是有好处,时间也是值得的,但像这样我真的纠结,感觉也许你应该做别的事情......。其实几乎所有的时间我都在这里,但你没有注意到我。 ...

(疼痛在延伸 - 疲惫,精神不振,紧绷)......“我要留在这儿,陪伴你”......

难道你真的想花时间与我在一起,你这么忙?

(虚弱,累,惊讶)...。“是的”......。 (疼痛舒缓,温暖扩散)

  我呆在这宜人的温暖中,享受放松的感觉,在结束之前专注了一段时间。10分钟的聚焦被证明对我来说是宝贵的一步。从那以后,当部分围着我,我能够伴随这个部分 共舞,使其能够朝生命前进方向逐渐变化。它也使我意识到这一部分到底有多少已经影响到我觉察自己使用时间的方式 --- 它也解除了我生命整体的许多紧张。正如我从来没有在我的结伴聚焦中遇到过这个部分,它证明了独自聚焦可以提供一个独特的机会来与这样的习惯性过程跳跃策略建立关系。

  所以我确信有足够的理由赞成独自聚焦,值得努力 --- 实际上,为了使其值得高度推荐 --- 我决定尝试分享更多在一个人聚焦中碰到问题的领悟,即观察它们如何倾向于不对它们自己临在:

 

当聚焦顺利时是什么在促进过程?

  我采访的绝大多数人都说,他们的通常聚焦顺利是在 a)独自一人时,如果一个迫切的问题吵闹着迫使他们注意;b)与伙伴聚焦时。

  a)“如果有东西烦着我,我通常可以一个人聚焦。”有几个人说,虽然他们不定期一个人聚焦 --- 前面提到的问题之一 --- 但他们使用聚焦解决紧迫的问题或强烈的情绪反应,因为它们发生了。当已经在身体上感觉到了一些东西或者当强烈的感受促进快速接近体会,就不太可能会遇到障碍。危险区域已被绕过了。我们不仅通过关注体会进入到了聚焦过程,我们还有聚焦的目的 - 我们有明显需要关注的东西,并有动机在这些东西上花时间。由于“我”与这些东西分离并带着兴趣要从中发现更多,在认同内在某些事情的事实中,某种程度的临在自动建立起来了。所以,对通常感觉到的问题进行聚焦的想法是它本身内在的一个指示、一个意图和能力,去与某些东西同在而不是迷失在其中。

  b)在与同伴预先安排的聚焦中很少存在这样的问题。目的是简单地检查我们自己和去看任何希望我们去注意的东西 --- 就像一个人聚焦一样。然而,即便有但绝大多数的聚焦报告还是很少提到在结伴聚焦时他们通常遇到的障碍。为什么呢?

  安·康奈尔和芭芭拉McGavin写道:“一个伙伴带来了三种特质,这三种特质需要经常有意识地,特意地被带入一个人的聚焦中:1)包容(被抱持);2)专注(其反面是散乱、动摇等); 3)不评判。“(聚焦初学者开始时的散乱和陪伴者的操作手册)

  聚焦者感觉到伙伴拥有这些特质并因此支持临在就可以呆在体验的边缘,否则聚焦者可能没有安全感去这样做。埃德McMahon和彼得·坎贝尔这样说:“所以,伙伴​​支持聚焦者发现自身与生俱来的能力去温柔、体贴地陪伴自己。如果一个人失去了这种能力或者发展出了很强的与体会隔离的习惯,他将无法进行一个人聚焦。“(“Bio-Spirituality”)

  所以我们不是在这里谈技术上的技法的简单应用,而是提供某种临在的能力,这种临在允许我们自身的过程得以展开。简德林解释了为什么发展这种能力的第一步是结伴聚焦:“为了成为我自己,我需要你的回应,来延展我自己没能推进我感受的回应。首先,在这些方面,当我和你在一起,我只是'真实的我'…。接着,为了个人自身获得推进自我过程的能力,要有足够长的时间重整体验过程,为此,需要在正在进行的互动过程中推进。”(《Theory of Personality Change》)

 

独自聚焦能学吗?

  简德林的话提示了一个问题:独自聚焦能在任何阶段学习吗?还是在一个人聚焦之前必须发展一定的自我倾听能力?换句话说,是不是总是可能为聚焦者提供所需的临在品质来支持他们自己的过程?

  大多数聚焦者需要伙伴对他们的过程作一点支持。事实上,正如我意外发现的,往往只要简单地在(即便是在电话的另一端),只需要形成“包容、关注和不评判”的氛围就行了。我孩子般地去模仿独自聚焦,尽可能地去观察过程,我静静地听了几次聚焦,发现研究的结果本身出乎我的预料:我的临在帮助了聚焦者临在!人在一个人的时候很难开始聚焦,带着什么坐下来,呆在过程中或者体验一个变化,而当我单纯地在“倾听”时却可以什么问题也没有。看来,虽然伙伴的反射和建议可以为聚焦提供一个非常有用的帮助,但这是有人陪伴的推进聚焦过程的整体效果。因此,许多聚焦者不看好自己一个人聚焦的能力,因为在结伴聚焦中它们发现伙伴在他们“抱持着过程”。这使我想到一个微妙而重要的区别,成功的聚焦仅发生在聚焦者在临在中也在倾听他们自己的场合从这个意义上我们可以说甚至在伙伴临在的时候聚焦者仍然是在一个人聚焦!无论伙伴提供着什么层次的支持,伙伴自己仍然没在“做”聚焦。遵循这个思路,那么能在结伴聚焦中成功的任何人是不是也能在一个人聚焦中成功呢?

  从技术上讲可能是这样,但也有场合很明显只是无法适应一个人聚焦。一位聚焦者说得很好:“有时候需要从我的系统中出来语言并通过另一个人来匹配。”想要与人接触的欲望是非常自然和健康的,当它发生的时候不会努力去支持一个人聚焦,但我强烈地感到这种欲望应该试图限制到最小。

  除了这种特殊的要求之外,在大多数情况下聚焦者(对我)显示出有能力对他们自己提供需要的品质来支持临在。因此,我建议可以把问题仅归结为三个具体领域:

a. 聚焦者没有在开始聚焦的时候成功建立起临在。这几乎不可避免地会迷失在任何发生的东西上。

b. 在开始某个节点上,一个“批评的部分”怀疑聚焦者一个人聚焦的能力,然后这个聚焦者就(一直)迷失在这个部分中了。

c. 存在一个“控制的部分”,感觉到一种责任要掌控聚焦的方向。它可能觉得必须要引进什么让这个过程快些或者让变化发生,或者必须做些事情来“修复”什么东西。如果聚焦者迷失在其中,这个区域就是一个泥潭 --- 而且风险很高,因为有“我”有责任掌控这个聚焦的想法,当然这个想法中有一些道理。在聚焦中伙伴角色的共情越多、初学者学习倾听回应的细节越多、就越对独自聚焦“做两份工作”的前景感到胆怯,这并不奇怪。

 

  我们很多人都假设我们知道聚焦的“基本规则”,当我们坐下来进行一个人聚焦就会自动地遵循它们,但据我的调查,有经验的聚焦者“忘记”这些基础或者相信他们可以豁免的情况并非罕见。因此我们所有的努力是学习培养临在,当我们一个人聚焦的时候就像陪伴者到了窗外!有一个观念,认为简单地停一停并观察内在表示着独自聚焦的开始 --- 其实独自聚焦是在我们以尊重、共情、不评判的态度去对待我们可能的任何发现的条件上的。如果没有这个条件,那么我们将会迷失在围绕我们的念头中而不是在一个向它们打招呼的位置上。

 

把它带向前

  接下来,我们能做些什么来避免迷失在围绕我们的念头中呢?我觉得,答案就在回到基础知识 - 提醒我们自己:进入临在并不总是自动发生,通常我们必须做一些事情来鼓励它发生。并记住,高于一切的,尊重、共情、不评判的关注之外的其他一切态度都意味着迷失在另一个部分中。

  所以在想出如何解决独自聚焦的问题的任何新建议之前,我首先来了解所有老的办法有多棒​​!几乎每一篇一个人聚焦的文章和章节包括如何保持临在的建议清单,从“想象你最喜欢的人来倾听你,然后恰好以你希望的方式来回应你”(Diana Marder, TFC, Nov. 1992),到“写下关键词,就像描述,你在提问题,以及其他任何感觉都很重要”(Cornell, “The Power of Focusing”)以及“如果您被卡住了或迷失了就对着一个录音机说,然后回放”--- 当然,还有很多。

  发现有意识地成为我们自己的倾听者的意义似乎是根本性的。这意味着有一个“倾听-我”的概念,感觉上这比其它我的概念更大 - 不管我们把它想象为一个人、一台电脑、一个泰迪熊或者我们自己。在聚焦中我做了记录,我写下来不仅是我有一个很清晰的“倾听-我”的感觉,还因为是写下来可以让我进入与一个至今隐藏着的部分的关系。

  我注意到,围绕自我-引导技术的疑虑和当一些东西没有变化时的烦躁会出现,这些会缩减体验。做聚焦最久的人一般更倾向于只是保持与一些东西为伴 --- 如果需要的话花很长的时间 --- 相信当准备就绪变化就会发生。简德林在他的“聚焦”书中写道:“如果体会没有变化,没有马上回应,这都是正常的。花一分钟时间和它在一起吧。当变化发生,我们不控制变化。关键是你感受它的时间。如果你花时间感受就在这里的不清晰的什么东西…你就是在聚焦。”

  因此,尽管我们有责任维持临在,但是我们没有责任把控过程本身的方向。请记住,在每次聚焦中要把许多不必要的压力排除在独自聚焦之外。

  放下独自聚焦的感觉应该与结伴聚焦一样的期待也是有助益的,但是要重视发展感触我们每时每刻真实体验的习惯。把独自聚焦看作人生旅途中培养临在的一步,而不仅是它结尾能显著缓解一些困难的存在。当一整天都简单地“入住”体会,聚焦者不太会遇到问题。如果一切都不顺,对于一个挣扎中的独自聚焦者来说从正式聚焦退出来休息一下是明智的。当他们感觉好,有时就简单地享受一下感受内在。

  最后,尼尔·弗里德曼的引述给我的印象是特别与独自聚焦相关:“聚焦是放松。身体感觉好(“Focusing: Selected Essays”) ”。因此,如果它开始就感到不快的恐惧、悲伤、沮丧、空虚、寂寞、或什么的,我们可以假设我们已经迷失在一些东西中了。所以,我只想提供一个基本的技巧:如果感觉并不好 --- 退一步,从感觉安全和舒适的地方认可它。这会在你的体验中让你明白什么是“最在眼皮下面的实相(right on top)”--- 需要注意的是那最外面的边缘 --- 并且与它在一起总是会带给你正确和如释重负的感觉。

  接受并遵随这个引导方针,我们就任何时间都可以花时间以一种关爱的方式与我们真实的体验在一起,我试探性地来感受了 --- 是的,有足够的支持,任何人都可以学习一个人聚焦。

 

笔者后记:      

写下这篇论文之后新学到的

  写下这篇论文以来,我对一个人聚焦理想出发点的看法已略有改变。我不再觉得一个人聚焦需要“去进入临在(move into Presence)”。现在我喜欢用这样的方式开始我自己的聚焦练习 --- 和教他人聚焦 --- 花时间只是如实原样地停歇在我整个的体验之中。以这种方式开始会使我们很自然地到达连接环境和大地支持的身体体会。因此,不需要去获得一种不同的状态(我在本论中称之为“临在”)。我现在发现,不论是一个人聚焦还是结伴聚焦,这种更轻、更宽广的贴近是我更喜欢的聚焦出发点。                                     20168月)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Solo Focusing

Kay Hoffmann

“I’ve given up trying to focus alone because I never get anywhere”; “I can’t stay with the process when I’m on my own”; “I need the presence of another person for something to shift.” All these comments were made by experienced Focusers. So why is solo Focusing so much harder for most people than Focusing with a companion? And can anyone learn to focus effectively on their own? In the hope of finding answers to these questions I quizzed 15 focusers about their own experiences. All of them were familiar with the various helpful tips available and yet the majority of them found Focusing alone difficult. Just two said their solo Focusing was as valuable as Focusing with a partner.

Why People Find Solo Focusing Difficult

The main reasons for solo Focusing being unsatisfactory, as stated by the Focusers themselves, were:

·  “My mind wanders”. “I find it difficult to concentrate and keep drifting off on daydreams.” (In this case whatever the Focuser is thinking about, he labels it “drifting” or “wandering” )

·  “As soon as I sit down to Focus I start to think I haven’t really got time for it.” “I keep getting distracted by thinking of all the other things I need to do.”

·  “It goes OK up to a point but then I just get a foggy stuckness.” (A range of similar reports included “fuzziness” and “getting lost”.)

·  “When I go inside there’s nothing there”.

·  “I can always find a felt sense but I can’t get it to shift.”

·  “I sit down to start Focusing but then I get scared that if I go too deeply into something I’ll be overwhelmed.”

These obstacles have two things in common: they happen after the Focuser has begun to direct their attention inside; and they are either easily surmountable or not evident at all in the presence of a companion. This suggests that although the Focuser may perceive them as obstacles to the process getting underway, each one is actually “a something” which could be given attention within a process which is already underway. To use the second quote as an example: there is a difference between not planning to focus at all due to a genuine lack of time, and deciding to focus, sitting down to begin, and then thinking “I haven’t got time for this.”

So the main pitfall of Focusing alone could be missing the obvious – that which is directly under our noses. Why does the Focuser not say to themself: “I’m noticing something in me which feels I haven’t got time for this”? Likewise, what prevents the “easily overwhelmed” Focuser from acknowledging their fear by saying “something in me is scared I’ll be overwhelmed”? Clearly, in each case, the Focuser is merged with something – yet even when my interviewees were reporting their difficulties, this possibility did not always occur to them – and I am certain that all of the Focusers in question would immediately spot such an instance of merging if they were in the companion’s seat! It seems that there is a particularly subtle dynamic in place here which can hide the obvious from us when we are Focusing alone.

Most of the Focusers I spoke to reported that if they do get past the point of settling down with a felt sense and it begins to make steps, the session usually runs smoothly thereafter. The main danger area, then, is at the very beginning of a session when self-listening skills are not yet consciously engaged – the transition zone between usual thinking patterns and Focusing.

Let’s borrow Ann’s analogy of arranging to meet a good friend in a cafe. Say friend A has the intention of finding out how friend B is really feeling. Imagine she says “So how are things with you today?” and friend B replies: “I really haven’t got time for this now because there’s still so much I need to do today” or “I’d rather not talk just now because if I do I know I’ll get really upset” or “Everything’s just fine – nothing really to report at all at the moment”.
If friend A were to follow up with a comment such as: “What’s wrong with you? You always come up with the same pathetic excuse for not talking to me” or “Well if you’re going to be like that, I’m off!”, she would be responding in a similar way to how Focusers sometimes respond to parts of themselves. No wonder such parts react by digging in their heels! Obviously, these would be examples of not listening from Presence – obvious at least if a Focusing partner were to make such a response out loud, but much less easy to spot in our own ambient thoughts.
So why are these thoughts that come up at the point of entry into a Focusing session so particularly hard to identify as ‘parts’? One reason – substantiated by the observation that most of us seem to have one particular recurring ‘obstacle’ – is that the more habitual it becomes, the more invisible it becomes. For instance if someone has an experience of “drifting off into thoughts” the first few times they attempt Focusing alone, they soon begin to carry this information with them as a fact : “When I try to Focus alone I just drift off”. It follows that they are likely to become so merged with this negative expectation that it is impossible to recognize it as something which could be acknowledged: “Something in me is wanting to drift off.” Another possibility is that our recurring difficulties with Focusing alone are the equivalent of our habitual forms of process-skipping – the mechanisms we tend to use to avoid staying at an edge where change can happen. In this case we would already be oblivious to our use of a particular avoidance strategy and if this were adapted as a means of avoiding an edge in Focusing we would be less likely to recognize it. McMahon and Campbell write: “My defences against such bodily-felt, authentic contact are strong, automatic, process-skipping and invisible – at least to myself.” (Bio-Spirituality Newsletter, Winter 1998 )

Why Focus Alone?

Given the difficulties of solo Focusing, can anything be said in favour of persevering with it? Are there any benefits of Focusing alone which cannot be accessed by Focusing with a companion? In an article on Focusing alone Dorothy Fisch says: “Focusing ‘alone’ is when I feel most connected with the oneness of life… I valued partner-Focusing, but it led me to different places.” (TFC, Nov. 1992) Another experienced Focuser says: “My solo Focusing is the core of my Focusing practice.” Others give various reasons why Focusing alone is sometimes preferable to Focusing with a partner. These include Focusing on issues which are of a private or sensitive nature, occasions when something needs immediate attention and no listener is available, and times when the Focuser would feel inhibited by the presence of a listener.

There are also times when something needs much more time than would be practical for a listener to give and often just “keeping company” while it slowly unfolds. Dorothy describes her experience of this beautifully: “Solitary Focusing…is like watching an oak leaf unfurl. It happens very slowly. First you notice a nub, then a few days later a leaf bud, days after that the unfurling starts to happen and you have a leaf.”

The term “Focusing alone” is generally used to denote a formal type of Focusing session – a “sitting down to it”, however, another form of solo Focusing is that which could be said to be the long-term aim of all Focusers: to be lightly aware of the felt sense of the moment at all times. Touching base with the felt sense briefly throughout the day is an especially valuable practice which helps to soften the boundary between “outside” and “inside”. It leads to a sense of being more consistently in touch with oneself and more authentic in interactions with others.

Focusing alone also provides a unique opportunity to acknowledge parts which tend to be “off-stage” when a companion is present. In my determination to undertake regular solo sessions whilst working on this project, I found myself acknowledging a part with which I had hitherto been merged. Finally settling down with this part developed into a bizarre though very valuable session during which I made the following notes. The transcript begins after I suddenly realized I’d spent five minutes just thinking about whether I ought to be doing something else instead of Focusing. (Qualities of felt senses are described in brackets; words I ‘hear’ from a felt sense are in italics; my own “listening-me” responses are in inverted commas; …. = silences /taking time to acknowledge something).

“I’m sensing something which is saying it’s really important for me to think about whether I ought to be doing something else just now”…. (Ache across torso) ….
I really hate it when you feel unsure about what you want to do ….. I don’t want you to waste time struggling over what to do. I hate it when you feel tense and scattered and unsure ….. I can see there’s lots to do and I don’t know what’s most important …. I want you to be focused and in the moment – in flow. ….
 
(Tense, desperate pushing under diaphragm) ….
There’s so much to do and not much time …. get ON with something – ANYthing – then I can relax …..
 
“Ah, what you really want is to be able to relax” …..
Yes… like when you’re Focusing with someone else….
 
“Like when I’m focusing with someone else – then you can relax”..
Yes.. And I know Focusing is good for you and well worth the time but like this I really struggle with feeling perhaps you ought to be doing something else ……. actually I’m here nearly all the time like this but you don’t notice me. ….
 
(Ache elongating – exhausted, strung out, stretched thin) ….. “I’m going to just stay here and keep you company”…..
Do you really want to spend time being with me when you’re so busy?
(Weak, tired, surprised) ….”Yes”…. (ache released, spreading warmth)

I stayed with the pleasant warmth, enjoying feeling relaxed and centred for some time before finishing. This ten minute session proved to be a valuable step for me. Since then I have been able to keep this part company “on the hoof” when it is around, enabling it to gradually shift in a life-forward direction. It has also made me aware of just how much this one part has influenced the way I perceive my use of time – and taken a lot of tension out of that whole area of my life. As I have never encountered this part in my partner Focusing, it demonstrates that solo Focusing can provide a unique opportunity to come into relationship with such habitual process-skipping strategies.

So having convinced myself that there is enough to be said in favour of solo Focusing to make it worth persevering with – indeed to make it highly recommendable – I decided to try to shed more light on the problems encountered in Focusing alone by looking at when they tend not to present themselves:

When Focusing Goes Well and What Facilitates the Process

The vast majority of the people I spoke to said their Focusing usually goes well a) when alone if a pressing issue is clamouring for their attention and b) when Focusing with a partner.

a) “If I’ve got something worrying me I can usually focus on it alone.” Several people said that although they don’t focus regularly alone – due to one of the problems previously mentioned – they do use Focusing to address pressing issues and/or strong emotional reactions as they come up. When something is already physically felt or when strong feelings facilitate rapid access to the felt sense, obstacles are less likely to be encountered. The danger area has been bypassed. Not only are we already engaged in the Focusing process by the act of noticing the felt sense, but we also have a set purpose for the session – we have something in obvious need of attention and are motivated to spend some time with it. Some degree of Presence is automatically established in the act of identifying something inside as separate from “me” and being interested in finding out more about it. Therefore having the idea of Focusing on a currently felt issue is in itself an indication of an intention and capacity to be with something rather than be merged with it.

b) In a prearranged session with a companion there is often no such burning issue present. The intention is to simply check in with ourselves and see what, if anything, wants our attention – just as in an equivalent solo Focusing session. And yet the vast majority of Focusers report rarely, if ever, encountering their usual obstacles when Focusing with a companion. Why not?

Ann Weiser Cornell and Barbara McGavin write: “There are three qualities which a partner brings which need to be brought into Focusing alone, often consciously and deliberately: 1) containment (being held), 2) concentration (the opposite of spacing out, wandering, etc., 3) non-judgment.” (early draft of Focusing Student’s and Companion’s Manual)

On sensing that a companion has these qualities and is thereby supporting Presence, it becomes possible to stay at an edge of experiencing where one may otherwise not feel safe to go. Ed McMahon and Peter Campbell put it this way: “So the companion is there to support the Focuser in finding his own innate ability to keep himself company in a gentle, caring way. If a person has lost this ability and/or developed a strong habit of disconnecting from the felt sense, he will be unable to Focus alone.” (“Bio-Spirituality”)

So we are not speaking here of a simple application of technical skills, but of having the capacity to provide the kind of Presence which allows our own self-process to unfold. Gene Gendlin explains why the first step towards developing this capacity is to Focus with a listener: “To be myself I need your responses, to the extent to which my own responses fail to carry my feelings forward. At first, in these respects, I am ‘really myself’ only when I am with you.. The continued carrying forward into ongoing interaction process is necessary in order to reconstitute experiencing long enough for the individual himself to obtain the ability to carry it forward as self-process.”(“A Theory of Personality Change”)

Can Solo Focusing Be Learned?

Gendlin’s words prompt a question: Can solo Focusing be learned at any stage or must a certain capacity to listen to ourselves be developed before we are able to begin to focus alone? In other words, is it always possible for a Focuser to provide the qualities of Presence necessary to support their own process?

Most Focusers need very little from a companion to support their process. In fact, as I discovered by accident, often literally nothing apart from simply being there (even on the other end of a phone) is needed to generate an atmosphere of “containment, concentration and non-judgment.” Naively attempting to simulate solo Focusing as closely as possible to observe the process, I listened silently to several sessions and found that the effect of the experiment itself defeated my object! People who when alone had difficulties in beginning a session, settling down with something, staying with the process or experiencing a shift, had no problems whatsoever when I was simply ‘listening in’. It seems that although a companion’s reflections and suggestions may provide a very useful and welcome aid to Focusing, it is the overall effect of having someone there which facilitates the Focusing process. Hence many Focusers are pessimistic about their abilities to focus alone because in partner Focusing they perceive the companion to be “holding Presence” for them. It makes a subtle but important difference to consider that successful Focusing can only occur when the Focuser is also listening to himself from a place of Presence. In this sense it could be said that even when a companion is present, the Focuser is still Focusing alone! Whatever level of support the companion is providing, he is still not ‘doing’ the Focusing himself. Would it follow then that anyone who is able to focus successfully with a companion is also able to focus alone?

Technically it might appear so, but there are occasions when solo Focusing is – by definition – just not able to fit the bill. One Focuser says this beautifully: “Sometimes the words need to come out of my system and be met by another human being.” I strongly feel that no efforts to support solo-focusing should attempt to minimise this very real and healthy desire for human contact when it arises.

With the exception of such specific requirements for a listener, it appears likely (to me) that in most cases Focusers do have the capacity to provide themselves with the necessary qualities to support Presence. Therefore I propose that problems can be traced back to just three specific areas of merging:

a.   the Focuser does not succeed in establishing Presence at the beginning of the session. This makes the likelihood of merging with whatever comes up almost inevitable.

b.   at the point at which something begins to make steps, a “critical part” throws doubt on the Focuser’s ability to focus alone and the Focuser becomes (and remains) merged with that part.

c.   a “controlling part” is present which feels a sense of responsibility for directing the session. It may feel that it has to initiate something which will make the process flow faster or make a shift occur or that it has to do something to “fix” something. This area is a quagmire if the Focuser becomes merged with it – and the risk is high because there is, of course, some truth in the idea that “I” am responsible for directing the session. As much emphasis is placed on the role of the companion in Focusing and students learn many subtleties of listening responses, it is not surprising that many feel daunted by the prospect of “doing both jobs” in solo Focusing.

It seems that many of us assume we know the “ground-rules” of Focusing so well that when we sit down to focus alone we comply with them automatically, and yet according to my findings, it is not unusual for experienced Focusers to either “forget” the basics – or believe that they can dispense with them. Consequently all the effort we put into learning to cultivate Presence as a companion goes out of the window when we focus alone! There is a notion that to simply pause and look inside denotes the beginning of a solo Focusing session – and indeed it does on the condition that we have a respectful, compassionate, non-judgmental attitude towards whatever we might find there. If not, then we will become merged with our ambient thoughts rather than be in a position to say hello to them.

Taking it forward

What then can we do to avoid becoming merged with ambient thoughts? I feel the answer lies in going back to the basics – reminding ourselves that moving into Presence does not always happen automatically and that normally we have to do something to encourage it to happen. And remembering, above all, that any attitude other than one of respectful, compassionate, non-judgmental attention denotes a merging with another part.

So before coming up with any new suggestions on how to alleviate the problems of solo Focusing, I first came to a point of realizing just how good all the old ones are! Almost every article and chapter on Focusing alone includes a list of suggestions on how to stay in Presence, from “Conjure up the person you would most like to listen to you, then have them respond in exactly the way you want” (Diana Marder, TFC, Nov. 1992), to “Write down key words like the description, the questions you’re asking, and whatever else feels important” (Cornell, “The Power of Focusing”) and “Speak into a cassette recorder and play it back if you get stuck or lost” – and there are, of course, many others.

Finding some means of consciously becoming one’s own listener seems to be essential. This means having a concept of “listening-me” which feels bigger than all the rest of me – whether one imagines it to be another person, a computer, a teddy bear or oneself. During the session I transcribed, I was writing down not only the significant words that came from the felt sense but also my own listening responses. Having a very clear sense of “listening-me” was what enabled me to come into relationship with a hitherto hidden part.

I have noticed that doubts around self-guiding skills and impatience when something doesn’t shift appear to diminish with experience. People who have been Focusing the longest are generally much more content to just keep something company – for a long time if necessary – trusting that a shift will occur if and when it is ready. In his book “Focusing”, Gendlin writes: “If the felt sense does not shift and answer right away, that is all right. Spend a minute or so with it. We do not control a shift when it comes. What is crucial is the time you spend sensing it. If you spend time sensing something unclear that is right there ..then you are Focusing.”

So although we are responsible for maintaining Presence, we are not responsible for directing the process itself. To remember this during each session could take a considerable amount of unnecessary stress out of solo Focusing.

It might also be helpful to let go of expectations that solo Focusing should feel the same as Focusing with a companion but to increase the value we place on it in terms of developing the habit of being in touch with our moment to moment authentic experiencing. Seeing solo-Focusing as a step on the way to cultivating Presence in our lives in general rather than as an end in itself could significantly ease some of the difficulties it presents. Focusers are less likely to encounter problems when “checking in” with the felt sense briefly throughout the day. If all else fails it might be advisable for a struggling solo Focuser to take a break from formal sessions and simply enjoy sensing inside at times when they are feeling good.

Finally, a quote from Neil Friedman strikes me as particularly relevant to solo-Focusing: “Focusing is relaxing. It feels good in the body.” (“Focusing: Selected Essays”) It follows that if it starts to feel unpleasantly scary, sad, frustrating, empty, lonely, or whatever, we can assume we are merged with something. So I would like to offer just one fundamental tip: If it doesn’t feel good – step back and acknowledge it from a place which feels safe and comfortable. This will take you to what is “right on top” in your experiencing – the outermost edge of that which is needing attention – and to be with that will always bring a sense of rightness and relief.

Since accepting that by following this one guideline we can consistently spend time with something in our authentic experiencing in a caring way, I have tentatively come to the feel that – yes, with sufficient support, anyone can learn to focus alone.

 

New learning since this article was written

 

Since I wrote this article, my perception of the ideal starting point for Focusing alone has changed slightly. I no longer feel that to focus alone we need to ‘move into Presence’. I now prefer to begin my own Focusing practice - and the way I teach it to others - by taking time to come to rest in my whole experience just as it is. Beginning in this way leads us very naturally to a bodily-felt sense of being connected to the environment and supported by the ground. Hence, rather than needing to achieve a different state (which I called ‘Presence’ in this article), I now find that this lighter, more spacious approach is my preferred starting point for Focusing – both alone and with a partner. (August 2016)

 

 

 

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