Focusing is a path of self-inquiry that welcomes nuanced experiences that we often overlook. We gently bring awareness into our bodies, which is where feelings and sensations reside. We allow and befriend whatever we are experiencing in a way that permits the stuck places to loosen …moving us toward greater peace, freedom, and wisdom.
~ John Amodeo, PhD
Your Biological Blueprint
Consider that your subconscious mind suppresses what feels uncomfortable, and your unconscious mind represses it even deeper down until it is no longer recognizable. All emotional suppression (your subconscious material) and repression (your unconscious material) is stored in your body.
Knowing this, I am sure you can imagine how many layers of undigested emotional experience must be stored in your body! And, for those of us who are older, we can feel emotional repression in body stiffness and pain.
Unprocessed emotional pain creates a later-day biological blueprint that can have you feeling overwhelmed, and maybe even paralyzed about going forward with your life. So rather than using your body as an emotion storage locker for all of your unprocessed life experiences, it makes more sense to process your emotions on a daily basis so that you do not get so accumulated.
The Wisdom of Your Body
Your body is wise. Your body accurately reflects how you have lived your life. Your body also holds insights about how to be fully yourself. Your body knows which people around you bring out the best in you, and which do not. Your body always knows the next step to take for your growth.
Focusing on your body can return you to the non-analytic knowing that connects you to your intuition. Focusing in your body can be an inner compass that points the way to the unique medicine that you need to heal.
Making the Implicit Explicit
For many years now, I have kept a daily "Focusing Journal." Focusing is a body-based inner listening technique. Focusing on my body has profoundly deepened my intuition. Focusing is also how I stay "emotionally fit" as a therapist.
Focusing Psychotherapy, developed by Eugene Gendlin, and further defined by Ann Weiser Cornell, helps to bring fuzzy, preverbal insights into conscious awareness.
This way of journaling does not involve much writing. It mostly involves sitting patiently at your "growth edge." This form of body listening requires tending to vague physical impressions until they become defined in the form of images, words, phrases and then writing them down.
While many psychological techniques involve releasing inhibiting habits and old beliefs, this body-focusing technique is a way to attend to what wants to emerge from the "growth edge." I see the growth edge as the subconscious mind. If you clear out your subconscious mind every day, your deeper unconscious mind will send more up for healing, and you will feel lighter.
Keeping a daily Focusing journal can also help you to connect to your subconscious mind in order to make your subtle growth edge more tangible. By listening deeply within for at least 15 minutes a day you will understand how to best heal and unfold.
Focusing in the Body Journal
Below, I share my Focusing journaling method. Typically, I sit for 15 minutes and jot down the impressions that arise from the edge of my subconscious mind. This is a way to connect to my intuition. This is also a wonderful way to gradually lighten emotional pain.
Start by sitting quietly with your journal on your lap. Close your eyes. When images, words and body senses arise, jot them down.
1. Clearing a Space
Take a moment to just relax. Sense within your body. See what comes when you ask a question such as, "How am I today? How is my life going? What is the main thing for me right now?" Let the answers come slowly.
Stand back from your problem, say "Yes, that’s there. I can feel that, there." Let there be a little space between you and what is troubling you. Say, "There is something in me that...."
Select one problem to focus on. Do not go inside your problem. Stand back from the discomfort and witness it in a friendly way. There are many parts to this one problem you are thinking about – too many to sort out cognitively. But you can feel all of these things together on a "felt-sense" level. Pay attention to where you feel this concern in your body. Sense how the entire problem feels. Let yourself feel the unclear sense of it. Jot down a few vague notes.
What is the quality of this unclear felt-sense? Let a word, a phrase, a gesture, symbol, or an image come up from the felt-sense itself. It might be a descriptive word like tight, sticky, scary, stuck, heavy, jumpy. It might be a phrase, a song, or a memory. Stay with the quality of the felt-sense until something fits it just right. Write this description of your felt-sense down in your journal.
Go back and forth between the felt-sense and the descriptive word (phrase or image) to see if it feels exactly right. Check how your felt-sense and your description resonate with each other. See if a little body signal lets you know there is a fit - telling you that you have described your felt-sense perfectly.
Hold the felt-sense in your body and the description in your mind at the same time to see if they match. Let the felt-sense change if it wants to. Also, play with the description to see if it wants to change. Allow the description to change until it captures the quality of the felt-sense.
At this stage, you are asking the felt-sense to define itself more - to speak more deeply from the roots of the discomfort.
Feel into your body and ask questions like, "What makes the whole problem so ______?" If you get a quick answer without an inner body shift, just let it go by. Return your attention to your body and freshly find the felt-sense again.
Some other questions to ask your felt-sense are, "What does this problem need? What would it feel like in my body without all this? What is the worst of this?" Then ask a question again. Keep questioning your felt-sense until you feel a slight "give" or emotional release in your body.
Receive whatever comes in a friendly way. It does not need to make logical sense. Intuition speaks in pictures, symbols and metaphors that feel just right. Stay with the relief at your self-recognition for a while, even if it is only a bit of new information. Whatever comes, this is only one emotional shift; there will be many others. When you listen to yourself so profoundly, a spontaneous deep breath might come. Linger for a few moments in this body/emotional shift that has come.
You may not always feel an emotional shift. Emotional shifts will come spontaneously when the time is right. With Focusing, the main aim is to spend time sensing into an unclear bodily sense for a dedicated period of time until it becomes clear. This will help you to understand how to clarify your growth edge and move forward.
Ann Weiser Cornell shares:
"The knowing that comes through Focusing is often surprising and operates from its own logic rather than following in a linear fashion from something previously known. Its signal can be an intensification or a releasing. It can also be a sense of flow, fresh air, opening, expansion, or the like.
Tears are a strong confirmation: tears that have nothing to do with sadness, but rather with the rightness of the knowing--"truth tears." In contrast, the body's way of saying "No" is a feeling of something being "off," an uneasiness, a wrongness, limitation, or contraction, or backing away.