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Displaying 1 - 30 of 130 reviews
Profile Image for Fergus, Quondam Happy Face.
971 reviews17.6k followers
June 2, 2023
Spiritual awakening takes place in a timeless moment.

In everyday life, though, we are obstinately and hopelessly timebound.

Caught up in fractious arguments, guilt trips, and the eddying of mood swings in response to the gravity of demands and the grace of love... timebound.

But in 1985 I still hoped for quick fixes.

This book promised one and delivered on that promise - or more correctly, it gave me an easy way to access the memory of my earlier years.

Which was a start.

I am naturally intuitive - I am a great hypnotic subject - and fell quickly into the slower pace that focusing demands.

I remember my initial delight.

I began, with excellent results, to explore my hidden past.

But I had to be relaxed yet alert, which was impossible save on weekends - which of course had demands of their own.

So my “hits” were piecemeal; and nowadays, when our overall pace of life seems to have increased exponentially, they are even more so.

But the method demonstrated in this book gave me the groundwork I needed for reconstructing some of my preschool life.

And isn’t that normally a result that only a good psychotherapist can produce?

Extrapolating from that groundwork I was in time able to draw general conclusions for ordinary behaviour that had always been illegible to me.

Constructing psychological laws - with the help of my books and religious beliefs - was the final step.

So that now, with that ace of these solid well-considered laws up my sleeve, a foul mood or feeling will rarely detain me in its gloom for too long.

In conclusion then, you could say this one book had shown me the first glimpse of my eventual healing.

It’s quite an admission, I know, to say that.

For there are no quick fixes, but at the beginning only:

Hints and guesses -
Hints followed by guesses...

But it was those initial hints and guesses - and much hard work - that led me firmly back to myself!
Profile Image for Steve Woods.
618 reviews59 followers
November 25, 2015
For those of us who have to tend to the effects of complex ptsd the most difficult challenge is to connect with our own deeper felt sense of self because it carries so much pain. Yet without that connection and the experience of what flows from that there we will remain trapped always in the circularities that our minds design to keep that felt sense so distant and intangible. The work of Gendlin represents a breakthrough in the process of therapy whereby we can work our way through these layers of entrapment, the felt sense is the only key. All the talk therapy in the world, in my experience shifts nothing, resolves nothing. Excruciating though it may be we must go through again all that set up in us so much pain for the light to become evident to us in our lives. The great benefit of this book is that a person can venture into this space of their own volition in their own way and it will unfold. There si hope here for those of us who have lived our lives in hopelessness
Profile Image for Gavin.
1,085 reviews320 followers
March 10, 2021
2/5 with an asterisk.* A very useful technique, but with very weak scientific backing (but at least he tried!), and but a fairly bad book.

There are classic self-help red flags:
My philosophy leads to new concepts in physics and biology... Focusing is now a worldwide network... this can seem insane to the rest of our society. How could new realistic ideas and steps arise from the body? This new institution is changing the atomization of society... Unlocking the wisdom of your body... using the body's own life-centered and inherently positive direction and force...

'Focusing has been crucial for many bodyworkers. I would hope that it would be more widely integrated within the education of Somatics practitioners. - Don Hanlon Johnson, Professor, California Institute of Integral Studies'

The most important rule for a therapist to observe, while helping someone to focus, is to stay out of the focuser's way... [Soon:] Another agitated, self-destructive emotional spiral was beginning and I interrupted her.


...but also things I know to be true and which aren't in the interest of a therapist / self-help guru to say:
Why doesn't therapy succeed more often? In the rarer cases when it does succeed, what is it that those patients and therapists do? What is it that the majority fail to do?

When the revolution in self-help [democratization] takes place and people do these helpful processes with each other, will professional psychotherapy be unnecessary?

It did take place, we are they; it didn't change much, because most of it is nonsense. I suppose it is cheaper than the old way.
(There is of course the possibility that he's saying them to disarm me.)

I got incredibly annoyed at him going on about this 'method' for 50 pages without describing it; skip to chapter 4 if you do too. It's roughly

1) Clear your head
2) Pick one problem and just think about it in general ("feel it holistically")
3) Slowly try to find the right words to describe it
4) Switch back between the "felt sense" (2) and your description a bunch.
5) Wonder what it's all about.
6) Continue until you feel your attitude towards it change.

Is this profound? No. Is it crackpot? Also no.

Also annoying was his dismissing alternative strategies for handling problems, all of which I sometimes like. He belittles 'belittling the problem' (e.g. reminding yourself that others have it worse - which is both noble and effective); 'analyzing' (he rightly belittles Freudian Analysis, i.e. blaming your present state on the nastiest past event that comes to mind, but as if breaking things into subproblems is always a bad idea); just enduring it (often just works for me); lecturing yourself (often works for me because parts of me want to listen). Why is it so hard for writers like this to concede that some things don't work for some people? (They lose authority I suppose.)

Surprising that he's a sincere empiricist, or at least trying to be.
One reason why research is so important is precisely that it can surprise you and tell you that your subjective convictions are wrong... As hard as it was for me to accept the finding that therapy doesn't do the job, research findings can never hurt you. They move you forward.

This is a list of about 100 studies on the topic (Ctrl+F "Table 1"), no doubt with a terrible file-drawer problem. Total n~=500, probably with a lot of duplication. Measures used are a mix of standard boring ones like PFQ and woo boring ones like Gestalt.

Gendlin makes a few specific, testable claims (which is always to be encouraged so allow me to hereby present him with his certificate of falsifiability at worst):

* "therapy has better outcomes when clients 'focus". Too vague, but a few of the studies are nominally about this.
* "better functioning of the immune system". Only one mention of immune system in that big chart, for this n=76 study, no mention of focusing in the abstract at least.
* successful patients (i.e. one-year outcomes) can be predicted from recordings of "their first two sessions". This would be good and clean evidence that something real is involved. I think the claim refers to this PhD, n=35. It wasn't exactly cross-validated, shall we say.

That review was cursory but tells me enough. (You might think you could just look at clinical practice, 40 years on - which, outside of California, doesn't exactly foreground Gendlin - to get a sense of whether it works as well as he claims. But medicine is too far from a rational system for that.)

The core idea is not insane. It's that there is an equivalent of proprioception for your own emotions, and that you can't change anything about yourself except through it. There's a touch of the old Zen problem to it, that you're trying to describe a nonverbal thing in words. But then, most descriptions aren't descriptions of verbal processes - consider e.g. "Succulent plants' dark fixation makes them ideal for air quality control in bedrooms".

What about support from respectable, academic phenomenology? I don't know that there is any such thing. There may be non-propositional, non-procedural knowledge. It wouldn't be surprising - the conscious mind is a relatively small and unskilled thing. It's Gendlin's idea of our apriori and undeluded access to it that's the problem. Gendlin's experiments don't establish the existence or the access. I find it hard to think how to test this, actually. If the epistemology of focusing was real, what would be different about its practitioners? Happiness? Cortisol? Decision speed? I don't know. We are too skilled at deluding ourselves. It would be pretty easy to run an experiment where Gendlinites tried to predict which patients recover, and then check that against normies' predictions.

To be fair, this book isn't his strongest face ("I also want this book to be readable by anyone"). But I'm not grading on intended audience (and I wasn't encouraged by those no-power, pre-Crisis psychology studies either).

Open questions: why should there be any therapy that works in general? Grant that there is bodily knowledge; where is this knowledge stored? The enteric nervous system? Why should introspection work? Theory of mind is for modelling other people so that they can't harm me.

This is all probably harmless; people doing Rogerian listening to each other is unlikely to cause any problems (in fact, since it's free, then if the null hypothesis of talk psychotherapy is true, this might be a social improvement; same benefit without the deadweight); he doesn't advocate withdrawal from treatment (pills are completely absent from the picture, actually). And the opportunity cost of trying this is low, because other self-help is worse. Not for me; maybe for you.

* Gendlin seems like a very nice man, he's just not the discoverer of the one neat trick to psychiatry. The emphasis (3 chapters) here on helping others and not just yourself in sweet. His acceptance of the need to do science makes it easier to get at him than at other self-helpists - which makes me feel bad about getting at him and not them. (I won't get at them because they're not worth arguing with.)
21 reviews
July 3, 2013
Easy to read book on Focusing, a mindfulness technique for getting in touch with your internal life and putting feelings to rest. This is a book predates the current interest in mindfulness. The author was a colleague of Carl Rogers in the 50s and 60s. He researched the question: what are the clients who get the most out of therapy doing? It turns out they were indeed doing something differently -- they demonstrated pauses in session to check with their inner process and consider implications from the inside out.

It's an easy to learn method and doesn't require a lot of a lot of complicated internal meditation.

I highly recommend the method -- and the book -- as a well-written introduction.
193 reviews
March 24, 2021
This book was recommended by none other than Viktor Frankl in the endnotes of his book Man's Search for Meaning and it’s been popular enough to merit a 25th Anniversary Edition.

Psychotherapist Eugene Gendlin’s argument is that one can largely sweep aside all traditional psycho-analysis and therapy in favour of this technique that he calls ‘focusing’. There are six steps:

1. Clearing a Space. – Relax. Pay attention inwardly, in your body, perhaps in your stomach or chest. Now see what comes there when you ask, “How is my life going?”

2. Felt Sense. – From what came, select one problem to focus on. DO NOT GO INSIDE IT. Pay attention to where you usually feel things until you get a sense of what all of the problem feels like.

3. Handle. – What is the quality of this unclear felt sense? Let a word, phrase or image come up. Stay with the felt sense till something fits just right.

4. Resonating. – Go back and forth between the felt sense and the word (phrase, or image) to see if there is a bodily signal that lets you know they fit. Let the felt sense and/or the word change until they feel just right in capturing the quality of the felt sense.

5. Asking. – Now ask: What is it about this whole problem that makes this quality (which you have just named)? Be with the felt sense till something comes along with a shift, a slight ‘give’ or release.

6. Receiving – Receive whatever comes with a shift in a friendly way. Stay with it a while, even if it is only a slight release.

Mmm! The way I see it, if one has even a modest measure of self awareness such introspective instructions shouldn’t be necessary to determine one’s feelings about a problem, though I do concede that it isn’t always easy to own up to vulnerable emotions such as jealousy, humiliation or loneliness. Those who do not have much self awareness won’t have the first idea what Gendlin is on about, so the book won’t be of much use to them either. I am also puzzled by Gendlin’s assertion that nailing the right word for a deep feeling, of itself, triggers a ‘release’, though, for sure, a problem that is not understood cannot be solved.

About three-quarters of the book is taken up with the technicalities of applying this technique with or without the support of a friend. It is extremely boring.

It is my great privilege to have read this book when my life is calm and peaceful. Perhaps someone who is caught in life’s inevitable turbulence, or is feeling a bit stuck about something, will get more out of it.
Profile Image for Emma Sea.
2,184 reviews1,064 followers
Shelved as 'dnf'
March 25, 2017
So, the good news is now I'm trying not to buy books this year I'm finally getting through some of my mountain of unread books. The bad news is I screwed up buying this book. I thought it was about focusing as in single-tasking. It's not. It's about getting in touch with your body for therapy reasons, to identify how you are feeling without hiding behind language.

I screwed up. This is not the book for me.
Profile Image for Ted.
73 reviews
March 12, 2015
While it is certainly good that psychology has learned about spirituality over the last decades, this book, however, is from 1978- and it shows. It postulates that it has found a breakthrough for mankind. In reality this book is essentially Vilpassana meditation-lite. The author seems to believe hetruly discovered something new.

I found the book to be trite, simplistic and shallow.

I would not recommend this for people desiring to be more mindful or focused as there are far better alternatives available.

It's also a theme that psychology pats itself on the back for "discovering" that which has been around for centuries, or in this case, millenia.
Profile Image for Iona  Stewart.
792 reviews246 followers
October 22, 2019
This is an original book; I haven’t read anything like it before.

It is a book I will have to buy since I can’t fully get how to “focus” just be reading the book once. It will need to be practised and worked with.

The book tells us how to contact our body, ask it questions and get answers.

It “works for any kind of ‘stuckness’.”

Traditional therapy often doesn’t succeed. The skill of focusing can help those people.

Focusing “will enable you to find and change where your life is stuck, cramped, hemmed in, slowed down. And it will enable you to change – to live from a deeper place than just your thoughts and feelings”.

People can do focusing for themselves and with each other.

The change process in focusing feels good. The skill is not easy to explain and many people (like me) can do it only after practice.

In focusing you make contact with “a special kind of internal bodily awareness – a ‘felt sense’”.

A felt sense is not an emotion - “it is vague and murky. It feels meaningful but not known. --- When you learn how to focus, you will discover that the body finding its own way provides its own answer to many of your problems.”

“The process brings change.”

A therapist is not necessary. “By yourself or with a friend who knows how and when to keep quiet, you can achieve focusing results,”

“Only your body knows your problems and where their cruxes lie.”

Focusing consists of six movements. When these are successful there is a physical change in the body, a felt shift. Then the problem seems different.

The nature of the problem changes as each shift comes. “Without tapping the deeper bodily level, which is at first always unclear, one would stay stuck with the thoughts and feelings of what the problem appears to be at the beginning.”

What the problem seems to be about changes with each bodily shift.

One effect of the focusing process is to bring hidden bits of personal knowledge up to the level of conscious awareness. But the body shift, the change in a felt sense, is the heart of the process.

A felt sense will shift if you approach it in the right way. When your felt sense of a situation changes, you change, and therefore so does your life.

It is an “unfamiliar deep-down level of awareness” that psychotherapists have not found.

The stages of focusing are a bit complicated so I can’t explain them here.

I do not find the process easy, in fact I can’t at present even feel any “felt sense” but I absolutely believe that focusing is something that is possible to learn and that it will be helpful for me when I do.

Gendlin provides us with elucidating and convincing case histories of people he has helped with focusing.

The book also includes a very useful chapter called “The listening manual” explaining how to listen optimally.

Focusing can help free stuck relationships, even those which have been stuck for a long time.

Though this is an old book I have found a bookshop on the net where I can order it and will do so.

I can firmly recommend the book.
Profile Image for Luc.
9 reviews1 follower
November 28, 2014
i found that the techniques used in this book actually remedied chronic pain issues i've been experiencing. a grateful read.

let patience be our guide. be gentle with yourself and the world you love.

Profile Image for Laura.
287 reviews2 followers
April 26, 2017
Interesting. Very interesting. No studies or evidence to back up claims, but it all falls into the current thinking about mindfulness. It's a quick read and lays out the 6 steps of focusing and while I often thought, "this is just woo-woo stuff" it would also often be followed by a "huh, that makes sense" thought. It's an older book -- circa 1978 -- but the concepts are definitely in vogue now.
Profile Image for Rob Hendricks.
Author 1 book8 followers
September 3, 2021
I love this book. As someone who easily accesses inner worlds of image and concept, but who has needed a lot of help finding the inner treasuries of feeling and sensation, this book is a crystal clear map, offering an approach I have personally found to be sharper than any diamond. Cannot recommend highly enough.
Profile Image for Anna.
1 review13 followers
October 21, 2010
This is an important book. Combining the sensibilities of Yalom, the physical work of Gestalt, and the elusiveness of self-hypnosis into a lifestyle change that virtually eliminates the need for the therapist - i.e. me - you would not imagine I would recommend this book. But I do. And if you read it, call me. So we can focus together.
Profile Image for Kevin Orth.
404 reviews41 followers
October 13, 2016
I'm certain at the time this was written the information was revolutionary. Unfortunately the concepts are dated by today's understands and capacities to connect on a deep level.
Profile Image for Chris Coffman.
10 reviews
June 29, 2018
Read 2/3 of this one - all the sections about personal practice. Did not find this practice helpful, perhaps too thrown by the writing style.
Profile Image for Marsha.
27 reviews1 follower
August 1, 2019
I have read this multiple times. It’s about time I read it again! Seriously life-changing. It came to me in a time when I deeply needed this. Now I share it with others. If you have a difficulty or are stuck somewhere in your life, these principles are magnificent. They can help many people move from a place of inability to change their situation, life, thought processes; To a powerful attention to what really matters. You can change your thoughts.
Profile Image for Rose Rosetree.
Author 21 books129 followers
February 11, 2023
Back in the New Age Years (between 1980 and Dec. 21, 2012) I read this book.
I loved it.
I used it.

Hence the five stars.

Currently, I would not recommend this approach. According to my standards now, I have found more effective skills for energy healing. But I do think back fondly of all the times I industriously worked on "Focusing."
Profile Image for James.
96 reviews
March 25, 2022
Contains some solid content, and helped solidify a fuzzy concept that'd been floating around my head for a while. It's quite short, and so while there's some extraneous stuff you have to skim through, it's pretty limited. Great tool to acquire, have applied it already in the process of reading the book.

• Successful therapy patients can usually be identified fairly quickly from audio recordings by experienced therapists. Once identified, this rule can be quickly taught to inexperienced undergrads. The pattern in question is what the author calls focusing, the subject of the book
• Focusing lets one perceive a "special kind of internal bodily awareness", which the author calls a "felt sense". Distinct from emotions somehow
• Focusing consists of six movements, each of which is accompanied by an unmistakable sense of a shift in the body
○ First: push problems to the side temporarily and examine them
○ Second: make contact with bodily sense beneath the emotions
○ Third: sense the quality of the bodily sense and put words to it
○ Fourth: check words against emotions
○ Fifth: ask the felt sense what is causing it
○ Six: resolve
• A felt sense is a large, vague, feeling of a ton of details and tiny concerns and pressures
○ In subagent language, this seems like looking at the whole set of subagents trying to influence GNW
○ Author emphasizes that the felt sense is not mental but physical, like a taste or a chord
○ Doesn’t come in words, but as one big block. Hard to put into words
• Exercise: query two different felt senses about important people in your life. The general sensation that comes with thinking about one or the other - not verbal descriptions, just a sensation
○ In subagent language, paying attention to the heap of associations produced by querying the subconscious association network with a topic. Way more than can be held in working memory at once
○ A body shift, then, means a change in the results of the association network - a change in subagent activity!
• The qualitative sense of a body shift is like feeling like you were forgetting something, and then remembering the thing
○ Author describes this feeling as coming from hidden knowledge becoming consciously accessible. This is almost in subagent language already - clearly you did remember the thing at some level, and there may be a subagent in charge of pushing it to consciousness. When it succeeds, the subagent and the pressure it was exerting dissolve
• During the second movement, honing in on the felt sense, it's important to ignore consciously produced analytical explanations of self-lectures. Get as close as possible to a meditative focus on the feeling itself, and just see what it's qualitatively like.
• Finding the right verbal handle for a felt sense is kind of like a "warmer-colder" kind of process
• Asking a felt sense is very much like asking another person a question. You ask the question, and then you wait.
• As I look at the examples the author walks through, I think I've been doing something sort of like this recently, and just calling it "examining my feelings carefully". I think I started doing this after reading the Sequences, taking a "challenging the difficult" kind of approach
• Can go for multiple consecutive rounds of focusing if it feels appropriate, but it will often be a good idea to let things settle for a day or so before digging deeper
• Focusing is not an analytic process (in the sense of doing focused-mode, algorithmic or explicit computations on items all held in working memory). It's investigative instead. Successful focusing reveals what the problem really is
• Some people have difficulty clearing space to focus because they feel obligated to feel bad
• To practice getting a felt sense, try retrieving the felt sense around something important to you - a person, experience, object, place, or thing that triggers a strong positive reaction. Beauty, love, etc.
• Don’t let words get in the way of a felt sense. If you think you feel X way and can't see past that, ask why or what makes you feel X way, and assess that felt sense
• In general, whatever you think is getting in the way of your focusing, just focus on that instead for a bit
• Questions that tend to trigger refinements on felt sense up to handle words. What is this really? What's the crux? What's the worst part? What would make me feel better? Etc
• I think I'm definitely prone to slipping into analysis mode. I think for me, the tactic might be to try and implement a Scout kind of analysis. Instead of "this must be X", go for "maybe this is X? How does that feel?" Generating hypotheses consciously seems fine, provided they're checked against felt sense
• Focusing is often done solo, but can often be social. Author says that focusing partners tend to become very close very quickly, and that having another person listening makes it easier to focus, even in complete silence
When another person is focusing, don’t offer input. Only acknowledge that you are listening, and repeat back things they say. If you don't understand, ask for clarification gently and specifically
Profile Image for bea.
11 reviews
June 5, 2023
I haven’t tried this yet, just stating that, but this is a very interesting work and research, will be trying over the course of the next days
Profile Image for rixx.
829 reviews42 followers
July 18, 2019
**Focusing** by *Eugene T. Gendlin* was my first book I really wanted to give up on this year. I'm always very hesitant to pick up non-fiction books, especially those that touch on self-help or psychology in any way. There's so much misinformation and only mildly informed, untested theory out there, and I'm just not qualified to judge what is good and what isn't. An unqualified reader such as myself is likely to be taken in by somebody with more writing skill than knowledge, and I really can do without that sort of thing.

**Focusing** was recommended to me, but it starts out trying to sell me things. It tries to sell its own brilliance ("couldn't do without it!"), and innovation ("studying some questions that most psychotherapists don't like to ask out loud"), and services (repeated mentions of telephone advice services available). If your book tries to sell me on its brilliance and related services without even presenting its case first, I feel like the door-to-door salesman just rung to sell me a washing machine that I don't need. The writing is always either selling or talking down to the reader and I found it very offputting – I don't like the cheap manipulation that comes with this style of writing.

The core idea is listening to your body, and experiencing bodily shifts (positive feelings of a knot opening etc) when trying to figure out a problem – basically a meditative practice. This is very plausible to me, but the writing made it hard to get through the material. So, spoilers, here is their methodology:

1. **Calm down**: Sit down, calm down, breathe for a bit. Then list the things that feel like they're currently a problem for you.
2. Choose the problem you want to work on. Keep an emotional distance and instead figure out how your body feels when concentrating on that problem (this will be uncomfortable). Disregard your inner monologue (i.e. analysis, guilt, etc.).
3. Focus on finding the word (or maybe a very short phrase) that *exactly* describes your *feeling* regarding the problem. You'll notice when you hit on the right one, because your feeling will change (usually ease). This will take a while.
4. Compare the word/image you found in the last step and compare them with the feeling you found and defined in the second step. Make sure they match (i.e. trigger a shift in feeling), otherwise repeat 3. Pay attention to how your feeling shifts now that you have a good name for them.
5. Trigger a clearer understanding by focussing on the name you found and concentrating on some questions, like "What about this problem makes me ____?", or "What's the worst/most ____ about this?", or "What would it take for this to feel ok?". *Wait* for the answer to bubble up, don't trust fast answers (which are probably just preconceived notions of how your mind *should* work.)
6. Accept the answers you find, without judgement. You can always decide to disagree with them later, but you have to accept them without judgement first.

The first step is a bit like unfocused meditation, maybe even metta meditation. I liked the question "How would my body feel if this problem was somehow solved?" as an entrypoint to exploring a problem. The other steps are more focused meditation, and all involve being calm, slightly distanced, and taking some time (at least half a minute or a minute) of waiting for answers to show up. Not terribly exciting, and worse for the fact that it sees itself as more of a therapy approach as opposed to a meditation thing.
112 reviews15 followers
June 27, 2017
This is a most interesting book. Focusing was discovered through fifteen years of research at the University of Chicago. Eugene T. Gendlin studied, together with a group of colleagues, why therapy so often failed to make real difference in people's lives. And in the rare cases when therapy does succeed: What is it that successful patients and therapists do?[1]

Seeking the answers, the researchers analyzed literally thousands of therapist-patient sessions. These studies led to several findings. One is that differences in therapy methods mean surprisingly little. Nor does the difference lie in what the patients talk about. The difference is in how they talk.[2]

The purpose of the book is to teach this uncommon skill, which is called focusing. Most importantly, not only is focusing an internal act which is useful in therapy. It's also useful in approaching any problem or situation. Focusing enables you to find and change where your life is stuck. It enables you live from a deeper place than just thoughts and feelings.[3]

Focusing is natural to the body, and it feels that way. There is an experience of something emerging from the body that feels like a relief and a coming alive.[4] A few seem to use focusing intuitively now and then, but it is mostly unused in most people. Some people learn focusing fairly fast, while others need weeks or months.[5]

Focusing is a process in which you make contact with a special kind of internal bodily awareness, a felt sense.[6] The felt sense is a physically sensed knowing. The body knows the whole of each of situation, vastly more aspects of it than you can think.[7]

body shift is a definite physical feeling of something changing or moving within, a tight place loosening. Often what is next for the body is not what would logically come next. Focusing is unpredictable.[8] And it is something to be used every day, as part of the daily existence.[9]

Just getting in touch with one's feelings often brings no change. One must let a larger, wider felt sense form, which at first is unclear.[10] Intellectuals like to figure things out. What is important is that the body is allowed to take the first steps. The analysis isn't effective before these steps.[11] When your felt sense changes, you change—and, therefore, so does your life.[12]

A felt sense is a physical experience.[13] Since it doesn't communicate in words, it isn't easy to describe in words. It is a deep-down level of awareness.[14] An emotion is often sharp and clearly felt. A felt sense, being larger and more complicated, is almost always unclear—at least until you focus on it.[15] It bypasses your thinking mind. But when you let the felt sense form, then you can work with more than you can understand. And when you attend to the felt sense, it will shift.[16]

Eugene T. Gendlin divides focusing into six main movements: 1) Clear a space. 2) Felt sense. 3) Get a handle. 4) Resonate. 5) Ask. 6) Receive.[17] To think of them as separate movements makes the inner act seem more mechanical than it is. Gendlin starts by giving the focusing instructions in a brief manual style from. He then approaches the movements from several different angels and explains them in more detailed.[18] Finally, he reviews the most common problems that interfere with people's focusing, and suggests ways to get unstuck.[19]

At the end of the book, there is a Listening Manual which was written for people who simple wanted to help each other with focusing.[20] Four kinds of helping are discussed: 1) Helping another person focus while talking.[21] 2) Using your own feelings and reactions about the person.[22] 3) Interaction.[23] 4) Interacting in a group.[24]

To handle ourselves and our situations, we need to get into more of our own experience. The more deeply we go, the more the unique individual emerges.[25] Beyond feelings, there is a holistic body sense, at first unclear, that can form. It is sense of the whole meaning of a particular situation or concern. It is from this felt sense that body shifts can arise. This cannot be figured out. It has to be met, found, felt, attended to, and allowed to show itself.[26]

A person's experience is not a pattern. It might seem to fit a pattern just now, but moments later it will fit another or none. In any case, the seeming fit will never be exact, for experience is richer than patterns. Moreover, it's changing.[27] New forms can come from inside each person, instead of being imposed from the outside.[28]

Focusing lets people find their own inner source of direction. Instead of static structures we need dynamic structure-making. If we accept ourselves and each other as form-makers, we no longer need to force forms on ourselves and each other.[29] Adopting patterns, old or new, is not the way. A sensitive focusing approach can eventuate really livable patterns suited uniquely to each of us and our situations.[30]

The holistic felt sense is more inclusive than reason. It includes the reasons of reason, as well as feelings, and much more. That holistic sense can be lived further, and has its own directionality. It is your sense of the whole thing, including what you know, have thought, and have learned. What is first sensed holistically is more basic than thoughts, feelings, and ways of acting that are already formed, already cut into existing patterns.[31]

A felt sense is body and mind before they are split apart. Focusing is not an invitation to stop thinking. It begins with the felt sense, and we then think verbally, logically, or with images. When there is a body shift, our thinking come together with the body-mind.[32] Thinking put in touch with what the body already knows and lives is vastly powerful.[33]

Lived experience is more organized, more finely faceted by far, than any concepts can be. And lived further, experience creates new meanings that takes account of, but also shifts, earlier meanings.[34] Focusing is a really interesting technique! It's a powerful way of thinking and relating—with ourselves, each other, and our situations.

[1] Eugene T. Gendlin, Focusing: How to Gain Direct Access to Your Body's Knowledge (Rider, 2003, first published 1978), p.3.
[2] Ibid..
[3] Ibid., p.4.
[4] Ibid., p.8.
[5] Ibid., p.9.
[6] Ibid., p.10.
[7] Ibid., pp.vii--viii.
[8] Ibid., p.14.
[9] Ibid., p.16.
[10] Ibid., p.29.
[11] Ibid., p.31.
[12] Ibid., p.32.
[13] Ibid..
[14] Ibid., p.33.
[15] Ibid., p.35.
[16] Ibid., p.36.
[17] Ibid., pp.173--174.
[18] Ibid., p.43.
[19] Ibid., p.64.
[20] Ibid., p.117.
[21] Ibid., p.118.
[22] Ibid., p.127.
[23] Ibid., p.135.
[24] Ibid., p.141.
[25] Ibid., p.155.
[26] Ibid., p.156.
[27] Ibid., p.157.
[28] Ibid., p.158.
[29] Ibid., p.159.
[30] Ibid., p.160.
[31] Ibid..
[32] Ibid., p.165.
[33] Ibid..
[34] Ibid., p.166.
Profile Image for Morgan.
109 reviews11 followers
February 21, 2016
Focusing is a very boring book with some very great information in it. The author has studied people who succeed at achieving their psycho-therapeutic goals, and found that they all do what he calls focusing.

Focusing, as described in the book, is an active process you can use to get at your own non-verbal understanding of a problem. Focusing involved feeling your own feelings, but it gets deeper: to a physical sense of whatever you're thinking about.

Since focusing is by nature about a non-verbal felt sense, it's difficult to describe. The author gives a six step method to first find the felt sense of an issue, then to cause it to "shift". The idea is that if something is bother you, you can get a fuller understanding of it by just feeling the felt sense than by talking to yourself about it. Once you have the fuller felt-sense understanding, if you accept that felt-sense than it will change. That will allow your understanding of thing bothering you to change, and possibly give you access to new ways of dealing with it.

A lot of this book reminded me of NVC, and of other formalized communication/listening styles. There's a lot of really good insight into how people work in this book. Unfortunately, it is super boring.
Profile Image for David J. Bookbinder.
Author 19 books37 followers
February 2, 2017
Although it was ten years or so between the time I bought Eugene Gendlin's 'Focusing' and when I actually began to use this technique in my personal life and my therapy practice, in many ways it is now at the heart of both. In the late 60s and early 70s, Gendlin teamed up with pioneer psychologist Carl Rogers to try to figure out why some people seemed to get better with therapy while others did not. After screening for all the factors one might suspect made the difference - therapeutic training and approach, experience, types of problems clients came in with, demographics, etc. - it turned out that the dominant factor was something clients either came into therapy doing (and improved) or didn't do (and didn't improve). Gendlin realized that this factor was a natural human quality, and he created this book, and many others, to help those of us who didn't natively do it learn how. I have practiced Focusing for many years, and I have taught it to a wide variety of clients so they can do it themselves. Easier to do than to explain, Gendlin's book nevertheless does an excellent job of summarizing the rationale behind it, the technique itself, and what to do if things don't seem to be working.
Profile Image for Aline.
474 reviews
January 19, 2019
When I originally started reading it I had a hard time getting into it because I didn't liked that the book started with stories about people, I just wanted to know how focusing works :D
But I see that the right timing for me to read this book was now, not months ago. So it's all good.

Anyways, every person should be handed this short book and we would live in a better world!

The method is basically Shadow Work. Learn to sense/to feel your feelings, focus on them without interfering (here lies the hard part) and with this you resolve or move the stuck or new feelings. It's easier said then done of course.
You can do it alone or you can have a trusted person with you, you tell them what you feel and they're helping you to focus on it and to figure it out.
This requires some major listening skills from the other part, which we should all learn.

The book comes with very handy tips on how to focus on the other person when he's listening inside himself. But these can be applied in everyday life too and here lies one of the best parts of the book.

Also I loved the authors view in the short last chapter "Focusing and society".
Profile Image for Vikrant Varma.
23 reviews24 followers
March 14, 2017
This is a book that explains a method of conscious self awareness that helps you understand feelings that are weighing on you. Gendlin says that the technique is based on research that indicates that the patient's approach to therapy is a much stronger predictor of eventual recovery than the therapist or even the therapy method.

The thing about therapy/self-awareness books is that either they work for you or they don't. Personally it's been quite helpful. Try it and see - YMMV, but at least the book is short and practical.

Edit: Upgrading this book to 5 stars, based on how well this technique works.

For a cognitive perspective on the same underlying technique, read
Profile Image for Susan Kerr.
Author 4 books15 followers
July 17, 2016
Everybody in the world should read this book and practice its easy, insightful discovery. I have been on a reading jag this month for some reason that lead from When Bad Things Happen to Good People to Man's Search for Meaning and which accidentally got me to Gendlin's Focusing. It is a friendly, sensible, easy-to-read explanation and guide about... how can I say it without sounding like a nutcase? About your own innate natural inner wisdom -- if only you'd stop and feel-hear yourself. Nothing woo-woo or spiritual or psycho-theoretical. Do yourself a huge kindness, read the book.
Profile Image for Nora.
61 reviews1 follower
September 9, 2012
A wonderful technique for getting in touch with whatever your body/mind is experiencing in the present, those problems and issues that you thought you had worked through, but keep returning over and over again. The best part is, you can do this work without a therapist. After a while, you will find that your body (or rather, body/mind) becomes your best teacher on all matters of the heart and soul.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Eliot.
Author 2 books10 followers
July 8, 2017
Some useful techniques for understanding emotions and things that bother us. Neat variation on meditation.

Profile Image for Mark.
208 reviews9 followers
February 19, 2021
Gendlin's techniques helped me gain more accurate awareness of and influence over my emotional states and how they affect my moment-to-moment resilience and resourcefulness. The technique is not easy to describe or explain concisely. It involves bringing to mind any circumstance or recalled event that is troubling in some way. It could be, for instance, a situation of interpersonal conflict that, when considered, makes you anxious or sad. Focusing involves you learning to subtly modify your perception of the event through a specific 'visualization' approach. I put 'visualization' in quotes because the technique involves multi-modal sensory (images, sounds, textures, scents, tastes, internal sensations, etc.) imagined scenes. The outcome of effective focusing (in Gendlin's usage of the word) is a felt sense of a shift. It's a physically felt change within your body, usually involving a noticeable release of tension and an opening of the mind to see new possibilities for moving forward in the challenging areas of thought and emotion.

I recommend reading the book (it's short) through once and then listening to the audio version while trying to practice the method. You can stop the audio at each step, rewind, etc. until you become more fluid with the technique.

I regard Focusing being a neurolinguistic technique with emphasis on modulating the sensory elements of problematic memories and thoughts. An example of sensory modulation could be imagining someone (boss, lover, bully, etc.) berating you and letting yourself feel what you usually feel. Then, use your imagination to make the abuser's image black and white instead of color. Then change the person's vocal pitch to sound like they inhaled helium or like Minnie Mouse or another cartoon character with a silly voice. Then notice how your feeling shifts a little. You're amused. You keep manipulating your habitual, controlling thoughts in this way. At some point, you experience the shift that comes from physically processing the fact that your reactions that limit and torment you are responses going on inside you, in your body and imagination, and you can take control over those influences by rewriting them.

For me, Focusing was a great technique. I docked the book one star because the method is not easy to initially grasp, especially if you have difficulty visualizing scenes vividly. I can easily visualize fully sensorial scenes, so this method works well for me. If you can't easily visualize, look for other semantic or neurolinguistic therapeutic methods that work well when facilitated by a professional counselor. It's worth trying. The results can greatly improve your quality of daily life.
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