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“Going In” Doesn’t Mean Going Deep – Part II

Rachel Alexander June 5, 2018

{5 minutes to read}  Part II picks up where we left off, providing the last three elements of how going in — the focusing way — need not mean going painfully deep.

1. The Right Distance

The focuser is in charge of the process. If something comes up that is painful or frightening, the focuser does not forge ahead in Spartan-warrior fashion. In fact, the focuser would give whatever came a wide berth and check to see how, or if, he wants to stay with it or get some more distance from it to survey it or leave it all together for another time. Perhaps this painful/frightening something is best viewed from several miles in the air. Or from Florida. The possibilities are limitless. The focuser interacts with what has come in a way that helps him disidentify with it, perhaps regarding it as an aspect, part or “something” rather than as “himself.” He does this from a place of grounded presence. He determines how close or far he would like to be from it. And perhaps how close or far it would like to be from him. Once the distance is right, he may consider what sort of contact it might like from him. If it’s a very intense thing — a loss, regret, or shame that is coming up — the focuser might need to just spend time with a very small aspect of it, or may feel best to sit at the opposite end of a formal dining table (in Florida) from it, just staying at that distance and being present there and seeing what comes.

To paraphrase Gendlin, to smell the soup, you don’t stick your face in it. You get the right distance so you can take in a bit of its warmth and aroma without submerging your head. The latter would cause third degree burns and nullify your olfactory function. By going slowing and attending fully to each bodily sense as it comes, and managing the distance so it doesn’t take us over or retraumatize our system, we build a new, safe way of knowing ourselves and our multiple facets.

2. Process Over Matter

Another critical aspect of focusing is this:

The important part is not contained within the substance of what we are turning towards, but in the turning towards itself.

In other words, the process is key. The act of relating in a new way is where change occurs. Take the analogy of clearing out a spare bedroom, the change, growth and relief comes in how we enter and move about the room, holding an attitude of gentle curiosity, a present mindedness devoid of criticism. This is the crucial bit. The inventory of the room is not determinative; how we relate to or “be with” the inventory is.

3. The Focusing Attitude

The focusing attitude is one of interested curiosity. It is one where we approach ourselves, others, whatever it is we’re bringing our attention to, with a gentleness, a compassion, and an interested curiosity.

By attending to what is most needed — with a focusing approach that makes it a loving, kind process — turning inward can become freeing and wonderful. More like going to a flea market full of treasures and curiosities than like cleaning out the garage. The attitude makes it possible.

Focusing works because we go slowly. It also works because we stay in grounded presence and approach everything checking if we have the right distance from it. We approach with interested curiosity, an attitude of respect and tenderness, as if approaching a child or small animal who has gone unfed for too long. We sit beside it with patience and allow it to build trust that we are here now, and are listening with no agenda apart from a willingness to learn what it needs right now.

Focusing attitude need not be limited to focusing sessions. It can be grown into a way of approaching everything. An ex-spouse, a child, an adversary, a friend. One’s self. How different a conflict or enemy might be once bathed in the warm lamp light of interested attitude. I invite us all to cultivate this delightful wondrous way of being with one another. Let’s begin immediately!