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Focusing – on the whole thing

I have become very interested in the technique of Focusing, devised by Eugene Gendlin, and described in a very appealing way by him in his book Focusing: How to gain direct access to your body’s knowledge. I mentioned it in passing in my recent paper on solution-focused therapy and dance,  though while I was writing that paper my understanding of the technique was rather rudimentary.

Having worked through the book, and practised focusing both on my own and with a focusing partner, I am becoming clearer about what it entails and my interest is growing all the time. I love the simplicity, both of the technique and of Gendlin’s account of it (I’m sure though that the same could be said of it that Steve de Shazer was fond of saying of solution-focused brief therapy: ‘it’s simple, but it ain’t easy!’). And there seem to be a number of connections with solution-focused practice and potential cross-over points between the two.

Something that is quite different – and is thereby intriguing me – is that in focusing there is an emphasis on ‘the whole thing’, the vague bodily ‘felt sense’ of all that, in contrast to the small concrete details of the solution-focused approach. Gendlin uses the striking metaphor of a symphony, which may last for an hour or more, and consist of thousands of notes and tones, sounded by many diverse instruments, in varied combinations and progressions. ‘But you don’t need to know all these details of its structure in order to feel it. If it is a symphony you know well, you only need to hear its name mentioned and feel the aura of it instantly. That symphony: the feel of it comes to you whole, without details.’

Nicholas Penny, the director of the National Gallery, said something similar in his last book in which “he encouraged viewers increasingly accustomed to looking at artworks onscreen to reabsorb themselves in the totality of the pictorial space” (Will Self in The Guardian).

I’m liking the challenge to my thinking that this represents. I’m interested in the overall sense of it, the whole thing…

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