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The right way of "Focusing " on bodily sensations

Discussion in 'General Discussion Subforum' started by UnknownStuntman, Jun 17, 2013.

  1. UnknownStuntman

    UnknownStuntman Peer Supporter

    I found little about 'Focusing' on the two TMS Forums, even though many TMS-Experts or trauma experts build parts/or most of their therapy on Gendlins pioneer work:


    I think it deserves an own threat, so I opened this one. I wrote a little more about my experience with focusing in post #48 of the "Importance of addressing childhood issues" threat:


    It's also been extremely helpful to me to learn the right body posture (embodiment), which took only a few days. Most people unlearned it at some point as a child and disconnect their mind from their body. There's impressive research how our body posture affects our subconsious, optimism and thinking. Learning the right posture (I'm a couple of inches taller now) is very empowering. I can have more energy and concentration now if I need to, just by sitting well and upright (my fatigue is much less, since I don't sit like a fatigued person. Many studies show how the subconscious believes within minutes what the body tells it). I don't know any literature about this in english, but it's helpful to read the research about this, it's eye opening for example how people make different decisions when they sit differently or are more optimistic by sitting upright . Or more open and positive by having their palms face upwards (reminds us of waving somebody towards us) and more resistant and negative by facing their palms downward (reminds us of pushing away something). Our posture also affects which body parts get how much blood (a heat imaging camera shows this clearly).
    Bodhigirl likes this.
  2. Solange

    Solange Well known member

    What interesting information on body posture; I started sitting more upright as I read it.
    I try to stride out confidently when I go for a walk in the park, it makes me feel better and I get to my local cafe quicker too !
    Seriously, it's worth bearing this in mind as it can only be beneficial, I can't think of any drawback to it at all. sometimes the simplest
    things can be really efective.
  3. UnknownStuntman

    UnknownStuntman Peer Supporter

    Yes! Thank you for letting us know how it helped you. I've been hearing about the advantages of 'happy, upright, confident' bodypostures for 20 years and never did it outside of the classes or coachings I took. Reading the studies I just now realized how easy to do and mindchanging it is. No surprise really, since our body is a mirror of our mind and vice versa.
  4. trypp

    trypp Peer Supporter

    This looks very interesting. It reminds me a lot of the step in Alan Gordon's program about Feeling Your Feelings but sounds like it goes into greater depth. Could you tell us a little more about it?
  5. UnknownStuntman

    UnknownStuntman Peer Supporter

    Below is a link to the focusing steps. You can do all of them or just one or some of them if there's less time. Any small step forward with feeling/liking (not that easy with pain) or getting to know your body (like a loving friend who just listens) on a physical feeling level/not on an intellectual level is a big step for feeling better, because it activates a little of the immense power of the subconscious. My body knows, once I lied down and asked my body how it feels like to feel well and the pain disappeared for a while (my mind couldn't have answered that question).

    The key is to go mentally and WITH CURIOSITY TOWARDS the physical sensation or pain and try to be friendly to it, like sitting close to a friend who needs me. The friendlier and closer I am to the pain, the better it can change or melt away (I'm still new at this, it works well with my emotions and sometimes well with the pain, when I could do things I thought were impossible weeks ago, like dancing all night, being alert during a whole weekend seminar). It won't change if I hate it or want to get rid of it, because it doesn't feel listened to. If I still feel anger "I hate this pain" coming up, I go towards that feeling and say "Hi anger, I noticed you're there." If it doesn't disappear I try to get to know the anger or fear before getting to know and learn the language of the pain.

    It's like feeling home and well in more and more parts of the body, until the whole body is reunited with the mind. Like young children or animals, they feel and express with their whole body. Once children are old enough to intellectualize, their bodies can't shake off bad emotions that easily anymore and they may get traumatized because they stop their bodies from expressing because of fear of the anger/sadness/opinion of others. If we can express and feel and not surpress more physical sensations, the body will heal, I think.

    Another good+fun training is to look at things while walking or sitting, like look at a tree, a building, a painting etc. and go back and forth between looking at the image and what and where it feels like in my body.

    Or when somebody asks, how do you feel, and you, like me and most people, intellectually say "Good." "Okay" "Not so good.", ask yourself, how do I know I feel good? How does it feel in my body, that I feel good. And if I don't feel good, how do I know, how does my body tell me I don't feel good (and also very helpful: but where in my body DO I feel good?)

    I remember this from a focusing coaching I watched: A woman had problems to open herself towards men. In the coaching she saw a wall around her right side. When she explored the wall with curiosity and imagined to touch it, she was surpised that she found the bricks beautiful and the wall warm. It "wanted to protect her", which she found moving. After 30 minutes of exploring the wall in A FRIENDLY WAY it turned into a soft blanket she could cover herself with. As a result of the changing felt sense she felt okay with the wall after the coaching, because one site was still open so she could decide if she wanted to step out or not. The images/words were intellectual and just a 'handle'. They may be misleading sometimes, so she checked with her body if they felt right and if it was okay to work with them. What's important is what's in the suitcase (sensations in the body).

    sleepyjay and G.R. like this.
  6. chickenbone

    chickenbone Well known member

    US, excellent post - this is helping me a lot. thanks for posting the link. You are really getting good at this.
  7. UnknownStuntman

    UnknownStuntman Peer Supporter

    Thank you, chickenbone. I've been surprised how well people write and talk on this forum/conference calls. Many people on conference calls put their struggle and psychological challenges so well, it's almost as they wrote and prepaired a speech, I was impressed. But this could mean a lot here are well in touch with their emotions and thoughts, but not with their physical sensations. Becaue these sensations are usually not clear and can't be described with words without pausing, feeling, struggling to describe them and searching for the meaning of these physical feelings. For Gendlin, who studied thousands of taped therapy sessions and coined the phrase felt sense (felt meaning), people who talk without these signs of struggle to describe what's going on inside their body fail in therapy, even with a good therapist and if they cry their eyes out. I believe I'm one of them, so I want to learn this, since I don't do it by nature. I need patience though, since I can't work yet, and still have a part of the road ahead of me.
    Sheree and Leslie like this.
  8. Sheree

    Sheree Well known member

    Thanks for starting this thread US. Will look at it further, but sounds really interesting.
  9. Forest

    Forest Beloved Grand Eagle

    Heya, Unknown, now that you've had a bit more time to go in deep with Focusing, how are you finding it? Likewise for you, Sheree, did you get a chance to look into it? As for myself, when Unknown first posted the thread, I ordered the Audible Audiobook called "Focusing." It's written by Eugene Gendlin who, as you know, is the founder of focusing. It's not an audio version of Gendlin's book by the same name. Rather, it is more like a workshop, where he presents the ideas to you directly. I thought it was quite good - very simple and pleasantly short at about 90 minutes if I remember correctly.

    It was just enough to get me more curious, so I also ordered a four CD set from the Focusing Institute on Learning The Steps of Focusing and a DVD of a documentary called The Focusing Institute Presents: Focusing with Eugene Gendlin Ph.D. You can actually watch the first 10 minutes of the documentary on YouTube:
    Part 1:​
    Part 2:​
    I'll watch the documentary tomorrow, though, to be honest, when I've tried focusing so far, the feedback that I've gotten from my body hasn't been very specific. I get a sense that I am "anxious" or "tight," but it doesn't tell me very much about the feeling, such as what is causing it. I figure it will get better with practice and I'm eager to give it a try. Does that make sense to people?​
    For anyone who doesn't yet know the basics, Focusing seems to be built around 6 steps. The focusing institute (a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people, just like us!) has a nice simple introduction to the six steps:​
    Incidentally, the timing on this will probably be a dealbreaker for you since I think you are in Germany, but we're going to be discussing Focusing and other ways of feeling our feelings in our body in the next call in discussion group. Of course we would love to have you join, but it is at 9:00 PM ET, so we'd of course understand if you couldn't make it. We will be recording it, though, so I'd love to hear your thoughts afterward. Here's the announcement: "For this week's call-in discussion group on Tuesday June 25th, we'll be discussing just this: how to feel your feelings. We'll be looking at the Feel Your Feelings step from Alan Gordon's TMS Recovery Program as well as three threads from the forum that discuss this topic: page 3 of The Importance of Addressing Childhood Issues, UnknownStuntman's The right way of "Focusing " on bodily sensations thread, and my Self Monitoring thread." More details can be found in the announcement thread.​
    Either way, I'm eager to hear an update!​
  10. UnknownStuntman

    UnknownStuntman Peer Supporter

    Hey Forest, I found it very helpful to keep working with Peter Levine's exercises to get the body - step by step - out of the freeze state and find appropriate flight or fight responses to "threats" or just to annoying/scary things/people. It feels like slowly waking up.

    I also practice focusing on my felt sense every day. When I feel mental tension or fear I start to look into my body to see where I feel this tension (shoulders tense, strange feeling in my stomach...). * * * Much more than my mind, my body gives me small early signs, that I need to change something in THIS moment. Then I'm like a captain and just take a break for a minute or slow down a little. * * * This helps a lot to get out of all these thoughts, which are sometimes hard to stop. I start to take things more slowly and listen to my body more. Also I know my pain much better. I found out, that even when my muscles hurt, my skin on these muscles feels fine and many parts in my body don't hurt. These I can visit for "recreation".

    When I think I feel bad and I ask my body "Do I feel good?", I often find out, that I do feel good under these bad feelings or under the pain. I find this hard to put into words, but I feel like I slowly get my body back and also the joy it brings me by just living in it. All of this is fun, like sitting outside in a cafe and looking for felt senses how my body reacts to the birds, trees, children or people I see. Until now the pain hasn't told me what it likes to tell me, but I am more curious towards it and less angry towards it and feel less despair/paralized. Yesterday I just surrendered to the pain and weakness, because it was strong. I just hung out, read books, sat at a coffee shop. I didn't fight or dislike the pain and slowly the day got better and I felt better, I even started making jokes on the phone. I think the key is to read the tiny signs of my body until I can do what my body needs immediately before it has to shout at me with pain to make me finally listen.

    The main advantage is, if I think too much or get anxious, I just look for a felt sense in my body, which either disappears or makes it much easier to deal with than the mental/emotional fear. Thinking "I'M AFRAID!!!" is hard to deal with. Thinking "Oh, there's this strange feeling in my stomach, what is it, fear? I don't care. It's just like butterflies and feels strange." is so much easier. I can do things with "butterflies", they may even disappear once I noticed them, but with this thought/interpretation (!) of FEAR, I tend to feel paralized.

    The bottomline - with my few weeks of experience with doing this daily: It feels much better being in my body (noticing/obeserving what's going on there or how it reacts to nice things/bad things I look at) than in my mind all the time.

    A lot of very helpful things I'd have never found out without this forum. Thank you, Forest, and everybody else who posts or participates!
    Forest and veronica73 like this.
  11. UnknownStuntman

    UnknownStuntman Peer Supporter

  12. G.R.

    G.R. Well known member

    Wow!! I think it will take me a little time to digest this information on focusing. I appreciate all this information. But can someone explain where to start with focusing.
    Maybe, someone can write some simple steps.

    I do know when I focus on the pain; it really increases. I have significantly decreased the fear element. I do feel like when I ignore the pain sometimes
    it goes away and lately I feel it gets angry if I am ignoring it and increases the pain. Does anyone have any comments on that?

    I had been doing really well for sometime. Then, about a week ago the pain came back with such intensity. I am not sure why. What I do remember
    is that I started saying, "I am doing so well." This is the second time this happened that the pain came back when I verbalized I was doing so well. I thought
    that was so interesting!! Can anyone comment on that?

    I so appreciate everyone's insight and knowledge. I very much benefit from everyone's input. I am, also, so thankful for this Forum.
    Thank you Forest for your diligence and thank you to everyone else on the Forum.
  13. Forest

    Forest Beloved Grand Eagle

    Unknown, I just had a moment to read your post June 28 post more carefully, Unknown, and it sounds like you are in a terrific place. It is that magical place, perhaps called mindfulness, where the physical sensations or the emotions (are they really that different?) can come and you can recognize them and let them pass.

    Thanks for a great post. You weave many elements that are very important to TMS healing into your post, so it's fun to read. You've found your own way to diffuse the fight/flight tension, and I think that's a crucial step. You are also listening to your emotions via your body and allowing yourself to be with them, which is wonderful. You've found a way of relating to and communicating with your fear without letting it take you over. It sounds like you've founds something really terrific.

    The New York event sounds great, and I would go, but since I live in a different city, it would be too much travel for me personally. I went to focusing.org, though, and found another training that is in November, so I'll probably sign up for that. I've never had much success with body oriented approaches like Somatic Experiencing before, but I'm up for giving it another try. I'm also tempted to just look up a local trainer and just schedule a session with them. It seems like the one on one interaction is important, so a one-on-one session with a trainer sounds good. Does that sound like a good idea to you?

    Since it sounds like you've made a tremendous amount of progress in terms of managing your mental state, I'm curious, what would you say has helped you the most? Was it the one on one sessions? Something you read? Your own synthesis? Hearing other people's stories?

    GR, I love your new pic! I hate to say it, but I don't know if there is a good way of simplifying the process. Even if there is, I'm not the person to do it! If you are interested, I would poke around the focusing.org website and read things that look relevant. I'd pay special attention to the "Learn Focusing" and "Gendlin Online Library" sections, as they seem particularly helpful. If you can afford it, scheduling a session with a Focusing trainer would, I'm sure, work well, too. Alternatively, getting the book "Focusing" by Gendlin or "The Power of Focusing" by Cornell would be a cost effective way to go deeper.
  14. UnknownStuntman

    UnknownStuntman Peer Supporter

    Hi G.R.,

    I think accepting all emotions, felt senses (pain, anxiety in the stomach and also good ones like physical excitement) and decreasing the fear - which you already made progress with - is the key. I'm mainly working on this. Mainly observing what's going on, not judging it or being afraid of it.

    - Claire Weekes recommends to expect that there will be setbacks and to use them to practice acceptance and not fearing.
    - My nervous system is highly sensitive, I think. When I have a setback and then rest and really slow down, really let myself physically 'break down', I often feel better within a few hours or days. I think my body tells me to take it easy (Elaine N. Aron, The Highly Sensitive Person, she talk mainly about how take care of the own body, like taking loving care of a screaming baby (own body), it can't talk, but wants to tell us something we need to find out)
    - I try to say to the pain and all emotions/fear etc. a friendly "Hi, I noticed, you're there." (a Focusing practice), that way I separate myself from it and try to be positive towards it, after all my body acts like a crying baby, that needs to be taken care of.
    - I try to remember, that it's more important to like the sensations, than to understand them, which isn't always easy with pain. Then the understanding can follow. All the above points helped me to like them more and fear the less. I'm twice as active as a couple of months ago, but can't work yet.
    - You said, you thought you're doing well. I think maybe we're doing very well, if we don't care if we do well or not. (outcome independence)

    I mainly study the works of Elaine Aron, Peter Levine, Claire Weekes or writings about Focusing, which all start with the look at the body and its sensations, and liking and accepting them, just taking care of what the body (as an expression of my subconscious) needs. I don't get confused by all the other psychological/TMS literature anymore, because the people I mentioned all say very similar things and helped thousands of people (often also with chronic pain). Since taking this approach I read much less and help my body much more to relax and be well. I want to do these things, rather than keeping to read about them.
    gailnyc and Birdie like this.
  15. UnknownStuntman

    UnknownStuntman Peer Supporter

    Hi Forest,

    it's great you look into this! What helped me the most is to really stay with this 'body first' approach and to intellectualize and read much less. The healing when I listen to what my body and sensitive nervous system need, seems to be much faster. Intellectually I know what happened in the past and I also felt the emotions etc. This threats are over. But when my body is still in a state of fear, I need to give it what it needs.

    What I like about this, I (!) find out what's going on and words are not that important. The words pain or anxiety can have thousands of different meanings for thousands of different people. If I work with the body, I don't need these words, which are just letters to describe something much more individually complex.

    I also like that I can just sit down and be my own therapist for half an hour with the focusing method. Often surpising things came up like an uncomfortable round feeling in my chest which resulted into the image of a military boot stepping on an egg with a hatching chick. My whole body started shaking after I saw how the boot threatened to crush the chick.

    Another great thing is, that focusing is very effective in a peer situation, I found a person to do this with once a week. We had two meetings and they were great. The good feelings, changes in the body lasted all day for both of us.

    Doing these things alone I often go to fast, become sleepy or don't do them. But since small physical sensations are kind of a navigation system for me now, I do it more often. For example when I feel something uncomfortable, it often takes just a couple of minutes to observe and slow down/stop to feel more relaxed. Yesterday I felt quite tense while having coffee with 4 people. Then I just listened to the flowing water of a well, and tried to 'feel it', after a minute I felt much better and more relaxed. I don't think this would have worked with affirmations or intellectual techniques or just looking at the well.

    The weekend class really helped me, because I noticed as a 'client', that I did these things too fast and the exercises need more time and patience to work well. I also know if I want the best progress I need to work with a partner once a week.

    There's a lot of recent psychological research on this in the area of goal setting. Some leading German/Swiss psychologists found out, that it's very hard to reach a goal if we don't check in with our felt senses in our body, if our body=subconscious wants to reach this goal. If I want to reach a goal, but my subconscious doesn't I'm screwed.
    gailnyc and Birdie like this.
  16. Birdie

    Birdie Peer Supporter

    Hi at all!
    I really love this thread!
    For a few months I am on this track, too. What I do in my daily practice is just sitting down for 20 to 30 minutes and try to be in my body, noticing the different sensations in it, how it feels. Like a kind of modificated body-scan. I like this more than only focusing on my breath to calm down my mind because once I noticed that I don't really live in my body I knew I have to find ways to get "embodied". It's now like trying to learn a new language: my own body-language.
    I really like the idea to do this on a daily routine like Unknown does and not only for a fixed time.
    Affirmations and other techniques that strengthen the neocortex are fine, too. But in the first place I prefere these bottom-up approaches because they make me feel more alive and "at home" (what is a entire new feeling for me, always felt kind of alienated and empty. I really see very slight improvemnt there, sometimes I feel like a human being for a short moment and not like a zombie or a robot). I guess techniques like focusing are also a good way to adress early trauma because these happened at times when the neocortex was not developped well and everything was stored in the implicite brain. So only telling myself that I am feeling fine would eventually miss the source of early trauma which often reveals itself in a very bodily way, making it hard to describe these sensations with words.
    UnknownStuntman, I'm really interested in the names of the German/Swiss psychologists as I am from Germany and always interested in good psycho-stuff ;)
  17. Stock Trader

    Stock Trader Peer Supporter

    I mindfully meditate 2x a day for 20 minutes. During the 20 minutes I cover: breath, body scan, thoughts/emotions, unconscious mind dialogue, and sensations respectively. I started doing this 2 months ago. TMS knowledge + Mindfulness = TMS healing.
  18. crimslock

    crimslock Peer Supporter

    [It won't change if I hate it or want to get rid of it, because it doesn't feel listened to. If I still feel anger "I hate this pain" coming up, I go towards that feeling and say "Hi anger, I noticed you're there." If it doesn't disappear I try to get to know the anger or fear before getting to know and learn the language of the pain.]

    US: Can you explain the above please? I ask because that is me. I hate my burning symptom. I really really hate it so much. Thinking about it makes me mad. Thinking about how and when my first back pain started sends me into a rage. So based on what you have written maybe that’s why I can’t fully heal, that is get rid of the burning symptoms.
  19. UnknownStuntman

    UnknownStuntman Peer Supporter

    Hi crimslock,

    I had the same problem, I still do to a point, but I more often manage to think "Oh, you're there pain. I'm curious what you'd like to tell me." I think the psychologists/authors I mentioned above really help me to be kinder to my symptoms, because they explain very well what's going on in a traumatized body. The pain is just a natural, although not perfect and rather immature, reaction to protect us.

    The best explanation I found, why we don't heal when we're afraid of the symptoms or dislike them, I found in Peter Levine's: In an Unspoken Voice: How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness. He says it's absolutely crucial to separate fear form the symptoms and explains it very well. For me his exercises in his exercise books are very helpful and fun, they always help me to take the edge of my symptoms and sometimes they even disappear.

    Here are three of Levines keys in my own words and understanding (I enjoy doing this, slowly my body becomes my friend again, it takes time and patience, but the body will heal itself):

    - Levine recommends to just observe the symptoms as a freeze responds of the body, feel into them (how big is the pain, what shape does it have in the body, does the pain is sharp or razor like or...), without thinking about them or interpreting them. That separates the fear/anger about it from the pain and it will start to change (He says this is always the key and he helped thousands even with extreme traumatization, inability to take part in life).

    - He also recommends to not be afraid of the freeze response (in our case pain). Many of us are afraid of this immobility, because it feels like death, laziness, people may judge us, because we don't participate as much in society. The key is to let the pain be pain and accept to be debilitated for while as a natural healing process. I now just hang out and do nothing, without feeling bad or guilty about it. This way the months of debilitation of the past don't take that long anymore, because I stopped fighting it, just let it be. Just let the body break down and BELIEVE I WILL GET BETTER FASTER IF I LET MY BODY BREAK DOWN (my mind just observes calmly how my body 'collapses'). The body naturally heals itself from this state, when there is not fear of the symptoms or fighting the symptoms.

    - Accept, NOTICE and practice the natural pendular movements in the body. There are always both sides. One day I feel debilitated, next day I feel good. One minute I feel anger/anxiety because of the symptoms, the next minute I am comfortable with them. It's natural. It's helpful to practice this and finding more and more places in the body and mind I feel comfortable with. We tend to forget, that where's pain, there's always also the opposite somewhere in the body, and where ther's anger/tension, there's also somewhere in the body or some time later relaxation and joy.

    - Always practice to feel ALL the feelings through, emotionally or in the body. And notice and ALWAYS TRUST: They always change! (when I'm not tense/angry/anxious about the feelings) Don't surpress any joy, happiness, smile, painful memories, tension, sexual excitement, anger, anxiety, thirst...... For example I noticed I surpress joy, now I try to allow myself to have fun more. This is a key to feel alive again and get away from the debilitation.
  20. UnknownStuntman

    UnknownStuntman Peer Supporter

    Hi birdie,
    sprichst Du deutsch?

    Maja Storch's "Embodiment. Die Wechselwirkung von Körper und Psyche verstehen und nutze." has some great examples and studies about how our body=subconscious can assist us. These opened my eyes to see getting the felt senses of my body on my side not just as an asset, but a necessity. It has chapters written by some other leading psychologists. I copied parts of the book. Write me if you'd like them as a pdf.

    Here's some pioneer work based on recent studies. What's new is that all goals someone wants to achieve MUST have only positive somatic responses in the body (like a smile, faster heartbeat, change of skin color in the face), and no negative 'somatic markers' in the body:


    Storch wrote some good books in German. Independent of the whole method, the chapter about goal setting and checking goals/affirmations for a exclusively positive somatic response in the body is ingenious. If my body(=subconscious) doesn't right away react positively to a goal/affirmation, the goal needs to be rephrased as often as necessary. If it reacts very positive (I smile, when I think about it, relax or my heart pounds (all great!!!), but I also feel some tiny tension/fear in my belly, then the goal also needs to be rephrased until my body/subconscious/felt senses react just positively.

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