A crack in the shield

Focusing as a way of coming back 'home' to ourselves

Anna Jongeleen*

"Many people are very remote from themselves and the focusing process allows them step by step, to open up again these channels of contact to their inner selves and the world." Founder of the Focusing Institute and Philosophy, Eugene Gendlin

This is the third time we meet. Suzan sits in front of me in awe of the new found connection with herself.  "Wow!" she bursts out, "this feels so new". She thought the Focusing technique would be a means to get herself more into focus on a mind level:"To get myself back on track".  The understanding of the word focusing she, and most of us have,  is one where we experience ourselves and the world as “being in or out of focus” or “lost on track. While Focusing she starts to realize what she has been missing out on all this time… an inner, experiential connection with her whole self. She is starting to glimpse the intimacy of this new found connection.

This young woman came to me after experiencing a period of sheer depression, and when at the peak of it, she had the profound realization of seeing how she shielded herself from herself, life and other people around her. Too afraid of sharing what was felt inside, she got used to either hiding, not talking, or running away from conflicting events in her life. Upon this realization she decided it was time to change, and called up a dear friend. She began, for the first time in her life, sharing her depression. A huge step for this young woman.  In our last session she realized that this pattern stems from very early age, ever  since she can remember herself as a child.

Her 'exposure' to friends and husband regarding her feelings and inabilities, gave her the courage to seek  more professional help, and thus ended up sitting with me learning how to practice "Focusing".

Focusing is a way of connection to your body, using the word body in the most extended possibility. In focusing, body contains the physical, the emotional, the mental,  the energy ,the spiritual and the unknown realms. To be able to be in touch with these realms, we put our attention on what Focusing founder Gendlin calls “the organism”.  The organism is our whole interconnected bodily system, including all those realms. We make contact, focus on what we call in Focusing, the felt sense. The felt sense incorporates what is felt and focused on as sensations, emotions, energy or thought that is somehow bundled together, unclear, vague and may be very, very remote at first. Focusing on the felt sense, is like we used to get a focus with the old non digital cameras. Turning the lens slowly and patiently until we get the picture in focus.

Suzan sits in front of me, eyes closed. "There is so much in my head" :she says. " it is completely packed in here"

I gently mirror her what I just heard;" There is so much in your head, completely packed"

Suzan: 'yes… it goes outside of my head too"

Me: ' the fullness feeling also continues outside of your head..."

Suzan: ' a constant stream of thoughts, planning, worrying, thinking …always  busy.."

Me:  ' your head is always busy, thinking, worrying.. Is it ok to just be with this constant stream in your head flowing out? Sensing the feeling of it?"

Suzan: "I'll try..."


She now pauses for a while. Until this moment she had been talking constantly. Explaining me how her insight had come to her in the midst of her depression. Realizing she had been holding back herself from life from sheer fear of failure or even success. The thought of being recognized for her talents and qualities even scared her more than the possibility of failure.  She kept on talking about the lack of confidence, and how that created a bubble around her making it unable to share her feelings with others and to manifest herself in this world.

She is 'sitting' for a long moment with this busy feeling in her head, pausing, listening and sensing into this experience. She is making contact with the felt sense of it.

She no longer is 'it'; she is 'with' it.


Me: ' Is there a sense of it?"

Suzan:' Wow!" she bursts out, "this feels so new!'

And opens her eyes with an exciting surprised look.

Me: 'There was something in this experience that felt so new!'

Suzan:' I could feel this 'buzzzzz' in my head. And then I realized that I always thought that I am that 'buzzzzzz'. And then I started to doubt what then( if not the buzzzzzz) I am… and then I got a strong headache…'

Me: ' So you could really sense this 'buzzzzz' in there and understood that you are not that 'buzzzz', that there is You and It. And a doubt arose of who you really are…. 

Suzan: 'yes! The headache is really getting strong now… Wow! I got something new here!'

Me:' You really got something new here…'(emphasizing the 'new')

Suzan: Rubbing her head, and nodding. She is quiet, with this inward attention.

We stayed a little longer with the 'new' feeling. Giving it some more space and acknowledgment although there also was a strong urge to stop the session. Focusing was still very new to her, and her capacity to stay with something hadn't expanded fully yet. It is a new skill to be learned. To be able to be with an inner experience, to allow it to be whatever it is in the moment. To be able to contain the whole experience, not to resist or reject and to address it with empathy and kindness so it will open up and show us more and more details about itself. While listening to it, to the felt sense, an interactive dialog has started. There now is an I, who's listening, Focusing, and an It, a felt sense, which is opening up, bringing forth new information and connections. In this dynamic 'dialog' between the I and the It, there is a space. A new found space… and that's where the miracles happen…where new steps arise, where life is evolving forward often in the most unexpected ways. The Focusing process often moves in erratically lines, seemingly going back and then forth, up and down, left and right. Sometimes information comes up that seemingly has no relation with the steps before. Even the headache Suzan felt has its meaning. It might be the body's way to pull the brakes.. Suzan was maybe trying too hard, or the fear of what might come next was too overwhelming and created the headache. But more possibly there is a meaning in there that is still unknown to us, and has much more to it then we can imagine.

Esther has been coming to me punctually every week for Focusing sessions. A few months ago she realized through profound inner experiencing, how she had been shielding herself from life, including her own inner life. She started to experience a totally new way, for her, of experiencing life. One that was felt as freer, more authentic, spontaneous and kinder. As many of us, she had been used to living with an inner harsh dialogue, just like the young woman Suzan that we met before. This 'shield' is a product of a survival mechanism that includes a certain harshness toward oneself, pushing oneself onwards with  life when met with overwhelming difficult experiences in  childhood. The child 'self' has to create a shield, between oneself and the overwhelming emotions and sensations a very difficult or traumatic experience give rise to, and between the  sense of self and the outside world in order to cope with it. Many patterns, beliefs, convictions, identifications and emotional pains are connected to this formation of a 'shield'.

"Ring the bells that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering

There is a crack in everything

That's how the light gets in."

* Anthem, Leonard Cohen


In the focusing process we know to give as much time as needed for all the threats woven into this shield to melt away. "You cannot go slower than the slowest process" is a focusing slogan often used.

The arising of fear is natural in this process of getting to know one's true nature. Taking it slow is critical, being very gentle and allowing the seemingly tiniest steps to unfold, and even being ok with the breaks in the focusing process that can happen.

In later meetings with Suzan it became clear that the 'new' feeling was the glimpse of a whole new connection to herself. As if looking into a fully packed room suddenly realizing how much stuff there is in there, and upon 'seeing' the stuff realizing that 'she' is seeing it instead of 'identifying with it. Hence allowing the opening up to the possibility of also experiencing the room itself and the space in it, in where all this stuff 'sits'. A room with breathe. A room that is able to contain all of the 'stuff'.  A room with space that allows life forwarding process steps to unfold evolve and change.  A space in where 'I' can listen to 'It'.

She now is starting to be very successful in her career. No longer blocked by the fear (that still arises but now is more heard, and contained) of success or failure, of sharing her feelings, of pursuing her innermost dreams…

Every step in the Focusing process will bring us closer of being in contact with what is experienced inside one's self and in allowing the Focusing process to lead us toward transforming from being hidden, stuck in identifications and beliefs, into authentic, free, human beings. At home in and with ourselves and the world we live in.

" Your first power is oneness power, the power that comes from you as awareness being one with you as knowing and you as meaning, and you as awareness not shielding off from you as knowing just because you can. You have all of the power to be at one with what all of you really is."  John Deruiter

Imagine again this fully packed room full of stuff. These things are your beliefs, concepts, convictions, memories, judgments, emotions and so on. Now take a few steps back and just look at all the stuff in there. Sense how that makes you feel. Take a breath, and shift your focus to the empty space in between the stuff. Check how much space there is for you in relation to the volume of the stuff. Sense how that makes you feel. Allow the connection with the empty space in which all your stuff exists to expand. More and more. And feel the sensation in your body. There is your body and there is the accumulated stuff in there. And there is You and all that empty space containing all of your Self.

"Wow, this feels so new!" might become the alive feeling of every new step in your life process no matter what is encountered.

 Focusing is an invitation to come back home to one's whole, ever new, natural Self. Focusing restores our connection with our inner life flow and heals the inner patterns. Focusing brings a sense of belonging, of trust to one's inner power, life's process and the ever changing newness of life.

  *Anna Jongeleen

Certified Focusing Professional, Child Focusing. Working as a  Holistic  Body Therapist and Creative Child Counselor. Teaching Focusing Body Work and  in training to teach Focusing basic course with Focusing Coordinators Ifat Eckstein and Anat Miron. BA in Arts. Currently living and working in Israel.


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