A 30-Minute Technique to Deal With Emotional Discomfort

30 January 2023
A picture of a person wearing sunglasses in front of a graffity wall to show the empowerment of a life well-lived.
By Ben Schoelzel
As the soul and the brain of Samaṇa, Ben focuses on changing his being in the world via a 2-hour daily meditation practice, authentic relating and interpersonal meditation, as well as in an ongoing IFS-practice. He started writing poems in his teenage year and rediscovered his joy for writing with the newsletter and articles for Samaṇa.

The ups and downs of life

We all go through the ups and downs of life: losing a job, not getting a promotion, losing a friend or partner, something turning out different than we expected or hoped it would, ... The list is endless. That's why one of the four facets of the Samaṇa Program is cleaning up: learning & practicing emotional healing.

One of the techniques we teach in that facet is Gendlin's Focusing technique. I've written some brief instructions below, feel free to reach out to me should you run into any issues or have any questions. You can simply reach us via our contact form.
Focusing is a method of self-exploration and problem-solving developed by philosopher and psychologist Eugene Gendlin. The goal of focusing is to access one's "felt sense," a bodily sensation or intuition that can provide insight into one's thoughts and feelings. Focusing can be used to gain a deeper understanding of oneself, to solve problems, and to make decisions.

The steps are as follows:

  1. Preparation: Begin by taking a moment to relax into your body and focus on being positive and content in the moment.
  2. Clearing a Space: Start by asking yourself "How do I feel?" and "Why don't I feel great right now?" Then, make a mental list of the problems that are currently affecting you, both long-term and immediate. Focus on being mindful of these problems in your awareness for a minute, but don't delve into them further.
  3. Finding the Felt Sense: Ask yourself which problem is the biggest, heaviest, or worst, or choose one to focus on. Hold that problem in mind and pay attention to the sensations in your body. Try to get a holistic sense of the problem and your body's response to it. Look for a vague, fuzzy, unclear feeling that corresponds to the whole problem. This feeling is called the "felt sense." Stay with the felt sense for a minute, but don't try to break it down or think about it intellectually.
  4. Finding a Handle: Try to find a word or short phrase that captures the entire feeling of the problem. This should arise naturally from observing the felt sense and is not something you should generate intellectually. Keep trying different words until you find one that feels accurate and clicks with the entire felt sense. When you have found the right handle, observe the felt sense through the lens of this handle until it stabilizes.
  5. Asking: Directly ask the felt sense "What is this?" "What is it about this whole thing that makes me so [handle]?" "What is the worst of this?" "What does this felt sense need?" Use the handle to keep the felt sense present in the moment and wait for an answer. Ignore any intellectual answers that come to mind and wait for a response from your body. Repeat the question if necessary.
  6. Receiving: When an answer comes, you may get a word or phrase that captures the new handle. Don't worry about believing the answer or thinking about its implications, just focus on the new handle. Sit with the new handle and the felt sense together for a minute.
  7. Stopping or Continuing: Imagine stopping the process and see how it feels or imagine continuing and see how that feels. Do what feels right to you. If you stop, remember the previous handle and how it shifted to the new one for later recall. If you continue, start again at "Finding the Felt Sense," but use the current handle to interact with the felt sense.

Maintain a positive, curious, and objective attitude

This process takes practice to be effective and may involve several shifts in the felt sense to reach resolution for a given problem. It is important to maintain a positive, curious, and objective attitude throughout the process. The book "Focusing" provides more information on common obstacles and challenges at each step, as well as helpful techniques for addressing them and examples to guide you.

It's important to be open and non-judgmental when focusing, and to avoid trying to push away or suppress any sensations or feelings that come up. Instead, allow yourself to be with them and explore them.

How about you put half an hour aside this week to give this technique a shot when something troubles you?

If you’re ready to explore your inner world deeper, why not start your quest with Samaṇa?

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The information in this article is provided as an information resource only and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes. Please consult a professional for guidance about a specific condition.