Wednesday, 20 November 2019
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Eugene Gendlin supports the Literacy of the Pause

By Eugene Gendlin Ph.D.

The purpose of these pages is to support the Literacy of the Pause. The project is in line with our procedures and findings, and brings us a major further development.

We will discuss:

a) Why we think that his plan for world expansion is a real possibility

b) Scientific corroboration of the project

c) Our practical results

d) His project will be especially effective because it includes both, focusing and environmental, agricultural, and economic dimensions

a) Why we think his plan for world expansion is “a real possibility":

We think that his plan to expand his project worldwide is possible and practical. We have active branches in 40 countries. They are all likely to welcome his innovation enthusiastically.

In recent years we have developed our own “community wellness” groups in Afghanistan, Pakistan, El Salvador and some new efforts in other countries. We welcome his innovation and expansion.

Hernandez has developed a simpler, more direct method of teaching focusing through the pause. His teachers teach it to a new group in an intensive day or two. It still takes us much longer. His method includes many small specific exercises to find the pause and to build the habit of enacting it. These are original creations of his, yet basically he teaches by means of a single thing, the pause. His teachers enact the pause themselves at all times in their interaction with everyone. They use any topic present at the moment as the occasion for enabling people to find the pause, and a few seconds of deeper connection to themselves. This appears to be a much more rapid mode of teaching. It also people to pass the training on quite naturally as they pause in their interactions with others.

b) Scientific corroboration of the project:

Our findings show that human beings live in their interactions and situations directly with their bodies. That explains why we are more visible through our bodies than we know. So much of what we would care about goes by untouched. It is not only a question of information. Much energy and unique capacities and possibilities for action lie untouched in one's body. This has long been well known in general, but the direct role of the body in our situations was not well understood.

In recent decades we have discovered that there is a kind of attention where one can experience the edge of one's bodily living. The body responds to a certain kind of attention. With a little training people can learn to put their attention inside their bodies and to let a physical quality come. What comes might be expansive, or constricted, heavy, jumpy, or no word for it, just . . . this quality.

Then little steps come from this quality: For example, one might find: “Oh . . . this! is happening . . . and also that! . . .). A realization of many facts together comes all in one cluster, just with the words “Oh, this!” If it were verbalized, would be “Oh, I'm getting impatient with him because he doesn't understand. I see. What I said has upset him so he has no room to take in what I'm saying.” But these words remain implicit, just “Oh, this!” And then more comes: “Oh, and that! . . .”

New possibilities are implicit in what comes. If there had been words, it might be, for example: “I could say my point in another way . . .” But immediately there is a better feeling comes along with a new version of what I want to say. That can then be said, or one can await a still better version to come.

The bodily life process is always remarkably specific, just so, just this way, stubbornly just this quality although one cannot define it, and with just these emergent steps although they may surprise us.

The bodily quality is like a small door through which one can be in touch with the body's version of what is happening. One can do this at any time if one pauses.

We find that the very act of attending in this way relaxes the whole body, even when one begins from something that is anything but relaxing. Our findings on the physiological measures have shown increasing relaxation while subjects are focusing on what was greatly upsetting. The reason for these paradoxical findings is that in focusing one is no longer merged with an experience, no longer reactive to it. One becomes the larger person who has this and this experience.

Our quantitative research has many times shown in recorded interviews of therapy and counseling relationships) that the individuals who frequently pause and then correct what they had said before the pause are significantly (.01) more likely to be those who are later found to have changed on many personality measures.

Our bodies as not like machines we first build and only then turn on. The living body builds itself from a single cell, and never stops generating and re-generating itself in the context of acting, feeling, and thinking. When we perform a skillful action, the body re-generates its whole system of muscles, nerves, and circulation very precisely in accordance with our thoughtful task.

Thinking is a bodily-sentient process. A thought is not something static; it always implies further steps that have not yet come. Every thought implies beyond itself. This is because every living organism implies further steps of living. Organisms don't consist of fixed “things” that just are. Life is never locked into a fixated pattern, but people in some situations feel utterly fixated, when they are not in touch with the bodily-ongoing life process.

c) Our practical results:

We find that focusing is a powerful addition to a great variety of human activities. It increases the effectiveness of social efforts to improve something, because it connects the proposed improvement to the embodied people who can then recreate it as their own, from inside.

In every field there are efforts to teach better ways, to change how people have been feeling and doing things. But if such a change really happens, it happens at a deeper level that is not available to many people. Most organizations don't know how to enable people to contact that level in themselves. Then what is offered does not reach where people can really find it in themselves. So the aim is only occasionally achieved. Focusing enables people to reach “there” where what is aimed at can actually happen. That is why focusing is a crucial addition in so many fields.

With prisoners in jail for violence, focusing has significantly reduced recidivism, shown in a quantitative research study with replications. (Bierman.) From focusing the prisoners say “The situation is different each time.” Now when they are infuriated they don't \immediately act out. It seems the same fury each time, but now they stop and focus. They find the bodily quality, and from it the present situation which is different each time. Focusing has been employed by Catholic churches (Campbell and McMahon), Buddhist Sanghas (Aitkin, Rome, Heuman), Jewish communities (Perl stein) and Muslims (Omidian, Muhammad). An international conference in its tenth year is applying focusing with children and in schools. In business focusing has found a great many uses. These are just a few of the applications of focusing.

From Afghanistan Nina Joy Lawrence tells many stories (Focusing web page.) Here is one of them:

A villager argues with his neighbor: This water belongs to his land; the neighbor claims it for his. The villager gets very angry and goes back to his house to get a weapon to fight with. Now he is holding his weapon and is about to go out the door full of fury, when it occurs to him – from his focusing training: “Wait . . . maybe I have a guest.” He puts the weapon aside, sits down and becomes quiet so as to find “the guest.”

In Afghanistan they teach focusing with Rumi's poem which says, “To be a human being is a guest house. Every day some guests come, a meanness, an anger, a joy ... welcome them all.”

The man says, “Maybe I have a guest.” Since he is filled with fury he is not wondering whether he has a feeling. The “guest” is not that feeling, not the anger. He doesn't need to sit down and get quiet to find that. It's clear that he becomes quiet to find something that isn't utterly obvious like his fury. Here there is a radical break between the known fury and becoming quiet to find the unknown guest.

Then the villager goes back up to his neighbor and says “I'm sorry I was going to fight you. I know if I were starving you would feed me.” The neighbor says “A minute ago you were crazy, now you're normal. What happened to you in between?” He told him about focusing. Then the neighbor wanted to learn focusing. Now they have a house in the village with rooms for teaching focusing.

Focusing is a major addition to the other modes of non-violence. (It is being widely combined with NVC). And it does not only make peace between specific individuals, but it brings new possibilities for everyone else that might resolve the conflict situation now leading to violence between the groups.

A provincial official in Afghanistan wrote us at length about focusing with their population traumatized by 30 years of war there. Then he added: “And it has also made us more peaceful in our own organizations.”

d) The project will be especially effective because it combines focusing with environmental, agricultural, and economic dimensions:

The lack of combination has defeated many efforts to achieve different kinds of development separately. Their combination greatly maximizes the effectiveness of each effort.

Interior change is limited as long as the concrete situation one has to live in every day remains the same. But learning new skills and actually using new ways is also very limited without an interior change.

Hopelessness and helplessness make a lack of motivation and energy. The impetus to action does not come. One is “used to” living as one has lived. The capacities of every human being, and the unique project of this individual don't arise. That changes when doable skills and ways to change the situation are taught together with contacting one's bodily living process from inside. One finds an energy and a groundedness one never knew.

Hernandez cites a dramatic example. His organization connects small farmers to an international market for special products they can learn to grow. This is something so crucial and obvious, but isolated communities could not possibly have found it alone. Now they can do it on their own.

Social and individual development imply and require each other. That is another reason why we welcome this project which supplies dimensions we have not been able to provide so far.

Complete or partial reproduction is permitted, provided the source is acknowledged. Copyright: Focusing Ecuador.