Thursday, 27 January 2022
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Mary Hendricks Supports the Literacy of the Pause

Focusing and the Literacy of the Pause

By Mary Hendricks-Gendlin, PhD., Director, The Focusing Institute

We are often asked, “What is Focusing?” There are many ways of talking about Focusing. Here is a good description by one of our trainers who is a farmer in California, USA:

A felt sense is "of" something. It forms in relation to some real situation or question which I am “holding” When a felt sense is first forming, it is quite delicate. By that I mean that I "have" it but cannot yet "do" anything with it. If I try to say something too soon I might destroy it. Sometimes in that case I will just say the word "something", just to mark it a little, to point to its occurring, as it is, without laying anything on it from the outside.

Other times I feel something more definite, more certainly there, right away. But maybe I cannot begin to say, to symbolize, what it feels like. It has its own quality, which I am very much noticing, but that is not yet close to words I can say. I have to take a moment, maybe several, just sensing it, noticing, being with it. Usually, if I just hang out there with it for a while, then maybe I can say something initial, like "dispersed, ....granular....sharpish....". I try not to be in any hurry to squeeze out "meaning". I've come to understand that a felt sense IS ALREADY meaning, probably a whole slew of meanings. It's just not become explicit yet, and never does become completely explicit. --Neil Dunaetz

This relationship between a bodily felt experiencing and symbols (words, images, gestures) is the core of Focusing. Because the core is content free, the process of Focusing is applicable to any human activity.

“Focusing is a force for peace because it frees people from being manipulated by external authority, cultural roles, ideologies and the internal oppression of self attacking and shame. This freeing has to do with an ability to pause the on-going situation and create a space in which a felt sense can form.” --from Focusing as a Force for Peace: The Revolutionary Pause Keynote Address, 2003 Focusing International Conference in Germany given by Mary Hendricks-Gendlin, Ph.D.
Director of The Focusing Institute

When you pause, you step out of the current situation, and you “have” the situation rather than being only inside it.

We would like every person in the world to have a basic literacy in this felt-sensing process, the same way that reading and writing are also becoming universal skills. This is stated in our Vision Statement:

TFI will have achieved its purpose when a substantial proportion of populations in all countries and cultures and social classes know how to focus for themselves and/or in Focusing Partnerships which are free of charge. This is like felt-meaning-making literacy as a goal for the world.

The Community Wellness program

We have a special interest in what has come to be known as Community Wellness Focusing. A number of projects have been initiated in this area. There are currently projects in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Gaza, El Salvador, and Nepal. There is also a pilot project in Argentina, teaching Focusing in a very short time to women who live in the slums, which is also showing success. Because of these projects, we know that the FECD Focusing project can work.

In the Community Wellness projects we have learned how to adapt Focusing to different cultures. One example: the anthropologist Pat Omidian adapted Focusing to the culture of Afghanistan by using the Rumi poem “The Guest House.” Because the poem is well known in Afghanistan, and because receiving guests is an important part of the Afghan culture, the poem was a natural teaching vehicle through which everyone could easily understand Focusing.

In El Salvador, Focusing is being introduced through Non Violent Communication (NVC). The initial introduction of Focusing in El Salvador was through Provida, a grassroots NGO that provides medical and mental health services all over El Salvador. Before the workshops, a psychologist suggested that it might be better to start out with Non Violent Communication instead of Focusing, because there had been some conflicts on the staff. Combining Focusing with NVC has continued to be a successful approach in El Salvador.

William’s adaptation of Focusing in the Literacy of the Pause methodology is totally consistent with what we’ve learned from these earlier projects. Focusing has been proven effective across cultures and social strata, in the Community Wellness projects. In addition, Focusing itself has a very solid research base which shows success in different kinds of settings. There are hundreds of studies done over the last several decades.

We get outcomes which are very moving. One woman villager from Afghanistan said after a workshop, “Now I know I should not beat my children. I can listen to them.” Another: “Now we know that we are people just like everyone else. We have dignity. We just don’t have many material goods.”

The Literacy of the Pause

We are happy that The Focusing Institute and FECD are working out ways to collaborate on the Literacy of the Pause project. What William Hernandez is doing is an exciting next step, which is both supported and corroborated by everything that has come before it in the last decades.

William saw the applicability of Focusing to any human activity, immediately. He understood that the pausing is what enables the felt sense to come. It automatically puts one into the place in the body from which Focusing comes. Speaking from there, one experiences the “carrying forward” of the living body. He has developed an adaptation of Focusing—the literacy of the pause—that can help everyone, including the poorest villager who has never had a notion of an “inside the body” awareness, and has probably never even been listened to one to one. And it is beneficial for William’s own team, and even the Board! It improves the quality of life in any relationships. William’s adaptation is a very simple way of directly experiencing from the felt sense level.

Saying your name or the names of your children after a pause, for most people will make the felt sensing level form immediately. William has created a number of such exercises to help find the felt sense. He allows people to identify where it is for them. It lets people find out what they think about anything.

He also made up a new term: “The Felt.” By making feelings into a noun, it has a whole different quality. If he said “felt sense” it would not make sense and to use the word “feelings” which usually means emotions to people, is inaccurate. But “go to The Felt” brings one down into the body in the stomach where the felt sense usually usually comes.

We embrace with enthusiasm William’s adaptation. It can be so easily done in a short time and therefore has a potential to spread around the world. We feel his proposal to train 50 Focusers in The Literacy of the Pause can make a significant difference in the world.

We would be using the cascade model as is used now by William. This has also been done in Afghanistan. Our efforts to teach one group which will teach the next layer is self perpetuating and does not cost money after the initial group is trained. We teach the local team, who in turn train the villagers, or anyone who is part of a system infrastructure and so can pass on the understanding to many others.

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