Positive Focusing

Gendlin’s technique of Focusing primarily focuses (hehe) on problems or negative felt senses. Something I have not seen discussed much is that one can apply the concepts of Focusing to many different felt senses that are not problems, or even negative in any way.

At least in my experience, you can equally investigate good feelings with Focusing as you can problems. And, much as Focusing on a problem improves your understanding of that problem, Focusing on a positive felt sense can improve your understanding of what makes you feel good. By repeatedly investigating feeling good in this way, I think it makes it much easier to piece together an accurate picture of what really makes you happy.

The idea of positive Focusing may be unclear, so I’ll try to describe how one might go about it, although it is very similar to standard Focusing.

Upon noticing, “Hey, I feel amazing right now,” take a moment to feel that sense in your body. Where do you feel amazing? Is it a sort of warm glow in your stomach and chest? Is it a prickling of excited jubilation along your skin? This is finding the “handle” of the feeling.

Once you have found the feeling stay with it and ask “what is this amazing feeling all about?” And then, here is the critical part, do not answer. At least not with an analytical response. Make that part of your mind stay quiet, or if you cannot quite do that, at least ignore its suggestions, regardless of how correct they seem.

Just feel the sense of this amazingness and try to allow images, words, phrases, or sensations to come from the feeling. Some word or sense will arise from the feeling, and your understanding will shift. Maybe from the felt sense of amazing, you find the word “whole”. Try to check the word against the feeling, to see if it feels right. If it does, but the sense still feels unclear, or feels as though it has shifted to something slightly different, trying asking again. What is it about this feeling that is wholeness? Maybe you see a flash of the people you have been talking to all day. Reflect that image against the feeling, is that right?

You might learn you take more joy in social interaction than you previously thought, you just had never found the right dynamic before.

This connection may seem obvious, as though one could clearly have figured this out just with normal reasoning. And absolutely one could, however, people have very strong self-images. And if one’s self image is that they are “a lone wolf type” they may not notice this data point to the contrary unless they Focus on their good feelings.

To give a personal example that further illustrates the point, I used to think of myself as someone who was very spontaneous and did not like to plan or organize things any more or any sooner than absolutely necessary. I thought that was just the kind of person I am and getting overly organized would just feel wrong.

But I felt a lot of aberrant bouts of anxiety. I probably could have figured out the problem through standard Focusing but I was having trouble with the negative feeling. And I found it easier to focus on positive feelings, so I began to apply Focusing to when I felt happy. And a common trend that emerged from good felt senses was a feeling of being in control of my life. And it turned out that this feeling of being in control came from having planned to do something I wanted to do and having done it. I would not have noticed that experiences of having planned well made me feel so good through normal analysis because that was just completely contrary to my self-image. But by Focusing on what made me have good feelings, I was able to shift my self-image to be more accurate. I like having detailed plans. Who would have thought? Certainly not me.

Once I realized that my self-image of enjoying disorganization was actually the opposite of what actually made me happy I was able to begin methodically organizing and scheduling my life. Since then, those unexplained bouts of anxiety have vanished and I feel happier more of the time.

It is generally easier for me to Focus in this way and it may be easier for others as well, so I thought it might be useful to bring up. I think it is likely to be less effective in solving specific problems, but more useful in some cases for changing an incorrect or self-defeating self-image. Has anyone tried anything similar? Does it work for you?