GETME

Gestalt/Experiential Training of Maine


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Gendlin’s Original Six Steps

FocusingBookWhen Gendlin and his colleagues discovered that people who focused had better psychotherapy outcomes than those who didn’t, he set out to come up with a way to turn non-focusers into focusers.

It was with this in mind that he put together the original Six Steps: a set of instructions to locate and make use of the felt sense.

The original steps include instructions not to slavishly follow the six steps if there’s anything about them that makes it more difficult to focus. Since Gendlin first wrote his book Focusing, many others have adapted focusing instructions in ways they felt more more complete or accessible, or worked better for different populations or problems.

Still, you might as well hear it straight from the source.

I don’t know if it goes without saying — Gendlin says it explicitly as he introduces his steps — but it’s much easier to learn focusing with someone that by reading about it by oneself.


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Cornell’s “Three Key Aspects of Focusing”

awcThe GETME training groups are now diving into Focusing. (See What is Focusing.)

Ann Wieser Cornell is probably the best known focusing teacher after Gene Gendlin. In this essay, Cornell talks about what she sees as the key aspects of Focusing, and what makes it different from other personal growth approaches: The Felt Sense, the Focusing Attitude, and Focusing’s Philosophy of Change.

Cornell’s most famous book is The Power of Focusing.

Three Key Aspects of Focusing


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Rogers’ Definition of Empathy

Carl Rogers made empathy the cornerstone of his approach. But what, exactly, is empathy? Rogers spent his career thinking deeply about this question. Here’s the definition he offered in his 1959 chapter:

Carl Rogers“The state of empathy, or being empathic, is to perceive the internal frame of reference of another with accuracy, and with the emotional components and meanings which pertain thereto, as if one were the other person, but without ever losing the “as if” condition.

Thus it means to sense the hurt or the pleasure of another as he senses it, and to perceive the causes thereof as he perceives them, but without ever losing the recognition that it is as if I were hurt or pleased, etc. If this “as if” quality is lost, then the state is one of identification.”

Later, Rogers came to believe that empathy was better thought of as a “process” than a “state.” In a lecture delivered in 1974, he talked about empathy this way:

“The way of being with a person, which is termed “empathic,” has several facets:

It means entering the private perceptual world of the other, and becoming thoroughly at home in it. 

It involves being sensitive, moment-to-moment, to the changing felt meanings which flow in this other person — to the fear, or rage, or tenderness, or confusion, or whatever, that he or she is experiencing. 

It means temporarily living in his life, moving about in it delicately, without making judgments, sensing meanings of which he is scarcely aware, but not trying to uncover feelings of which is totally unaware, since this would be too threatening.

CRogers3It includes communicating your sensings of his world, as you look with fresh and unfrightened eyes, at elements of which he is fearful.  It means frequently checking with him as to the accuracy of your sensings, and being guided by his responses. 

You are a confident companion to him in his world. By pointing to the possible meanings in the flow of his or her experiencing, you help him to focus on this useful type of referent, to experience his meanings more fully, and move forward in his or her experiencing.

Now to be with another in this way it means that for the time being, you lay aside the views and values that you hold for yourself, in order to enter his world without prejudice. In some sense it means that you lay aside yourself; and this can only be done by a person secure enough in himself that he knows he will not get lost in what may turn out to be the strange or bizarre world of the other. and can comfortably return to his own world when he wishes.

Being empathic is a complex, demanding, strong, yet subtle and gentle way of being.