Socialising and spending quality time with people whose company we enjoy is a remarkable way to heal ourselves. Meditation at the other end of the spectrum, whilst keeping oneself company, is yet another way of self-healing. When we pick a friend to spend time with we do so keeping in mind certain things. Like will this friend listen to my stories with undivided attention? Will he or she offer me empathy rather than advice? Will this friend sit by me quietly and not shower me with opinions like, “you should have….or you should not have….done this….or that?” Being a friend to another in need is one of the most enriching experiences one can have, if only one has the ability to offer pure compassion being to being.
A Friend to the Friendless
For those who suffer from the void of not having friends with whom to unburden, life can become self oriented. Such people look to themselves for healing. The answers to life’s difficult questions lie within and they go on a search into psychological depths.
Luckily, alternate therapies of different lineages have ample methods and directions to go about healing oneself. One such glorious path is called Focusing. Psychologist Eugene Gendlin has left behind a legacy of life-changing potential derived from the use of this therapy.
The Felt-sense of Focusing
Focusing uses the concept of “felt sense”, an ability to recognise that which falls between a feeling state (in the mind) and a sensation (in the body), both arising within the mind-body construct. Mostly, we live life without knowing the kind of daily warfare taking place within us, as we are concentrated a lot on the external. Consequently harm is being done at a psychological as well as physiological level, much of it out of our conscious awareness.
Using a partner, or a therapist, in this work is highly beneficial, to work through the deeper complexities of nature. But, that ought not to stop anyone from trying focusing on themselves by themselves.
An Example to Narrate
Words are perhaps not as explanatory as delineating a real life example.
A client with an ingrained issue of procrastination came to me once, whose presenting problems were constipation and idiopathic abdominal pain. Over sessions he developed an ability to recognise the vague sensations inside his body as arising at the times when he put things on the back burner. Specially difficult things for him, such as resolving an emotional dispute at work, as well as with his partner. Initially, the felt sense of the vague feeling inside his chest area was “fuzzy” and “difficult to catch.” It was familiar though. And for years he had done nothing to understand and change it.
So, now he learnt to be a true friend to himself. Instead of running away from this “annoying” thing inside, and cramming his attention on trivia, he learnt to be present to whatever was arising in the moment. Sitting by quietly and observing. And sure enough developing self-compassion in this way changed the earlier felt sense to “frustration.” Be curious.
He befriended his frustration over a few sessions because it wouldn’t go away and neither would it give. He asked it questions like, “what do you want from me?” “is there anything I need to know?” and “can we help each other?” And then it did. He reached a spot inside where anxiety welled up at the thought of being a failure. He had learnt early in his childhood years to withdraw from emotional interaction, for fear of not measuring up to others’ expectations. Tears followed and the felt sense of anxiety conveyed to him a need it had to express itself as joy. “Be joyful,” it said. We called this his “insight.”
He had hit his hard spot, which eventually softened into a felt sense of “happy gooey” stuff. He felt a release at a body level, and not an intellectual one. Therefore this change was here to stay.
He’s still not past getting anxious, but he’s learnt to use focusing on himself and not let anxiety stop him from communicating when he needs to. In a joyful way. In time his GI issues cleared up.
Digging Like an Excavator
Our psychological issues are multi-layered mostly, in accordance with the depth of our conditioning. To go to the source of our behavioural pattern, we have to dig like committed excavators. Some call it peeling an obdurate onion that stings us mercilessly right until we reach its core. Maintaining a parasympathetic stance is of utmost importance. The body likes being cared about. So be gentle.
Doing focusing only until the 2nd or 3rd peel is like reaching the end of a deliciously bathed-in-chocolate mud-pie dessert and then leaving the table distracted by a phone call. You come back and it’s gone. Similarly, abandoning your or your client’s discovery without real reason, before its integration, can send its felt sense scuttling under cover. So be patient.
Focusing Works Like Magic
Choose to end the session when something has shifted and the body sends a signal that it’s enough. Come back another time, another day to take off where you left off, if the body leads you there.
Feelings that we are afraid to expose in front of others can surface during our sessions with self or with our therapist. Like the first ebullient sun rays at dawn that burst through a cloud formation, surprised at their own ability to shine so brightly after a night of darkness.
Not unlike that are our hidden feelings that are given allowance to breathe at last.