What even is Focusing and why Eugene Gendlin is the greatest man to ever grace the Earth with his existence

Two substacks in 3 days what even is real anymore

As you all know I’m but a slave to my followers. David recently said that my explanation of Focusing deserve to be a blog post so now you all get to learn about it.

The history of Focusing

This duded, Eugene Gendlin, was studying under Carl Rogers, right? And he got 150 hours of therapy on tape and analysed ALL of them. And he crossed them with patient outcomes.

These hours of tape had different clinical psychologists intervening and different methods and so on. But what he figured out is that what reliably predicted improvements in psychotherapy was if people went 'uh...' in their sessions.

What reliably predicted improvement in psychotherapy was if people went ‘uh…’ in their sessions.

Imagine yourself in that situation, or anyone sane, immediately dismissing that finding as noise, or not even noticing in the same place.

But Gendlin wasn’t sane, which is why he won. [1]

He investigated and figured out that the ‘uh…’ were really just what would happen if people’s discourse wasn’t fluid. And this point he really started looking into it. And he noticed that people with positive outcomes were going 'uh....' and taking long pauses between words and sentences and having their eyes drift away and saying 'no, sorry, that's not quite right' because they're doing SOMETHING different from people with fluid discourse. They weren’t just rattling off their existing mental models, the existing discourse models, the existing ideas in their head, but they were getting in touch with themselves and observing and reporting what was real for them in real time, and that that, is where their words, and speech, was coming from. That’s why it wasn’t fluid, the process of observation, investigation, understanding, and word-symbolising takes time and effort.

He also didn’t stop there, because he’s a philosopher first. He understood that people were looking directly into the space where words come from. That there is this pre-verbal meaning that people can access directly. And the proof that it exists is pretty symbol. It’s why I can ask you to explain something with other words and you can “go in” inside yourself and come back with different words. This is because the words represent the meaning but the meaning is first and foremost bodily and viscerally felt. Words are just plastered over it, for self or other communication.

Or, a different example, if that one didn’t land: recall seeing someone you know and you know you know but whose name you don’t recall. If someone else or yourself gives you wrong guesses you feel first that they don’t fit with your sense of their name. But when you find the right word the word that perfectly captures the sense you have (jane!) you feel this release.

Same is true in therapy, when it goes well. You try to speak directly from your bodily felt meaning about a situation. You circle around it. Eventually you find the words that precisely capture it - release! A felt shift has happened.

Focusing is nothing but a set of instructions for getting to and speaking from this level of felt meaning.

You can use it to write - and you can’t write poetry without it and if you do write poetry you already use it -, to speak - Jordan Peterson evidently uses it all the time -, to theorise, to clarify to yourself what you actually think, for anything really.

What this man found was revolutionary and the world hasn’t yet come to grips with it. But it will.

P.S.:

  • If you like Science! here’s a descriptive experience sampling method demonstrating the existence of ‘unsymbolised thinking’

  • Here’s the book

  • Here’s the focusing procedure

[1] my heart