Focusing: how to really listen to yourself

Focusing is a particular way of listening to yourself. It’s a way of paying attention, inwardly, to how you feel inside – whether that’s a body sensation, or a feeling, or a vague sense of something. And the benefits of focusing are emotional healing, insight, and stress reduction.

I’d like to give you an example. Have you ever had the experience of leaving on a trip and you start to have a sense that you’re missing or forgetting something? There’s something that you have to do, and it’s just bothering you. Where is it that you have that sense? It’s not a particular emotion. It’s not a thought. It’s a feeling in some kind of way and somewhere in your body. It’s a sense that something is off. And you kind of ask yourself, “keys”? You say, “no, I’ve got my keys.” “Phoning my mother? No.” And you go through a few things, and then it comes into focus – “I didn’t do the meter reading!”  And you notice, “Ahh – a sigh of relief – yeah, that’s it.”

Now you might not have called your mother – and you might need to – but if you didn’t get that kind of feeling – that “ahh,” that sigh of relief – then that wasn’t the thing that your body was telling you mattered at the moment. So that’s what focusing is. It brings something that is vague into focus and then your insides give you that kind of a breath of fresh air that tells you, “Yeah, that’s it. That’s the thing I’ve got to do.”

Why do I tell you this story? I tell you this story because, when you come to therapy, there is often an experience of not understanding why you feel the way you do – why you feel stuck. This focusing process that I use helps to bring clarity and understanding about the “why.” When you get that clarity and that understanding about what is bothering you, you will experience a sense of easing, a sense of relaxation, a sense of “ahh.” That deep, relieving sigh. And then you will get a sense of next steps forward that are right for you. And that also brings an “ahh.”

Adapted from Steve Moscovitch’s video on Focusing