The Power of Focusing, The Power of NVC, and processing.... I:  The Power of Focusing and processing....


"We must distinguish between the existing system of language forms, on the one hand, and the power of language on the other.  Language escapes the old forms of language, although the forms are never absent."

            Gene Gendlin, "Dwelling", in the Gendlin On-Line Library,



Obviously, I'm suggesting a parallel between language and both Focusing & NVC.  I'm also asking us not to confuse a particular now-existing form or system of Focusing, a particular now-existing form or system of NVC with The Power of Focusing and The Power of NVC.


Because of other commitments, up to now I've not had time to join or even read the dialogue about weaving together Focusing & NVC.  Many useful, beautiful and important distinctions have been made throughout.  As a therapist who has used (lived, embodied, healed with, offered, ....) Focusing & NVC for over 20 years, I find my perspective somewhat different, though not precisely in disagreement. 


As I've thought about what I wanted to add to this dialogue, the above Gene quote, also found at the beginning of Language Beyond Postmodernism, came to mind, along with several easy-to-grasp concepts from the beginning of Gene's A Process Model.


The Power of Focusing

It seems, from my reading, that the authors have done a good job of distinguishing between what I might call Focusing and The Power of Focusing.  Focusing, as we all know, isn't a single set of directions and other understandings.  It's always more even than multiple sets of directions, definitions and other understandings. 


For example, Bruce said that Focusing was not only an appeal to the felt-sense, but also bringing to that felt-sense and its situation a Presence (as Ann Weiser Cornell calls it), Caring Feeling Presence (as Ed McMahon and Pete Campbell call it), Focusing Attitude (as it was called in Gene's Focusing network in mid-1980's), or presencing (as I like to call it).


Perhaps more precisely, and not in any way to criticize Bruce's beautiful and quite true work, Focusing as Gene often describes it isn't, as I would call it, only felt-sensing, but rather going back-and-forth or, to use Gene's term, zig-zagging with felt-sensing (or as Gene calls it, the implicit order) and language (or as Gene calls it, the logical order).


Zig-zagging, as Gene firmly states, doesn't mean that either language (or thinking or logic or, as I call it understanding) or felt-sensing are ever found completely separate, in pure form.  All experiences of one always have the other included in some way. 


Any felt-sensing implicitly contains language (thinking, words, concepts, forms, patterns, gestures, images, systems of logic, expressions, understanding, ....), just as any understanding, should we truly understand as opposed to merely having words, also always has felt-sensing.


Therefore, The Power of Focusing not only isn't merely one or more definitions of Focusing or sets of Focusing steps, The Power of Focusing is also not limited to felt-sensing.  Focusing is always the "interacting first" or the zig-zagging with felt-sensing (the implicit order) and understanding (the logical order).  To add one more Focusing definition, I would say that


The Power of Focusing lies in its strength as a process to facilitate our processing, whether to allow our processing to go deeper (further, broader, more precisely, evolvingly, ....) or to heal stopped-processings - this by always overtly including an awareness of felt-sensing.




Four Gene Ideas, Two Additional Orders, and processing.


The First Three Gene Ideas:  interacting first, -ing and ev-eving.

All right -- I realize I need to define a few terms.  To do this, let me introduce several key Gene ideas from A Process Model.  Now please, don't panic; just stay in the buggy, and we'll get there.  You don't need to have read, much less to have understood A Process Model to grasp these terms -- I promise.


 All Focusers inherently know them -- they live them constantly, especially in their Focusing.  If it's unclear, give yourself another reading or just ask me for clarification -- I won't mind, and if you don't understand, I'm sure many others won't either.  These terms (with my adjustments) are:  interacting first, -ing, ev-eving and the fourth term, which I'll discuss later, stopped-processing.


(By the way, when I use italics, as I do with Gene's terms above, I mean more than a mostly-logical concept.  I'm highlighting an experience with a lot of felt-sensing in it.)


1)      interacting first:  Gene means that first, before anything else, isn't separate objects which then interact.  Interacting is first.  This is a systems view, for those who know family/systems therapy.  It also informs A Process Model's opening and battle cry:  "Body and environment are one, but of course only in certain respects."  Again, first is interacting, not distinct objects.  This, of course, is also Gene's "you and other people, here and other places, now and other times".


2)      -ing:  "What" is interacting also isn't objects, but rather on-going processes.  As Gene says in A Process Model, "A... requirement [of all of my concepts] is to include structuring or patterning, rather than only structures and patterns.  If everything must be thought of in terms of existing patterns..., there seems to be no way to arrive at one [pattern or structure] that is differently structured." (p. 31; emphasis Gene's)


3)      ev-eving:  Gene means, here, that everything, or more precisely, every process is inter-affected by and inter-affecting all other processes.  In other words, and I admit pushing the concept a bit (though Gene states this in other places, pace all Process Model geeks like me), that there is only one whole process, or as I would call it processing.  First, before any divisions or distinctions or separations, there's always one whole inter-affecting processing.


4)      processing and two more orders -- situational and with/toward-Being.

Here comes my term: processing.  So far, we've presented processing as always including two different orders -- the implicit order (felt-sensing) and the logical order (understanding -- words, patterns, expressions, images, gestures, ....) . 


Actually, in keeping with Gene's three ideas above, let's call these two not orders, but orderings, since they're both on-going processings.  And remember, too, that one is never entirely separate from the others.


Before going on to my last term, I'd like to add to processing two more orderings.  Without these two orderings, in my experience, it becomes very difficult to understand how to weave together Focusing and NVC (as well as Focusing and many other processings like family therapy.)



Ordering #3   Situational Ordering:

One ordering Gene has presented, literally, from the "Introduction" of Experiencing and the Creation of Meaning (Gendlin 1962).  Gene and other TAE workers also explicitly include this in the second section of TAE Directions:  I call this the situational ordering or in-the-worlding.


 If I'm only checking my felt-sensing and my understanding about what I should do, and I'm not actually trying it out and getting feedback from the world at large (with, of course, me already interacting-first in it), then I'm really missing something vital, true?


 If I want to help a friend going through a hard time, I don't just check my felt-sensing and my understanding about whether and what to do.  I also check my friend.  No Focusing guide reflects, suggests or asks without checking it with the Focuser.  Gene in his therapy always insists that people talk about not just generalities, but specific instances.  The second section of TAE steps insists on specific situations, times when "it" (the subject of the TAE) actually happened in-the-worlding.


As Focusers, we take whatever we "get" from our Focusing and bring it into the world, in some way, because of any felt-shift changes, we act and are different.  Our "next step" from Focusing doesn't usually happen only "just inside", staying at the level of new understanding and new felt-sensing.  (Actually, it can't, because each ordering always, in some ways, includes and affects and is affected by all the other orderings.)  How we are in-the-worlding, not only our understanding and our felt-sensing, guides us to our next step.


When Gene says, on the whole, he wouldn't advise people to trust their feelings, he generally expresses two important and different meanings.  One is the difference between felt-sensing and a sheer emotion.  (I like to express this distinction as felt-rightness and felt-righteousness.)  If it's a sheer emotion, like "just angry" or "just panicked", there's not much of a way forward, of an opening there.  Sheer emotions and felt-righteousness are certainly something to pay attention to, to help and heal, but they're probably not trustworthy. 


Second, Gene talks about the difference between an experienced felt-sensing and an inexperienced felt-sensing.  If I was sitting on a plane, and the weather looked fine to me, but the pilot, who's experienced, felt uneasy about something, I'm probably a lot better off if the pilot trusts his/her felt-sensing, taking as Mary Hendricks would say, a revolutionary pause or two before taking off.  I'd be a fool to trust my felt-sensing, here, over the pilot's.


 What's the difference between experienced and inexperienced?  A lot of testing felt-sensing in the situational ordering, a lot of felt-sensing and understanding interacting with the situational ordering, with in-the-worlding.


Do you see the importance of this third ordering?  We're already including that in our Focusing zig-zagging, I'm sure -- checking our past, present and future situations, and taking in the world's responding with our "interacting first".  So let's do this with conscious awareness.  Like felt-sensing, the situational ordering is "more-than-logical" -- what happens in the world is more than any understanding or set of understandings can predict or figure out. 


Like understanding or the logical ordering, the situational ordering is always explicit, though, also like understanding, it is always already included implicitly in felt-sensing.  And like felt-sensing, the situational ordering or in-the-worlding is always an aspect of any understandings.


All right:  that last paragraph's blathering was meant to show that the situational ordering is also interlocking or including both implicit and logical orderings, and these orderings are interlocking with the situational orderings.  (By the way, see footnote 1 in A Process Model for a recent Gene hint at this as a distinct ordering.)



Ordering #4   Homing:

The fourth ordering, I call homing or the with/toward-Being ordering.  This ordering has two (and more) vital roles which are already well-established in our Focusing world.  One aspect Bruce mentioned in defining Focusing and I mentioned above:  presencing (Ann's Presence, Ed & Pete's Caring Feeling Presence, Gene's Focusing Attitude). 


All of us know how monumentally unsuccessful our Focusing becomes without presencing.  We only have to try dominating or shoving around even the most compliant felt-sensing.  Focusing then quickly lurches to a halt.


There have been many great, deep and true experiences and understandings written about presencing.  In particular, I refer readers to Ann's articles on "Presence" in The Radical Acceptance of Everything as well as to Ed & Pete's Bio-Spirituality (esp. the 2nd ed., 1997).  Taking more from Ed & Pete's, I'd like to highlight two qualities of presencing:  gifting and more-than-me/more-than-situational.  


We can no more command presencing than we can command felt-sensing or other people.  We can open ourselves or close ourselves off to presencing, but either way, when presencing comes it has a quality of coming as a gifting from something more-than-me/more-than-situational. When we open ourselves up to presencing, there's a quality of letting-go, of vulnerability.


 These two qualities are true of all aspects of homing:  coming as gifting and coming from something beyond merely ourselves or merely situations. I call this second quality in presencing with-Being, again with what is more-than-me/more-than-situational.  Also when I'm in presencing, there's a sense that I'm home.  Or to say this in processing language, in presencing, I'm homing.


Ed & Pete talk beautifully about a direction, which they clearly identify in their Focusing, that's definitely beyond there merely situational, the here-and-now, and beyond the here-and-now-and-what's-next.  Over and over, they call this an embodied evolving.  This aspect, I call toward-Being.


And for those who know Ed & Pete, you know Pete's wonderful story of "the horse knows the way home", which of course, is where I got my term for this ordering:  homing.  Homing isn't just a fitting into a situation.  Homing is where we are at-home, where we belong, and to where we are called.  This underlined aspect of homing I call toward-Being.



The Four Orderings:

So I'm setting up four orderings:

            1 felt-sensing (implicit ordering)

            2 understanding (logical ordering)

            3 in-the-worlding (situational ordering)

            4 homing (with/toward-Being ordering)


Now I'm ready to define processing, in the sense of interacting first, -ing, and ev-eving/one whole processing:



Processing is our natural, our potential embodying-opening from/with/towards felt-sensing, understanding, in-the-worlding and homing.


We may place our primary attention or expression on one or more of these orderings.  But our experiencing, our processing always already includes all four interacting first, ev-eving as one whole processing. 


Any or all of these four orderings may be freely-flowing, or as I say, embodying-opening.


 And one or more of these orderings may highlight a stopped-processing. Stopped-processings, ( as do all aspects of our ev-eving processing), always include, in some ways, all four orderings.


 One or more of these orderings may give a particularly powerful expression of this stopped-processing.

 And one or more of these orderings, at any point in the healing, may be a particularly powerful pathway to that healing, to carrying-forward the stopped-processing into its natural state of free-flowing embodying-opening.




Moving to my last Gene idea:  stopped-processings are when one or more of our sub-processes of the whole processing are stopped, stuck, prevented from completing and moving forward, but the organism doesn't die.


 So for example, I'm in a rush to go to work and I'm hungry, but I choose to drive off without breakfast.  I don't die of starvation.  (Anyone who knows me knows that I have more-than-sufficient, shall we say, "stored reserves" to go quite some time without eating.)  My hunger, or in process language, my wanting-to-eat is still embodied and goes with me.  Until I eat lunch, this remains stopped-processing. 


As Gene says, my stopped-processing continues in how my whole processing continues differently because I didn't eat, because I didn't carry this process forward.  Put in felt-sensing language, my whole processing continues, in some ways, to imply my wanting-to-eat. (See footnote X.)


Why are stopped-processings important?  Again in felt-sensing language (We'll do in-the-worlding language later, when we discuss NVC.), any felt-sensing stuckness or not-rightness is the implying [and so embodying but not the embodying-opening] of one or more stopped-processings.



Now we are ready to refine my earlier definition of The Power of Focusing:

            The Power of Focusing lies in its strength to facilitate our processing -- felt-sensing, understanding, in-the-worlding and homing. 


The now-existing forms of Focusing are particularly good at working with our one whole processing from the aspects of understanding and felt-sensing.


 The now-existing forms of Bio-Spiritual Focusing add strengths with homing.


And the now-existing forms of Focusing are especially weak at facilitating our processing through aspects of in-the-worlding.


[Having said this, if I may be allowed to immodestly brag:  my article in the up-coming Folio addresses this weakness by describing and demonstrating a new form of Focusing for facilitating our processing through family therapy.  I call this Focusing family therapy, which I've practiced for many years, we-ing Focusing.



Earlier in this Focusing/NVC dialogue, Kathy McGuire talked about not "conceding" this aspect of our processing -- what I call in-the-worlding or the situational ordering -- to NVC, where it is a particular strength.  She, of course, is premier in our Focusing world as a facilitator of Focusing in community.  For specifics, see her Changes manual, Building Supportive Community:  Mutual Self-Help Through Peer Counseling.  (McGuire 1981).  I wouldn't use the word "conceding", but I certainly agree that we may add to the now-existing forms of Focusing in ways that better incorporate in-the-worlding.



I hope to post my next section, on The Power of NVC, late Sunday or, more likely, Monday.  I'm rushing this, I know.  And this will lead to many unclarities and probably gross errors and glaring omissions.  I can only beg your forgiveness as I wanted to bring this forward so that anything of value might be included in the soon-to-start workshop on weaving together Focusing & NVC. 


I believe this is important, because I believe the strengths of both readily come together to compensate for the weaknesses of the other.  And perhaps the four-part model I'm using -- felt-sensing, understanding, in-the-worlding and homing -- may help the on-going process of expanding our now-existing forms of Focusing & NVC to better realize The Power of Focusing & The Power of NVC.


In our world, both are so desperately needed.






X.  In "A Theory of Personality Change" (Gendlin 1964), Gene calls this type of process "structure-bound."  However, as near as I can tell, Gene has not used this term since 1964, though it was taken up for a while by others, including  Jim Iberg, who used it to point to one of his states in his important description of the Focusing process.


 I prefer using stopped-processing, since to me this better captures the dynamics of this type of experience.  Pete Campbell calls this "process-skipping".  (See Appendix 2, "Process-Skipping:  A Block to the Body-Life of Spirit" in the second edition of Bio-Spirituality, McMahon & Campbell, 1997).  This is a beautiful description of stopped-processing with particular emphasis on how it affects my homing or with/towards-Being ordering. 


By the way, if you've got out Bio-Spirituality to read Appendix 2, indulge yourself by reading Chapter 4, with Pete's horse story.  One can never read that story often enough!)  And I want to credit Ed & Pete with first pointing out structure-bound and process-skipping to me many years ago, in the 1980's.  This was a major step in my learning.