The phrase “Tune into your Supersense” comes from the work of Steve Biddulph. Closely linked to my previous blog about the work of Lisa Feldman Barrett are powerful tools to manage our emotions, suggested by Biddulph and also by Eugene Gendlin.
I really love Steve Biddulph’s ideas in his book Fully Human: A New Way of Using Your Mind (published April 2021). He says that humans often fail to tune into all parts of their inner guidance systems (or Supersense) – what he terms the four-storey mansion. Broadly speaking, the first floor represents our physical body, the second our emotions, the third our thoughts and the fourth a roof terrace open to the stars – because the world is large. Tuning into the whole, means we don’t get stuck in our heads or pulled into strong and destructive emotions. for more information, click here:
Eugene Gendlin and Focussing
Biddulph is a huge fan, as am I, of Eugene Gendlin’s focusing theory, a powerful six-step model, which can be used as a self-help tool. I use this myself regularly and teach it to many of my clients. The term “Focusing” came out of research Eugene Gendlin began in the 1950s at the University of Chicago. He did 15 years of research analysing what made psychotherapy either successful or unsuccessful. His conclusion was that it was not something the therapist did, rather something the clients did inside themselves during the session. He began to study the behaviour and how to teach it.
The Focusing process involves coming into the body and finding there a special kind of body sensation called a “felt sense.” Eugene Gendlin was the first person to name and point to a felt sense, even though human beings have been having felt senses as long as they’ve been human. A felt sense, to put it simply, is a body sensation that has meaning. You’ve certainly been aware of a felt sense at some time in your life, and possibly you feel them often.
Focusing goes something like this:
Clear a space
Find a comfortable, quiet place. Close your eyes and ask yourself a gentle question or two, such as “How is my life going?” Or “How am I, right now?”
Identify a “felt sense”
Let the response come from your body. Gendlin observed that at this point, “you will probably begin to encounter a lot of static from your mind: self-lectures, analytic theories, clichés, much squawking and jabbering.” Dip below the noise, he advised, until you encounter a particular bodily sensation that wants your attention. At this stage, the felt sense may be murky or vague. However it shows up, turn toward it.
Give the felt sense a handle
Allow a word or image to emerge that captures the essence of this body knowledge. It might be “jumpy,” or it might be “a tightness in my chest.” When the moment feels right, extend a silent greeting to it. This can be as simple as “Hello, I know you’re there.”
Slow down here, toggling between your handle and your felt sense so your body–mind can check out whether the word you’ve chosen most accurately describes your felt sense. For example, an original handle of “anxiety” may become more specific and image-rich, such as “a cold hand clutching at my stomach.” Also, notice that your felt sense is only part of you, not your whole being.
As you continue to keep your felt sense company, you might nudge it a bit, asking, “What’s the hardest part of this for you?” A little later, you might inquire, “What does this felt sense need?” Listen for an answer from your body, not your mind. When you get a response, notice whether you feel a visceral shift—perhaps a sense of a weight lifting, or clenched muscles loosening. The felt shift may open a new path for addressing a concrete problem, or simply generate a greater sense of aliveness.
Receive the experience
Welcome whatever you’ve encountered during the session. “Take the attitude that you’re glad your body spoke to you, whatever it said,” advised Gendlin. “You need not believe, agree with, or do what the felt sense just now says. You need only receive it.” Reassure your felt sense that you’ll be back again, if it wants to continue the process at a later point. Try not to set specific goals. “Focusing isn’t work,” Gendlin emphasised. “It’s a friendly time with your body.”
For more information about focussing, click here: https://focusing.org/. I will also look at more aspects of focussing in my next blog.
Need some advice and support?
If you are struggling with any of the issues raised in this article, or indeed any other emotional issues or life challenges and would like to talk things over in complete confidentiality, call Alison Winfield, Mindfully Well Counselling Cork on 087 9934541.
Book a counselling session today!