Focus: Eugene Gendlin’s body psychotherapy

Bodily psychotherapies appeared in the middle of the last century as a reaction to the hegemony of behaviorism, psychoanalysis and humanism, which dismissed physical sensations, a fundamental part of the human experience.

The tool called “Focusing”, developed by Eugene Gendlin, Is one of the most well-known bodily psychotherapies, along with the Analytical Characteristic Vegetotherapy of Wilhelm Reich and the Bioenergetic Analysis of Alexander Lowen.

    Biography of Eugène Gendlin

    Eugene Gendlin was born in Vienna in 1926; his original name was “Eugen Gendelin”, although later Anglo-Saxonized. His family emigrated to the United States when he was young to escape persecution by the Nazis.

    After obtaining a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Chicago in 1958, he taught at that university between 1964 and 1995. Existentialism and phenomenology were the two currents on which he focused. Again did not graduate in psychology, Gendlin became an expert in the field throughout his training.

    During his studies at the University of Chicago, Gendlin met Carl Rogers, founder of client-centered therapy and one of the proponents of the humanistic paradigm in psychology. even if Gendlin had Carl Rogers as a teacherThe influence of these authors on each other was reciprocal.

    In addition to writing several books containing his therapeutic proposals, for which he was recognized by the American Psychological Association in 1970, 2000 and 2001, Gendlin was the founder and editor of the journal Psychotherapy: Theory Research and Practice. He died on May 1, 2017, at the age of 90.

    In the 1950s and 1960s, Gendlin developed his most relevant contribution to psychotherapy: concentration, A tool that aims to help clients connect with their bodily experiences. This non-verbal technique is part of the group of therapies that we call “bodily psychotherapies”.

      Body psychotherapies

      Throughout the twentieth century several therapies emerged that required greater attention to physical sensations, which had been neglected by clinical psychology. In particular, the predominance of psychoanalysis and behavioralism means that attention is paid almost exclusively to mental content and observable behavior.

      For body therapy theorists, including Wilhelm Reich, Alexander Lowen, and Gendlin himself, human identity focuses on the body, Which constitutes its base and its core. From our bodily experiences, we build personality and perceive the world around us.

      Although in recent years bodily psychotherapies have regained their validity due to the greater focus of clinical psychology on the sensory aspect of the human experience, these interventions are still considered unscientific by a significant portion of the community. psychological.

        Focus and “feeling”

        During his collaboration with Carl Rogers, Gendlin began to theorize about the existence of a kind of experience which he called “sensation of sensation” (“Felt without”). Specifically, he found that sustaining improvements in patients was linked to being able to access an overall bodily sensation around the problem that led them to therapy.

        For Gendlin, the sensations felt they relate to bodily awareness of the life process at one point. According to this author, anyone can access these general feelings about our body’s satisfaction with the current conditions of our life, although it is easier to do with training.

        For this, he developed the focus, the therapeutic method which would constitute the heart of his career. Although its initial goal was to apply it to a clinical intervention to improve treatment outcomes, research in this regard has shown that it may be useful in other settings; over time this has made the tune-up a popular tool.

        The 6 stages of development

        In his book “Focusing”, published in 1978, Gendlin describes 6 steps to access a felt emotion and use it to reduce psychological symptoms and personal development.

        1. Clarify a space

        First you need to relax and pay attention to the internal body experience. Then you have to ask “How is my life going? What is most important to me right now?” And spot the sensations that arise, letting the answers flow. If feelings of worry arise, an emotional distance must be maintained.

        2. Identify a sensation felt

        The next step is to select one of the vital issues that arose with the previous exercise; however, it is not necessary to “engage”, but to continue to keep your distance. The goal at this stage is to notice the overall feeling, still undetermined, which arises from the multiple individual sensations which will appear.

        3. Use the feeling you feel

        At this point, the goal becomes find a “clip”, that is to say a word, a phrase or an image which represents the sensation felt as a whole. This clamp must accurately qualify the sensation felt.

        4. Resonate

        “Resonating” consists of alternating the center of attention between the grip we have chosen and the sensation felt to see if the first really represents the second. If either of these two changes spontaneously, you should allow them to do so until the fit between the two is perfect.

        5. Ask questions

        Then you have to ask yourself a question: what gives this quality (the grip) to my problem as a whole (the feeling I get)? Let the answers flow; you will notice that the one you are looking for appears when you notice a change in your physical experience, Maybe a feeling of liberation.

        6. Receive sensations

        Once these new sensations have arisen, Gendlin advises to maintain receptivity and pay attention to them for a few moments. Continue to do this with the physical and psychological experiences that arise later.

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