by Barbara Chutroo, email@example.com
I first encountered Focusing as a dance/movement therapy student. I came to dance/movement therapy because of my conviction that the body is central to psychological healing. I could not imagine an effective therapy that didn’t include the body’s responses and stories. In that first encounter, I felt my body respond with that famous “felt shift” Focusers speak of that happens when an issue is understood on a new mind/body level.
It was natural for me to continue to work with the relationship between Focusing and movement and I studied Wholebody Focusing with Kevin McEvenue. For many years, I have also been involved with other internally directed movement practices including Authentic Movement, Contact Improvisation, Continuum Movement, and Body-Mind Centering®. These processes all invite us to explore inner sensation with curiosity and to follow subtle movements of our bodies, emotional responses, and energetic shifts as they unfold in action. They can be looked at as Focusing in movement
For the past two years, I have combined Focusing with Authentic Movement in a small group created with my friend and authentic movement practitioner, Aileen Crow and in a personal practice. These excerpts were drawn from a paper I wrote which grew out of this experience. The complete version can be downloaded on the Focusing website at http://www.focusing.org/bodywork.html . In it I look at the contributions of inner directed movement to growth and healing, the ways in which Focusing and Authentic Movement differ and support one another, and the role and experience of the listener or witness. The witness, in Authentic Movement, corresponds to the listener in Focusing and the mover corresponds to the Focuser.
As we know, in Authentic Movement, a person moves with eyes closed in the presence of at least one witness. Witnessing is based on the premise that there is value to being seen and value to the experience of seeing. In being seen without words, the mover senses his or her whole being as acknowledged by the witness. As the witness tunes into the mover’s presence, disguises and pretenses fall away in the simple attentive awareness of the physical, energetic being before her.
In Focusing, a Focuser usually sit quietly and waits for a sensation, image, emotion, or life situation to arise. She says hello to it internally with the same friendly and careful curiosity of the Authentic Mover and waits, again, for her body’s response. Focusers call the unclear, inchoate, sense that sometimes surrounds an issue or feeling a “felt sense”. The Focuser, then, describes her experience out loud to a listener paying special attention to the quality of this felt sense as it shifts and changes. The Focusing listener, unlike the Authentic Movement witness, reflects back the Focuser’s own words trying to precisely understand the Focuser’s meaning. The Focuser’s process goes from felt sense to verbalization and the listener accompanies her without leading or directing. This active listening helps the Focuser bring the felt sense into cognitive clarity and accurately verbalize an inner experience. Projections can jump out in the use and choice of words so the listener is careful to remain true to the Focuser’s meaning and experience. The listener’s intention is to support the Focuser’s process. There is no invitation for the listener to offer her own experience as is done in Authentic Movement. Instead, the Focuser, in touch with her felt sense, is helped by the listener to bring forth and illuminate her experience. This forward movement continues until the Focuser is satisfied.
A main difference between the Authentic Movement witness and the Focusing listener is the intent. In Authentic Movement the witness and mover each offer their experiences. Although enhanced awareness and a sense of connection may blossom from this exchange, the mover's inner process ends when she stops moving. In Focusing, the listener’s intention is to enable the Focuser’s process to continue. The listener’s verbal responses help the Focuser’s investigation sharpen and evolve. As the experience is heard and acknowledged, as well as seen, it gains dimension.
The role of the witness and listener can bring a sense of awe and humility. In not taking center stage yet being active, there can be profound pleasure. It is sometimes a humbling revelation to see how misguided we can be by our own identifications and projections. On the other hand, there is the excitement of being with what is revealed when our projections are put aside.
Moving helps us explore our bodies as the basis for our experience in several ways. It brings a fullness and authenticity to emotional expression that goes beyond words. It opens the door to enlarging our emotional vocabulary and to further investigation and understanding of the complex human drama we all embody. Emotions find their affective expression in the movement and neurology of the body. Anger, joy, and grief, for example, have gestural and affective components we all identify. Movement, also, has the power to awaken mythic images and connection to primordial life forms. The mover becomes wind, earth, snake, eagle, root, and water. These images carry a rich complexity. The felt sense around them can move us toward a deeper knowing of life's fullness.
Growth is a neuromuscular reorganization. Through movement and sensory explorations our bodies discover and develop their capabilities. Likewise, through active touch and movement we interact with, and bring the world into, ourselves. A Focusing awareness and an inwardly directed movement practice enables the reorganization of our cellular bodies - a formulation of new meanings that inform our personalities as well as our physical selves. In this way, the knowing of who we are is physical, emotional, and cognitive, as well as a living, breathing process.