Focusing Self-Help Manual Excerpt


  1. The Basics of Focusing*

As you begin to get help in finding words for the “intuitive feel” through being listened to, you can begin to give Focusing Instructions to yourself when you are alone. You can start learning to “listen to” yourself. Intuitive Focusing means taking a few minutes to sit down, close your eyes, and look for The Creative Edge.  The basics of Focusing Instructions are: (see Table 4.1)


First, some form of relaxation instructions to help you get in touch with your body or using the Clearing A Space procedure

STEP TWO:  GETTING A FELT SENSE (Open-ended question)

Then asking an open-ended question (“How I am?” How am I feeling about this situation?” “What’s going on for me today?”, “What’s the most central issue for me today?”) and waiting, silently, eyes closed, for at least  one minute while you allow a “felt sense” of the whole issue to arise inside.

STEP THREE:   GETTING A FELT SHIFT (Finding A Handle /Resonating)

Next, an attempt to find the right words or an image for the felt sense.  You will go back and forth between any words or images that arise and the felt sense until you find the words that are exactly right.  If the words or image are right for the feeling, there will be a slight “give” or tension release in the body.  This is called a “felt shift” and is the goal of focusing.  It may simply be a small tension release, or, sometimes, it will be a large experience of sudden insight, perhaps accompanied by some tears, as you discover what a whole problem was really about.


Lastly, especially if you have only had a slight shift after STEP THREE, you will want to go through STEPS TWO AND THREE AGAIN, or even several more times, until you feel a sense of resolution on the issue.  You will:

  1. ask an open-ended question about the words or image that you got at the end of STEP THREE (What’s so important about this for me?”, Why does this have me stuck?”, “How would this have to change for me to feel okay?”, “What is this feeling of____________?”) and pause to let a felt sense arise in response (STEP TWO),

  2. then try to find some words or an image that seem exactly right by checking any words that come against the felt sense until there is a sense of fit, a slight release (STEP THREE). Gently receive whatever comes.


  1. A  First Attempt

Stop a moment now to try out the Focusing Instructions below.  If you are             successful, you should get in touch with the “intuitive feel” of a problem, and       then experience some physical relief as the problem shifts inside. The exercises at the end will insure that you learn how to use Focusing  successfully:

    1. Close your eyes and sit comfortably, loosening any clothes that are too tight.

      (Pause at least one minute)

    2. Now, turn your attention quietly inside, to your own thoughts, feelings, reactions.

      (Pause at least one minute)

    3. Breath deeply for a moment, just watching the feelings and thoughts come and go.

      (Pause at least one minute)

    4.  Now, set aside all your thinking, and just try to find a quiet place inside.

      (Pause at least one minute)

    5. And in that quiet place, ask yourself, “How am I feeling today?” and just wait and see what comes – not words, but a feel for   your whole day.

      (Pause at least one minute)

    6. Gently try to find some words or an image that are just rightfor the feeling.  If they are just right, you should feel some  slight tension release in your body, some slight shift in this problem.

      (Pause at least one minute)

    7. Now ask yourself, “What’s so hard about this for me? and again, wait for a bodily feeling to form.

      (Pause at least one minute)

    8. Again, try to make words or an image that are just right.

      (Pause at least one minute)

    9. When you are ready, open your eyes.

Did anything change inside? If not, you might have to take several more steps, asking an open-ended  question, waiting for a new “intuitive feel” to form, then finding words that are “just right” in capturing it.  You should feel a slight tension release in your body every time you find the right words for The Creative Edge, and, eventually, a larger shift, or some sense of resolution and change in the problem at hand.

  1. Noticing the Need for Focusing

Focusing, unlike sitting down for a Listening/Focusing turn, is something that you can do all day long, once you learn to notice the need for it.  It is useful when you feel out of sorts – when you have a sense that something is going on inside and is affecting the way you feel and act, but you don’t know exactly what is bothering you in this way. It is also useful for exploring creative blocks, positive experiences, new ideas.

You may wake up in the morning feeling depressed and go through the day feeling that way:  low in energy and sleeping a lot or snapping at everyone who comes your way or going through a lot of hours without being able to say what you have done.  It is an important step just to notice that you are feeling or acting “out of sorts.”

Many people have lost the ability to take this step of considering how they are feeling or watching how they are acting – everyone else knows that a certain person is uncomfortable to be around or a crab, but the person is not even aware of it.  The first step of Focusing is simply relearning to notice how you are feeling.

Often, this noticing can only be done if you take a few minutes out of a busy day to relax.  So often, the first step of Focusing is a decision to take a moment to relax in order to find out how you are feeling.  Later in this Chapter, there are some examples of methods of relaxation that you can use, once you have acknowledged the need for it.
*”Focusing” is further described in Eugene T. Gendlin’s book, Focusing  (Bantam,1981). He breaks Focusing down into six steps: 1. Clearing A Space, 2. Getting A Felt Sense, 3. Finding A Handle, 4. Resonating and Checking, 5. Asking, 6. Receiving. Dr. McGuire’s early description above combines several steps under the same name. She has now, in 2007, added Gendlin’s step names in parentheses where needed. END OF SAMPLE EXCERPT


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These materials are offered purely as self-help skills. In providing them, Dr. McGuire is not engaged in rendering psychological, financial, legal, or other professional services. If expert assistance or counseling is needed, the services of a competent professional should be sought.