I’ve just been listening to a recording of a talk about “Focusing”, a therapeutic technique that came out of research done by one of Carl Rogers' colleagues Eugene Gendlin.
Gendlin noticed that the people who got the most benefit from counselling or therapy sessions were those that we able to connect to a ‘felt sense’ of what was going on in their bodies as they processed their experience.
In other words they were able to tune into their experience and be present with it as it changed.
Since then Focusing has developed and represents an interesting way of interacting with your felt sense of what is going on to make changes in your experience.
In the recording I listened to the presenter Ann Weiser Cornell suggested a simple change in people’s language that would help them feel differently about their experience.
Rather than just tell you what she said I’m going to invite you to try it out.
Identify a situation that is a challenge for you. Tune into whatever feelings that evokes and choose one of them.
Say this sentence out loud: “I feel X” (where X is the feeling).
Notice how you experience that feeling.
Staying tuned into this situation, say out loud: “Something in me is feeling [X]".
Notice how you experience changes when you express it this way.
Most people say that expressing their feelings this way creates a sense of separation or distance from the feeling, as though it has grown smaller and less controlling.
You are not the problem
What’s going on here?
When we say (or think) “I …” we are assigning our whole selves, our identity to whatever we are saying or thinking.
If I say “I am angry”* then I am identifying with that anger. I become that anger, it fills me up and there is no room for anything else. If it is part of my identity then it is going to be an integral part of my experience and it will be with me all the time.
Even if I say “I feel angry, I am allowing that feeling to completely occupy my self with no room for anything else. It’s not quite as full an identification as I am because feelings come and go so whatever it is that you are feeling won’t be with you all the time.
When we say “Something in me …" we are assigning those thoughts or feelings to a part of ourselves.
This seems like a small change but it has several advantages:
- It’s more accurate. The states, thoughts and feelings that we experience are likely to be associated with different parts of ourselves. Sometimes you are angry, or frightened, or resentful and these feelings can shift and change quite quickly. It’s as if we have a collection of inner actors, or sub-personalities who are in charge of anger, fear, resentment and so on. At certain times or under particular conditions they get ‘activated’ and play out their emotional parts.
- It shrinks the problem. It makes whatever we are experiencing smaller than we are. If ‘something’ inside us is feeling that, then that ‘something’ must be smaller than the totality of us; just as a passenger is smaller than the car she sits in. We can start to have a sense of being bigger than the feeling we are experiencing, and in a different relationship to it.
- We can become an observer of our experience. If ‘something in me is having a feeling’ then the ‘me’ can become an observer of the ‘something’. We can be present with what is happening rather than swept away by what is happening. This is one of the benefits of mindfulness meditation, you can develop the ability to be mindful of your experience without being overwhelmed by it.
- It makes a space for more than one feeling. Our feelings often travel in packs. Something in us may feel angry and another part of ourselves may also feel ashamed about feeling angry. It could be tricky to hold both those feelings in a single I, however it’s quite easy to imagine “something in me feels angry” and “something else in me feels ashamed about feeling angry”. It’s as if there is room for those parts to exist comfortably apart from each other but still be within the bigger space of the “I” that contains them but is not them.
Just rewording our experience from “I” to “Something in me” can make things easier for us.
I think we can make things even better by adding tapping.
Classic EFT typically starts with the setup statement describing the problem.
“Even though I feel angry, I deeply and completely accept myself etc."
Then you tap on each of the points using * I feel angry *
Unintentionally using the word I in this context encourages you to identify with the thought or feeling, which may slow the clearing process down.
As an alternative approach, try this dis-identified tapping sequence which replaces I with something inside me.
“Even though something in me X, I deeply and completely accept this part of me”
Using “Something in me X” as the reminder phrase as you tap around the points.
Set-up statement: “Even though something in me feels angry, I deeply and completely accept that part of me."
Reminder phrase: “Something in me feels angry”
You may find the change in language helps you process the negative feelings.
If the phrase “Something in me .." doesn’t quite work for you, you might like to try “Some part of me is feeling [X]" or “Some place in me is feeling [X]" as alternatives.
I invite you to try out this new tapping process and let me know how you get on.