Stopping and Starting: A Reflection on Taking Feelings at Face Value and Big Picture Thinking
I've dabbled with Focusing since 2010 but have learnt it formally in 2014. Since then, I've tried as much as possible to incorporate it into my life and more importantly, my work.
And yet, there are times when the whole process can be frustrating. I'd be able to get a physical sense of a feeling, but it just stays...stopped. Nothing else comes from it. No stories, nor images.
And then there are days when it just seems to snap into place and the physical sense pulls with it so many stories and images, freely forming and flowing. Things started, and moved, and I felt better.
What, I wondered, was the difference between when things Stopped and when things Started?
I prodded at this idea for a long time, and then one day it hit me. Rather, 2 things hit me.
1. Focusing for some is a process of both Starting and Stopping. There will be stops in the process and there will be starts. When it is stopped, and if I try to force it to start, it gets stuck. Similarly, when it starts and I try to force it to stop (usually with pre-conceived ideas about why I was feeling a certain way), then it get stuck as well.
Rather, if I went back to the bare basic principles underpinning Focusing - taking every internal physical experience as it is, at face value, with no urge to change it; then I have a way forward.
How does this play out in practice?
When the Focusing stops at some point - say I'm stuck at a physical sense of a feeling, or a particular image and nothing else comes from it, I take the stopping at face value. I stop with it and wait patiently. Usually after a while, something more comes up - another physical sense or an image or a story. It starts up again.
In a similar spirit, I take the starting at face value, and patiently delve into whatever comes up; until it stops again.
Then I wait, because I want to take the stopping at its face value. When I genuinely take whatever comes up in me at face value, without forcing anything, it usually starts to transform.
That's the first realisation.
2. Think big picture - when I get a physical feeling and it stays stopped for a long time, with nothing else coming up from it, I've learnt to assume that it's because this physical feeling is tied to something big.
So big that nothing specific can form in the way of stories, memories or images. It's like standing in the middle of Trafalgar Square and trying to see the UK.
So I try to expand my awareness to something big. Practically, I might think to myself - "this physical sense is tied to something big. It's big. There's something big happening here."
I do it as a proposal to myself, checking if it fits with the physical sense. Usually, it begins to move, to start up. Bit by bit.
I've previously written about the bruised knotted feeling I've been carrying in my chest for a long time. For the longest time, I've struggle to make any headway with it. It would come, and then...stop.
Then I started assuming that it's a feeling that carries a lot with it, too much to put into any specific words or images or stories. And then, lo....snippets and trickles of images and memories started to come up.
Images of my work, of having too much to worry about - big and small. Too many people to consider, and to balance. Fears of upsetting things in my life, of wanting to avoid trouble and to sometimes avoid feeling. Memories of times when I'd let things slide and unfold on their own, with disastrous effect. No, I've got to keep a finger in every pie, in my life. And more.
No wonder the feeling couldn't move. It had to stay tight and firm, to hold the fort. My whole world was hinged on it - since I've embarked on a life in Australia. There was at least 2.5 years' of burdens and fears weaved into the bruised knot! Maybe even more from earlier on in my life.
I'd check in with these stories and images, and they usually brought a shift in the bruised knotted feeling. Then, they'd dry up and stop. So I simple waited, taking the stopping at face value.
I remember saying to myself, "It's (the bruised knotted feeling) worked hard to come up with these stories and images so far. Now it's tired and needs a break. Let's just rest it."
That really worked, and after a respite, more would come up. In this way, I've finally started to make some headway with my own Focusing; using the principles of taking whatever comes up at face value, and thinking big.
Now, I know that this is a rather abstract post because what I'm trying to do is to describe an internal and personal process. At the same time, I hope my description of my own process could give you a sense of HOW Focusing can work in this manner, using these two principles/ ideas.