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International Support Team for Ways of Fluid Conflict Resolving

The intention to find this pool of people arose in me out of a desire to offer the skills and attitudes of listening and holding the space open for communication, when there is difficulty, misunderstanding or conflict between members of the Focusing Community.

I feel that we need to live and offer within our own organisation and community what we as Focusing professionals offer to others. I am glad, to let you know, that in this spirit our new Functional Pool is now forming. We want to live forward and discover in the process, what it means to function as a Focusing-oriented organisation, an organisation where day to day activity, as well as major decisions are rooted in the felt sense of the whole situation. I would very much welcome a diversity of people joining the pool, reflecting the ever growing diversity inter- as well as intranationally in our global span as the Focusing community. If you are interested in being part of the team you are welcome to contact me (see below).

Janet Klein supported the emergence of this team right from the start - at first by being with me as my mentor over many years and also very concretely in her openness to join the actual work of the team. Here are her words in a Skype exchange we had just a few days before she died: "I want to grow in making space to go beyond conflict in hearing your truth as well as mine, hold them both in my heart so we find a new step to carry forward." I would like to dedicate the work of this team to Janet as she dedicated her life and work to empathic moments in the service of heart to heart /open/sincere communication.

Astrid Schillings

Members of the Team in alphabetical order:

Beatrice Blake (USA)
Lucy Bowers (Canada)
Francesca Castaldi (USA-Italy)
Leona Dawson (Australia)
Heidrun Essler (Germany)
Rob Foxcroft (United Kingdom)
Bilha Frohlinger (Israel)
Soti Grafanaki (Canada)
Mako Hikasa (Japan)
Kay Hoffmann (United Kingdom)
Anna Karali (Greece)
Greg Madison (United Kingdom)
Patricia Manessy (Canada)
Claude Missean (Belgium)
Laury Rappaport (USA)
Astrid Schillings (Germany)
David Spellman (USA)

Each member will briefly describe their motivation to be on the team. These individual statements are not edited, so that each person comes over the way they intend to.

Any two or more community members in difficult process with each other can call on one or two team members of their choice. Skype conference works for up to three people. There are Free Conference Call services available. The conditions of the service (pay, time etc.) are arranged with the individual member of the team who has been asked for support.

Beatrice Blake:

Beatrice Blake has been a Focusing Trainer for ten years. Her main interest is how to bring focusing to people who would not encounter it otherwise. To explore this, she taught Focusing in rural communities in El Salvador in 2007, and through feedback form that experience, worked to develop a way to present Focusing combined with Non Violent Communication. She has received support and collaboration in this from members of the Community Focusing Lab. With the help of Salvadoran colleagues and donations from the international Focusing community, she has taught Focusing and NVC to workers in San Salvador's Central Market in 2009, and to hospital workers, sexual abuse and domestic violence counselors and community health promotors in El Salvador in 2010. She also teaches and hosts a Changes group in Brattleboro, Vermont, USA. Once people are familiar with Focusing, she would like to share Thinking at the Edge at the community level as well.

Lucy Bowers:

My thoughts about conflict resolution or solutions as I like to call them...

These come from my years as a classroom teacher where children from age 4 and up needed to be taught the skills for dealing with conflict. There was always one child who would exert power over another and words for negotiation were not available to them. As children matured we saw on the one hand how language acquisition could accomplish so much but yet needs not met created situations where conflicts would still arise.

This appears to be the same pattern with adults where issues of power to be gained or lost and lack of language skills created barriers again towards gentle resolution of impending conflict or the perception of loss of power as I saw it in so many instances where people were organizing themselves to accomplish a task.

Focusing and the use of the Felt Sensing way of being together seems to be a natural tool for these skills that are needed to be applied to situations of conflict. It worked well for the children I worked with so it seems to me a natural tool for two people, even Focusers, or especially Focusers, to use when conflict arises. Yet in the heat of emotion the missing piece is often the Listener.

It would seem a third and neutral Focusing Listener is a gift we have available, to offer to these situations, so that in honouring our unique individual ways of perceiving we can still allow the forward living and forward movement required for what would be a natural and human stumbling block such as conflict. It would be a sad deficiency for us as an organization not to make use of such a valuable resource.

Francesca Castaldi:

As an immigrant and socio-cultural anthropologist I have been acutely aware of the joys and pains of communication and miss-communication across cultures or subcultures, social or professional groups, genders, and generations. I strongly believe that historical trauma (collective and intergenerational) as well as ongoing large-scale patterns of exclusion or domination, lack of communication, competition and exploitation, as well as differences in our styles of relating impact our willingness and capacity for true heart-felt communication.

I view conflict, stubborn silences, and painful suspicions as holding great potential for healing and growth. In my living I have experienced the exhilaration, the deep tears of gratitude, and the enduring heart-warming energy of true communication that dispels personal or social divides and creates alliances and a life affirming sense of belonging.

My commitment to the focusing process has continued to grow as I have experienced its power to open myself and others to greater and greater compassion, loving, and caring. In the past two years I have dedicated myself to study and explore Focusing in relation to trauma, and once again I have experienced the power of this process in supporting resolution and wisdom even in the meeting of most trying circumstances.

I come to this project with humbleness and a sense of shared purpose, knowing that we will create together new ways of relating while honoring and learning from each other.

I am available to this processing in and across English and Italian, and possibly in Spanish/Castellano too.

Leona Dawson

This group and offering meets my need to explore the embodied-ness of conflict and how our body, our Felt Sense, can help us engage creatively, honestly and openly with conflicts so that the conflicts don’t just get resolved they become a doorway into a new step forward and our way of living.

I have struggled with finding a way to gracefully engage with conflict all my life ­ having a knowing somewhere inside that, when conflict arises, our most precious needs and values are needing expression. Yet, even with this knowing, I can still find myself caught up in judgmental thoughts and a strong wanting for things to be different. So, I have trained in, and try to integrate aspects of Focusing into, Conflict Coaching and NVC Mediation. As a Focuser I feel able to provide a safe space in one-to-one listening for getting to the heart of the matter as an individual and in mediation when both parties would enjoy being supported in their joint exploration of what is happening between them.

Heidrun Essler:

Nicht nur aus meiner langen Erfahrung als Kommunikation – und Konflikttrainerin sondern auch in meinem ganz privaten Leben, habe ich festgestellt, dass Missverständnisse normal und Konflikte unvermeidlich sind. Lösen können wir sie, indem wir miteinander sprechen. Wenn jedoch der Kontakt miteinander so schwierig geworden ist, dass eine Verständigung unmöglich erscheint, ist es gut, einen Dritten hinzuzuziehen, der hilft, die Dinge wieder zu klären – im Innen und im Außen. Als eine solche Hilfe möchte ich mich mit allen meinen skills und aus ganzem Herzen zur Verfügung stellen.

Rob Foxcroft:

I got into a painful head-to-head with somebody. After months of semi-silent trouble a long account came, of all the things I had done that were so hurtful.

Had I done them? I had done enough, at least, to feel deeply chagrined and ashamed.

I talked to a good friend (without giving any details), and she said two things:

(1) "Rob, please remember that all we ever want is to love and to be loved"; and

(2) "Can you take a Fearless Moral Inventory?"

No, but I could take a Trembling and Hesitant Inventory. Having done so, I read the letter again. One thing seemed overwhelmingly to be the main thing.

I wrote an unreserved and heartfelt apology for my part in causing the person to hear deeply painful personal attacks: attacks which (I know) I did not and could never, would never, intend.

So the tension broke. I received a gentle, even a tender, response. Through the kindness and clear sight of a third party, we were moving again at last. And we still had a long way to go.

It is because we are vulnerable and get into bad places with one another that I am happy this group is forming; and because I occasionally get into such bad places myself, and maybe even learn from them, that I hope I may have something to offer.

Bilha Frohlinger:

I agreed to be part of a pool of people, who are open to support listening in the Focusing Community if there is misunderstanding or conflicts. I offer my Mediation skills and Focusing Attitude in creating a safe place in the conversation, trying to bring people to a place where Empathy from Felt Sense to Felt Sense can be a bridge to Win-Win solution.

Soti Grafanaki

I am a person-centred counsellor. For the last 11 years, I train new counsellors at Saint Paul University in Canada. I hold a "third party Neutral" Certificate from the Canadian Institute of Conflict Resolution. I have volunteered when I was in UK in Community Mediation services.

I would like to support this initiative, because from personal and professional experience I know that conflict has the amazing power to transform a situation and allow new alternatives to emerge. Conflict can bring important issues on the surface and force people to address them, rather than run away from them. Conflict brings along the potential for positive change and the opportunity for each party to grow. Restoring or maintaining a good Dialogue is important in this process and I believe that Focusing can help people engage in a non-shaming dialogue with each other. I believe that involvement in this initiative will help me commit to a deeper dialogue and better understanding of those areas that conflict poses a threat to well being and life forward movement. Having experienced and witnessed conflict, I have the experiential understanding of its power and potential for positive transformation under the right conditions. I hope to contribute some of this learning to this effort and learn more in return.

Mako Hikasa:

I am persuaded by Astrid that I can be a member of "the communication conflict resolution team for the international Focusing community". I am glad that my imperfect English can be some help to slow down the process and to bring more understanding each other.

I am glad that we are going to make full use of our fabulous listening skills dealing with the real worldly matters in the Focusing community, respect our differences and resolve our conflicts when it happens.

Kay Hoffmann:

When I first discovered the world of Focusing I thought I had stepped into a perfect haven of interpersonal connection. Everyone, it seemed, listened so respectfully and kindly to everyone else. Thoughts and feelings hitherto labelled as ‘bad’ or ‘wrong’ were welcomed with open arms and open hearts. Everyone was accepted just as they were, ‘warts and all’, unconditionally.

With this kind of initial impression of the Focusing scene, imagine my shock and dismay the first time I heard that two experienced Focusers were suffering a bitter falling out. My spontaneous reaction was “This can’t be true; there must be some mistake!” But of course it was true. One was furious with the other, feeling she had broken a ‘golden rule’ of Focusing, and was experiencing a painful, ‘unforgiveable’ breach of trust. The other was exasperated that her partner was so ‘over-sensitive’.

Many years and two more instances of Focusing fall-outs later, I have moved beyond that initial disbelief, through a phase of disappointment and sadness, and through a period of mistakenly believing that just one Focusing session with each party would be enough to recreate the heavenly bubble I so much wanted to believe in!

Last year I found myself closely accompanying someone who had experienced a painful Focusing conflict. We discovered that many hours of tender listening were needed to hear the complex tangle of shock, hurt, anger and shame that had arisen – whilst holding a loving, judgement-free space for the other person involved. Little by little my Focusing friend was able to see this as a precious opportunity to reclaim the treasure buried beneath the tangle. A treasure that had been buried for a very long time.

I was moved to join this team for two reasons: 1. I feel that we Focusers have a responsibility to one another to hold a welcoming space for such inter-personal tangles, and 2. although I would not wish it upon anyone to experience this kind of conflict, I believe that when it arises it presents an opportunity to hear and set free the most vulnerable and valuable of places within us.

Anna Karali:

Let me first note that I felt deeply astonished when I was asked to be a member of this team. This sense is still with me since the language barriers are - once again - here. I try not to leave a broad space for it though. By now, I acknowledge that it resonates within me the confidence I have been offered by my fellow coordinators, and I find myself in the process of carrying forward the next step for this venture… Anna Karali.

Greg Madison:

Motivation to be on the International Support Team for conflict resolution:
Some years ago I trained as an alternative dispute resolution mediator on a programme that emphasised existential understanding, listening and personal transformation as the way to resolve conflicts. I then went on to join that team as a trainer for mediators in this approach. Since that time I have dreamed of being involved in a Focusing–oriented form of mediation, based upon embodied listening. My interest would be to evolve a model that we might offer to groups in conflict in different parts of the world, split communities, divided neighbourhoods

Patricia Manessy:

When the idea of creating an International Interactive Conflict Resolution Team came up at the 20th International Focusing Conference in Montreal, my immediate inner impulse was to become a part of this emerging Functioning Whole. My experience is that, at times, within our close-knit Focusing community, it becomes difficult to clarify or to work through conflicts that arise right here, in our own backyard. It’s just too close to home; we are like family, and our vision may become clouded or ‘murky’. For example, working very closely with a group of wonderful people over an intense two-year period, misunderstandings may or do show themselves. And then, my personal feeling is that it is difficult to be with the whole of it, between ourselves or even to call on someone to act as the Witness/Facilitator as everyone within our own community is connected. The idea of having an impartial, uninvolved third party to facilitate an Interactive Process between two Focusers who are temporarily in a ‘stuck’ place between them speaks to me. The fact that this third party is from somewhere else, from another Focusing community, by its very nature, implies distance: there is a distance and we are automatically taking a distance. Yes to all of it.

I also fell in love with the Interactive Focusing Model when it was first introduced to me by Janet Klein and Mary McGuire at my Certification Weeklong in 1999. Marine de Freminville & I introduced the fundamentals of it in our Advanced Focusing Workshops; I use it with clients (relationship/partnership issues; mother/daughter issues), and personally with friends when something goes amiss. I am a Natural Health Consultant, in private practice since 1993. I have been Focusing since 1988, was certified in 1999, and became one of the Coordinators for the Quebec region in 2002. Between 1999 and 2006, I taught many workshops alongside Marine de Freminville, including introductions to Focusing & Dreams and the Interactive Model. From 2006 and 2008, I was an active member of the Organizing Committee for 20th International Focusing Conference. The heart of my private practice rests with Focusing-Oriented Ancestral Healing.

I would be honoured to offer support to the International Focusing Community, as well as my Listening Presence to any conflict resolution that may require a distant and uninvolved third party.

Claude Missiaen:

I am Claude Missiaen, clinical psychologist, client-centered/experiential therapist and coordinator since 1998. I would be glad if I could be of some help to support the communication in the Focusing Community. As I work with profit and social profit organizations I know how hard it can be to communicate properly, to explain yourself appropriately and to listen carefully.

Laury Rappaport

I am interested in being part of a pool of Focusing people to offer skills and holding of a space that supports and promotes healthy communication and conflict resolution within the Focusing community (and outside of the community if needed). Conflict resolution and bringing greater peace and compassion to the world are an essential part of my heart and orientation in the world. I believe the Focusing skills of the Focusing Attitude, listening, along with helping to hear the felt sense, provides a solid foundation for bringing greater understanding to any situation. In addition, I have been a long time student of Thich Nhat Hanh's and am committed to helping to resolve conflicts, "no matter how small." Through my expertise in the expressive arts, I bring many creative ways to resolving conflicts. I am practiced in therapy, groups, and organizations in which I help to create a safe space for people to share their concerns and differences, listen, understand the other, and to find a peaceful, or acceptable resolution. I always believe in "walking the talk,"...and so this intention and action to create a pool of people to help provide conflict resolution within our own community is deeply touching to me. Thank you for creating this

Astrid Schillings:

Most of my motivation to start this pool I have already expressed above. A fine sense of resignation arises in me when we in organisations offering listening attitudes, seem to forget how to listen to each other. I feel alive in experimenting with crossing informal Interactive Focusing, NVC, Person Centered Listening and Dialogue (David Bohm). As a young social worker I discovered how listening and saying back helped in deeply challenging conflicts when we founded the first house for Battered Wives and Children here in Germany. That opened the door to Focusing, when I became a clinical psychologist and psychotherapist later. One of the groups I am working with are international migrants and conflict resolving. I currently serve on the board of TFI.

David Spellman:

I fully support a fluid conflict resolving process within the Focusing community. Gene would want that. Fluid is a vital concept. We are not static beings and neither are the conflicts that might arise among us. I have learned from Ann Weiser Cornell to be most sensitive to language; to seek precisely the word or words to help forward movement. I also seek to apply the “Nonviolent Communication” that was taught by the late Marshall B. Rosenberg. My own work in helping to resolve conflict extends back to 1985 in addressing issues of family conflict with an at-risk population of youth. I also have years of experience in labor and employment mediation, most especially from my time as General Counsel of the Indiana statewide labor board. I regularly help couples with marital mediation. My B.S. is in Industrial and Labor Relations from Cornell University; J.D. The Cornell Law School; M.S. Mental Health Counseling; LL.M (Taxation) The University of Miami School of Law. I am certified as a Focusing Trainer.


If you have any questions about the International Support Team for Ways of Fluid Conflict Resolving please contact Astrid Schillings at (phone) 49-221-56 25 770 or email

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