Stepping Up Campaign

Phase Two of our Stepping Up campaign is all about breaking barriers -- of geography, finances, and language with:

  • Improving the website and hiring an International Tech Liaison
  • Offering more live event streaming and video production
  • Strengthening the Dr. Janet Klein Scholarship and awarding other scholarships
  • Making more translators available at Institute events

You've helped us end 2019 very strong with a huge show of support for these goals and all our work. Thank you so much to several large donors and many small donors. Watch for our annual thank you list to come out in our next newsletter.

We can still use your help! Let's keep making Focusing ever more accessible until it's available to all. Please donate today!
The Advanced and Certification Weeklong 2020

The Advanced and Certification Weeklong returns to the Garrison Institute in Garrison, New York, in April 2020.

This is the 50th Weeklong that the Institute has offered over the last 40 years! Come be a part of this historic occasion.

The Weeklong is intended for advanced Focusers and those receiving certification.

More details and registration information can be found here.
Save the Date!:
"Saying What We Mean" Academic Symposium on the Work of Eugene T. Gendlin

One of Gene Gendlin's key texts will be chosen and presenters will respond to that particular text. Presenters will be invited by an academic committee.
 
All are invited to attend. Registration information, including fees and lodging options, will be announced soon.
 
Symposium Information

October 23-25, 2020
Seattle University
Seattle, WA

The main symposium day is Saturday, October 24,
with pre- and post- events on the Friday evening
before and the Sunday afterward.

 
This event is made possible by the Eugene T. Gendlin Center For Research In Experiential Philosophy And Psychology of The International Focusing Institute. The event is supported by Seattle University's Philosophy and Psychology departments.
Note from Catherine
Right-sizing

Dear Friends,

My heart was truly warmed this fall when so many of you answered the call to give to the Institute for our Stepping Up campaign. In the next newsletter, we will specifically thank each volunteer and donor, but for now, a big thank you to each one of you who has given at the right level for you.

The phrase "right-sizing" is a play on the English phrase "down-sizing." Down-sizing refers to getting smaller when our resources don't match our current ambitions. Usually, it means that we used to have the capacity to be larger, and we now need to adjust downward. Someone "down-sizes" when they used to have enough to do everything they wanted to do, but now they have less. Down-sizing is often associated with a sense of sadness. In business it might mean having fewer staff. In a personal situation, it might mean giving up a big house in order to move into a small apartment.

Right-sizing" is a nicer phrase to my ears, because it invites us to let go of past expectations and simply acknowledge how to be in good alignment with what we expend and what resources we have. It implies that we can find congruence; that there is an amount of time, treasure and talent to give what is a good fit when we look at the whole of the situation.

This phrase is coming to me now, because there's an aspect of "right-sizing" that isn't talked about as much. That's the idea that "right-sizing" will sometimes mean "up-sizing." Sometimes we have MORE resources than we are acknowledging.

I can feel inside myself that Focusing in general and the Institute in particular are "at the gate" and ready to take off. I see so much incredible, innovative work being done by so many of you all over the world. The image that comes to mind is two tiny pools of water on a table, inching slowly toward one another. I watch with patience for a long time as they seem to shyly approach one anther. And then I intervene, gently touching the edge of one of the tiny pools and nudging it toward the other. I think that the many patient efforts carried out by so many of you are like those little pools of water. They are gently out there in the world, and many are nudging closer to one another -- often because of contacts made through the Institute or through other members. I know how much you inspire one another because I am in the privileged position of hearing so many of your stories. I believe that Focusing is on the cusp of taking its rightful place in the world -- not for its own sake but for the sake of making life more wonderful.

With warm regards for a joyful and prosperous new year,

Catherine
Finding a New Way
An Interview with Nelle Moffett
by Tara Renee Breitenbucher

Nelle Moffett is a member of the Board of The International Focusing Institute.

I had the pleasure of talking with Nelle Moffett, one of the two newest members of the Board of The International Focusing Institute. We spoke over the phone in mid-October. When she joined the Board three months ago, she was given the responsibility of the "affiliate organizing" portfolio. This portfolio explores how to define and create relationships with other international organizations that teach Focusing. 
Not too far into our interview it became clear that her given focus for the Board suited her well. She has spent her life connecting people of different backgrounds through her spiritual work. She has created new processes of teaching and is passionate about Focusing becoming a well-known way of being. 

My overall sense of Nelle was someone who is uniquely open to the signs of the universe. We talked about how she approached her career, her coming to Focusing, her personal spiritual explorations, and her post-retirement passion of creating a spiritual community. She is someone who knows how to make her own way to a destination that, before her involvement, did not exist. This sense was born out of creating a spiritual community. 

Nelle spent her career teaching in higher education and helped create new models of teaching. She redesigned the introduction to psychology curriculum at California State University Channel Islands according to the principles of learning theory, with the understanding that deep learning happens when it is connected to the person and what is meaningful to them. This realization foreshadowed her later Focusing work that reinforced the idea that "when working with what's alive in the person, then everything connects."

In 2001, by a fluke of Amazon's sometimes annoying but often very accurate algorithm, "Focusing" by Eugene T. Gendlin was recommended to Nelle. She was intrigued by the concept of connecting mind and body, and the way that Focusing challenged the societal construct that our body's only purpose is to carry our heads around. By another fluke, she saw that someone was offering a free Focusing session. She was referred to Ann Weiser Cornell, who she continued studying with all the way through her teacher certification. Fifteen years later, she has the same Focusing partner. 

Coming from a strict meditation practice, Nelle found that Focusing offered something missing from her inner experience. Her clearly defined practice had been based on Paramahansa Yogananda, who taught to check in regularly to see if you are experiencing more or less joy. When after 25 years she realized she was not in fact experiencing more joy, she courageously broke with that tradition and embraced Focusing. Focusing has broadened her definition of meditating and, with her Focusing companion, she received the support and structure she needed. Through Focusing she was able to identify the critical voices and to find a safe place for her to be with herself without them in the way.

Nelle described feeling Focusing as being instrumental in "having a practice and presence of another person without authority, not a judge but a companion, validating the authentic self expression within her." Focusing suggests to her that "there's a valid place to look for healing support and expression," and she has learned that "with a compassionate, safe space created inside, all sorts of things can emerge and be followed through."

Nelle did not just create her own way through her teaching and through her meditation practice, but also carved out her own way for "gathering people of different backgrounds into spiritual communities to connect and share what they have in common." When teaching non-violent communication in recovery settings, Nelle saw people without traditional beliefs looking for spiritual connection. They were left without a church home. In response, she and her husband founded a church by gathering people to create "authentic spiritual conversations," and a Sunday celebration of spirit; they created a safe community for people who do not share a belief system. They are now on the brink of founding another church for those of Christian beliefs who want to use that language but who do not feel they fit into what traditionally exists. 

I found this sense of being with what is, being open to new directions, and then creating her own ways to interact with these systems of education, meditation, and spirituality, to be extremely admirable, as well as clearly parallel to a Focusing way of being. I left this interview energized by knowing there are people out there embodying the Focusing way; who, by serendipity, come across and then embrace the defined process which they then carry a passion for sharing. 

Nelle expressed that she would like Focusing to be more well known. She so poetically described it as "bursting open with buds of new ways of looking at things." She recognizes that Focusing is often used without naming it; Focusing as a defined process is not as well known as she would like. "Like mindfulness meditation, that used to be regulated only to the Buddhists, moved into psycho-education, then healthcare -- until now, when everyone knows what mindfulness is and accepts it as a valid approach to health and inner peace." Nelle would love to see Focusing as an accepted and recognized way of being, as well. Nelle's involvement with the Institute will help us find the path to make that vision a reality.

When I asked what grand plans she had for her work on the Board, or what visions she might have for the international Focusing community, she very thoughtfully stated that, before starting anything concrete, she wanted to first understand the current status of the conversation. Though given the little I know about how she is engaged in the world already, I have no doubt that she will be an instrumental figure in creating new ways for the larger Focusing community to gather, share, and evolve into whatever right next steps already exist, waiting to emerge.
Tara Renee Breitenbucher is a licensed professional counselor and owner of Imagine A Path, counseling and workshops for inner and interpersonal growth. She has a holistic psychotherapy practice for individuals and couples in Bend, Oregon.
Yongwei (Carol) Xu: Dedicated to Bringing Focusing to this Harsh World

An interview by Jocelyn Jacks Kahn

Yongwei Xu is a member of the International Leadership Council.

Yongwei, a lively and playful woman overflowing with life, was recently recruited to join the International Leadership Council (ILC). I had the fun task of interviewing her for the In Focus newsletter.

Yongwei received her Focusing Oriented Therapist certification in 2014 and her Wholebody Focusing Professional Trainer certification in 2016. She became a Coordinator-in-Training in 2017. I was curious about how she originally came to Focusing...

I was a reporter and host at a public radio station in the city Wuxi where I live.

But I'm very interested in people's minds. Although I lived in a way that looked happy and nice to many people, I myself still felt suffering. I had so many thoughts and wasn't satisfied with my life. I was worried, anxious, self-condemning — many uncomfortable feelings. 

Then, in 2005, I learned that we had a new examination in China that allowed you to be certified as a counselor. And in my role as a reporter, I interviewed some people who wanted to study for that examination. I was interested and asked them: "Shall I come?" And they said, "Of course!". So I went as their classmate. 

I did not want to actually be a counselor at first. I just wanted to explore myself — Who am I? Why do I have such negative emotions? But after being certified, I began to work part-time as a counselor.

I used all my holidays for part-time learning and study. I learned analysis via the Internet. The training course was held by CAPA (The China American Psychoanalytic Alliance), which was quite systematized and strict. I was in analysis via Skype for four years, three times a week with an analyst in New York. It helped me very much. But still, I was thinking, thinking, thinking...

One day around 2009, I read a book by Eugene Gendlin. And he says that my body knows. 

What!? My body knows? 

But in the traditional Chinese view, body and mind and all nature are one — so this thought is not so strange to Chinese people, and I liked it. 

But I could not find Focusing training in China. Then, in March 2011, I found out that Xu Jun, the first Focusing Coordinator in China, was holding a two-year training in Shanghai. I was so happy and urgently wanted to participate.

That was my start in Focusing. In the beginning I felt so excited because, I thought, "Wow, I've found the way!".

This was classic Focusing, and I enjoyed the course. But after several days' training, I felt lost... When the teacher was not with me, I just didn't know how to do it myself, because I had many problems and questions — as usual, thinking, thinking, thinking too much. 

I persisted and took Focusing trainings two or three times every year. But after three years, I almost lost my faith in it.

Then I heard that Karen Whalen was coming to Shanghai to teach a 2-1/2 year training in Wholebody Focusing (WBF). I went to her introductory training to decide whether I wanted to attend the entire program. 

Since that five days was a holiday for me, I just wanted to relax. So I didn't take any notes. I went back home with an empty notebook five days later, and I barely remembered anything from the class.

But I felt very comfortable! 

When I went to my yoga class, the teacher said, "You look different — where have you been?" So that made me realize, "This WBF is different — really different!".

I asked Karen if she could help me learn WBF, and in exchange I could teach her Chinese. Happily and kindly, she said, "Yes!". So, we met two times every week for three years. After that, I realized that Focusing was not only a theory or philosophy — it's a style of life. When you want to learn it you need to practice again and again. I felt more and more and realized, "Ahhhh! Focusing is about the body!"

Before I started to move my core from my brain to my body, I just could not understand — "What is this 'listen to your body'? I just don't know!". But after that — "Ohhhh, this is what that means!". WBF let my body show up for me more than other forms of Focusing had.

So when I went back to classic Focusing, I could understand it.

I asked Yongwei to talk more about her widely varied Focusing background... 

I have attended most of the Focusing trainings Xu Jun has held since 2011. He has invited many teachers to China, and I have studied with them. 

I completed the Wholebody Focusing training with Karen Whalen and worked with her as a teacher's assistant. I studied Trauma Focusing with Shaun and Alexis Phillips, and I also assisted at their classes. They taught us in a lively and fun way, but full of power, to face the trauma. I did a three-day training with Ann Weiser Cornell, as well as Campbell Purton's seminar. 

I very much enjoyed Akira Ikemi's trainings. He teaches in an exquisite way and always has something new from his research. I also enjoyed studying with Chinese Focusing teachers such as Xu Jun, Li Ming, etc. 

Now we have at least four Coordinators and there are Focusers in Shanghai, Guangzhou, Wuhan, and many different places in China. I'm so happy about that!

I also wanted her to talk more about her own extensive teaching and clinical practice.

During these years I have done dozens of salons sharing what Focusing is and how it helps us. I let people have a taste of it, and they like it. I also have my Focusing groups — short-term to just go lightly and long-term to go deeper. 

I teach these groups according to different people's needs. We practice how to have a pause in our lives; how to pay attention to our bodies; what the felt-sense is; and we try to understand body wisdom. 

I use Wholebody Focusing a lot, and I use art Focusing. Painting, dancing, singing — there are many different ways to use art with Focusing, and people enjoy it. 

I also use Focusing skills in my clinical practice. When my clients drop into deadlock or just talk or think, I like to invite them to pause and try to connect with the five body spaces. This brings them a larger space in which to contain and sense the situation, followed by more stability and possibility. When implicit felt-sense becomes explicit, we have some new perspective and our lives can carry forward.

Yongwei was eager to discuss the 2nd Asian Focusing Conference in November 2019

I really enjoy Focusing conferences! Everyone comes from different places and brings their own Focusing way to share. Everyone is relaxed, respectful, open, and kind. We communicate with each other, listen to different Focusing stories, and make friends. 

I have attended two International Focusing Conferences — one in Switzerland in 2013 and one in Cambridge in 2016. I also attended the 1st Asian Focusing Conference, held in Kobe, Japan in 2017. They were all wonderful and exciting. 

This November, the 2nd Asian Focusing Conference will be held in Shanghai. It's also known as the 4th China Conference on Focusing-Oriented Psychotherapy.

We anticipate this conference with much excitement, expecting at least 300 people. Most of them will come from Asian countries such as Japan and Korea, and some of them from the U.S., Canada, and Germany. 

And there are more than 40 workshops and presentations during the Conference. How abundant! 

Robert Lee will give a pre-conference workshop on micro-shifting. Ann Weiser Cornell will give a post-conference workshop about Inner Relationship Focusing. Akira Ikemi, Karen Whalen, Eunsun Joo, Li Ming, Peter Cheung, Achim Grube, and Evelyn Fendler-Lee will all give workshops on different themes. 

And I will give two workshops. One is with my teacher Karen and other teaching assistants, and the other one is my own: Focusing, OH Card and Stories. It will be very fun! I'm so excited and looking forward to it.

Focusing is a good way to help people in this harsh world, and I want more people to learn about it. We cannot change the whole world. But if we can change the attitude — to face the situation, to deal with it — I think that is how Focusing can help nowadays. 

And of course I wanted to know how she became involved in the ILC...

When Peter Cheung, a Coordinator from Hong Kong, recommended me to the ILC, I was very surprised.

Before recruiting me, Catherine Torpey, as Executive Director of TIFI, Paula Nowick, a TIFI board member, and Serge Prengel, an ILC member, each interviewed me to get a sense of whether I would make a good addition to the ILC, as well as to give me a fuller sense of the organization.

However, I hesitated because I always thought of myself as just a student. I also worried about my English. 

Then one day, I received the first of several emails from the board, welcoming me to the ILC! I felt honored, but still asked if I could attend the ILC meeting two or three times to get a sense of how they work.

The Board kindly accepted, and I had a chance to get to know these great, kind people. They come from different countries: Sergio from Chile, Evelyn from Germany, Claude from Belgium, Ruth from Israel, Roberto from Mexico, and of course, Catherine.

Some people have very strong accents — well, that was difficult for me! But they work swiftly, follow the agenda, and talk issues. Everyone shares their ideas and tries to clearly understand each other. This made me feel that they were reliable.

The ILC is doing an important job because they collaborate and try to use a Focusing way in the meetings. The meetings are very respectful, giving you space. The meeting itself helps me learn how to be a person, as well as how to be a Coordinator — to give space and to see all aspects of the issues we work with. 

And because we come from different countries, we have different thoughts, different cultures. North American, South American, European, Asian — all very different. 

At first, to me they were all foreign, all the same. But then I realized that they are not all the same. It is not that someone simply told me "people are different, unique" — I experienced this, and I got this in the ILC during the half year I've been there.

Serving on the ILC has already helped me, and I want to help this group. 

Everyone has their unique ability, their own function. We work together. And I like learning how to work together and respect others, even if you have different ideas. 

We are encouraged to have different ways of doing Focusing. We have maybe hundreds or, in the future, even thousands of different ways to do Focusing — because people are different. 

But Focusing also has something very core: Pause in your hurried journey and pay attention to your body wisdom. 

There is something else very core: Everyone needs some support. This may come from your close friends. But sometimes maybe you have a different idea than your friends who are around you. 

So we need this kind of place that can really understand the core principles of supporting people. We need people who are not only kind, but wise as well. 

We have different ideas, but we have the core principles in common — and this spirit will help us to face the reality of our problems. 

Yongwei talked about the relationship of Chinese Focusers and TIFI

Actually, I did not know TIFI very well before. I just connected with my teachers, and I didn't think I needed TIFI. 

But now I believe we need a place to support every Focusing practitioner in every area on this earth. I like that. 

Language is kind of a barrier because people who practice Focusing here in China do not speak English. That makes it difficult to connect with TIFI. I encourage people to go to the website, but I also hope the website can have a Chinese version.

With a Chinese version of the website, the communication can be more frequent and direct. 

I asked Yongwei whether there was anything else she'd like to mention to our readers...

I'd like to say that during these ten years of my Focusing practice — whether in my daily life, in my clinical practice, or in my Focusing groups — I have seen many living examples of people getting out of their dilemmas, releasing the pressure they feel, and recovering from trauma. 

I often share the "3P Rule" with my friends. I discovered this rule during one heartfelt conversation with my friend Gloria, who is a Focusing practitioner from Hong Kong. We need to Pause in our life and do Focusing with Patience, and then we will get Peace.

I want to thank people like Xu Jun who brought Focusing to China. I'd like to thank Karen Whalen, who really brought me into the Focusing way. And I'd like to thank all my teachers, my students, and my Focusing partners. 

And I will do my best as I work with the ILC to promote Focusing so more people can benefit from it.

中文本由劉佩驊翻譯,謹此致謝
We would like to thank Gloria Lau Pui Wah for generously offering to translate this article into Chinese.
Jocelyn Jacks Kahn is a Certified Focusing Trainer in the traditions of Inner Relationship Focusing and Wholebody Focusing. She is also an instructor in the Realization Process, a spiritual practice of embodied non-duality.
Highlights from the 2nd Asian Focusing International Conference / 4th China Conference of Focusing-Oriented Psychotherapy Conference 

By Taeko Sakurai

I recently attended the 2nd Asian Focusing International Conference (AFIC), held at the East China Normal University (華東師範大学) in Shanghai, China, from November 8-10.

The event included eight consecutive days of exciting conference. There was a three-day pre-conference workshop led by Robert Lee and a two-day post-conference workshop led by Ann Weiser Cornell. More than 300 people participated in the conference.

There were 52 presentations including two key notes by Ann Weiser Cornell and Akira Ikemi. Presenters came from China, Japan, Australia, USA, Canada, Germany, Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan. 

There was also a remarkable dinner party with Chinese cultural entertainment. At the dinner, Akira was presented with a huge portrait to congratulate him for his appointment as "Living Luminary" by the Journal of Humanistic Counseling.
Many of us celebrated this reunion since the last conference in Kobe in 2017, and we strongly felt the growing unity of Focusing in Asia. We look forward to catching up with our Focusing friends again in two years!

Read the Asia Focusing Conference press release in English and in Chinese.
Ghada Radwan leading a group of 5 year-old children in a Focusing session.
This particular activity is designed to help children connect with their bodies and bodily sense using toy stethoscopes. By repeating some words during a relaxation process, it helps them to feel their bodies and their sense. 

This activity helps them discover their feelings and teaches them to accept their feelings, while feeling safe. It can be a wonderful tool to recognize one's strong points.

The idea originated with Patricia Omidian and can be helpful to both children and adults.
رحلة من غزة إلى هولندا للمشاركة في دورة التركيز بعنوان " اللعب بصورة جدية
مقابلة مع غادة رضوان ، أجرتها ماري جينينق
ترجمة : د. محمد الطويل
A Seriously Playful Journey from Gaza to the Netherlands and Back
An Interview of Ghada Radwan by Mary Jennings

Arabic Translation by Dr. Mohamed Altawil

Ghada Radwan, coordinator of the Focusing Program in the Palestine Trauma Centre (PTC*) in Gaza, talks about her work and her recent trip to The Netherlands to attend the Seriously Playful training in Children's Focusing with René Veugelers and Harriet Teeuw. 
 
The trip was made possible by funding from The International Focusing Institute's Pause For Peace: Arabic Language, a scholarship from Focusing Centrum**, the Netherlands, PTC UK and members of the Focusing community in Ireland.
 
Ghada was in conversation with Mary Jennings, Coordinator-in-Training, Ireland.
'In the Focusing Program, we work mostly in group sessions with children, schools, women's groups, cancer patients and students in the university. We have two full-time staff and many volunteers. We trained in Focusing in 2011 and 2013 and developed a 12-session program to teach people Focusing skills.
 
As Focusing is a gentle, safe process, it works well in our situation, which has many difficulties in daily living. It can be learned by people of all ages and of any educational background. One of the main aims is to facilitate people to recognise often strong feelings and to develop an attitude of welcoming these, waiting to see what unfolds from their bodily wisdom. Using these skills, people find pathways to growth, to healing and to greater resilience. They can use the skills for themselves, at home or at work, so Focusing spreads in this way. It allows PTC the opportunity to reach many people who are in need of psycho-social support in Gaza.
 
This year, thanks to the generosity of many people, I was able to participate in a weeklong training on Children's Focusing in The Netherlands. It was a great opportunity for me to increase my skills and to learn from experts like René Veugelers and Harriet Teeuw and all of the 19 other participants from around the world. It was my first time outside of Gaza, and it was so exciting to visit The Netherlands.
 
The course will be very useful in my work, and I really enjoyed every moment of it. A highlight was the exercise called How Nothing Can Become Something. In a very gentle way, it enables participants to get in touch with what's alive in them; something that's not yet ready to be expressed or cannot be expressed in words alone. Using expressive arts—music, movement, gesture, painting, sculpture—the felt sense can be gradually symbolized. I think this will be especially useful working with traumatized children. They need to feel safe and to be given lots of time and space to do things in their own way, at their own pace.
Another important point—which I have learned many times in the past and learned it again in this training—is that we cannot change what has happened to us, but we can change our response or our inner relation to it. 
 
At the end of the week, I was very honoured to receive The International Focusing Institute certification as a Children Focusing Companion, and I am proud to be representing Palestine.
 
There were challenges too in making the trip. When I said goodbye to my husband and children, I felt quite afraid. I wondered what might happen if there was another war in Gaza, and I was not there with them. It was difficult to obtain a permit to travel through Israel via the Erez crossing, with many days' delay. It was worth it to be able to develop my confidence in teaching Focusing and to bring back new skills as well as the long-promised presents to my beautiful children. I am so grateful to have had this wonderful opportunity. Thank you.'
 
*The Palestine Trauma Centre (PTC) in Gaza was set up in 2007 by clinical psychologist and Focusing Trainer, Dr. Mohamed Altawil. Dr. Altawil is actively involved in undertaking extensive research on the effects of trauma on people in Gaza. Through its programs, PTC offers therapy and psycho-social support to families and children affected by war and difficult living conditions.

**The next 5-day training in Experiential Listening and Children Focusing will take place in The Netherlands 13 July - 18 July 2020. https://kinderfocuscentrumnederland.nl/being-in-contact/
Mary Jennings is a Coordinator-in-Training and is currently Chair of TIFI Membership Committee. She lives in Ireland.
Congratulations to Akira Ikemi!

We want to give a hearty congratulations to Akira Ikemi for being selected as "Living Luminary" by the Journal of Humanistic Counseling.

At the request of the Journal, Akira spent over a year writing a paper, which he refers to as a "sort of magnum opus". He has been gracious to share it with all of us. Please go to this link to read his paper, A Portrait of a Person Seen Through the Four Dimensions of Focusing.
Roundtable on Working with Refugees - Exploring a Focusing Oriented Approach
By Mary Jennings

A report by Mary Jennings, Chair of the Membership Committee and Host of the Roundtable.

The Roundtable was held on 31 October, with attendees from the U.S., Canada, UK, Ireland, Spain, Germany, and Belgium. The event was organized by the Membership Committee and hosted by Friedgard Blob (Germany) and Mary Jennings (Ireland).

The impetus for this event was the realization that there are an estimated 70 million refugees worldwide. Many have taken dangerous journeys uncertain of what awaited them as they sought safety and a better life. 

In this Roundtable, we explored how we could support refugees and how a Focusing-oriented approach might offer additional help. 

Gathering information

We found that many people work with refugees in 'informal' ways (e.g. befriending individuals or working with local community groups on integration) as well as in more 'formal' ways (e.g. running Focusing courses or providing therapeutic services for people who have suffered trauma).

We realized a third way that requires further exploration and has potential. We could work with frontline staff who provide services for refugees in NGOs.

Key themes emerging

Listening/presence

Whether 'formal' or 'informal', it is most important to provide deep listening to people; Focusing helps with this. We might have to let go of 'doing Focusing'-- the main goal is being attentive to what is needed.  

Self-care

Focusing is a useful skill to have in this work. There is a risk of becoming overwhelmed, of suffering vicarious trauma, of being unsure of how to handle situations, of being triggered by unprocessed material, and of wanting to fix others (including with Focusing). 

If we were able to teach a Focusing-type approach to people employed by organizations offering services to refugees, it would be helpful as:

  • A self-care method for themselves.
  • A way to listen to and be present in a deeper way with people they work with.

Professional trauma-based services

There are formal ways to work with people who have suffered trauma. Focusing can be very effective. This offers a professional therapeutic situation where people are qualified and have a supervisory structure.

Stories carry rich layers of experiencing and wisdom

In the next session, people were invited to tell stories that brought out new learning, including the role of Focusing.

  • For many refugees, dealing with bureaucratic systems can be very daunting. We might have to drop our more rational ways of working, and really connect from the heart. We let people know that we are with them and that they may find some way forward.
  • Use a TAE paradox step to name what is happening when we are unsure, e.g. 'it is and it is not... the situation'; in this way new possibilities may emerge.
  • Use metaphors from the refugees' own culture to teach aspects of Focusing - e.g. using Rumi's poem, The Guesthouse, as a way to help people feel a greater sense of safety about the trauma inside.
  • When a person stops speaking because they are unable to cope, it's good to recall Gendlin's words, "there's someone inside"—just keep that sense of connection. 
  • Can we find sense into what might be provoking a strong reaction and not make assumptions? A small example is a 'welcome pack' that contained a cuddly toy that a young girl found frightening.
  • Memories of my own family come to mind — they too were refugees; but they remembered the lives they had before. It is important to connect with that too.

What is emerging/some steps

There was a strong sense that Focusing has much to offer — for self-care for ourselves, for others, and for refugees.
  • As Focusers, we can bring a listening presence.... being with people in and of itself is a big thing to offer people.
  • Self-care is important. Working with refugees can bring its own personal challenges. Focusing can help here, as we really listen to ourselves.
  • Supporting front-line workers with self-care through a Focusing-oriented approach might be a big contribution that the Focusing community can make.

Thanks to everyone for their contributions — it was a rich and moving experience.
By Serge Prengel

In the December conversation, Edgardo Riveros Aedo gives a spontaneous demonstration of the kind of inner dialogue that makes it possible for something new to emerge.

In the January conversation, Dr. Leslie Ellis talks about working with dreams in a Focusing way.

Browse through upcoming events submitted by the worldwide Focusing community.