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Impressions from the German TAE Workshop in New York

by Teresa Dawson, Focusing Coordinator, Switzerland

Thinking At the Edge (TAE) is a new practice, analogous to Focusing, which teaches people to think experientially. Comprised of fourteen steps, it combines the power of logical thinking with protecting the felt sense of implicit knowing. We become able to speak, teach, develop concepts and make theory from what we know, rather than thinking only with the existing public meanings of words and concepts.

Eugene Gendlin, Ph.D., philosopher, teacher, writer, lecturer, originator of Focusing, pictured here responding to TAE workshop participants at Stony Point.

It all started with an idea last year, on the basis of my own language issues. By that time I had taken part in both TAE workshops and gone twice to Gene in New York for individual sessions. I was aware that my dream concepts were developed first in a foreign language.

During the second TAE, I worked on the same concept in English and in German. I was amazed to feel that a correct translation did not have exactly the same meaning. The terms came more precisely when I choose the language right from the felt sense. I ended up with two separate dream concepts, in German and in English, having the same meaning on the cognitive level, but not on the experiencing level!

Unless one knows English, a lot of interested Focusing people get excluded from the International network. I stubbornly stick up for the point that Gene is bilingual, and we should take advantage of that. So I asked Gene if he would be willing to do a TAE in German. The response of interested German speakers in TAE was overwhelmingly! That's how it came about that 21 participants met in New York in October 2000.

My focus was on learning, so that one day I could teach TAE (in German!). I realized that almost everybody went through phases quite different from learning Focusing. Learning Focusing is usually pleasant from the first moment. You go inside, feel something, something moves and apart from the content, that's already exciting.

Learning TAE you sit on a roller coaster! You feel doubts, self-criticism, confusion, memories of past school experiences. You may be frustrated, desperate, angry, sad, tired, wanting to give up and go home. You need courage to admit that within you is a distinct knowing of something worth formulating in public. It may become a big step to stand up for, to be seen or heard with a fuzzy and unclear felt wisdom! A new adventure starts when we are asked to share what we uniquely know and not just to repeat what another person taught us.

To safeguard your self-esteem, stop immediately when losing your fun, joy, liveliness and excitement. See if your 'felt sense of knowing' is still there. Stay close to it. Otherwise you'll miss the driving power and your specific meaning of the chosen topic. Rescue that special 'felt sense of knowing' from inner critics as 'it is really not that important,' 'what do I have to say, really,' 'it's all wrong anyway,' 'I am too stupid' and similar friendly statements. Guiding yourself through TAE with a Focusing partner is a great support. Your partner writes down all the terms, words and sentences for you. At the end, when logic proves and plays with your core statements, your whole body will smile, laugh, get happy, because this hits exactly what you knew before, but now you have words to communicate. When this happens to a person I am very touched each time.

TAE is a tool for many people in all kinds of professional fields to express their experiences in combination with instructed knowledge. Years ago, Gene pointed out that I would do something special in guiding dreams according to something I obviously knew. I did not understand, but felt he was right. Until I attended the first TAE, I kept wondering about that hint. With the TAE tool, I was able to structure Levels One, Two and Three of my dream work training, so what I do became teachable. Without TAE I would not have been able to formulate the concepts in such a logical, understandable way. And even more, 'I' learned something from my 'self,' that 'I' was not clearly conscious of. I mean, isn't that a good reason to feel great--and you could do the same in your field of interest?


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