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Living with the Other Half of America #4: nurturing the parts within — Focusing

Do you dread family get-togethers during the holiday season because some of your “deplorable” family members or friends can’t help but express political or social opinions you despise?

This is the fifth in a series of posts that provide tools you can utilize to increase connection with those who hold opposing views so that you can enjoy your family and friends while preserving or creating peace between you.

Focusing is easier to do than it is to explain. Therefore, I’ll start by describing how to do it and then return to explaining why and how it works.

Focusing is best done seated in a quiet place with eyes closed, so you won’t be disturbed or distracted. Take a few minutes to settle in. It may help to notice where your feet are placed, the support of the chair or sofa you are sitting on, the comfort in your body and your breathing. If you find any tension or discomfort in your body, adjust your position to make yourself comfortable.

When you feel settled, think of whatever feelings or attitudes you might have, in this case, about the people you will be with during the holidays and the political or social positions or attitudes they may bring up at get-togethers. Notice what responses this brings up inside you. What response draws your attention the most?

When you have identified a response within yourself, ask, “Where is this located?” It may be located anywhere inside your body, or even outside of your body. Get a sense of this response. How does it feel?

Now you know where it is and how it feels. In Focusing, we call this a “felt-sense.” We treat a felt-sense with respect by saying “hello” to it and inviting it to sit with us for a while. If the felt-sense is reluctant to reveal itself, just be patient with it and reassure it that you are interested in knowing it and listening to whatever it might want to say to you. After all, it’s been hiding for a reason. By graciously welcoming and being genuinely curious about a felt-sense, we give it space to come forward and share important information.

The rest of the process is fairly automatic. Just by sitting with a felt-sense in a non-judgmental way so that the felt-sense feels accepted and heard, the felt-sense will reveal its nature and/or simply transform itself. It’s the power of our attention that opens the door to transformation and resolution of whatever stress or conflict it held.

When the felt-sense has transformed itself, thank it for showing up and opening up about its pain and suffering. Finally, ask it if it’s okay now to leave it and end your Focusing session.

Now, about how it works. The idea behind Focusing is that there are parts within us, which we call “felt-senses,” that hold the energy of stresses and conflicts. They may show up as children — child-like parts of ourselves — that we haven’t acknowledged or accepted. Indeed, we often have suppressed or rejected these parts. That’s why our sitting with them, with acceptance and curiosity, allows them to reveal themselves. Sometimes they seek something specific from us such as forgiveness or an apology. Sometimes they have things they want us to know but haven’t been able to tell us because we weren’t attentive or accepting. When we truly accept our felt-senses — our inner children — pay attention to them, and give them what they need, they spontaneously transform themselves. It’s really quite magical.

Here’s an example. Suppose you think about cousin Bob, who’s coming for dinner tomorrow. Bob’s a real radical and can’t keep his mouth shut. He’s always trying to convince you that he’s right and you’re a moron. He’s a great guy otherwise, but just thinking about his going on about his attitudes makes you angry. So…

You sit comfortably and close your eyes. You think of Bob’s ranting and feel the anger well up inside you. You put a hand on the place where the angry feeling resides. You simply notice how this feels. It’s very hot, dry, and there’s a tightness associated with it. You say “hello” to this felt-sense. You let this felt-sense know that it’s welcome and that you’re curious to learn what it has to share with you.

The felt-sense glares at you. It seems to be seething. You let it know that you believe that it’s angry at something. The seething settles down a bit. It tells you what it thinks of Bob. You acknowledge it’s feeling without trying to change it. The felt-sense begins to believe that you’re paying attention to how it feels. It settles a little more.

Happier thoughts about Bob begin to slip into your thoughts. Bob’s a great storyteller and he has a lot of good jokes. People enjoy his stories and jokes. There’s a lot of laughter. You notice that there’s a lot less heat and tension in the felt-sense. You realize that you are just as passionate about some issues as Bob is. You hope that you don’t rant the way he does.

The felt-sense seems to want you to apologize to it about the rejecting attitude you’ve had towards it. You offer an apology and reassure the felt-sense that you accept it and that you’ll try to accept Bob too. The felt-sense relaxes and cools.

When everything feels settled, you ask the felt-sense if it’s ready for you to leave it now, assuring it that you’ll return if needed. It accepts your offer. You take a few moments to check that your body is more comfortable than when you started the session, and then you open your eyes.

There’s a lot more that you can learn about Focusing, even courses that you can take, but this is the essence of it. You can use even this beginner’s instruction very successfully to release fears, expectations and attitudes that keep you from enjoying your holiday get-togethers.

This post is the fifth in my series on Living with the Other Half of America — the half that doesn’t agree with you — in this holiday season. Please read the other posts in the series, and recent posts on Spiritual Bypassing, Mourning and Celebrating a Loss, Beyond “The Secret” and Karmic Shadows. The latter is the subject of my webinar on December 13, 2016.

Here is a list of topics on the theme of Living with the Other Half of America — the half that doesn’t agree with you:

#0: Transcendence — the Transcendental Meditation™ program

#1: Empathy — Nonviolent Communication

#2: Clearing Conflict — Ho’oponopono

#3: Choices — The Option Method

#4: Nurturing Parts Within —Focusing

#5: Changing the Energy of Conflict — Matrix Energetics®

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