The right to be me

Today I had a welcome call from my longtime collaborator, Dr Juan Prado of México, DF. We ended up doing some Focusing. Here is what came for me:

Self empathy (Domain Focusing), or the Caring-Feeling Presence (Bio-spiritual Focusing), or Presence (Inner Relationship Focusing) are all ways of talking about the attitude of friendliness and openness to what we find inside. But often, when we come in contact with felt sensing for the first time, what we touch inside is an overwhelming physical sensation accompanied by a “Get me out of here!” feeling, and a direct line to all the voices that tell us how “lazy”, “uncentered”, “out in left field”, or just generally “wrong” we are. We have no practice finding the feeling that is “just me being me”.

This initial touching in can feel frustrating, tedious or panicky, as if by touching in to our bodies we are getting in touch with too much, or that there is nothing there. We are “merged” with the critical voices inside.

I remember Gene describing the critical voice and the “just me being me” voice as similar to two kids. One is bigger, older, more experienced and stronger than the other, like a 16-year-old with a four-year-old little brother. They have to be separated. Give the teenager some money to go buy a pizza with his friends, so you can spend some time with the younger, tenderer one, who maybe doesn’t have words yet, but has plenty of feelings and  beautiful life energy that is welling up, trying to be expressed. He has to be protected from being picked on by his big brother.

It came to me that before we can really give loving attention to difficult places inside, we have to cultivate our own right to exist and have our life separate from the multitude of powerful voices inside. That’s a process in itself.

Maybe it would help to remember a time “when I really felt like me”. It may be hard to get in touch with this experience.

I remember when I was at my first Thinking at the Edge seminar with Gene Gendlin, Nada Lou and Kye Nelson in 2004, I had a really hard time getting to Step 0, the place you start from. I wanted to think about how to go about my project in El Salvador, but we were supposed to start from “something we know”. I was baffled. It was the third day, and I hadn’t been able to get anywhere. I finally asked Nada for help. She took me outside in the sun and we sat on a stone bench in front of the Garrison Institute. Tears come to me now as I think of it. Her question was something like “When have you felt really alive, really felt like you?” The only answer I could come up with was “When I am singing the blues with a blues band.” She reflected that back to me in her charming Croatian accent with her sparkling blue eyes: “When you are singing the blooce…”

What the hell did that have to do with starting a project to teach Focusing to poor people in El Salvador? And yet there it started, from getting in touch with an instance of really feeling like I was expressing my aliveness.

There is so much energy in that tender shoot, that young child that may not be listened to by anyone else, but who wants so much to express all the life inside, and who may have been met with well-meaning adults whose duties are to train it, protect it, make sure it is disciplined enough to succeed, instill unshakable spiritual values in it–adults who may not take the time to just honor the special gift of life that each child brings. Tears come again. Just as we celebrate at Christmas, the child brings something new, something that is outside the old understanding, the old paradigm. If the adults didn’t know how to listen, we have to learn how to find it in ourselves.

it is that precious, wise child inside that can bring new energy and direction if we allow it to “just be me.”

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