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Gendlin's A Process Model

A Process Model can show us how to describe Focusing in a new way.

All Focusers have the same problem: how to communicate what Focusing is. We can say “Focusing accesses the wisdom of the body.” Or “Focusing is a way of getting to know how you really feel.” If you have done Focusing, I’m sure you have thought about this and tried to put it into words, as I have over the years. 

I’ve recently come to a new way of communicating what Focusing is. It’s based on A Process Model, which was Eugene Gendlin‘s way of explaining how there could be a world in which Focusing could exist, a world in which felt meaning could exist, a world in which human beings, with our strange and intricate felt senses, could exist. For Gendlin, the basic terms with which Western culture views reality make human beings seem impossible. 

Since we humans are here, we can be certain that we are not impossible. A conceptual model of “reality” that makes us seem impossible has to have something wrong with it.”   — Eugene Gendlin, A Process Model, p. 16

A Process Model vs. the Unit Model

Gendlin called the basis for today’s science and culture “The Unit Model”. In the Unit Model, things are observed and described as if a spectator is “here” and the thing described is “over there”. This allows us to analyze the units that make up what we see around us—the atoms and molecules that combine to form the chemicals, hormones and neurobiological impulses, et cetera, that animate the body and the world. Gene always stressed that this way of looking at the world is very necessary. It has allowed us to produce the technological and scientific achievements of the last 400 years. So we want to keep it, AND we need a different  model to describe living processes. 

Interaction first

The Unit Model is excellent for analyzing things, taking them apart and putting them together. But this does not work with what is alive. Gendlin holds that human beings ARE interaction. Interaction is not one person over here, with set characteristics, interacting with another person over there with set characteristics. No. He says each interaction determines who and how we are, because life is interaction.

Understanding life through different “environments” 

To help us see the world in this new way, Gendlin asks us to consider the idea of different environments from which to look at the world. Because the notion of different environments is a new philosophical concept, he refers to them as “en”. The purpose is to keep this new concept from being confused with currently understood uses of the word “environment”.

In A Process Model, En #1 is the spectator’s view

Society’s current way of looking at life is from the standpoint of a spectator. I’m over here, looking at what is going on over there. Gendlin calls this Environment 1, or En #1. Spectators notice things that they can identify from their world. For instance, biologists will define a monkey’s environment in their own terms. Gendlin gives an example on page one of A Process Model.

“It is En #1 when scientists or hunters define the environment of an animal. They define the en factors…..The spectator’s bodies interact with [what they call] “the animal’s environment” — their own environment attributed to another living body.”    —Eugene Gendlin, A Process Model, p. 1

Let’s pause and take that in. Doesn’t it seem that most of the troubles in the world today come when we take the spectator’s stance? Racism, sexism, bullying, lack of civil discourse, not to mention climate change, none of these acknowledge life as interaction. They result when we attribute what we are familiar with to another living body and expect that body to see, feel and experience life the way we do.

In A Process Model, En #2 is the interactive life process

Gendlin goes on to present an alternative to the familiar spectator’s stance. He calls it Environment 2, or En #2, where interaction IS the process of living.

“Body and environment are one event, one process. For example, it is air-coming-into-lungs-and-blood-cells. We can view this event as air (coming in), or as (a coming into) lungs and body cells. Either way it is one event viewed as en or as body. Here we are not calling it “environment”  because it is all around, but because it participates within the life process…Air coming in and lungs expanding cannot be separate. The point is, we need not split between the lungs and air.”  Eugene Gendlin, A Process Model, p. 1

En #2 makes itself an environment in which life goes on further — En #3 

Then Gendlin comes to Environment 3, or En #3. “The body is an environment in which body process goes on further.” The spider’s web is En #3. En #3 is where the spider finds what she needs to carry out her life process. And here, in En #3, is where Gendlin introduces the idea that we humans are the environment for each other.

“…the main “environment” of any animal is its species members, other animals like it.…..We must not take  the physical environment as our basic model of environment although that too will often already be en#3…..En #3 is the cement you walk on, the mole’s hole, the beehive, the anthill, and our bodies and theirs. The life process (En #2) makes itself an environment in which it then goes on further. We can call it the “home-made” environment for the “domesticated environment”…en #3.” –Eugene Gendlin, A Process Model, p. 4

Providing the environment where living process can develop and grow

So here is my new way of saying what Focusing is: 

Focusing means getting in touch with the felt sense of a situation and symbolizing it in words, gestures, sounds, images, colors, etc. The bodily felt sense of a situation is the body showing us where life is stuck and how it can move forward. Or it’s showing us something that wants to happen. When a felt sense is symbolized, it is “carried forward.” It incorporates more life.

Focusing involves Listening, not as a spectator, but as part of an interactive process. In that interaction, the Listener provides the spacious, non-directive atmosphere. The Listener provides the atmosphere in which the Focuser can Listen to all the voices inside, so that their life processes can develop and grow.

Focusing as En #3

Let’s notice when we fall into En #1, the spectator’s stance. It is so easy to forget that we are interaction first. If we see ourselves judging, or thinking that we know in advance what someone else will say, let’s pause and breathe and remember that we are each other’s environment. We can do that too with ourselves! We can step back and slow down and ask, how can I be an environment for myself in which my aliveness can develop and grow? 

And what do I need to be able to support my aliveness during my daily activities? What do I need to ask for from others in order to feel more alive?

Thinking together at the edge

A wonderful example of this are the members of the Embodied Critical Thinking Program, who are developing the practice of thinking together, through Thinking at the Edge and in the process, inventing new ideas about education. Monika Lindner, a member of that group, described their work together like this:

“I start with and in myself, giving priority to my experiencing and that of each of my companions. I take into account each member’s situation, attending to their interests in a nurturing way. As a result, there is a connecting of each other’s ideas into a web of understanding more. Together, we create an atmosphere of sharing and receiving that allows ideas and projects to emerge.

“In the kindness held by the entire group, I connect more deeply with my ideas. I feel empowered and invited to develop further. It’s like growing together as a forest while becoming more the tree I am.”  –Monika Lindner

 

Gendlin's A Process Model
The “kindness” fostered by Thinking at the Edge

I recently attended the Gendlin Center’s online symposium, Saying What We Mean. At the gathering, the Embodied Critical Thinking project (ECT) demonstrated how they create an environment in which meaning can be expressed and grow.

The group uses Thinking at the Edge (TAE) as one of their tools. Until now, I have thought of TAE as primarily an individual endeavor, to be protected from what Gendlin called “group process”.  However, more and more, I see the spacious listening of TAE engendering an atmosphere of group connection and creativity. TAE listeners are carefully trained to respect and protect each member’s ideas, so they have a different orientation than regular groups. Monika Lindner of the ECT, says that TAE fosters a unique “kindness.”

We ARE each other’s environment

I was fascinated by Monika’s presentation as part of the ECT panel, where she said “We ARE each other’s environment.” We need to understand this new group process.  For that reason, I am sharing Monika’s ideas here:

“The kindness of Thinking at the Edge in a group is soft and strong. It comes through noticing my own and others’ interests, wantings, curiosities and desires to develop further. This kindness patiently attends to each interest that is brought forward, in order to empower the voice of each group member. Listeners hold the uncertainty of on-going exploration, as well as the warmth that comes with each bit of clarity. We invite interests to appear and be born into relevance in every given moment.

“I start with and in myself, giving priority to my experiencing and that of each of my companions. I take into account each member’s situation, attending to their interests in a nurturing way. As a result, there is a connecting of each other’s ideas into a web of understanding more. Together, we create an atmosphere of sharing and receiving that allows ideas and projects to emerge.

Growing together as a forest while becoming more the tree I am

“In the kindness held by the entire group, I connect more deeply with my ideas. I feel empowered and invited to develop further. It’s like growing together as a forest while becoming more the tree I am.

“The kindness of Thinking at the Edge comes from these basic elements of Focusing:

  • pausing, sensing the body and its implying
  • sharing something that matters to you and having others listen
  • having the time and space to find words for what matters
  • others say carefully back what they heard. At the same time they are in touch with what wants to be said and formulated further
  • knowing that your listeners are resonating with what you say through their own living process
  • knowing that there is no judgment, offense, pressure or need to defend or explain in order to be understood. Words are even allowed to be poetic, unique and unusual.

Creating a changed pattern of collaboration with Thinking at the Edge

“Experiencing such an atmosphere creates a changed pattern of collaboration. But so often, in academia and education, teachers and students don’t have that atmosphere.  Logics other than ‘interaction first’ create and structure the environment. What counts in most academic environments is outcome, testing, and repeating predefined tasks and knowledge. “Education” usually ignores the body’s needs–it limits accepted body postures and, more importantly, it is unaware of how the bodily felt sense can contribute to free and critical thinking. Philosopher Eugene Gendlin’s concepts, such as en#2 and en#3, and behavior space, can open up a precise understanding, not only for how we create our own environment but how we ARE each other’s environment.

Being the environment that helps students open to the living place inside them

“What if I follow the thesis that we are each others environment? I imagine myself as being my students’ environment and not “the boss“ or the guide or the professional one.

“The kindness of Thinking at the Edge can become a professional attitude. According to Gendlin, thinking is “successively selecting symbols for present felt meaning”. This supports the unfolding of ones interest and its implying.  Such kindness leads to generative interaction: connecting by listening, saying back, pausing, holding uncertainty, protecting vulnerability, sensing into the yet-unformulated felt quality. As an educator I can chose to BE that environment through engaging students to notice their experiencing. I can help them open up to more understanding and development from this living place inside them.”

Please click on our names if you’d like to tell us about something here that resonates for you. Monika and Beatrice.

Bibliography
Gendlin, E.T. (1997). Experiencing and the Creation of Meaning. Evanston, Illinois: Northwestern University Press, p 162

Thinking at the Edge

What is life calling you to do?

This online course in Thinking at the Edge will help you appreciate, enjoy and revel in your unique way of being. Your deepening relationship with felt sensing will enable you to let go of old ways of thinking and step into the urgings of the soul.

You’ll have the time and space to delve into the ideas and information that come through your body, your lived experience. You’ll explore the ways you connect with the world, the universe, nature and other people. You will gravitate toward your gifts. As your flower unfolds, your idiosyncrasies might even start to make sense!

My kind of TAE could be called ‘Living from Who You Are’

Eugene Gendlin developed Thinking at the Edge in collaboration with his partner, Mary Hendricks Gendlin. Gendlin challenged the world to bring human experiencing into thinking and theory construction. Thinking at the Edge is a truly revolutionary practice! It holds promise for healing the huge rift between science and spirituality, inner and outer, thinking and feeling, etc. Gendlin talks about it in this 5-minute video

TAE grounds you in your lived experience so that you can better express who you are and what comes through you.  You will return to the felt sense of a chosen theme over and over again, leading you to a deeper understanding of your own intricacy. Your felt senses become even more trusted and useful guides.

You will experience Gendlin’s steps 1 to 10 in class and practice them with fellow students between classes. At the end of the course, there will be the opportunity to continue your process in collaboration with your new TAE companions. 

Comments from recent participants

Judy Allen, UK:

“This well-organised and supported course provided a sense of security that had tangible and completely positive outcomes for me. 

“We did not follow the TAE steps in order but went straight to our own experience. This was key to the positive outcome.

“Beatrice is a quiet presence, encouraging sharing by her responses. She knows when to gently intervene in the group learning and does so with consideration to the benefit of all.

“This class brought a whole new dimension to Focusing as well as TAE. I feel I really ‘got’ it. I am inspired to study the process as it stands and contemplate ways in which it could best be disseminated to a wider, possibly non-Focuser audience.”

Phil Bender, US:

“I entered TAE seeking clarity on what I thought was a specific intention. TAE made me more aware of the impetus of the felt sense behind (or inside) that desire. I could feel its inner energy–it had a trajectory.

“I came out of TAE not so much with a blueprint on how to move forward but with tools for being in relationship with a deeper stream in me. Developing the relationship with this felt sense, and honoring it with time and patience, has led to shifts in my life that are conspiring to bring forward what I wanted from TAE at the beginning.” 

Helen Bryant, UK:

“TAE supports the opening of a chosen Felt Sense into learning that only you and your connection with Life can experience. It is a deeply personal enquiry but is grounded in the support of both Gendlin’s  steps and a group of fellow students. Most importantly, you will be guided by Beatrice Blake; a wise, warm and very experienced fellow traveller.

“Your process might start with the Felt Sense of a glimpsed/half forgotten ‘knowing’ or a theme that calls you. TAE is a further stage of Focusing requiring a certain courage; you may feel disturbance as a new perspective/level of consciousness is born, but it is also deeply affirming of your connection to Life in all its manifestations.” 


If this resonates with you, please sign up for a free consultation.

Dates and times:

Dates: Thursdays, November 4, 11 and 18, December 2, 9 and 16 (skipping Thursday, November 25)
Times: 5 p.m. Eastern, except for the class on November 4, which will start at 6 p.m.)
(Friday mornings at 9 a.m. in Sydney)

Find your time zone here: http://www.thetimezoneconverter.com

To join, please submit the contact form below.

Investment:

US$295 per person for six 2-hour sessions
Classes are limited to 6 people, so it’s best to sign up early!
Payment can be by check or PayPal. Payment details will be given at enrollment.

The implicit carried forward

Facilitator:

Beatrice Blake, Certifying Coordinator with The International Focusing Institute. For more information or to sign up, contact me for a free consultation.

Photo credit: https://www.carriebakerphd.com/photography

Thinking at the Edge (TAE) has helped me move from feeling powerless about climate change to a place of hope, with clear steps ahead that feel right for me.

My TAE process developed into how to position myself before any storm on the horizon, not just climate change. So I feel like I’m ready to go with coronavirus, straight into action, without the weeping and wailing. Action, in the instance of corona virus, means:

I am moved and grateful to Merilyn Mayhew of Sydney, Australia for this rich essay on her transformational process in my 7-week online class in Thinking at the Edge (TAE). Merilyn and I want to share her story of how TAE led her from helplessness to hope on climate change. This attitude has extended to her actions around COVID-19 as well:

the intricate ongoingness inside of life

“You need to stand again in your own experiencing … in your own felt ongoingness, which is that intricate complexity inside of life … to put into the world
what hasn’t been said yet, that you are carrying from your particular experience.
 
—Eugene Gendlin

Going into my experiencing. What does that mean? For most of my life, I thought I had to fit myself into the systems that other people had thought or written. True, I can’t hold onto ideas in a rigorous way. But thanks to my dear Gene Gendlin, developer of Focusing and Thinking at the Edge, I know how to go into my own knowing from “experiencing“. Knowing from experiencing is at a different level than intellectual smarts. In fact, some intellectually smart friends of mine become imprisoned in their intellect. The maelstrom of air-tight arguments leaves no space for who they are, for their own wantings, for the longings of the soul. So the smartness becomes a source of suffering and self-rejection. I want to extend my hand and say, “We are so much more than that!”

Right now I am dealing with three forms of software that I hoped would make my work more effective. But that’s not what is happening. So I am going to spend some time today going back to my felt sense of what I want to be doing. That brings me to something Gendlin has helped me to grasp. My goals evolve with my interactions. Since I started learning the software, I have had some real life experiences that show me what I love, what fulfills me, what I want more of. So today, I will stop and let my ideas catch up to my “experiencing”: my own felt ongoingness, which is that intricate complexity inside of life.