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Articles and letters from people who tried it (or simmilar techniques) on themselves

1).......awarenes of one's needs and body

Exerpts from a post to the
by permission of the author
Dear M.
I wanted to reply to you about using Focusing with 'physical' symptoms and ailments. This is something that I have been investigating for about three years now. I want to describe quite clearly what I do so that you can see that it is similar but not identical to what Ilan Shalif does (at leat as I understand it).

I have been using Focusing with colds, exzema, insect bites and other small physical ailments. I know that this are not big things in the world of physical ailments - however I tend to be pretty healthy. I have wondered for a long time why it was necessary to distinguish between different kinds of body sensations (this is a felt sense that will open and this is just indigestion or a bruise). So I decided that I would treat all body sensations as possible felt senses until nothing happened.
I use Inner Relationship Focusing in which we relate to our experiencing as if it is somebody with intelligence, emotions, reason, wisdom. So when I start to feel a cold coming on - I get a scratchy tickly raw feeling in the back of my throat, I turn to it as if it someone wanting my attention. I greet it (sometimes I even say hello to it) and start to sense it in all its particulars. I feel it in as much detail as I can describing it for a little while. The description at this point is in words like: scratchy, up near the back almost into my nose, prickly, etc. That bit is important, however - the bit that seems to be magical - ie. if this happens it tends to dissappear very quickly (within minutes usually) is when I can feel the emotional quality that this brings with it. And that requires my sensing empathically for how *it* is feeling.
This is very different from sensing how *I* am feeling about *it*. I may be feeling irritated or worried that I am getting a cold - but *it* may be feeling worn out or sad or angry about something. I must stress that I am not *trying* to find meaning here - I am sensing into that place and noticing what comes as I sit with it and keep it company. The key really does seem to be when I get the emotional feeling within the body sensation. Things move so fast when that happens.

Another little vignette: When I was in Maryland a couple of weeks ago we were in a shady and beautiful grove of trees - and I wound up getting bit by mosquitoes and who knows what. I haven't lived in a country where I get bitten enough to have any kind of natural immunity. The last time mosquitoes got me I had those huge white weals all over me and they had itched for days. The bites started itching and I decided to see whether Focusing with them would do anything. So I sensed into them and I could feel that in and behind the itchy place there was a feeling of intense irritation. It was like my body was screaming "get these off me!!" I felt that and really acknowledged how irritated my skin felt from these bites. It felt like the histamine reaction was an attempt to do that. About 5 minutes later I looked down and the little red marks that had started to form had disappeared - and there was no itching.

There was only one fairly major kind of physical injury that I have had that I used this with - a fairly badly sprained ankle (the doctor said that I would not be able to walk on it at all for about 2 weeks). I kept Focusing company with it in the same way that I have described. I sensed that it felt really vulnerable and wanted me to be very gentle with it. The image that I got was of a crying child that needed comfort and care. I asked it what kind of care it needed and tried to give it what it asked for. I was walking on it within about 4 or 5 days and it was virtually completely ok within about 3 weeks.

I do something that seems to be most like what Ilan seems to be saying is when I am very tired. If I have been working very hard during the day and not listening to my body enough, by the evening I sometimes have overstretched myself and feel like I have hit a brick wall. When that happens I sometimes stop and simply feel the tired - how that lives in my body right now. I may take 5 minutes to do that. Instead of trying to soothe myself in all the various ways that could be possible, I just surrender to it for that time. I close my eyes and feel in detail where it is in my body, how it feels, and I am open to any meanings that may come but at that point I don't do anything other than acknowledge it as it is and let it know I am open. Usually after about 5 minutes I feel considerably refreshed. I then sense whether it is ok to go on or whether I need to stop for awhile.

I hope that these are the kind of things that you are interested in. I find it facinating to explore using Focusing in areas that are not usually looking into.
best wishes

2) A letter from Kathy McGuire-Bouwman to the focusing-discuss list

at by permission of the author

Hello, all.

Well, I said I'd review Ilan Shalif's manual, Focusing on the Emotions of Daily Life: A Guide for Their Maintenance, or, How to Change Without Trying Too Hard, so I've begun reading and trying his approach. I have far to go but will give you a taste of my impressions of the first chapters.
Ilan's "General Sensate Focusing" (I'll call it GSF to distinguish from Gendlin's Focusing) is a broader application of the sensate focusing technique developed by Masters and Johnson* to increase sexual sensation and pleasure, e.g., clients were taught to focus their attention on feelings of sexual stimulation, etc., not letting their minds wander away ( a great oversimplification by me).
Ilan has applied the method, with his own developments, to any sensation which arises in the body.
Let me fist describe how GSF is different from Focusing: In Gendlin's Focusing, we do not increase our attention to , for example, the pain in our jaw, but we direct our attention toward the more general, bodily-feel of the "meaning" of this pain, which we usually find in the center of the body, in an "energy" space between the neck and the stomach (perhaps corresponding to the various energy chakras found in the trunk area). We ask an open-ended question something like "And what's this pain all about?" and wait quietly for the vague, bodily-feel of our "body's" answer to that question to form in that center space, then we very carefully look for words or images that are just right in capturing that bodily feel.
In Ilan's GSF, as I understand and have tried his initial instructions, we (1) scan the body for sensations (2) choose a sensation to "focus" on, (3)put our attention directly into that sensation, for instance, by imagining a pointer finger which is exploring right into the sensation, looking for the very center of it. So, the locus of attention is into the sensation itself.
Ilan cautions us not to get distracted into thinking about the sensation or looking for meanings, since the resources of the brain are needed for the sensate focusing work itself. Simply "focusing" into the sensation in this way can alleviate it. More importantly, the sensate focusing gets "cover" and "trash" programs out of the way and, through this intensification of our body's natural biofeedback, activates the natural "mending" programs that clear out the "trash" programs which are causing the body to cry out through the sensation (these are Ilan's theoretical terms for the information processing going on).
Try it out. It works! It is very different from our Focusing, has nothing to do with meaning, but does allow "stuck" bodily states to start to heal.
Ilan describes how, if you continue to let the imiginal pointing finger explore into the center of the sensation, you will begin to experience blood pulsing in that location, an indication of the way in which increased attention brings healing forces into the area.
Ilan has also thoroughly studied about the physiology of "emotion" as a biological event and has all kinds of hints that come from this knowledge, like, if the sensation gets too painful, rub your palms together, and the flood of sensations from that will overwhelm the brain and short-circuit the initial painful sensation. Or that, since 97% of people process emotion through the right hemisphere of the brain, sensate focusing on sensations on the left side of the body has a heightened success in activating the "mending programs."
Sensate focusing can also be done "in the background," while waiting in line, sitting at boring meetings, etc., simply by allotting a little bit of attention to a sensation.
Now I'm starting to read Stage Two, for "advanced sensate focusers," which has to do with recycled emotions and other things. Ilan admonishes caution and at least a month's practice of beginning sensate focusing before tackling these more "stuck" sensations.
Anyway, I think it's fascinating and would especially make a pre-Focusing training for people who are not oriented to the inside of their body enough to get the idea of Gendlin's Focusing, e.g., I bet it would increase BB on Michael Bennet's measure of personality styles. I do think there are some felt meaning processes (new words and images coming) that go along in the background as one plays with sensate focusing.
So, there's my first taste. I'll keep reading. The book has a tongue-in-cheek humor and lightness of appoach which is entertaining, even while he is challenging our most basic beliefs about the need for "insight" in healing.
Kathy McGuire-Bouwman, The Focusing Community, Fayetteville, AR

* The sexologists Masters and Johnson developed a technique which enabled applicants to solve long lasting problems in their sexual functionig - very fast and without the use of any "psychotherapy". Their, and other advanced techniques were the base on which I (with the help of many aplicants) developed the new technique.

3) A story of a trainee of mine as written after three months of training

(Written upon a request - as a contribution to the virtual community of focussers... and for the casual reader.)

Realizing a basic intuitive reaction to crisis situations, always leaves one at awe. Understanding that reaction and learning to use it to your advantage is smart.

The general sensate focusing technique is all about the most basic, intuitive reflex in dealing with pain, studying it and using it in other situations.

I am now 26 years old and I have just learned that I have been focusing since my first headache at the age of 12.

When the hammer hits your finger instead of the nail on the wall, the first thing you do is to stop and look at your finger. Then, you hold it in your hand and at that moment all that you are able to think about is the excruciating pain you feel... All of a sudden, you "get used" to the pain and it "goes away".

well, it doesn't just "go away". Your mind realizes that it can handle the pain and that this is no "crisis". We all take our mind too seriously and don't understand that just as your mind can play tricks on you, so can you play tricks on it.

My father is a very stern person, very difficult to talk to and very judgmental. I have never learned to talk to him. Every time I had to speak with him I got serious convulsions. I would come to the point that my teeth start to clatter uncontrollably in the middle of conversation since I was so self-conscious...

A week ago I had a breakthrough. I called my father to ask for a loan. My stomach churned every time the phone rang. By the time someone answered I was so dumbstruck I could barely speak. Thank god he wasn't in.

The next few days I couldn't think of anything else. I imagined confrontations with him and every reaction that he could have. I realized that there was a distinct feeling in my gut every time I tried calling. I began focusing on that distinct feeling using imagination as a trigger for my reactions.

Finally I realized that my reactions had nothing to do with common sense, since I was able to control them. All of these fears that I used to have were a child's fears... and my mind was only "playing tricks tricks on me".

I kept focusing on these distinct feelings until I felt in control of my reactions. After a while, I succeeded to change the program in my mind. Had a wonderful conversation with my father and got the needed loan... anxiety free.

There is a wonderful feeling of strength in the understanding that you have control over every reaction of yours. It is also an enormous responsibility. One thing for sure, I have the choice.

Thank you Dr. Ilan Shalif

4) The story of J. - sent from a country in East Europe

Hello, all, I promised to Ilan to describe my own experience as a virtual trainee. Included in the following is the description of the first results of my practice of General Focusing Technique.

How I got to try this technique?

Years ago I suffered from warts on my hands. One day I decided to "clean" my hands all by myself, by the shear efforts of my mind.
I started to imagine that the blood vessels around the warts got choked; that the blood vessels nurtured them no more; that the warts are slowly becoming drier, smaller and are gradually disappearing.
I started this as a kind of game and practiced it for a while. But, as two weeks had passed and I did not see any progress, I stooped it.

But a week later, I noticed to my surprise that my hands were clean from warts... and they never returned.

Years later, began a period in my life in which I became more and more easily exhausted, I lost a lot of my vitality and the joy disappeared from my life. I began to suffered more frequently and intensely from recurrent headaches which I used to have since my childhood. This infliction even influenced my ability to think properly. Consequently, I sometimes made hasty actions with bad results and sometimes postponed urgent things.

I felt I was starting to loose the balance of both my mind and body and decided to find some remedy.

I remembered how I cured myself years ago from my warts and wanted a similar solution to the mounting problem. I was sure that one of the methods of self-control will do - and decided to try biofeedback.

The Alta-Vista search machine discovered some items and among them Biofeedback Without Instruments. When I tried it, I found a thing which is rare even on the Internet: The complete guide, the technology, the theory - all without fee... and without any need to buy an expensive device.

I started to practice it. But, under influence of my previous experience with the warts I tried systematic imagination to manipulate my problems and symptoms. While practicing, I strained to quit the pain and remove the bad feelings as fast as possible.

But my problems persisted. There was only a small change and the resulting improvement was scant.

So, I decided to change my approach. I tried now to follow the instructions of Ilan's guide more strictly. Moreover, I connected Ilan via e-mail and I got a very good advise: He suggested me to focus on ALL the sensations of the body and not only on those at the place of the strongest discomfort - the headache.
He told me, that even the most serious problems can manifest themselves as only faint sensations. He stressed that there is not a direct relation between the intensity of a feeling and the urgency of the inner problem.

I stooped trying to actively manipulate my various feelings and sensations and started to just simply observe them.

I tried to find faint bodily sensations which  were related to my mind's moods, fears, uncertainty or just sadness.

These bad moods expressed themselves often as a feeling of suffocation, located in the throat and as pressures in the chest. I started to practice focusing on these faint sensations too, wherever I was and whenever I had the time. In the bus, in the metro and in bed before I was falling asleep.

Then, once, while I was sitting in the tram and practicing focusing, I abruptly moved back in time... to a very young age. I noticed that the pressure in my chest was a beginning of crying; my suffocation in the throat was the tendency to stop this crying; the pain behind my ayes was the result of the efforts to suppress my tears.

Experience of not much pleasure for a 55 years old man that I am. I was a little embarrassed, that I was driven by the a ghost from my past, who was hidden somewhere inside me. But, I knew that my feelings were real and I simply must respect and accept the facts.

So I continued with my focusing practice and felt afterwards a bit better then before. Now, I simply try to focus on all the places relating to my feelings, even when the sensations are only faint ones. I do it without violence, force, manipulation... just to feel them and know they exist.

I do it similarly to the way I was listening hearing and feeling my sons when they were young and sweet.

My mind and body started to return, slowly, to the natural balance. For example, not long ago, I would sometimes wake up by a nightmare and will not be able to fall asleep again till morning. Now, when it happens, I do a small focusing trip through the various regions of my body and fall asleep again, without pills or any other artificial means.

When I am nervous, I also make a small focusing trip around. However, to be honest I have to admit there is a side effect to this improvements. Sometimes I have a vivid perception of the feelings of other persons. Nothing like the result of an investigative look of a police officer or a card player, but more as a sudden revelation witch hits me.

Sometime I feel this way the love of my sons, wife or especially that of my dog... Sometimes I feel this way the sad, embarrassing feeling of fear or hatred of another person. It is sometime too intensive feeling even for a mature man.

Generally, I do not try to play any tricks on my consciousness. I respect it/him/her/them experienced "entities" - the processes that unfold inside me and believe that our goals are the same.

As a consequence of the focusing I do things better, with bigger self-confidence. Moreover, I stand on my own feet as an autonomous person, independent of gurus, organizations, hierarchy, ideology, and all kinds of deceivers.

I think, that the tool which Ilan gave to us via Internet is not only the technology and the knowledge how to improving health, and achieve well-being, but is also a worthy prescription for a fair pattern of human connection, relationship and help.

5) A "report" of a trainee - after about two years of training

Subject: focus: 2 years user report
From: E. S.
To: Ilan Shalif


In a bit late but better than never.
Enjoy reading and keep smiling!
Sensual Focusing - Report

Report contents:
1. Intruduction
2. Background to start of use
3. Achievements in numbers and physical phenomena.
4. Achievements - behavioural
5. Advantages - summary
6. Disadvantages - summary
7. Misc.

1. Introduction:

My name is E. S. I am 32 years old (Sep. 1997). This is an usage report about a tool called in hebrew "sensual focusing". I started using it at september 95', so that makes it 2 year's ussage.
I learnt the use of it by the help of Dr. Ilan Shalif.
This report states here my personal impressions.

2. Background of start of use

I had a problem of bad tempered eruptions, during my life with my girl-friend. These eruptions were uncontrolled. Their nature was sometimes violent but not against the woman I lived with but against myself. it came to such a degree that I was in danger of loosing my life potentially in any one of such eruptions. Since I thought I have a lot to loose and I believed this problem can be handled, I went already to a psychological treatment.

I have been taken this treatment for about 2-3 months, without letting my girlfriend know about this fact, when she let me know that she is leaving me. Her main reason was the problem that was described above.

Naturally of such kind of situations, I made some thought. I decided that she is important enough for me to try to change as quickly as I can. My intention was to get here back. Since she told me about Dr. Ilan Shalif and his focusing "treatments", I called him and started to meet him on a weekly basis (in parallel to psychological treatment I have been taking already). Between the meetings I worked on focussing independently.

3. Achievements in numbers and physical phenomena

Starting of April 1997, I have been using this tool systematically in order to loose weight. I am slim type, but wanted to loose 6 Kg in order to run better (I LOVE to run). I begun with 64 Kg weight and 82 cm belly measure. Now ,6 months later, I am 59 Kg and 79 cm.

b. Fungus between tows:
I have suffered for a long time (about 10 years) from this problem. The skin there was dry, tend to break and itch. I got various medicines against fungus. Always helped temporarily but the problem came back after stop using medicin.
After about 4 months of focusing use, these phenomena were disappeared, the skin looked like a baby's skin. The fungus came back after about a year when I used the tool loosely and not systematically. It disappeared when I returned to routine of use.

c. Face - Saboriasis (Dandruf)
I have suffered from this skin mal-function (usual typical for head-skin) for about 15 years. It disappeared One year and 9 months after I have start focusing.

d. Bent back
I had a significant back-bent when I stood. I could straiten my position with a lot of muscle effort. So much, that I felt this back-bent is something natural. One year and half after start focusing, I find out that my back was much strait. The effect is so obvious that my close relatives ( parents ) felt I suddenly gained highet. It also look and feels natural, effortless.

4. Achievements - behavioural
a. Bad-tempered eruptions:

Gone. First, time-intervals between eruptions grew more and more. This problem was so basic and well-rooted that there where times I believed it could not be rooted out.
It is a year since I had my last one. Since then, there were enough occasions were I had my chance to erupt: people that I care about their opinion expressed unpleasant things about me, and bad-tempered Israelian drivers cursed me or tried to move me from road - It did not happened. In the severest cases I replied back, but in spoken language and without raising my voice.

b. Addiction to T.V:
For about 10 years I had the following pattern: When I came tired from work, I often found myself opening the TV and just sitting staring at whatever was running on the screen. On one hand it was a good therapy, but on the other I felt frustrated for not doing many interesting things like: Gym, Reading, Learning, Going out with friend/girlfriend and so on. What I hated most about this pattern was that it was for many occasions, uncontrolled - I could see how my hand jumping to the TV button but could not do a thing.
2 years after starting focusing, I think the pattern was gone. Contrarily: many times, when coming after-work, I fill a great urge to do one of the interesting things I have mentioned in the paragraph above. Originally, I did not mean this to happen. It happened as a side effect of my loosing-weight program.

c. Sex:
I have tried focusing during having sex relations only once. My impression is that it lengthen the erection time three or four times in comparison to regular times, hence I could make my mate and me enjoy more. It seems to sharpen your senses (smell, touch, hearing), enriching what you are experiencing.

d: Smell:
For many years my smell sense was like my sight - for short distance. I could smell only non-delicate smells. I thought it to be natural character of me.One and a half year afrer start of focusing, I can smell a wide variety of smell. I can smell women approaching from 3-10m distance with this delicate perfumes that exist on the market. I can smell the salt of the sea that the wind is bringing from the sea, 1Km away. I can smell flowers, trees etc.

5. Advantages - summary
a. Cheap:

Basically, what it takes to buy the focus book and start practicing.
From my experience, it is easy to learn the technique. Anyway, it will be very effective also to take advice from an experienced user, even try to work with him.

b. Can deal with wide range of problems:
Based on my experience these are the problems where the tool was proved to be effective: Loosing weight, Straightening my posture, Light illnesses of skin, Bad-tempered eruptions, Sex. It seems to me that it may be helpful also in other areas.

6. Disadvantages - summary
a. The changes of the soul/body are uncontrolled:

Since the this tool is dealing with the body/soul complex as a "black box" this means that the processes in this black box are not controlled. This means that the changes in your body/soul will take place in a some ways, sometimes surprising. For example, I decreased my TV consumption intentionally as a by product of working on my weight. From my experience all this changes were positive, but again, uncontrolled.

b. May cause intense feelings:

This is dangerous especially for the novice users - "negative" feelings as fear, rage etc. may be temporarily intensified and concentrated, causing very unpleasant experience. This tool needs short training period (1-3 weeks) by the novice, and preferred by the help of experienced user.

c. No wonder medicine:

It is not a chemical. Systematic and regular usage is a must in order to make sure the problem/ilness is cured - this may take a few years depend on the usage intensity. Anyway short usage may make the symptoms less critical almost immediately so it may be used as some kind of "aspirin".

d. Too simple:

The usage of this tool is very simple, so simple that many people that could take advantage of that tool are not using it because they think it is some kind of practical joke.

7. Misc

As a whole - excellent tool with great advantages and minor disadvantages.
It does not hamper your functionality in any sense.
The total result is that the times you feel good during the day are much more from the times you are feeling bad. As a result your functionality is usually improves which may cause more moments of "feel good" and so on.

I want to make it clear again that this report is based on experience of one man - me. Hence, it is very subjective report and I really do not know how this tool will influence other human being.


E. S.

Tel Aviv

6) On To The Focus: A "report" of Z. L. - a 47 bachelor trainee, after few months of regular weekly sessions

This short story was originally written in Hebrew. The original title was in fact: On The 'Moked' (a word with double meanings - one, 'Focus' as in English, the other, the fire with which victims were executed (used as metaphor for being in the focus of less than supportive audience).

The choice of this word, was to convey the double aspect of 'being observed by magnifying glass': when its focus is directed into the self, it can be either enlightening or scorching (or both).

So, to make this story short, we are now focusing on my quest after the unknown mystery: hou/when/and why, did doctor shalif make such a success with "Z. L. project", and where he was so able to manage where all the others were 'so able' to fail?

In fact, Ilan is his method, and the method is Ilan. "You can't get one without the other", as the words of the song say.

Howsoever, in sessions, we are chatting, eye to eye, and I feel no authority, no arrogance no "professional mystique". Than I understand, what is happening, and why the sessions with Ilan so fit me.

Here I am, some Jewish boy, intelligent a little, intellectual a little, conscious a little. But, does not want to exchange his dependence on Polish mom, for an out-of-family figure - doctor or not.

And as busy in focusing, turning all emotional energies directly inside my head, and concentrate in my feelings, I begin to learn and experience my internal music and its nuances.

And then, I am wandering, exploring my new world, do not waste any kind of negative emotions at myself or at the long haired guy sitting next to me. This non-serious man, I invited to teach me and train me with his magic words.

And some how, for unknown reason, we become friend - full partners in this fantastic trip. And it is really fun, as you all already know.

And so Ilan, my new cooperator, does not take from me any thing at all. Except his fee... And his own experiences. He does not take, completely, even one thing of those - the others of some schools, are so eager to bite off and on their patients.

No manipulations take place and no bullshit.

Than, I could watch myself at the right mirror, not the distorting one, slowly and surely, feeling, seeing, identifying my pains and scratches.

Step by step I discover, absurdly, that the points of all cures are, how funny, attached to all the points of pain.

I sit in my place, my back aching of uprightness, and the nape of the neck tired of being continuously erect... and plugging to my private seismograph. Not to a polygraph machine - searching nonsense, or some microscope watching microbes.

And the punch line.

So I say to myself, "if every thing go so well, where is the catch? It's too easy to be true".

O. K., some day I'll find it.

Or not.

Who cares now.

To Ilan - the one & only.


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