Do It for Yourself Now!
I. A warning for beginners
Caution!!! You are now starting the maintenance of your central life system! Even when life is at its worst, and is "deep in the garbage pile" - hasty actions can make things even worse.
Though none of the people who have used the proposed procedure reported harmful effects to their system, one can never be sure whether or not you, or any of the other future users are the exception to the rule. So, do not be a hero! Do not try to challenge too many unpleasant emotions or bad feelings while you are only on the first steps of the new procedure. Do not do it even if you take all precautions and responsibility.
Moreover, consider the fact that previous users reported that concentrated attention to a sensation or a feeling may sometimes strengthen it temporarily. They also reported that, frequently, the unpleasant feeling focused on can unexpectedly change into another intense and unpleasant one - before relief comes and saves you.
Therefore, the use of the suggested procedure for the self-maintenance of the emotional system - without an experienced friend or coach - is not recommended to those at "high risk" for emotional flooding or acute psychosomatic disturbances. These reservations are also relevant to those who are in intensive medical treatment, intensive psychotherapy or any other intensive therapy or think they need it - whatever the reason may be.
It is not recommended to be self-applied by those who are cowards or only very anxious as they are liable to get an anxiety attack.
However, if you are really curious or of the inquisitive type, or just want a basic improvement in your feelings or a complete betterment of your emotional climate - you are invited not merely to read the following pages, but also to take the following steps:
II. First stage - beginning steps of guided sensate focusing
First step - know thyself
Sit comfortably, with support for your head so that the nape of your neck is relaxed, the head and the neck are in a relatively straight line with the spinal cord which is straight as well. This will prevents muscular tensions in the neck from interfering in following tasks.
After reading the beginning paragraphs, you will be advised to take a small tour of your body. The starting point may be the place you are usually aware of or feel once you have "decided" (or discovered or discerned) that you are in a bad mood, or that you have unpleasant emotions or feelings or sensations. It is recommended that you choose as the starting point, the place where you are now feeling the worst.
Usually this point is located in the intestines, chest, neck, or the head. Less frequently it is located in the nape of the neck, shoulders, back, feet or hands. Sometimes it is hard to find a more accurate address to those feelings as many of the parts in our body have scientific names which are not part of our daily vocabulary. Another contributor to this difficulty is the common lack of proficiency in focusing attention on feelings and sensations that are of a low or moderate intensity.
After you pay a brief notice to the starting point, start to scan slowly the various regions and organs of your body. Pay attention, for a short while, to the various sensations of each - whether you can define them as pleasant, unpleasant or neutral.
It is recommended to start the tour in your body - now
After completing the first tour, it is worth doing again - parallel
to reading the following paragraphs:
The head: One can feel pressure or pain or various unpleasant sensations in different regions of the head or in all of them simultaneously. The most common place for those feelings is in the front of the head - in and around the eyes. A lot of itching of various intensities is also felt there from time to time, mainly on the scalp.
The face: Though it is a part of the head it is entitled to a name of its own. The 23 pairs of muscles of the face are in permanent and close connection with the emotional system. Their connection is specially strong with the active ad hoc programs(4) of the moment - mainly with the "trashy"(10) ones, the parts and procedures of which are emotionally loaded. The most active region of the face is that of the mouth. Most of the problems here are mainly esthetic. The intense ones are expressed as furrows, distortions of the face or a tightened mouth. Less often there are "ticks" or a general hardening of the face muscles and jaws.
The nape: (and especially the root of the head): This is the upper end of the long muscles of the back. These muscles - especially of the upper end, are the source of headaches and other bad feelings or discomfort of the head. Various activation programs(2) use the controlled hardening of the muscles of this region to regulate the intensity of various feelings and emotions, mostly to reduce them.
The throat: Usually, the precise address is the region of the vocal cords. At this point we usually feel the lump which is hard to swallow, the suffocating tears and other kinds of sorrow. The vocal-cords like the muscles of the face - are always in very close touch with the concurrently active "trash-programs".
The chest: In this big bulk there are a lot of addresses and variegated sensations and feelings - distress, pressure, pricks, stubbing pains, sharp and dull pains, shrinking and hammering of the heart, contraction of the diaphragm, etc. The most dramatic occurrence in this region is asthmatic suffocation, triggered by mental stress. The most grave expressions of emotional stress in this area are disturbances that affect the function and health of the heart. These stresses may "donate" an important contribution to death due to heart failure - especially when they are of long duration.
The belly and intestines: The external muscles of the abdomen, the many yards of intestines and the other internal organs, have an abundance of possibilities. Each sub-region has its own characteristic variety of feelings and sensations. The pains of convulsions, nausea, stress, pricks and "butterflies"... are the most common. Diarrhea, constipation and ulcers are the most acute expressions of the effects of emotional stress on this region.
The muscles of the skeleton: These muscles are a major part of the body's weight - and even more so in lean people. These muscles can be tight, stiffened, rigid, slackened, strung, stretched... or simply painful. The majority of adults often feel pain or other bad feelings in their back - usually in the lower part. The common name is "low back pain". When one is out of luck, one learns from the physician its orthopedic name - Lumbago.
Itching, scratching and other irritants: Very often we feel itchiness (or other excitations of the skin) in the region of limbs, head, torso, etc. Sometimes (according to the prevailing code of manners), there are no moral, physical or health restrictions and we touch, rub, scratch or scrape the place absent-minded (or almost so).
Sometimes we have to refrain from doing this due to various restrictions. In these cases we try to distract our attention, and hope for a quick disappearance of the irritation. Sometimes, we are forced to continue paying attention to the discomfort for many long seconds... until we yield to the urge or reach a compromise. The overwhelming majority of these sensations are not of an objective source like a sting, or an insect bite or any other irritant to the skin, but a result of the activity of our emotional system. We shall dwell on this subject later in a section intended for the sensate-focusing for the advanced.
After finishing the second tour of your body, you are invited to return to the starting point and prepare yourself for the second step. However sometimes, while you are on the first step, unexpected changes have happened at the starting point, and thus a surprise awaits you there. Even if your point of departure was a significant and unpleasant sensation, it may already be changed or even dissolved. In such a case, you can choose for the second step, any other uneasy or unpleasant sensation you still have. In the rare case where you cannot find any - leave the sensate-focus training and have a good time while it lasts. When an unpleasant feeling or sensation returns you will be able to resume the training.
If you are one of those people who are hard to stop while things are unfinished, you can still resume this step, even if you have lost the last of the bad feelings. In this case you can choose as a substitute, one of the facial muscles that are on the left of the mouth. (If you are left-handed - try the right side.) A somewhat more sophisticated means to this end is: the "opening of the nape* of the neck", recycling of emotionally loaded memories, structured imagery and self-provocations. However, if you are doing this step without the aid of an experienced focuser - be careful not to invite too intense feelings.
Opening the nape is a term used in this book to name the act of reclining the head slightly backwards on a comfortable support. This act relaxes the muscles of the nape and neck. As a result, their ability to lower the intensity of subliminal sensations of the body diminish and they become perceptible.
This activity is usually like opening a tap. You can set it to achieve the required intensity of feelings by "tuning" the amount of the relaxation of the muscles of the neck. The crude tuning is done by adjusting the curvature and slope of the support used for the back and the head. The fine tuning is done by a minute adjusting of the extent you lean back, and the extent you direct your chin up or down.
Second step - finding the exact address
After the "general visit of courtesy" to the feelings and sensations of various parts and "regions" of the body, try to localize the exact address of one of your body sensations. Choose the one you know the most, the one which is the most interesting or the most intense.
The aim of the following task is to deepen your acquaintance with the felt senses of your body. In spite of the obstacles and inconveniences you may encounter in the first trial, it is worth doing for a few seconds - before you resume reading about the obstacles and the explanations as to how to overcome them.
This is the recommended point at which to execute
the first trial of the second step.
After doing the task once, it is recommended that you do it from time to time, while you read the following paragraphs. There are many difficulties you may encounter in this step - which seems so innocent at first - hopefully not all of them on the first day of focusing. Following are the most prominent ones and their remedies:
It is hard for anyone who is not skilled and experienced, to continue concentrating on a point of the body without drifting into some other physical or mental activity. Sometimes, the focusing itself arouses a chain of associations or other cognitive processes. This might interfere with the ongoing focusing or even prevent its continuance.
Following are three options one can implement when this happens:
- Give in and change what you do for awhile.
- Intensify the efforts of focusing to overcome the distractions.
- Choose any simple word or a syllable that first comes to your mind and repeat it silently many times. This repetition paralyzes the distracting thoughts and enables you to continue focusing during the recitation*.
* In their verbal games, children find that the fast repetition of a word obliterates its meaning and stops all other thoughts. Scientists have found the same effect in their laboratories, during cognitive studies and call it semantic satiation. The Mantra of the Yogi has the same use in the various Eastern meditations. This tactic is also recommended to stop unpleasant or disturbing thoughts occurring in other circumstances.
Sometimes, because of the expedition of the processes of the natural biofeedback, the effort to perform the first step may cause the unpleasant sensation to migrate. In that case, one can join the migrating sensation and "escort" it along its course. In such a case, you can substitute the task of demarcating a course for that of locating a point.
The general tour of the body itself, and especially the effort to locate the precise address of a sensation, may cause a swift and uncontrolled process of natural biofeedback. In this case, trying to implement the second step may cause a weakening, flickering, or even disappearance of the sensation, before completing the mission of finding the exact address.
This can happen due to the regular ("spontaneous") work of the relevant activation processes and programs - as in normal daily life. It can also be the result of the intensification of natural biofeedback resulting from your unintentionally "meddling with the natural flow of the emotional stream". This is the usual outcome - whenever one increases that part of the resources of the brain and mind which one dedicates to any sensation of the body (through intentionally or unintentionally paying it more attention than before).
Though this lengthens the time needed for the location of the address, it is not recommended to rely on memory while trying to locate the address of an evasive sensation.
When meeting an unstable sensation, do not panic into hasty activity, as it is not the last time you will "hear" from it. You are bound to meet with this unpleasant sensation again and again during the following weeks. Only numerous repetitions of the drill can cause a common unpleasant feeling or sensation to change into an infrequent visitor.
As mentioned above, it is sometimes hard to find a sensation to focus on. Usually it is the work of the cover-programs and only very seldom the result of other mechanisms. Both of them restrict the ability of emotional processes to breakthrough to the conscious without "a proper invitation", as if they "know better" what is good for us.
Sometimes however, the opposite is true: the failure of the cover-programs to regulate the entrance of the felt sense to the awareness results in the intensification of the unpleasant feeling to an almost unbearable level. Following are a few corrective measures.
If a sensation becomes too strong, beginners are advised to refrain from being "heroes" and do one of the following instead:
- Focus for a while on another feeling or sensation.
- Do something else for awhile.
- Do something to curb them. For instance:
a) Rub the palms of the hands intensively against each other in order to "trim" the inflated unpleasant sensation to a bearable level. The quick palm rubbing floods the brain centers, which create the too intense sensation, with sensory input. As a result, their ability concurrently to create the unpleasant sensation is weakened. The same palms when held together as if in prayer - help to regain concentration when focusing is disturbed.
b) Constrict the muscles of the mouth and press the lips against each other. The mouth - which is activated by many supra-programs, is the most useful eraser for emotions and other felt sensations. The pressure of the two lips one against the other activates the restraining and inhibiting functions of the mouth on the creation of the felt sensations. It serves the conscious when applied intentionally, and the unconscious - when done spontaneously.
Certain patterns in which the muscles tense the mouth, inhibit specific feelings and sensations. The introduction of a gap of only a millimeters between the lips - with or without the added intrusion of the tongue between the frontal teeth - will cause a progressive relaxation of the mouth muscles. This causes a decrease in the ability of the lips, as well as that of the other muscles of the mouth, to erase or inhibit emotions and their felt sensations.
c) The other important "eraser of emotions" and felt sensations is the "nape of the neck" and its muscles. The Biblical nickname "stiff neck" for stubborn people is an example of popular knowledge. Hardening the muscles of the nape of the neck blots out the current emotions and feelings.
The voluntary hardening of these muscles - just before, or in the early stage of the development of bad feelings - helps us to repel the induction of unpleasant feelings. We usually do it without being fully aware of the fact.
Mainly we do it before a painful medical treatment or when unpleasant feelings are imposed on us by those wishing to intimidate us. The conscious hardening and relaxing of those muscles, will enable you to regulate your sensations without too much effort.
Prolonged focusing can be perplexing because of its peculiarity - even after being experienced many times - especially for those who are not used to paying attention to mild and weak sensations of their body. A few trials will be necessary before you get used to it and even love it.
The following paragraphs will describe the preferred way of executing the task of finding the accurate address of the sensation of a feeling, an emotion, a mood or any other felt sensation.
First of all we repeat, emphasize and clarify that the task of finding the exact address is to be a nonverbal one. There is no need to find a verbal name for the location, as no mail is sent there. Sometimes, the very effort to find a verbal name makes things worse, it is nearly always redundant.
The preferred way of getting over the obstacles in the process of finding the address of a sensation is by an imaginary probing and touching there with a soft and elongated object. The fastidious ones can use an imaginary paintbrush - the rest can use in their imagination the more convenient pointing finger.
When one uses a pointing finger, one can imagine bringing the index finger near the sensation, or even placing it there for a short time. When one uses the imaginary paintbrush for the same purpose (a soft one is to be preferred), one can put it there instead of the finger. Most of the time, however, sensation is not on the surface of the body but within it. Thus, both the finger and the paint brush can reach the place by imagery only.
Sometimes, especially when the sensation is hazy or spread over a large region or both, it is hard to focus on the entire chosen area at the same time. In a case like this one can choose any point in the region and concentrate on it alone. When this approach does not help, one can try another "trick":
Sometimes, a slight pressure, caress, or a gentle rubbing of the skin near that sensation helps mobilize the needed attention and concentration. Some times the needed resources are mobilized by repeating the above actions a few times for a short while. However, sometimes the physical contact which is intended to help is itself a distracter. When this happens, one can start focusing on the after-image of the gentle contacts instead.
In all these versions, one starts focusing with a few seconds of attention to the feelings caused by touch. Then, gradually - while those feelings are fading - shift to the genuine one.
Before you continue with the following step, do the
second step again. This time dedicate to
it a whole minute - or even two.
The third step - a more intimate acquaintanceship with sensations
Concurrent to the reading of the following paragraphs, imagine
that you are really touching the specific place of the
sensation with your finger or paint brush.
When the actual area of the sensation is bigger than the tip of the finger or the brush, try gently to demarcate the borders of the area of the sensation with one of them. If you used your real finger to mark the surface of the place of the sensation, take it away now. The sensations of contact with the body might distract you. If you are using the imaginary paint brush - you may leave it there.
Sometimes the border of the region of the sensation you are focusing on is blurred. In such a case it is nearly impossible and unimportant to demarcate the exact borders. So, just try to find, inside the general area of the sensation, the sub-region where the sensation is the strongest.
Stop paying attention to the various sensations,
and concentrate on reading the following
paragraphs, until the fourth step.
The third step summarizes the chapter about the search for the exact address of the sensation to be focused on. It has six main purposes:
- To acquaint you with the specific sensation to be focused on, in the fourth step and in the future.
- To bring about a gradual perfection of the search programs you will use to find the natural body sensations.
- To contribute to the gradual weakening of the habits and the activation programs that usually prevent you from long concentration of attention power on body sensations.
- To improve your acquaintance with the specific sensation so it will be easier to focus on in the future.
- To enable you to recognize quicker the first changes that will happen to the sensation in the near future.
- To register a clear and stable picture of your usually felt sense of the pre-focusing area as a base line - for your private follow up.
The fourth step
This step is dedicated to the work on the felt sensation itself. It is recommended that you choose for it the sensation(s) you have paid attention to during the previous steps. If, for any reason, it is no longer existent*, you can carry out the fourth step on any other sensation that you like, on condition that it is not of a pure somatic origin, as - for instance, the pressure of your body on the surface on which you are sitting.
*Frequently, the processes of the brain which are responsible for entering changes into the ad hoc programs involved with the ongoing sensations are accelerated by even a scant increase of attention. This happens due to the intensification of the natural biofeedback arriving from the sensations when attended to. And thus, after the request for added attention expressed by the sensation has been fulfilled, the notice is no longer needed.
Now, after finding and getting to know the region of the sensation it
is time to focus on the point where it is the strongest or where it is
most easily paid attention.
Find this point now and in your imagination, put the tip of your
finger, or the tip of the imaginary paint brush on that
point. Remain in this state a few seconds before
continuing the reading. Let it become for
a short while the central focus
of the body as a whole.
The fifth step
This step is an enhanced and more focused repetition of the previous one. Before repeating it, read the following paragraphs.
Whenever we pay attention for a while to any place in the body which is not too cold, we start a multistage process: first, the focusing of the attention increases the clearness of the natural biofeedback it supplies to the brain and strengthens its impact on all the ongoing processes. This especially influences the processes which are responsible for the entering of changes into the ongoing ad hoc supra-programs.
This results, at first, in the gradual relaxation of the muscle fibers in that area - including those of the walls of the blood arteries. As a result, the arteries expand a bit, increase the amount of blood streaming there and rises the temperature of the attended area. Usually, after a while, this, and the increase in the effectiveness of the natural biofeedback of the area to the brain, helps the subliminal sensations of rhythmic pulsations of the arteries there to gain admittance to awareness.
When the region is not too cold, when one is not too troubled and when there is no "veto" by any supra-program - it takes only a few seconds (up to thirty) of focusing till the throbbing of the pulse (or a change in it) begins to be felt.
In like fashion, it will probably happen at the point of focusing you have chosen. This will help you to sustain longer the focusing of attention there. Afterwards, as tends to happen with most other sensations and points of focused attention, your power of concentration and the portion of your attention paid to the sensation will decrease, and the sensation of blood pulsation will recede to the subliminal status again.
Now do the fourth step again. During its course, focus on the central
point of the sensation. Try to discern the pulsation and
the other changes that might occur there.
If, while you were doing this step, you have not encountered any problem, and if you are not curious to know which obstacles you missed - go to the sixth step. Otherwise, you may find in the following paragraphs a lot of useful information.
Sometimes, when you are attending to the sensation of an area, focusing for a longer period of time is needed till one can feel the pulse. This usually happens when the place of focusing is marginal, when the number of blood vessels there is small or when prejudice is involved. Usually even in these places it does not take much longer than half a minute till one starts to feel the pulsation.
Sometimes nothing helps and even the enhanced natural biofeedback is not strong enough to make one aware of the pulsation and it remains subliminal. This is not critical since the feeling of the pulsation is only an auxiliary device used to help the new trainee in the process of focusing his attention and not an essential precondition for its success.
Sometimes, the receptors located in the walls of the blood vessels of an area are less sensitive than those of the small muscles there. This may cause the focuser to feel a localized relaxation of the muscles and the emerging of felt sensations which are like the "pins" and needles experienced when a limb has `gone to sleep'. The focuser can use them as pointers - just as he uses the pulsation of the blood.
Sometimes it is hard to pay attention for a prolonged period of time to a point or area of the body. Many factors contribute to this difficulty. The following are the most common obstructions and the preferred means to overcome them:
- From time-to-time, a short absent-mindedness occurs or a momentary "falling of tension" in the processes that regulate the concentration of attention and enable focusing. Usually, it takes only a minimal mobilization of resources to redeem the ability to concentrate and to resume focusing.
- Sometimes, sensations or pulsations in other parts of the body increase. These may deflect one's attention away from the point of focusing. Often, one can overcome the distraction by heightening the efforts of concentration on the original point. It is also possible to compromise and focus on both - the original and the distracter. It is also permissible - and sometimes preferable - to yield to the distracter and to change the point of focusing to the place of the new sensation.
- Sometimes, as the activity of focusing continues, various thoughts start to gain prominence in the consciousness. As long as they do not hinder the focusing, let them continue their own course. If they do disturb the focusing (or the focuser), obliterate them. This can be done easily by monotonous repetition of a simple, short word or a syllable - silently and without even moving the lips - in parallel with the focusing. When the intruding thoughts disturb the focusing too much, it might be easier to stop the training for a while, and return to it later.
- It happens sometimes, that the difficulties encountered are "side effects" of positive developments. Frequently, even a short focusing can supply the processes mending programs with a sufficient amount of natural biofeedback. This enables them to solve very quickly the problem responsible for the arousal of the felt sensation and thus stop it. In this case, just search happily for another felt sensation to focus on.
The sixth step
After the primary focusing you reach a stage when the main work of the natural biofeedback, enhanced by the focusing, is done. This stage can be short - a few seconds. It can also be as long as a few minutes. It depends mainly on the region on which you focus, on the sensation or feeling you are focusing on, on the strength of your concentration of attention, and for sure, it also depends on the supra-programs involved - especially the one which causes the sensation on which you are focusing.
As we described in other chapters, the primary sensation you concentrated on, and those that joined or replaced it, are natural biofeedback. This feedback is the output from processes activated by various ad hoc activation programs of the mind - mainly the emotional type - and it feeds both the processes responsible for the concurrent execution of those ad hoc supra-programs and those responsible for their improvement.
Though most of your supra-programs are quite similar to those of other people, they are unique to you. Therefore, every description we outline in the following paragraphs (and those previously outlined) will not be entirely the same as those you may experience.
Now find the precise place of the previous target of focusing (if it
still exists) or the most suitable sensation that you have now.
Focus on it for about a minute with all the attention you
can recruit for this task. Whether you feel the
pulsation or not - try to sense the minute
changes that happen all the time to
the intensity of the sensation,
its quality and its borders.
After a minute, resume the reading.
If after a short time, the unpleasant feeling has already faded, shift for the remaining time to another sensation or area.
If the original sensation you were focusing on disappeared or changed into another or changed address - don't worry. Even when one laughs in the face of suffering and plays games with it - it still does not go away forever after only one session of focusing. Thus, there is no need to panic. The unpleasant sensation will come back after a short time. (Usually it will return a little bit weaker but in the not too exceptional cases it may even become stronger.)
If after a minute, the unpleasant feeling has not yet changed, try to continue the focusing, in spite of the accumulating doubt, while you read the following paragraphs*. It is important to take into account that this may happen frequently in the first stages of focusing.
*It was found that all the experienced focusers and many beginners can divide their attention to a few concurrent tasks. Usually, they can focus on two or more sensations simultaneously or focus on a sensation, in parallel to any other duty of the daily stream of life.
While doing it, focus concurrently on the felt sense of your choice
From time to time stop the reading for a minute
and focus all your attention on it.
Sometimes, one meets a nasty and stubborn sensation that takes a long time to overcome - especially if psychosomatic problems are involved. This may happen from time-to-time even in the advanced stages of training and to veteran focusers
Sometimes, not only does the unpleasant sensation not decrease its intensity after a few minutes of focusing, but rather increases it.
Sometimes, these sensations can really be nasty and unpleasant even becoming unbearable. In these cases cowardice is a virtue. So don't be a hero. Stop focusing until you get over the bad experience. When the worst happens, it is usually better to take a break of a few hours before continuing the focusing.
The following are a few items of information that can make the sixth step easier, more meaningful, and more efficient:
- If you have started to notice a pulsation at the place you are focusing on, during any of the previous steps or in this one, you can treat it as part of the target of the focusing. The added focusing on the pulsation strengthens the focusing on the place with the unpleasant sensation and weakens the distracters.
- Many times, after a small number of seconds of a joint focusing on the pulsation and the unpleasant feeling, one starts to feel that the target place constricts and dilates like a throbbing balloon (to the rhythm of the pulsation). Usually, that "balloon" inflates gradually till it fuses with the surrounding skin. If at the beginning this is the only sensation there, don't worry, very soon a more interesting sensation will join it.
- If the quality of the sensation or its place changes after a short focusing, do not stop focusing on it. Just change to the new place or the new sensation. In many focusing sessions, the first sensation encountered is the result of a "covering supra-program"(17) (a "defense") for another supra-program. Sometimes when one focuses on a covering supra-program, it gives way very quickly and after a few seconds, one meets the real trash- program's sensation which was covered by the original one. In cases like this, the focusing is similar to a two-stage missile.
- If you suffer chronically from a lack of unpleasant feelings or sensations to focus on, or those you do have dwindle after a few seconds - do not worry. There are many alternatives to them. As we explained elsewhere, one can always summon a felt sensation or focus on the faint sensations of the facial muscles and the vocal cords. This kind of focusing will cause changes in the ongoing ad hoc activation programs even "without their formal request" submitted as a spontaneous felt sense.
- Sometimes, the unpleasant sensation you focus on is intensified at the beginning of the focusing. This usually happens in cases where the covering-programs ("the defenses") are giving the covered programs only a partial covering service, and the initial seconds of focusing weakens the cover- programs quicker than it changes the covered programs themselves.
In these cases the initial sensations are mainly signals of the covered programs weakened by the cover-programs. Thus the net results of the initial seconds of the focusing is the paradoxical increase in the un- pleasant sensation, though no real complications are involved.
If the intensification of the unpleasant sensation is not unbearable, continue focusing. However, you can regulate the intensity of the focusing to suit yourself according to the intensity of the sensation you prefer to work with.
If the sensation becomes too much: change the focus of attention, stiffen a bit the muscles of the nape of the neck, rub the palms of the two hands together or even stop the focusing for awhile.
Even short and unsuccessful focusings aborted at their beginning, initiate gradual change and weakening in the trash-programs focused on. This is so because the cessation of the intentional focusing on the unpleasant sensation does not abruptly stop all the attention given it.
As a result, somewhat heightened attention continues to be allocated to it for a while, even after the bulk of it has moved elsewhere. Even afterwards, when conscious attention to the sensation has ceased completely, an enhancement of the natural biofeedback processes continues for a while on a subliminal level.
- Verbal thoughts often integrate with the programs on the sensations of which we are focusing, and activate other programs - as an addition or as a substitute. Sometimes, the nonverbal programs one is focusing on activate, during the focusing, other supra-programs which create different sensations.
In both cases you can respond as suggested above - fight against the change, yield to it or compromise. One can treat the intruding verbal processes, just as suggested in previous steps on how to deal with competing thoughts.
- More frequently than one can imagine, a pleasant sensation may occur even during this step. When it happens, one is advised to shift all one's attention to it, and focus on it as long as possible. Masters and Johnson (the sexologists) have already discovered how potent this focusing is, when one tries to solve long lasting problems.
Summary of the first stage
If the emotional supra-program(s) of the mind, which created the sensation you applied to the six steps of focusing, was not protected too much, you have already felt an improvement. In the early stages of focusing, one does not usually meet supra-programs that are protected too much. Therefore, the majority of new focusers experience their first improvement during the first trial.
However, though it does sometimes happen, usually one does not get rid of a feeling that is "a frequent uninvited and unwelcome visitor" after one successful session of focusing. In order to make it disappear for long stretches of time, one has to repeat the focusing for quite a few trials during the course of a week or two.
Those of us not disturbed by unpleasant sensations and feelings most of the time are a small minority of fortunate persons. Most of the time, most people in our culture are stuck at various points, problems or troubles - or on all of them together. Those of the majority and even those of the lucky minority, can be sure that focusing will work for them. Up to the present, all those who learned the focusing technique, through implementing the first six steps, improved their quality of life.
The following is a partial list of chronic or semi-chronic sensations and feelings that yielded easily in the first stage of training of fresh focusers:
- Pressures and pains in the head; feelings of suffocation, pressure, pain or tears in the throat (including the "ball of lead" which is usually called "Globous Hystericus"); pressures, suffocation and pains in the chest; constriction and other disturbances of the diaphragm; pains, pressures, constriction, spasms and other nasty feelings in the intestines; too many or painful visits to the toilet; various problems with muscles of the skeleton of the body - especially those of the lower back.
- Readers who experienced the six steps of the first stage and profited from them are advised to practice the various steps in the following chapter. However, they are advised to do this only after they are sure that they have already derived a substantial benefit from the first stage. Those who tried and did not get any benefit from it are advised to give this book to a friend or leave it in a public place.
III. Daily Focusing
This stage is about improving the proficiency of sensate focusing, deepening the understanding of its mechanisms, and acquiring the habit of initiating it - even when not compelled to. This stage is intended for all the "graduates" of the first six steps for beginners, who have not yet despaired of gaining something from the General Sensate Focusing Technique. In this stage, the main issue is about the routine of daily allocation of attention to the activity of sensate focusing.
1. The nape of the neck
Many may remember the pictorial biblical description of stubborn people as being "stiff necked". This expression means that a person so named, does not yield to pressure - physical or moral - from others. It seems that the hardening of the muscles of the nape of the neck by contraction is the most common of all the available means used to weaken or dampen the intensity of unwanted feelings and sensations. It influences all of them, without regard to their nature or source. It is usually applied - without being aware of the fact - to internal processes and to external pressures.
In our daily life, the chronic or temporary hardening of the nape of the neck is used as one of the important weapons of the "Trash-Programs". They use it to reduce the high and unbearable levels of intensity of sensations and feelings to "bearable" ones, with which one is able to deal if one chooses to.
This treatment is not restricted to the unbearable ones. In their effort to keep the conscious mind "clean" from any unpleasant experience, the trash- programs are also aided by the contraction of the nape of the neck muscles. Unwittingly, it is even applied against the "distraction" of most of the moderate feelings as well. Consequently, a plethora of subliminal sensations are constantly, "just waiting" to gain access to the awareness or to be invited in.
When we want to invest effort in sensate-focusing and we cannot find any feeling upon which to concentrate, or when the feelings that exist are too weak, we are not helpless. We can "cure" this by "opening the nape of the neck" - slightly relaxing the muscles of the nape - using various means. As a result, at least a few of the subliminal sensations will enter the awareness.
Sigmund Freud and other orthodox psychoanalysts did it by lying the patients on their backs on a couch. You can do it whenever and wherever you want by focusing part of your attention on these muscles - with or without a gentle touch or caress preceding it. One can do it also by leaning one's head on any kind of support while standing or sitting. These tactics can also be used as an amplifier (or booster) for the ongoing felt sensations or as a means of changing them.
The last tactic can even be used to a very precise degree as one can open and close the nape to a minute extent by enlarging or reducing the angle at which the head reclines.
Maximum opening of the nape is achieved whenever the head and the neck are in a straight line with the spinal cord which is straight as well. As this position is very similar to that which characterizes a high level of pride, it invites to the awareness many felt sensations related to trash-programs involving the emotions of status i.e. superiority-inferiority, pride-shame and adoration-depreciation.
As the "focusing while opening the nape" can release pent-up
emotions, it is advised that the beginning focuser will
do it cautiously, taking the following measures:
The first measure: open the nape very gradually and only while standing erect, lying comfortably on your back or most preferably - while sitting comfortably with a good (from an orthopedic point of view) support for the back and the head. Refrain from doing it when you have pains in the neck or the higher parts of the back. Never force it too far back even if no pain is felt.
The second measure: do not "open the nape" while in an emotional turmoil or even when you only have strong emotions, feelings and sensations.
The third measure: whenever the felt sensations aroused during the opening of the nape become too intense to work on comfortably, decrease the opening and even harden the muscles if needed.
The first precaution must be taken in order to protect against the abrupt stiffening of the neck, constriction of the muscles there and in the back and chest, and other orthopedic damages. A good support will prevent the uncontrolled and swift recruiting of other muscles of the body to do the job of quenching the aroused sensations and feelings.
As a beginner, it will be easier for you to build the new habit and to find your physical and emotional limits, if you do it gradually, while sitting comfortably and paying a lot of attention to the sensations of the nape and the surrounding muscles. Better postpone the more intense opening of the nape to the later stages of your training or just leave it to the experienced focusers.
The second precaution is taken with regard to situations and emotional climates in which it is unwise to intensify the sensations or to try to find what is lurking behind them. Actually, the existence of any felt sensations the intensity of which is more than moderate is an indication to refraining from opening the nape. The emergence of one while you are doing it is a sign not to continue with the "opening" or at least to reduce it. The recommendation to evade the initiation of tackling intense sensations and feelings has many reasons, the most prominent of which are:
- The first one is simply because they are unpleasant.
- The second one is that the best results and the least damage are derived from the focusing on felt sensations of moderate and less intensity. Though it is not based on systematic research, my accumulated experience of seven years training new focusers - indicates this. It seems that the more intense sensations and feelings - so much appreciated by the professionals - too often strengthen the cover-programs or even initiate the swift automatic process of building new cover-programs, thus delaying the improvement of the trash-programs involved.
- The third one is because of motivation. After the excitement resulting from the surprises encountered while starting to meet the focusing phenomena subsides, and after the extremely unpleasant feelings and sensations start to dissolve, two of the main factors inspiring the focusers to continue are the emotions of pride and amusement. When we choose as targets of focusing sensations with a near neutral quality and of low intensity, short and easy focusing tends to dissolve them. Thus, we supply ourselves with challenges that yield quick results.
I and my trainees, as well as various scientist, have found that often, the knowledge that doing something will yield good results in the future, is not enough. It seems that our emotional system, and the way it functions as our main motivation factor, is very childish.
The third precaution is taken when the "opening of the nape" brings too strong feelings or other sensations and they do not recede when you decrease the relaxation or stop it altogether: Whenever you open the nape, be ready for the need to use the emergency act of "rubbing the hands together while focusing". Preparing for this measure beforehand, you will not forget it when flooded by intense felt sense.
The focusing on the nape of the neck - with or without opening it, can be used for other purposes than the search for a felt sense to focus on. Even when a suitable felt sensation or any other sensation appropriate for focusing is available - there are sometimes good reasons or potential benefits for focusing on something else. It is mostly so when the prolonged focusing on the original ones does not bring the wished for results fast enough.
One may also want to change the targets of focusing whenever their unpleasantness increases or is prolonged, when they become boring, or because they cause unwanted reactions like tears, sobbing, and coughing. The focusing on the nape of the neck or its opening usually makes other feelings and sensations available for focusing. In both cases, the focusing on the newly invited ones usually cause the old unwanted ones to recede or to disappear.
The focusing for about half a minute on the nape of the neck - with or without opening it - as an introduction to each sensate focusing session and before any other serious activity of focusing, is recommended.
Many trainees have found that when one dedicates time to focusing on a "longer than a few seconds felt sensation" (of other locations than the nape) or when one is engaged in a "project" of focusing on a specific content, this introduction makes the mission easier and improves the results.
2. The facial muscles and the vocal chords
The facial muscles and the vocal chords are, in essence, the outer extensions of the system of the basic emotions and are directly connected to them. All through one's life, the muscles of the face and vocal chords are continuously fed by the basic emotions. In return, they supply them and the other parts of the emotional system with a continuous and indispensable natural biofeedback, related to the emotional supra-programs active at the time.
Usually, those reciprocal relations are active at the margin of awareness and we do not attention to them for more than a very short period from time to time. One can always pay special attention to the facial muscles and the vocal chords if one wants, and get in return the awareness of felt sensations there. The facial muscles respond quickly and easily, but those of the vocal chords do not. This is so because the base line of the natural biofeedback of the vocal chords is weaker when one is silent. When the initial focusing of attention on those two sources does not bring results, there is no room for despair, one can still get the right results if one only focuses on a point there. Even the most protected trash-programs are affected by this act. Usually, after a while, the cover-programs yield to the pressure and some felt sensations other than that of the normal tension of the muscles emerge from them - there or elsewhere.
The focusing on the marginal sensations of face and vocal chords contributes mainly to the improvement of the active ad hoc supra-programs. However, in the long run, diligent focusing on them brings huge profits for the whole emotional system.
3. The mouth
Despite the fact that the mouth is a part of the face, a special section is dedicated to its care. It acquired this honor as it was established scientifically by cross-cultural studies all over the world, that people use it more than any other part of the face in order to modulate, inhibit, control, or restrain their subjective feelings and to disguise their nonverbal expressions. The most common of these activities is the pressure applied by the lips against each other.
Sometimes, we manipulate the muscles spontaneously, other times, deliberately. Part of the time we observe this activity, but mostly it is done unaware.
Very early in life we learn to use the mouth to lie about our emotions and feelings. (False crying is the earliest, denials and lies come not much later.) Later, we learn by imitation or by trial and error additional ways to manipulate the muscles of the lips and those around the mouth in order to influence deliberately our emotional processes and those of the people observing us.
We use this knowledge "generously" in order to attract the attention of those around us and get assistance and consideration from them; also as a means of adapting to the emotional behavior rules of our culture; and as a tool for the regulation of our own emotional processes. In time, the ad hoc programs built for the activation of those behaviors, consolidate as trashy supra-programs.
As happens with other activities often executed they become habits and we tend to activate them automatically. Most of the time we are not even aware that we are activating these programs. Frequently we are only dimly aware of the temporary or permanent furrows resulting from this.
Consequently, the muscles of the mouth are very active even when we are silent or asleep, generating many chronic and semi-chronic constrictions of the muscles of the mouth, even when one cannot observe any significant effect on the lips or the adjoining skin. Sometimes, we can reverse the process and get rid of these habits, and furrows too, by deliberately activating the automatic habits and by consciously manipulating these chronic or semi-chronic expressions. As those activities summon felt sensations related to the trash-program involved, we can focus on them and enable the mending processes to work on them intensively. Other times, we can just focus on the mouth passively. Both ways we contribute immensely to the improvement of our emotional system.
We can focus there while attending to other assignments or even when we are focusing elsewhere. We can concentrate on feelings and sensations there. We can also focus on the various points of the mouth in order to capture and "domesticate" emotional supra-programs the natural biofeedback of which is very weak - even if only slightly above the threshold of the awareness or only subliminal.
During the last few years I have examined the effects of placing the tongue between the upper and lower front teeth. Originally it was tested as a measure to be taken in order to break the habit of pressing the jaws firmly against each other. (This habit is usually a part of trash-programs that unwittingly inhibit anger or just fail to regulate it. Sometimes it is even expressed as grinding the teeth.)
It was found that this manipulation of the tongue activates the defense mechanisms (regulated by innate programs that work like reflexes) that protect the tongue from being punished by the teeth, and keep us from seriously biting our tongue on purpose. The activation of this reflex always causes a substantial automatic relaxation of the facial muscles.
It was also found that this relaxation undermines the component of facial muscular tension, which is an essential part of many trash-programs. By doing this, it forces the adaptation and accommodation processes of the mind to change and mend them.
Placing the tongue between the teeth, till it gently touches the lips, can become a "chronic" habit that induces substantial tranquility. The best version of this act is done while the mouth is closed, with a division of about a millimeter only between the lips, in order to avoid (social) embarrassment. This act can be most beneficial in circumstances in which one wants to achieve a fast reduction in the felt tension or to enter a calmer mood - as for instance when going to sleep.
Examine now, the sensations at and around the lips and mouth. Then, thread the tongue between the frontal teeth till it touches the inside of a lip or a cheek. Better leave a gap of about a millimeter between the lips to prevent competing sensations of touch or pressure there. Focus for a minute or two on the sensations felt there and the changes occurring in them.
4. The muscles of the body in general
There is a whole category of sensations that are usually near the threshold of awareness which originate in the muscles of the body. Most of them are the result of chronic contractions or "stiffness of muscle tissue". These, and the occasional stronger chronic sensations there, are the result of the "criminal" activity of trash-programs. The small minority of those sensations that do engage awareness is like the tip of a floating iceberg seen above the water.
The majority of the sensations stemming from the muscles are the result of the intimate relations between the supra-programs and the muscles. Those relations consist mainly comprised of the dynamic induction of tension in the muscle by the active programs and a natural biofeedback supplied by them to these programs.
Many of the prominent trash-programs (that are often called "personality", "character amour", daily habits, prolonged basic moods, etc.) need a kind of biological feed back from the tension receptors of the muscles for their regular activity. These muscles serve these programs as the air serves the juggler who cannot hold all the balls he is juggling in his hand, and as the sand at the bottom of the sea serves for the anchors of ships.
Various schools of gymnastics and massage find those stiff points and succeed in relaxing them - temporarily or nearly permanently. Many people massage themselves intuitively in those places with similar results. Focusers can do this intuitive massage at the same time as focusing. They can search systematically all over the body for the most stiff or tender muscles to treat.
These activities stop the habitual course of the dialogue between the muscles and the ongoing ad hoc activation programs and force on them the editing and updating of the `mending' processes. In all these contexts, their improvement is quite easy to observe.
These activities improve the quality of life as they free the muscles of the skeleton from too crude use by the trash-programs, and allow them to behave in greater harmony. Simultaneously, they improve the quality of life immensely as they force the mending processes of the mind to treat the crippled programs, which have just lost their physical support.
This phenomenon is the main reason for the growing popularity of the treatment of the body by the many "physical therapies" of the various holistic "body and soul" schools and methods. The most famous in the West are: "Alexander", "Feldenkrise", the various schools of massage, the Neo-Reichians and their "Bio-Energy", a few "Eastern Cults", various types of Yoga, Reflexology, Shiatsu, etc.
Regardless their division of opinions and criticism of each other, most of these treatments improve the body function and that of the mind as well. One who is versed in the rationale of the various focusing techniques can detect in the practices and the explanations of these schools the echoes of common principles.
When one goes on a "hunting trip" in order to capture and then domesticate trash-programs, one may find them hidden in the stiff muscles of the skeleton or in any other "knotted" ones. One may also catch them at the orifices and other sphincters like the mouth, eyes, etc. These muscles are among the favorite targets of various holistic schools - especially that of "Paula".
Whenever one interferes in the "dialogue" between the trash-programs and the muscles, the latter usually respond with discernible sensations in various places simultaneously. Focusing on these felt sensations forces on the trash-programs involved, an intensive work out by the mending processes.
Beware of two dangers: The first is a physical one. Like any touch or pressure you or others apply to any place in your body, you have to be sure that it does not damage your health. Whenever in doubt or in pain ask the advice of the experts and professionals into whose field this part falls.
The other is an emotional one. Whenever trash-programs are provoked, it is better to be prepared to receive more than one asks for. The interference in the dialogue between muscle and programs can upset "a whole apple cart". For instance, one of my trainees tended to get the introductory signs of an "anxiety attack" each time he tried to work on a specific muscle. Only months of careful and sensitive recurrent work on it solved the problem, with out provoking a fully fledged anxiety attack.
Freezing the activity of the muscles of the body
The use of the muscles in the service of the emotional system is not restricted to the focusing on spontaneous sensations arousing in them or on those achieved by touch and the manipulation of the nape.
We can also use for this purpose the voluntarily-controlled-muscles, with which we can manipulate the system of activation programs in many other ways. Frequently, we can change what is going on in the system of emotional supra-programs by an intentional activation of muscles - with or without added focusing.
In daily life, nearly every one of us uses, from time to time, the stretching of the body as a means of heightening wakefulness, vigilance, rigor or vitality. Usually, as in the case of yawning, we sense their spontaneous arrival and only manipulate their intensity in a voluntary or semi-voluntary mode. Nearly everyone strains the muscles in order to reduce the impact of bad news, or unpleasant sensations like those experienced in the dentist's chair.
Everyone can use music to change mood by singing or listening to material with the right shade of emotion. Everyone can voluntarily change the pattern of muscle activity (and constriction) that is part of the emotional climate of the moment.
For instance: straightening the back helps one to recover from a melancholic mood; voluntary relaxation of the skeletal muscles dampens anxiety; the relaxation of the neck muscles (especially those of the nape of the neck) weakens vigilance and tension; the relaxation of the facial muscles weakens any ongoing emotion - good or bad; deliberate manipulation of the pattern in which the facial muscles are constricted ("pulling faces") changes the quality of the feelings and mood of the moment - at least for the duration of this activity.
From all the various options open for actively inducing mood changes, manipulation of the facial muscles is the one most commonly used. Nearly all of us use, from time to time, the constriction of the lips in order to squash the explosion of a soaring anger. Many, if not all of us, try, and usually succeed, to erase the smirk or smugness from our face - when it is uncalled-for or when we have to continue in a more serious or intentional activity. Most common is the habit of using the modulating activity of partial relaxation of facial muscles, for blurring or camouflaging the facial expression that goes with an emotion or feeling.
The above activities are usually done automatically - unconsciously or only with a very slight awareness. However, quite often, after a spontaneous start or even without one, they continue as intentional activities. The aim of these activities is twofold: a) to adapt the expression of emotion to the cultural norm and to other practical considerations b) to "trim" the felt sensation of the emotion of the time to a more bearable measure. For instance, to diminish the intensity of laughter that starts to hurt or that of crying that starts to suffocate.
The focusing on the sensations that accompanies the voluntary activation of the muscles while they are used to manipulate the emotional climate, enhances their effect. This concentrated attention on sources of natural biofeedback - those that are above and those that are below the threshold of awareness - while using them, helps us to find the trash-programs that make the previously wished for change, difficult.
Often we find ourselves engaged in a repeated "nervous movement": rhythmic movement of one of the feet; touching or manipulation of the hair or any other part of the body; "small habitual games" like playing with bits or parts of the clothes, or with small articles; etc.
Except in minority cases, when we do it intentionally to alleviate the affect of boredom, these activities are the spontaneous semi-automatic products of trash-programs.
By freezing our ongoing movements of that time, we prevent the smooth operation of the ongoing trash-program of which they are a part. We force these programs "to seek help" from the brain processes that are in charge of aiding "helpless ad hoc programs" to adapt to the unexpected. (In the terminology of J. Piajet: we force on them adaptation and accommodation).
If we focus our attention on the sensations that are aroused as a result of the freezing of a repeated movement - their "cry for help" - we draw the attention of the mending programs to a larger extent. Thus, we add another "hunting ground" to the collection of processes used for "catching" trash-programs. As a by product, with the use of this tactic we can free ourselves temporarily, at least, from an unwanted habit.
If you want to rid yourself of a habit of this kind or wish to use it for focusing, do the following:
- Start the execution of the unwanted habit (fingering the nose or nail biting for instance) voluntarily - even when you do not feel the urge.
- While executing the habit, freeze in its course the most essential movement of the behavior pattern.
- Start the focusing activity on the strange sensations that emerge in your body, or in the muscles involved - if you do not observe any.
For instance, if you want to stop biting your nails (or only to improve slightly the trash-programs involved), do the following:
- Bring the most preferred finger tip to your mouth.
- Catch the nail with your teeth, and before biting it, freeze the movements involved.
- Start to pay attention to the various sensations of that moment - especially those of the muscles of the jaws - both to those that are above and those that are below the threshold of awareness. (Using this procedure, a few of my trainees succeeded in getting rid of this habit.)
When one is working on this kind of a project, one can use both tactics: activating the pattern voluntarily some times, and "catching" it when activated spontaneously.
5. The common excitations and itching
The skin, which is the main boundary and interface between our body and the world, supplies us with a never ending stream of input and data. Part of the data is natural biofeedback about the pressure applied to various surfaces by our body weight - due to the pull of gravitation - during movement or rest. Part of the data is the result of physical and chemical interactions between us and the world - like insect bites and inanimate irritants.
However, most of the itching and scratching - the single and the recurrent ones - are not of this origin. They have nothing to do with "real" agents. We feel them time and again without finding any apparent source. For most of us, the overwhelming majority of skin irritations are without external cause and they are generally the result of the active ad hoc trash-programs.
Most of the itchings emerge as if randomly at various locations of the body. Some are like frequent visitors or guests which arrive at the same places time and again - like those that make us scratch at specific locations of the head, rub the nose, etc. Part of these result in the habitual scratching or touching (mostly absent-mindedly) of a certain point, which are the peculiar characteristics of various individuals.
However, though most of the itching and scratching is haphazard, we can use them systematically as "hunting grounds" for trash-programs. We can add an intentional one to the spontaneous minimal attention we give those phenomena. We can fall into the habit of focusing on these itchings for prolonged periods of time or just to add a few seconds each time they occur. We can even focus on the places where they used to emerge and cause them to appear. By doing so, we can clear or at least quicken, the mending of many of the ongoing trash-programs involved.
The focusing on the itching can also help us to refrain from scratching at inconvenient places or times. This result is most important when the itching is in places we cannot (or will not) reach permanently or temporarily. For instance when the itching occurs at times when our hands are engaged or dirty; when the itching is in a recuperating wound; when it occurs at intimate locations when in formal circumstances; etc. Experienced focusers suffer less while this itching lasts and they also succeed in curtailing it.
Whenever the itching occurs, whatever the intensity and duration, and no matter what the social circumstances - it is recommended always to delay the scratching for a few seconds. The few seconds dedicated to the focusing on these usually short-lived sensations before we scratch or turn our minds to other things are frequently most rewarding.
It is especially so when one is in the first stages of building the sensate focusing habit. This, like the focusing on sensations that are near the threshold of awareness, is one of the easiest ways to put attention resources to good use. It converts unused or misused resources to the long term betterment of the quality of life. Those felt sensations are very seldom too intense or too long-lasting and very seldom need the treatment of the emergency measures.
6. The general survey
Whenever we want to invest unengaged brain resources of a moment in an act that will surely improve our quality of life in general, without being keen to work on something specific, we can scan the whole body systematically or haphazardly.
When we pause somewhere to focus on, the natural biofeedback of that place is enhanced. This may result in the emerging of a discernible sensation previously not attended to or even one that has been subliminal before, and if it seems worth while, we can focus on it. If nothing emerges from the systematic search, not even at the face or vocal cords, one can always shift to the slight spontaneous tension of the muscles.
Therefore, if (or when) you are convinced that you are benefiting significantly from the use of the sensate-focusing technique, you will be able to allocate unused or misused resources of the brain to this activity, whenever and wherever you wish - even if the desire for it lasts only a few seconds. You will be able to do it whenever you prefer the new "game" rather than the current activity.
Experience of many focusers shows that one can dedicate to this activity surplus attention resources like those existing while one is engaged in "small talk", routine waiting and traveling, waiting at bus stations, long journeys, situations that do not tax the concentration and any other situations not needing all conscious attention. It also point to a strong connection between this kind of investment of resources, and a decline in the excessive tensions, softening of the voice and the relaxation of over-tense facial muscles.
This kind of focusing is like a savings account to be used for rainy days. It forces the system of activation programs to invest in the improvement of ongoing programs, more than the needs of the ongoing activities call for. Later, when most needed, the improved programs will act in a more efficient manner. Usually one can not point at a connection between a specific focusing of this kind and a specific gain. However, periods in which one does a lot of this kind of activity always culminates in a discernible improvement.
This activity is most recommended for all periods of time when one has no better target for the surplus brain resources. When one does not have a "project" to focus on (or is not in the mood for investing in an existing one) and there is no other significant sensation which draws attention - one can allocate part of one's resources to this activity. You will have the option of doing this whenever you are bored or tired from the activity of the moment or when involved in an activity that does not need all your attention.
We have more senses than the somewhat diffuse sense(s) of the body tissues - like touch, pressure, pain, irritation etc. The most prominent are hose that enable us to see and hear. We can at one and the same time attend to one or a few of them together, simultaneously with the attention paid to the felt sensations fed to the awareness.
For instance, we can attend to the sensations of the face and the vocal cords - together with the input coming from the eyes and ears while singing. We can do the same when a muscle is in spasm or a painful contraction.
While we emit sounds: speak, moan, etc. we can attend simultaneously to the natural biofeedback embedded in the quality of the voice, and to the one supplied by the feelings and sensations in the throat. While shaving or putting on make-up, we can attend to the sensations of the face (or to the subliminal ones there), and simultaneously, look in the mirror at the target we are focusing on, etc.
In these cases and their like, in which the natural biofeedback comes through two or more channels, the expedition of the mending process is much more than doubling the regular rate.
Experienced focusers can devote a large part of their attention to this focusing, in parallel to most other activities. Many of the focusers find this the best remedy for intensely boring situations.
Some of the focusers (especially those who previously practiced certain methods of "Meditation") reported the benefit and even pleasure derived from a "general tour" of the body - especially before going to sleep or just after getting up. They observed that among the more beneficial places were those which usually receive the unpleasant "announcements and summons" of the emotional trash-programs. The most beneficial results were derived from scanning the facial muscles and the vocal cords.
Very often, while we are scanning the body and focusing at a point or place, the sensation there weakens and recedes very fast to a subliminal level of intensity, or to one only slightly above the threshold.
The habit of focusing on a specific region which is frequently troubled - in spite of the disappearance of that sensation from our awareness, i.e. "returning to the crime area" whenever the time permits, is also most profitable. It hastens the improvement of the trash-programs which cause the problem.
The habit of focusing on subliminal sensations and those slightly above the threshold of awareness, can be applied to other places and points in the body. Among those, of special importance is the focusing on points and places where you usually feel the strongest sensations and those related to specific harmful trash-programs.
It is worthwhile to continue focusing there for a few seconds more before changing the point of focus, especially if the said sensation was very short-lived and connected to a very trashy program. Even the focusing on the place of a sensation that just faded (or shifted), still enhance the impact of the natural biofeedback it send to the center. This "residual" focusing has great value as it has a special quality - it signals to the involved supra-programs that they have changed for the better.
Thus, instead of the usual negative messages about the unpleasantness of the situations - which are relatively hard to learn from - there is, for a change, a positive one. It was found through systematic research of learning and concept building, that humans and animals derive more benefit from positive information that says this is right, try it again, than from one which says - it is wrong, do something else.
7. Focusing on the emotional expressions of others
In addition to that which you gain from focusing on your voice and your face you can gain even more when you do the same to the voices and faces of other people. This kind of focusing can, especially when you cannot or do not try too hard to organize your impressions verbally, activate within you specific trash-programs that parallel those of the other person.
These trash-programs that are a kind of echo*, are related to the emotional climate of the other, as expressed by the melody of his voice and his facial expression. The activated trashy programs create in you a felt sensation that is directly relevant to the said trashy programs. Thus, by the added focusing on your emerging felt sensation you can catch them, as if you grip them by the hairs or a handle, and force on them the processes and programs that are in charge of updating trash-programs.
*This can (and does happen) because of the perceptual components of the emotional system, that deal with the task of perceiving the emotional expressions of the other. These components are very thrifty. They use the same brain processes and subsystems as those which create our own subjective experience of emotions and help sensations feelings, moods, etc. enter the awareness. Thus, the natural non verbal intuitive perception of the natural expressions of the other, creates in us a felt sensation which is like an echo of that of the other.
This process is the main channel for the automatic interpersonal (and inter- animal) communication of emotion. It is used for the immediate and prompt transfer of huge quantities of information that is extremely difficult, and even impossible, to verbalize. This kind of communication can bypass most of the trash-programs of ours and of others, which hinder voluntary emotional communication. Consequently, listening to and looking at the other person creates in us a kind of "emotional echo" usually called "Empathy".
This kind of focusing opens an important channel that enables us to get in touch with contents that are seldom, if ever, available to intensive processing. Sometimes it makes us "stumble" on crucial trash-programs that were not available for focusing on before.
This is so as much of information and emotionally loaded contents are prevented from becoming available to our awareness. They cannot break through and become available to the awareness (or pre-awareness) processes freely on their own merit. Many of them cannot pass through the channel of the more conscious deliberate and intentional cognitive processes because of our "defenses". It seems that a large amount of emotional information can bypass the reluctant gate-keepers (the cover-programs), only by "hitchhiking" on the back of the emotional expression of the other.
These intrusions enrich the diversity of trash-programs that are subject to the amendment processes of updating, adaptation and accommodation. As a result of the above perceptual processes, whenever we perceive the facial expressions or the intonation and other qualities of the voice of the other person, the perceptual processes "take us on a short trip". However, if the circumstances are ripe, it can even take us on a long one - to the emotional whereabouts of the other and beyond.
While on this trip our trash-programs, which are related to the emotional climate of the other, are summoned to the fore and are forced to expose or even surrender themselves to the mending processes of the updating supra-programs. After a few encounters like this, with the mending operation of these supra-programs, they lose a substantial part of their `trashiness' and become available to the regular processes of mending and updating.
Sometimes this is the easiest way to pull out trash-programs that are under heavy layers of cover-programs. It seems that sometimes this is the only way open. The focusing on the emotional expressions of the others is also recommended to those whose trash-programs chronically weaken the emotional expressions of their faces or voices.
In contrast to sensations and feelings that are aroused from within and are available very often, those that are aroused due to our perception of the others are sometimes of singular occurrence only. You are not advised to focus compulsively on those that come from within as they will come again and again.
But, it is highly recommended not to miss any emotion, sensation, or felt sensation that stems from attending to the other person. It is especially so if he, or his expression, is not frequently met.
The importance of these "imported" subjects for focusing is the fact of our not being able to deal with them without the help of other people. Once we encounter them, we cannot be sure when or if we will be able to get in touch with these protected trash-programs again.
Attending to the voices and facial expressions of others can be another part of our "saving program". Whenever we are not too busy and, there are faces and/or voices around, we can scan them and through this, give a quick "once over" to a lot of our own trash-programs.
Sometimes, focusing on the expressions of the other, activates within us an intense or important target for focusing, as well as opening new "hunting ground(s)". Sometimes the focusing arouses in us a strong feeling of identification with the other (called empathy by the professionals). When this occurs, they are always worth a long focusing session.
The contribution of listening to the voices of others and looking at their faces does not only enrich the available content of focusing and the emotional communication one emits, but also enriches our whole emotional life. As the emotional supra-programs are used simultaneously for internal and external communication, the enhancement of the input processes dramatically changes the workings of the system.
The focusing on other people also makes our social life more lively so long as we are sensitive enough to their feedback - verbal and non verbal - about the influence (comfort or discomfort) our activity has on them. If we do not exaggerate direct eye contact, the enhanced attention to the others and their feedback to us, will usually encourage the social climate to become warmer and the relationship with those around us to become more cordial.
Sometimes, intentionally or unintentionally, the other person can take you on a trip to a most unpleasant place or to a very turbulent emotional climate. Whenever you find yourself taken to an unwanted place (or ride), just stop. Curtail the surplus incoming data. You can always avert your gaze, or stop listening, or start to think about something else, or use any other of the emotional attenuation tricks each of us has learnt during socialization.
IV. Second stage - Recycled Emotions (for very advanced focusers only)
The most benefit and the least damage to be derived from the following steps is promised only to experienced focusers. In the course of these steps one can encounter high intensity emotional experiences that only focusers with a few months of training can tackle successfully.
Only a skilled focuser can remember in a time of trouble to use the tactics that enable a swift escape from extreme unpleasant feelings and other felt sensations: i.e. "closing the nape of the neck", "rubbing the palms of the hands" and other means of diverting the attention.
A beginner who "looks for trouble" and tries them prematurely, may find himself loaded with very unpleasant feelings for prolonged periods of time - even for hours and days. And the suffering is not worth it. SO BE WARNED!!!
In addition to the unpleasantness of the invoked experiences, the turmoil the "sleeping demons" may cause when aroused without the suitable precautions may wreak havoc. The supra-programs of the beginners, which deal with strong feelings, are not updated and mended enough. When confronted with these strong and unpleasant feelings and "dangerous" contents, the trash-programs may usually prefer to build new complicated cover-programs, in order to evade the need to tackle the unpleasant ones. SO BE WARNED AGAIN!!!
From a practical point of view, even after a few months training with the sensate focus technique, it is not a good tactic to "invite" (recycle) too intense feelings, emotions or other sensations from the past. Usually, the most benefit is derived when one focuses on a felt sensation of moderate intensity.
The criterion for the decision as to whether a target is inside the moderate range or not is subjective, and changes according to the circumstances. The rule of thumb about the optimum intensity is as follows: "the best target for focusing is the felt sensation, the intensity of which is such - that one can tackle it for a few minutes, without arousing within oneself too strong an urge to escape".
So, refrain from intentionally recycling targets that
you cannot focus on comfortably.
Often, even when you become used to the new technique and are in the habit of focusing frequently, you cannot extract all that can be exploited from every sensation and experience. Actually, even the most obsessive and arduous focuser does not use more then 20% of the options. Nevertheless, sometimes, on looking back (even after weeks, months or years) one may realize that an important opportunity was overlooked.
In every one of those cases, in spite of the negligence, all is still not lost. Upon reaching the conclusion that there is a treasure buried in that missed opportunity, one can nearly always recycle it.
Though the vividness of the recycled experience is always wanting, the intensity of the recycled feeling is milder than the original one, and most often its quality too is not near the original one or even quite different, there are always strong association chains connecting them to the origin.
Thus, it can be used as a suitable feedback from the trash-programs involved in the mending processes. Therefore, when the recycling does not bring to the awareness the sensation sought, one of its "relatives" created by the imagination might be good enough.
After one of the recycling steps bring about a suitable sensation, start to divert some of your effort to the focusing on it. If no feeling or any other felt sensation reaches awareness, you can still focus on the subliminal ones tied to the subject you picked.
In the following paragraphs, the various aspects of the activity of sensate focusing which bases itself on recycled felt sensations, will be discussed in detail - including the description of the most benefiting tactics.
The General Sensate Focusing Technique is most distinct from the main schools of psychotherapy in its regard to the causality of the things one want to change. This is most strikingly expressed in our recycling tactics and in their general strategy.
In theory and in practice nearly all schools and versions of psychotherapy hold in high esteem the recognition, understanding, comprehension, insight, etc. of the "pathology" (or at least, of it's symptoms).
They pay considerable attention to the specific connections between the behavioral problems, the sensations and the feelings of the present - the symptoms, and the past events and mechanisms that are supposed to have caused them.
In contrast, practice of the sensate focus points to the conclusion that the sharp awareness of these connections is generally of only secondary importance and most often even only marginal.
It seems that the effort to understand the exact root of the problems one is encountering in one's life even hinders the processes of the sensate focusing. The most deleterious influence of the search for meaning and insight during focusing is due to the fact that the brain resources are limited. Since the verbal thinking processes are competing for the limited attentional and others of the brain's mind resources, they infringe on those needed for the sensate focusing.
Thus, thinking on the emotional problem in order to solve it wastes resources on verbal thinking activity, that cannot really do the job. This activity tends to diverge most of the available resources to the left hemisphere (half) of the brain - the half which is dedicated mostly to logical thinking and reasoning and not to emotional appraisals. Thus, even if one is not prejudiced against the habit of paying attention to the felt sensations of one's body, only a scant amount of it remains available for this task.
In addition, it seems that the application of the common habit of analyzing the causality and logic of one's own emotional experience strengthens the cover-programs. Sometimes, these efforts even make complicated things more so, as it makes the UN-tangling of the complexity of the defenses nearly impossible.
Many people were "brain washed" into believing that an improvement in the quality of their emotional life is possible - only if they can acquire an insight into their problems. The following "coin" is brought in order to alleviate a bit of their uneasiness: On one of its sides is written the proverb - "Have you come to steal grapes or to quarrel with the vineyard guard". On the other side it is written that, in all the important matters, the solution of the problem brings about the understanding of its roots.
Thus, refrain from chasing thoughts and ideas while you
hunt emotions, feelings and felt sensations
Hurrah for the practical leftism.
For about 97% of the population, the management of their emotional life is done mainly by the right half (hemisphere) of the brain. Therefore, nearly any activity that increases the amount of brain resources, usable by this hemisphere, enhances the processes related to the activity of sensate focusing. Consequently, it is most recommended, while focusing, to attend mainly to the sensations of the left part of the body, which is directly connected to the right side of the brain.
Sometimes, the sensations are only partly or more clearly felt in the right side of the body. In these cases focusing on the parallel place of the left side may "force" the transfer, or the appearance of other felt sensations there. When the sensations are at the medial plain of the body, it is most preferred to focus on the points that are more to the left of the center.
However, when one is working on the recycling of emotions and feelings as in any other sensate focus activity, the use of the left hemisphere of logic, analytic and other verbal thinking processes is not forbidden. There is much benefit to be gained from these processes if correctly applied.
For instance, the decisions on the timing of the sensate focus activity, and the decisions about the target and specific tactic of recycling the emotions, are usually best taken by the left hemisphere of the brain. It is especially so with regard to the initiation of focusing sessions, but also in the semi-spontaneous focusing on each felt sensation encountered during the day.
The continual effort to keep the processes of focusing on the felt sensation of the time, and the prevention of diversions and distractions is also mainly done by this half of the brain.
The application of the thinking processes of the left hemisphere to reviewing the results of the sensate focus can help too. It can help in five important ways:
- It can be used to organize the ongoing daily focusing activity which is done in addition to the spontaneous one.
- It can be used for analyzing problematic areas in order to choose specific targets to focus on.
- It can be used to choose a verbal means to recycle emotions, in order to incite a domain the content of which is not accessible through other means and does not express itself in felt sensations.
- It is especially important when applied after the first few successes of focusing at the beginning, after focusing on a new topic, and at specific "crossroads" - for the assessment of the benefit derived from past focusing. This verbal contemplation and review of previous successful focusings is one of the best ways to boost the morale. It contributes immensely to the strengthening of the tendency to dedicate attentional resources to future focusings.
- It is the best means to choose a new "project" or emotional domain, after one gains more resources from focusing on previous ones.
As a rule, thinking about problems related to focusing can contribute towards their solution, but usually, only by serving as a means to draw from it inspiration for future focusing.
It is also important to remember that the activity of focusing is motivated by many incentives. The satisfaction derived from the understanding of the roots of the solved emotional problems is very seldom high on the list.
However, sometimes, the solution of a long standing, puzzling problem is so moving and satisfying that it temporarily climbs to a very high standing on the list. In these instances it becomes only secondary to that derived from the improvement in the quality of the emotional climate.
Recycled emotions A - Reconstruction of neglected opportunities
Frequently, we encounter intense sensations and feelings that are worth focusing on, for the improvement of the quality of life, but alas, the circumstances - i.e. the time, the place, the company etc. - are not suitable. The variety of reasons for not focusing at the time is huge: from situations in which we cannot afford to spare attentional efforts and divert them to focusing from what we are doing at the time, to those situations we do not want to dwell due to our wish to curtail the episode or interpersonal interaction that has created the specific felt sensation.
For instance, very often we find ourselves involved in situations wherein we have to enlist all our resources to overcome an obstacle, a problem or emergency; situations that we want to shorten; situations where we need to cover our real emotions - or even lie about them, for fear of direct damage to us by a bully, a policeman, the boss at work, judge, customs officer, etc.; situations in which we are afraid to hurt the feelings of others; etc.
More often we find ourselves involved in situations that are emotionally loaded, with acquaintances or strangers, but in circumstances we are not free to indulge or to stress our point.
Many times, in such situations, we feel intuitively or even recognize clearly why the focusing - on feelings we discarded at the time - can contribute immensely to the quality of our life. Though we feel at these moments that we only have to focus briefly in order to be relieved of much unfinished business, or "only" improve significantly our emotional climate, we nevertheless have to refrain from doing so at the time.
In less dramatic situations and conditions we also miss out on many divergent opportunities for focusing. In these cases the reasons are usually the result of laziness, negligence, or underestimation of the value of the potential target for focusing.
It also happens time and again that only afterwards, when we are reflecting on an event of the past, that we see it as being a key to the door of an important locked store of trash-programs.
The factor that contributes the majority of reasons for missed opportunities for focusing is their sheer quantity. No one can utilize all of them. Most of us lack the sufficient single-mindedness that would force us to utilize most of them, by sacrificing everything in the service of focusing.
Not even the most arduous believer in the technique, nor even the most obsessive one - when at the peak of involvement with the focusing project - dedicates more than 20% of the time to focusing.
Sometimes, only after much contemplation can we reach the conclusion that an occurrence and the feelings involved therein, are the target to tackle in order to solve a certain trash-program.
In nearly all these circumstances the convinced focuser would want to concentrate on his sensations and feelings (focus on his felt sensations) so that his enhanced natural biofeedback processes would contribute to his well-being.
In all these circumstances and in many others which have not been mentioned here, "wrong can be rectified" post facto - with out too tiring an effort. The most common tool used for this mission is the memory. Often, with little effort, one can get in touch with the memory traces of a situation or a scene of the past and feel something that is connected with it.
Whenever you are recycling past feelings be cautious!!! Do not try
to tackle strong feelings that are connected to traumatic
experiences before you have invested a few months in
the "head cleaning" of lesser ones.
Choose now an emotionally loaded experience of the previous
week, the focusing potential of which you have not yet
exhausted. Use your imagination to get back to that
episode. Focus for a while on the
resulting felt sense.
Recycled emotions B - Lost & Found
Often, during the focusing on a felt sensation, or between focusing sessions, we remember emotional experiences of pre-focusing periods of the near or distant past. Sometimes, specific memories become available to the awareness processes only after we have acquired sufficient achievements using the sensate focus technique. An example of this are certain memories of childhood that had not been available to us for years. Whenever this occurs, it is worth treating those "lost and found" memories as treasures.
It is not only worth focusing on these feelings of the past when they have their spontaneous comeback, but it is also worth recycling them often during the next few weeks, before they fade again. Like the feelings accompanying the fresh memories of a dream which tend to fade if nothing is done to treasure them, so are these of the memory which came back. Both can be used as keys to a magic store of trash-programs.
Experiences of this kind are usually denied entrance to the awareness due to the active gate keeping activities of cover-programs. They can enter the awareness after many years of absence for a plethora of reasons. It does not matter whether the memory was allowed to enter the awareness because the covering-programs were updated by focusing, or because they have failed temporarily to do their job. Whatever the reason, do not miss the opportunity!!!
Usually, the lost and found memory is an intimate summary of some personal emotional past, that plays an essential part in an ancient and fundamental supra-program, which has not been updated for many years. Supra-programs of this kind are usually the base, or at least an important component, of many trash-programs that are executed frequently in the present.
As a result of this, the recycling of each of these found memories usually causes change and improvement in a whole series of trash-programs. Consequently, within one successful focusing one can bring about a significant improvement in the emotional climate and a significant breakthrough in the systematic project of improving the quality of life.
Recycled emotions C - Changing behavioral patterns
Very often, during a general "head cleaning", the focuser discovers a habit or an emotional pattern he wants to get rid of, but cannot achieve this through sheer will-power. Often, too, the wish to rid himself of a whole life style or pattern is the initial reason for starting focusing training. It is most commonly to be found amongst those called "introverts", "obsessive" or "compulsives". It is usually clear for those types who are aware of having this kind of "personality trait", that this is the root of most of their emotional problems.
Alas, the organized formation of trash-programs that are responsible for the maintenance of this style of life, do not usually send direct emotional announcements - through feelings and sensations - to the focus of awareness. The announcements related to these trash-programs that do reach the awareness are not directly tied to them. They are nearly always at the end of a long chain of covering programs.
Therefore, the updating processes which are supposed to use the natural biofeedback enhanced by the focusing effort are still hardly able to trace back the whole chain effectively. These "organized crime families" are very hard to infiltrate. If one relies on the usual tactics of focusing alone, one cannot nourish a realistic hope of passing through the protecting barriers.
In these cases, focusing on the feelings that do reach awareness, improves the general emotional climate and the cognitive functioning, but does not solve the main problems. The emotional announcements of the central trash-programs - that seldom enter the awareness - are thinly spread along the time continuum, and one cannot seriously rely on them.
In both cases - whether the direct announcement does reach the awareness or not - special preparations are needed if one wants to succeed in tackling the life style. The core of the preparation is the reconstruction of scenes or scripts relevant to the original socialization pattern suspected of being the root of this lifestyle.
Based on specific private memories (mainly from childhood), personal idiosyncrasies, and on general psychological knowledge - one can build oneself a schedule. It is recommended to include in the list (or script) the most distressing pronouncements, occurrences, expressions and instances of the said life style or behavioral pattern.
If the preliminary preparations are carried out well, and one has the basic know how of recycling emotions, one can proceed and create the suitable felt sensation(s) for the focusing.
Sometimes, all these efforts to reconstruct and recycle fail. This can be the result of too strong cover-programs or too weak "sensual memory" (parallel to the visual, echoic, semantic, etc. memories) or because of both. In these cases, the best recycling tactics are the guided fantasy and imagery. Doing this, one can substitute the reluctant real episodes for counterfeit ones.
One can imagine real or imagined scenes that suit the content of one's problem, but do not necessarily conform to reality. One can use scenes that one is sure never happened. One can even use those one is sure will never happen. For instance, when one cannot reconstruct a violent struggle with a deceased brother, which happened at one's parents' home in childhood - one can imagine the struggle taking place in the new country club one has just joined.
When nothing at all works, when even the combination of imagery, verbal declarations and the simultaneous "opening of the nape of the neck" does not bring to the awareness any felt sensation one can focus on - there is still one remedy left. One (and you too) can always combine the memories, imaginary scenes and verbal declarations, related to the target of recycling, with the focusing on subliminal sensations of the face and vocal cords. After a while - usually less than a month - the cover-programs will start to yield, and the effort needed decrease.
Recycled emotions D - A violent patrol
Frequently, we decide to do one thing or another, but one way or another nothing really gets done. Often, in order to execute a task at hand we only have to sit and write down the things that are already organized and well-phrased in our head, but we seem unable to "do this", as in a nightmare.
When this happens it seems that there is an unsettled argument between the two main subsystems of our mind - the left-verbal-logical one and the right-intuitive-emotional one. It mainly happens when the logical processes and the left side of the brain reach the conclusion that we need to do something: utter a word, write, create, perform a duty, etc.
However, the right side in general and the emotional system specifically does not agree with it. So, instead of cooperating, the emotional system (which is the base of motivation) obstructs the execution of the decision. Thus, time and again without any apparent cause, the "final decisions" we reach remain without the behavioral compliance to them: we postpone, evade, forget and so on.
Though it seems to be a conflict between the logical part and the emotional one, it is not really so. The real cause is a deeper one; it is a contradiction between different emotions or trash-programs. In addition to all the troubles, to make things worse, the control procedures of the trash-programs involved seem most of the time to be indifferent to the conflict and the failure. They do not give any "excuse" and do not send any sensation or feeling to alert the awareness.
It seems as if the right hemisphere and the trash-programs know that "conspiracy is their best protection". It seems they are wise to the fact that if they remain silent and do not "protest too loudly", they can evade responsibility and are secure from the wrath of the left hemisphere and the verbal processes.
Luckily, during the development of the focusing technique, a remedy to that problem was found. It seems that one can very easily force the emotional system to yield, and give a feeling or a sensation as an excuse to its recalcitrance, to be used as a natural biofeedback by mending processes.
It has been found that here - as in many other obstructions - the roundabout approach is the best way to tackle the problem. Using it, the subsystem of logical thinking can find a graduated schedule, that will enable the mending processes to settle the actual and the original conflicts, without arousing too intense sensations and an emergency retreat.
For instance, if the evaded mission is to write some thing like a paper, poem, story, request, or any other compulsory or wished-for writing, do the following:
- Arrange on your table or any other working surface the materials needed for the mission.
- Promise yourself that you will not try to do your mission at this time.
- Sit at the table or the working surface and put your hand on the writing utensils or the printing instrument.
- After a few seconds of comfortably sitting in that position start to search for sensations to focus on. (Nearly everything you feel at this stage is related to the trash-program and the cover-program you are after.)
- Start to focus on the felt sensation that the "as if" situation arouses in you. (If the trash-programs and the cover-programs are so stubborn that even at this stage they do not yield any felt sensation that you are aware of, you can always help yourself by using the technique of opening the nape of the neck.
In the rare instance that this also fails, you can still revert to the focusing on the subliminal activities of the facial muscles and the vocal cords. You can always build on the finding, so far, that the emotions, feelings, moods sensations, etc. at the time of recycling - including the subliminal ones and those that are just above it - are closely associated with your mission.)
- During each of the following few days initiate a few short periods of focusing on the scene of the future "crime".
- After a few sessions of focusing, approach the work area with the inclination to try to do the job. It is worth checking from time-to-time to see if the original barrier that prevented the wished for activity is still there. At one of those checking points you are going to find that you can already do what you wanted (or had to do).
This procedure smells of a miracle, because while you adhere to its rules, you can easily sit near the task materials you evaded for so long. The source of the miracle is entirely secular - the configuration of the cover-programs and the other trash-programs that before hindered you, have no in-built protection against focusing. When the staunch promise not to do the task is in effect (and can be relied on), the composite opposition of the cover and trash-programs are not aroused.
Though this "trick" is entirely secular, there are a few nearly sacred rules to be obeyed for the sake of long term implications:
- Never try to cheat yourself! It might be that you will fail the first time.
- Never break your word to yourself by trying to do the evaded task when finding yourself seated at it, after you opened your way to the working site with the promise only to focus!!! Losing trust in yourself is even worse than losing the trust of others.
- Even after you have done a substantial amount of focusing near the materials, get away from them before trying to surmount the evaded task! According to the "rules", trying to cope with the evaded mission is legitimate only when one decides on it away from the site of focusing.
Remember, you can cheat others successfully, you can even kid
yourself to believe in one thing or the other if you
repeat it long enough. But, it is not probable
that you can kid your own trash-programs.
In addition to these reservations about cheating yourself, we want to stress and emphasize the seriousness of this kind of emotional recycling. You have to take into account that this way of sneaking into the garbage pile of the trash-programs is more like using explosives to force an entry into the safe of a bank than picking pockets. You can never know in advance what the intensity of the pent up emotions will be if they are tampered with through harsh measures.
Therefore, when using this technique to tackle behavioral patterns, especially if they are related to central themes of your life, be cautious. At the beginning, content yourself with small "doses" of focusing on the relevant felt sensation. Later, when you feel that a breakthrough is near, you can quicken the pace.
Recycled emotions E - Popular scientific literature, art works, nostalgia
Many authors strive to enrich the public with the knowledge accumulated by scientists from various branches of the social sciences. Many of these books contain suggestions and even direct advice about life, that are of the "do it yourself" kind. A lot of them spotlight some parts of our life. While reading them and applying the new knowledge, one encounters emotions, feelings, sensations, both above and below the threshold of awareness.
Whatever the scientific or the practical value of these books, focusing while reading them may be a wonderful way to meet felt sensations of trash-programs related to specific areas of one's life. The contents of these books may acquaint the focuser with problem areas he had not previously been aware of or did not even suspect were there. While reading these books, the focusing on the felt sensations encountered may stress for him the importance of problem areas he was only marginally aware of.
Many people, if not all of us, derive from art works in general, and especially literary works, a wide spectrum of positive and mixed emotional feelings. Focusing on these will usually bring about both an improvement of trash-programs and greater pleasure.
Recycled emotions F - A most violent patrol
There are well-established findings of the dynamic psycho-therapies (Freudian, Adlerian and others), and the behavioral ones, as well as those of the research of upbringing, education and socialization of the first years of life. Both these (and other scientific findings) point out the intimate relationships between the trash-programs of the adult, and the prolonged intensive encounters with the key personalities of that early period, especially the parents and siblings.
One can always "fish out" these trash-programs which are intimately connected with those figures by using various tactics. But, as it goes straight to the heart of things, it is not recommended for beginners or those who do not feel themselves proficient enough with the various tactics of focusing. Even later, after having mastered the new technique, do not force upon yourself intense feelings related to that age. Impetuous encounters with those memories might result in the strengthening of cover-programs.
The routine activities of primitive cover-programs which originated at an early age and were not updated and mended in time, are the main reason and the most important contributor to the chronic delay in the mending and updating of the supra-programs of the mind. The most elegant way to make these and other trash-program more flexible is to recycle the early memories of childhood. This can easily be done by using photographs of those significant figures from the present or the past.
It seems that for the people one is still in touch with, the best photographs are the most recent ones. In contrast to the other components of the trash-programs related to them, this part (i.e. - the facial expressions of these agents) is easily and spontaneously updated all through the years.
According to many satisfied focusers, the best way is to focus the eyes on the picture, and parallel to this, to focus on the feelings and sensations they arouse - using the various tactics of focusing previously mentioned: opening the nape of the neck, focusing on subliminal sensations, etc. It seems that this recycling of emotional content brings up felt sensations that are free of too problematic contents. Thus, cover-programs rarely interfere or hinder, if not done too recklessly.
At first, it is best to focus for only short periods of time so as not to arouse too intense feelings. Later, one can gradually lengthen the sessions. After there are no more significant feelings to experience, and no more discernible expressions of the relevant trash-programs encountered, one can use the photographs to recycle specific episodes from the past.
In the first sessions of using the photographs, the emotions may surge, even if the pictures have been periodically looked at outside of the focusing context. The intensity may be unbearable or almost so even after only a few seconds. Therefore, be ready to abandon this activity swiftly or to use other emergency means to trim the emerging felt sensation to the right measure. Don't strive to be a hero of sensate focusing. This wish is itself a trash-program!!!
The above technique can be applied also to photographs of situations, places and less significant people, as well as through other media - such as drawings, music, reunions, etc. It seems that this technique, when applied in cases of death or separation, shortens the mourning period and restricts the damage borne by the focuser. It is especially so when the mourning is the result of the severance of intimate ties with a mate.
Recycled emotions G - The provocations
Professor Eugene T. Gendlin and a group of associates at the University of Chicago discovered focusing many years ago. After developing the General Sensate Focusing Technique, I learned that "I had invented the wheel for the second time". The idea of verbal provocations as a means of arousing felt sensations to focus on was adopted from him and from publications of the Focusing Institute. The following section explains in brief the version of the "Provocative Assault" method used by me and my trainees.
Though it is stressed very often in this book that the felt sensations and the focusing on them are non verbal processes, I do not have any prejudice against verbal processes. In daily life, "some of my best friends" communicate with me verbally. I think verbally in private from time to time, and even use words in focusing training sessions for various purposes. As long as one does not forget that focusing and the felt sensations are mainly a non verbal process of the right half (hemisphere) of the brain, the use of verbal processes can be of no harm and even of great help.
Verbal provocations built to suit the content of a problematic aspect of one's life, recited to oneself sub vocally, can always bring up a related felt sensation on which one can focus. The self-provoking verbal approach is a most potent tactic to arouse "sleeping" maladaptive trash-programs, related to the specific problem or domain one is interested in at the time, and force them to create felt sensations to focus on.
Therefore it is most helpful when one is working on a project. It is very helpful when one is too impatient to wait for a suitable felt sensation to appear spontaneously. It is still helpful when one wants to change for a while the sensations and topic one is working on at the time.
The common provocation consists a few words or a short sentence with a false content that one can recite silently to oneself. The following are samples of various kinds of provocations: "I am never afraid", for exaggerations; "I am never late" for absurdities; "I am omnipotent" for the status emotions; "I am going to win the big prize in the lottery" for the distortion of probabilities; "she/he is coming" for wishful thinking or dread of facts; etc.
The most prominent on the list are the verbal exclamations that describe the target topic, such as: "I am afraid of ...." or the paradoxical negation sayings like "I am not afraid of..." and vice versa. When one is "hunting" for a felt sensation related to a specific content, the negative sayings "I am not...", "I do not...", "I never...", etc.
A single recitation of one of these, followed by concentrated focusing, is usually the fastest and most "elegant" way of "fishing" for the right felt sensation. When one recites these exclamations to oneself silently, it is less embarrassing and works even better than when reciting them aloud.
It seems that the decentralization of the subsystems of the brain enable one subsystem to con, cheat, taunt, ridicule, etc. another subsystem. It works just as it works among kids who annoy each other this way. The provocations use the same old processes discovered by Abraham and later by Ellis (R.E.T.), which causes much trouble for those who repeat negative sayings to themselves. However, the provocation tactic is not restricted to negatives, and is based on a single recitation followed by focusing on the felt sensations.
The ability of the provocations to arouse trash-programs which works at
the time subliminally is dependant on the program more than on the
provocation. Thus, one cannot guess in advance what will be the
intensity of the emerging felt sensation. Therefore, when
using it for the first time on a topic or a problem,
be ready with all the emergency tactics to trim
too intense felt sensations. Do not use this
tactic when very exited or too troubled.
V. Synthetic emotions or "remedy before disaster"
Frequently, we are uneasy before an encounter with the unknown or the partly known, especially if the results have significance for our future. Sometimes, as a result of the activities of trash-programs even insignificant situations have the ability to affect us. Many times the results of the rehearsals are damaging; we feel worse before, we perform badly when the future becomes the present and we often feel very badly afterwards.
Many times, rehearsing before a meeting costs people their sleep. Often, the conscientious plans one makes soon deteriorate into worries, self-torture, obsessions and other unpleasant things. These activities are the results of trash-programs which work inside and outside of the focused awareness. These activities are the root of many bad and irrelevant programs. They are the main contributing factor to all "negative hypotheses which tend to fulfill themselves".
Sometimes though, the preceding uneasiness and the functioning in the real situation are improved when we rehearse things in advance. Many people - or perhaps everyone - profit from time to time from these rehearsals. When people rehearse, they usually conduct imaginary dialogues or even plot a whole series of scenarios in advance. The rehearsals of many are so much like the real thing that they are like filmstrips.
Nearly all of us can and do accompany our verbal worries about the future with imaginary films or video clips, or at least with slides and emotional "background music". The memory of the "artificial experiences" lessens the feelings of uncertainty and indecision before and during the actual situation.
As a result of these rehearsals, the artificial memories allow us to become better organized emotionally, but they also result in a new group of prejudices. Whenever the sensate focusing is integrated into these rehearsals, the damage and dangers that would otherwise occur can be restricted and the gains greatly increased. This is especially so for emotionally loaded interpersonal meetings.
When focusing on different alternative steps in the development of the future encounter, one can trigger off in advance a lot of trash-programs that are potentially damaging to the outcome of the expected encounter. This focusing will then update in advance the trash-programs involved and remove their intrusive effect.
In focusing this way, one can adhere to naturalistic scenarios; one can include highly improbable scenes to ensure against their unprepared occurrence, as they could cause a lot of damage; one can even include impossible exaggerations of possible scenes in order to immunize oneself against the real occurrences.
For instance, before walking at night through a dubious area, we can imagine a fire-spitting dragon attacking us. After a few short focusings, the scene ceases to arouse strong feelings as the trash-programs involved have been updated and improved. If one persists for too long, the scene could even become boring. After these deliberations, it is improbable that the encounter with an unexpected wailing cat during a night trip will cause little more than a small and/or brief increase in the blood pressure and pulse.
This synthetic "remedy before trouble" is most helpful when activated before meetings, interviews, or other encounters the main details of which are known in advance.
VI. SPECIAL PROJECTS
(second section - for advanced focusers only)
It is hard to find even one person who is really totally satisfied with himself and has no wish to change his life or himself. Most people would fundamentally change themselves and their reality if only they had the chance. Many want to improve their relations with their spouse, mate, or partner. There are many who wish to disentangle themselves from unwanted and/or destructive emotional ties.
Many people have internal conflicts that prevent them from finding or committing themselves to a permanent work place, employment or spouse, art field or intellectual subject... Still more seem to lack the ability or the guts to change the situations they find themselves in, even though they are totally suffocated by them. Sometimes, months and years pass by and one realizes that one is still stuck.
Few people try in vain, all their lives, to change their life styles and personality characteristics in a radical way. All or nearly all people want change at various points in their lives. Many want to free themselves from a compulsion to behave in a certain pattern when receiving a specific cue. Many more want to rid themselves of the compulsion of always behaving in the same rigid style, like being an introvert or an extrovert.
Many would be happy to cease being forced from within to be always yea-sayers, considerate, pleasing or nice. A lot of people want to be able to say "no" or "yes" to others - according to their feelings at that moment - without paying an internal fine or suffering an instant penalty each time they do it. Many want to stop feeling chronically guilty, embarrassed, anxious, etc.
Instead of having chronically frustrated wishes and being used to straining mental resources in vain, the person well-trained in the general technique, can tackle each of the above "projects" with success. All that needs to be done is to combine the various steps and tactics mentioned in this manual to suit the specific task. Actually, the "projects" stage is applicable to each focuser who has a more specific purpose than "to get rid of unpleasant feelings".
For each focuser, we recommend that he start tackling these projects even as early as the second month of training - especially if he is in an intensive training-program with the supervision of a coach. The best way to choose these projects is according to the relative prominence of the subjective emotional problems at the time.
The practical aspect of being in a project is that each time one wants to dedicate effort to the advancement of one of them, one has to focus on more and other than the most prominent felt sensation of the spontaneous stream of feelings and sensations. One has to choose which of the sensations to focus on, what emotional content to recycle, and which behavioral steps to take, in order to force the relevant trash-programs to send sensations to the awareness.
For instance, when one has difficulty in entering into intimate relationships (or any relationship at all, in the more serious cases) with those of the opposite sex, one can focus one's way out of it. The best way is to start with a wide spectrum of recycled scenes. One can start by recycling all the feelings related to situations in which a relationship can begin. One can continue with the recycling of all the failures of the past. One can go on, after this, to all the real or imaginary reasons that may make the beginning of a relationship problematic. Afterwards, one can start the most important task, that of recycling and focusing on all that can go wrong at the first stage of a new relationship, and during its development into a permanent arrangement.
Generally, when the problem is a long-lasting one, and the assets of one's wit, charm, education, talent, economic resources, etc. are average or above, it takes about a year to solve. However, even in the most stubborn cases, the buds of change can be discerned after the first few weeks of intensive focusing.
The successful execution and completion of a project is not conditioned by the need for a well-built and strictly adhered to "one and only right program". The underlying fundamental character of the successful project, is the gradual accumulation of plenty of focusing episodes, the content of which is within the general direction of the aim of the project (things that are more or less associated with it).
Therefore, no project that has a realistic goal can fail, even if at the beginning, no improvement is discerned and the unwanted results of the trash-program continue to occur. Actually, each reasonable project will achieve its goal as soon as we dedicate enough time, effort and thought to it.
The projects differ from each other mainly with regard to the importance of the problem they are tackling; the proportional part of the daily trouble they are intending to solve; the motivation to complete them; the diligence required for the day-to-day focusing; and the enthusiasm the small daily improvements induce in the focuser. The decision to tackle a certain problematic area of one's life (emphasized by marking it as a project) could lead one to concentrate most of one's focusing on it.
However, it is recommended that every focuser who has a central project in progress, will dedicate in parallel a large portion of his recourses to other felt sensations, feelings and sensations that are not related to this project directly or to other less prominent projects. Projects always benefit the focuser but they are not always the best benefactors!!!
Beware of trash-programs of the cover-program type, that may use projects
in order to divert the direction of your focusing efforts away from
contents and trash-programs that are under their patronage.
The organization of a group of related problems into a project one intends to work on, contributes to the concentration of unused or ill-used mental resources (to be used by focusing) to better one's life. This way of organizing the sensate focus activity helps us to choose at each point (of time and place) the best target to focus on.
Even at the beginning of the focusing training, it is good to concentrate most of your efforts on a small number of targets. The concentration of effort and attention helps you to notice the first small good results. The discerning of the first small good results encourages one to invest more resources in the following focusing.... And so, the quality of life improves geometrically.
The contribution to motivation of the success of a challenge one took on oneself is a lot more than the contribution of the overcoming of a challenge that one stumbled on along the way. Thus, the same amount of effort and success contribute much more to the increased conviction of the utility of the general focusing technique. Consequently, the available resources increase as also the quantity dedicated to focusing.
Therefore, even if one is intellectually convinced of the value of the technique, the repeated experience of realizing the results of one's focusing efforts is still the most important contributing factor for motivating the continued daily focusing. Even experienced focusers are advised to manage their selection of felt sensations to work on in an actively and deliberate manner, and not to rely too much on the spontaneous felt sensations entering into the awareness.
Often, when you want to concentrate most of your focusing effort on a project, feelings and sensations that are not related to it intrude and interfere. In some instances, the intruders are the agents of cover-programs that are trying to divert your attention from the trash-programs you are focusing on. In other instances, the intruders are notices of trash-programs that are marginal to your project. Few of the intruders are the result of trash-programs that are connected with the main target by a free association of the moment.
Whenever you do not like the intruders, try to ignore them and adhere to those related to the project. Often, you can simply adhere to the relevant sensations and ignore the others. At other times, things are more difficult: you have to do something in order to remove the intruders. The best way to get rid of them is through flooding the touch sense by rubbing the palms of the hands together. Sometimes you can also get rid of the intruders by opening the nape of the neck or by using any other recycling technique. When all else fails you do as the Romans say: "if you cannot beat them, join them" - the temporary divergence would not do you any real damage.
If one is too lax with oneself and is content with the focusing on the most prominent daily feelings, after a few weeks of effort, the quick gains derived from the first steps of focusing are no more a daily phenomenon. The law of diminishing returns applies here and the motivation to focus on sensations lapses. Because of this and because the procedures of the general sensate focusing technique are so different from the common life style of our culture, a great deal of comfort and benefit may be gained from the systematic work on a project, and more so on one which successfully progresses from stage to stage.
VII. Impossible missions???
The following targets, and the steps to be taken in order to achieve them, are intended for advanced focusers only. The missions contained in this chapter are written sequentially, not because they are to be worked accordingly or in any other order. The subjects of this chapter - if they are relevant to you and you are motivated to tackle them - can be worked on in parallel. All of them (or their implications) are very significant and their relationship to specific aspects of the quality of life are clear.
A different aspect of the following missions is their being like general maintenance activity, as it is hard to show a specific aspect of our life to which they are not contributing. Some of the missions are divided into specific consecutive steps, and you are advised to preserve their sequence.
It appears that a good return for the efforts made will fall only to those that are well versed in the six steps of the beginner - first stage of this chapter. It might happen that focusers who have not trained themselves with the various steps and tactics of sections II and section III of this chapter (that deal with daily focusing) will find themselves tackling impossible missions, and thus, be highly disappointed at the lack of expected results. They may even encounter bad experiences and unpleasant feelings that will be very hard to deal with. So be warned!!!
1) Steps to be taken against psychosomatic disturbances
There are many disturbances in the smooth functioning of the body, that are called "Psychosomatic". These disturbances - like Asthma, Hemorrhoids, Eczema, Migraine, etc. and their "eruptions" or "attacks" - were found to be the result of the combined contribution of psychological factors ("stressors") as well as being physiologically based.
The physiological base can be acquired or innate, and may need a chemical or mechanical trigger to set it off. The relative contribution of the psychological factor, as well as that of the physiological factor, varies from person to person and from one attack to another.
As the psychosomatic attacks generally do not contribute to the well-being of that particular person, it is obvious that their psychological components are trash-programs of one kind or another, (mostly inefficient emotional supra-programs). Having the appropriate physiological and the psychological base, the attacks may be activated by trash-programs - with or without any discernible contribution of chemical or physical agents. It seems that in the overwhelming majority of cases, the leading factors are the psychological ones, especially the trashy emotional supra-programs.
An important point to emphasize on is that the following suggestions are not intended to be an alternative method for any medical, psychological or other treatment the reader has had in the past, may have now, or may be intending to receive in the future. The suggestions we offer here, and those we offer in other parts of this book, are intended to supplement the other measures you have already taken.
In this section we offer procedures that use the natural biofeedback processes in order to decrease or even temporarily (short or long periods) to stop the psychosomatic events. This can happen if one succeeds in stopping the trash-programs from contributing their share to the creation of the psychosomatic processes (symptoms and attacks included). These procedures are meant to supplement the focusing on natural biofeedback received from any other steps you may be taking, in order to improve the quality of your life, and are not intended to supplant them.
By changing the psychological factors, one can lighten or alleviate the deleterious and unpleasant aspects and effects of the psychosomatic attack, even at the peak of its intensity. Though ongoing psychosomatic processes respond to focusing gradually, they do fade faster than expected. Thus, during the focusing training attacks and other eruptions tend to become milder, they become less and less frequent, and after a few months of focusing, they practically disappear for months or years.
Though we still do not know exactly how the sensate focusing contributes to the cessation of psychosomatic processes, it seems that the weakening or disappearance of the unpleasant sensations of the psychosomatic processes gives the physiological component a lethal blow. It seems that asthma without the choking suffocation, and hemorrhoids without pain, are like Migraine without a headache, Eczema that does not itch or a car without an engine.
During my focusing and that of my trainees, we found that it is possible to stop, to weaken or to at least bring significant alleviation to the following psychosomatic phenomena:
- Strong and long frequent headaches of suspected Migraine;
- Recurrent and sporadic headaches of indeterminable origin, of varying
- duration and intensities;
- Pains and pressures of diagnosed Sinusitis;
- Chronic and acute allergy of the nose (including its passages and
- Repeated burning sensation and pressure in the upper chest (including
- "Globous Hystericus") and other "projections" of pains originating in the heart;
- Choking attacks of asthmatic origin;
- Pain of hemorrhoids;
- Chronic constrictions of muscles - those that distort the facial
- expressions or "freeze" them as well as those that take place in other parts of the body;
- Various feelings and sensations of burning related to ulcers or "pre-ulcers"
- Various unpleasant sensations of the lower abdomen related to the menstrual cycle;
- Many other unpleasant physical sensations of undiagnosed origins.
There is no reason why this technique should not help with other psychosomatic processes that are not included in the list. The actual struggle with the disturbances mentioned above comprises several steps:
First: you have to acquaint yourself intimately with the introductory sensations that come before the full onset of the unwanted psychosomatic process - sometimes called "aura".
Second: experiment with repeated focusing on various intensities of the unpleasant sensations.
Third: acquire the habit of focusing intensively on the relevant sensations and feelings involved, starting with the introductory stage and on, until the end of the process - when the sensations become subliminal and impossible to discern.
Fourth: between eruptions of the psychosomatic process, focus frequently on the location where it takes place: on the various felt sensations, on the faint ones barely discernible, and on the subliminal ones that are always there.
Fifth: continue with a relatively intensive focusing on the location of the psychosomatic process and its vicinity, even after the "attacks" become infrequent, particularly on the first few months after they cease to occur. In this step it is most important to focus on any sensation that is even barely suspected of being related to the target processes.
It is important to remember that the psychosomatic disturbances are the results of the integrated activity of many activation programs, and that each of these programs has a large number of variations. Therefore, it is most common, that in the first few focusings you can achieve only slight relief or alleviation of the symptoms. Sometimes even that might be hard to discern, especially if the attacks are strong and you still use medical drugs to soften them.
The advanced fading of the symptoms, or even a significant decrease in them, needs many weeks of repeated focusing on them. It appears that the complete fading of the disturbance and its symptoms can be attained, but only for or at a price: you can attain success only after the rehabilitation of the main psychological factors involved has taken place. You can attain this only by means of an intensive training with the sensate focusing technique, adding to it a special attention to all the trash-programs involved with your special affliction.
2) Increasing the pleasure derived from smoking and curbing the habit
Many of the intended readers of this booklet are used to smoking nicotine mixed with various ingredients and burning materials. A significant number of smokers are not satisfied with the amount of the material smoked, the frequency of the smoking occasions and/or the sensations derived from it.
Frequently, smoking is an automatic behavior - a reaction to unaware internal or external cues. Some smokers think from time to time about trying to abolish the habit, but various activation programs prevent them from even taking that decision.
Other smokers have already reached a decision and want to decrease the amount smoked or to stop it altogether, but find that it is extremely difficult to do so - due to the trash-programs involved - and therefore cannot adhere to any of their decisions. They cannot do it at all or they regress to the old habit after a relatively short period of success. In both situations, the inability to reach a conclusive decision, or the inability to adhere to it, makes them the same as any other addict (of drugs, alcohol, etc.), who wants to stop but cannot.
I stopped smoking "cold turkey" 8 years ago while in an intensive care unit (because of a false alarm), but as a veteran of 28 years of numerous failed attempts to rid myself of the habit, I still remember what it was like. I still remember the difference between one failure to abstain from smoking and another, and how each cigarette (or pipe smoked) is a unique experience.
However, it is still possible to classify the smoking experiences into a few categories:
- "The real one" - the first one you smoke at the beginning of your smoking day (usually first thing after getting up), or each time you feel a strong need or an intense urge to smoke.
- "The boredom cigarette" - the one usually smoked when there is little with which to employ the brain. It is usually smoked when you are "killing time" - killing the felt sensation of boredom, or waiting without anything else to do.
- The "substitute cigarette" - the one you light up when you are hungry or in pain or experiencing any other feeling you want to change on the spot. (It functions almost the same as a regular "cover-program".)
- The "stimulating" cigarette - the one you smoke when you need more attentional power. You smoke it when you are not fully awake, and whenever you need to recruit resources to enhance your concentration, to sharpen your vigilance or to keep from falling asleep on duty.
- The smoking for pleasure - the cigarette one usually smokes after a satisfying meal or other pleasures of the body to achieve a deeper satisfaction or to complete the pleasant feeling. It is really used to curb the effect of various trash-programs which are trying to destroy the good emotional climate of the moment.
- "The automatic cigarette" - the ones you smoke without applying will power or deriving pleasure. Those are the ones you do not really want to smoke, the ones you are not really aware of and the ones you generally do not remember smoking. It is not you who really smoked them!!!. It is the pure act of your trash-programs, which serve processes not shared with the awareness.
- "The social cigarette" - the ones offered to you and the ones you smoke from your own packet when people around you smoke. This situation as well as many others activate in you kind of social trash-programs, which initiate imitation behavior.
Actually, plenty of trash-programs are involved in the smoking behavior. When one wants to quit smoking or only to introduce a radical change in it, one has to deal with all of them. However, when one only wants to change the smoking pattern a bit, it is much easier. The mission of the person who needs to refrain from smoking in a few places or at certain periods of time or to restrict the number smoked, is an intermediate one. The focusing related to smoking is more efficient if done according to the following steps:
The first step - preliminaries
Decide for yourself what you really want to achieve: cessation of smoking or only a better control on the habit. Heavy smokers have to take into consideration that restricting the daily consumption to half a packet takes about a month. It takes about three months of arduous training to overcome the addiction completely. (For experienced focusers it may take only a few weeks.)
The second step - getting acquainted with the habit
As in the first step at the beginning of sensate focus training, you are invited on a tour to acquaint yourself with the whole variety of felt sensations and other body sensations related to smoking. The most appropriate time for this tour is the half minute preceding the actual lighting of each cigarette. During those seconds write on the packet the time each cigarette was lit (or mark on the form*), and pay attention to the felt sensation of the moment.
A standard form to mark the time each cigarette is smoked, and short instructions for this, are to be found in the supplement 1: at the end of this section. One can use it in the fight against other habits too.
During this period, try from time to time (in the few seconds immediately before lighting the cigarette) to locate the exact place you feel the sensations and feelings related to the urge to smoke, or the feelings of expectancy for the inhaled smoke.
The most recommended places to focus on are the pharynx and larynx, the throat and especially the vocal cords. The sensations and feelings located in the lips and fingers are not so important but are worth focusing on - in order to become acquainted with them - as they are often the source of the first signals to the awareness that it is time to light a cigarette.
At the end of this step you are supposed to reach the point where you mark the time of each cigarette smoked - whether before lighting it or afterwards - with no more than one or two misses a day. Though it may sometimes help, you are not supposed to focus on each one of them. At this stage it is recommended to focus on about 50% of the cigarettes. In this step (and even afterwards), it is not mandatory that you adhere strictly to the 30 second period of focusing before lighting a cigarette.
The third step - the beginning of the real struggle
In the second, step you started reconnaissance activities and a guerrilla warfare against your smoking. This third step starts the real fight. So, do not start it before you have reached the target of the previous step. At the beginning of this step, the preliminary focusing before lighting a cigarette is supposed to take the whole 30 seconds - mainly dedicated to the vicinity of the vocal cords.
After focusing for about half a minute on the sensations and feelings that precede the smoking of the cigarette, light it and pay concentrated attention to the first and second inhalations of smoke. It is a good tactic to try to discern the minute variations occurring in various sensations related to smoking - during the waiting period, the inhalations of smoke from a cigarette, the short period after each inhalation and that after finishing the cigarette. It is also worth comparing those of different cigarettes.
Those who wish to use the sensate focusing technique in order to stop smoking, are advised to hold the cigarettes smoked, from now on, in the opposite hand to that usually used. Breaking this aspect of the smoking habit is the easiest. It brings quick results, it makes the cessation of smoking easier, and it decreases its "mission impossible aspect". Undermining this part of the trash-programs responsible for the smoking habit can be a most suitable prelude to changing all the other trash-programs involved.
Whether you are using the focusing technique in order to rid yourself of the whole habit, or only intending to use it to restrict the amount of cigarettes smoked, do not refrain from smoking the cigarette you have focused on. Even if the urge has faded, do not refrain from taking in the first few inhalations.
A premature victory on a few cigarettes, before the habit of focusing on the urge to smoke is solidified, may hinder the weaning-off process. If you refrain from smoking cigarettes too early, you may find that each time it becomes harder and harder to focus on the wish to smoke.
However, if the focusing "killed" the urge to smoke a certain cigarette completely, you are not to be punished by a forced smoke, a few token puffs of the cigarette will neutralize the trash-programs involved. Afterwards, you can extinguish it without being afraid that it will hinder the focusing habit you are in the process of building.
After a week or two, or even more if needed, when the addition of the prolonged focusing after marking down the time has been consolidated (applied routinely to 90% of the cigarettes or more), it is time for the real assault on the smoking habit.
The fourth step - the real struggle itself
The target of this step is to start breaking the habit of casually yielding to the smoking urge. It is mainly intended for those who really want to restrict the amount of cigarettes smoked or even get rid of the whole habit. It is better to refrain from starting before the criterion of 90% of the previous step has been consolidated.
The novelty of this step is the lengthening of the waiting period between the emergence of the urge to smoke a cigarette and the lighting up. The mission is to delay lighting the cigarette till the minutes indicated on your watch are multiplications of five. At this stage, the most important part is the focusing on the felt sensations emerging during the waiting period (averaging two and a half minutes), whether they are related to the urge to smoke or not.
You will know that you have already graduated from this step, when you have succeeded a few days in a row, in restricting the lighting of 90% of the cigarettes till the legitimate time arrives.
The fifth step - the branching of restrictors and abolitionists
In this step, the schedule splits into two patterns - a special one for those who are on the weaning-off program, and another for those who only want to restrict smoking.
For the restrictors: If you have already reached in the previous step a stable amount of cigarettes smoked you feel content with, you can start to gradually lift the restriction against smoking whenever you want, and the need to mark down the time of the cigarettes.
However, in order to keep from regressing to the starting point, continue to pay attention to the daily amount smoked, and each time you remember and can spare a minute, pay attention to the beginning of the cigarette smoked. It is also a good policy to defer the lighting of a few cigarettes a week, in order to keep the habit in shape against a time when you might slip back to smoking a larger number of cigarettes.
If this happens, the renewal of the waiting periods in combination with the dedication of attention efforts to the sensations during them, will bring you back to your goal. If you have not reached your goal during the previous step, join those who strive to stop smoking completely for as long as needed.
For the abolitionists: After about a month of gradually intensifying the struggle against the habit of smoking impulsively, now is the time for the long and decisive step. The following are two sub steps for harnessing the habit before stopping it altogether.
- Put the target of the third step higher and try to delay the lighting of each cigarette to the times when the minutes are multiplications of ten. When the 90% goal is reached and consolidated, continue to the following sub step.
- Gradually, in small increments, push the target higher and higher - each time the previous goal is achieved. At first, wait with each cigarette till the minutes are multiplications of fifteen, then twenty, and then thirty. Afterwards wait with each cigarette three quarters of an hour then try to restrict the smoking to full hours only.
In both sub steps, whenever you fail to adhere to the restriction with one cigarette try to compensate on the following one. If a temporary regression occurs, just go back for awhile to the previous target before pushing it up again.
The sixth step - the decisive struggle
After succeeding for a whole week in refraining from smoking outside the hour limit, start an assault on the addiction from all directions:
- Start to delay the lighting of the first cigarette smoked at the beginning of a new day.
- Find the time of the day in which the urge to smoke is milder and increase the waiting time there.
- Try gradually to cut the number of cigarettes smoked by eliminating the one easiest to drop.
- In addition to focusing on the other felt sensations, do it also on those of all the inhalations of smoke from each cigarette.
- Don't feel obliged to utilize the smoke of each cigarette to the utmost. Let the UN-smoked stubs of the cigarettes lengthen.
When the number of smoked cigarettes declines to five a day or less, for a whole week, it is time to enter the final stage.
The seventh step - the final assault
At the beginning of this step, take an interval of at least two hours between cigarettes. Then start to delay the lighting of each cigarette smoked to the maximum of your endurance - till you succeed in stopping altogether. In the course of this step, it is most important to focus on each fleeting urge to smoke and on each superficial felt sensation even remotely related to the smoking habit - both before the lighting up and between smokes. At this stage it is also important to focus on all the sensations available in circumstances which in the past, were cues for smoking. This step continues till you stop smoking for a few days in a row.
After about three months of arduous struggle with the smoking habit it is time for implementing the maintenance of the new habits of a non-smoker. It is worth being on guard for a few months at least especially if you spend time in the vicinity of smokers. The urge to smoke may emerge in the first period of abstinence quite often. Even many months and years later, it may emerge from time to time. It is better not to yield to it as the old trash-programs of the smoking habit are just lying dormant. Even one cigarette may cause the revival of the old habit.
If a regression occurs, don't panic. Even if one returns briefly or for a longer period to the habit of smoking, a short course through the seven steps can abolish it relatively quickly and easily.
During the development and examination of the General Sensate Focusing Technique, many smokers focused on sensations and feelings related to smoking as part of the wide pool of sensations to be focused on. Most of them kept on smoking without intending to give it up or even reduce the number of cigarettes smoked. They focused on these sensations and feelings "just in order to catch trash-programs" that use smoking as a behavioral cover-program ("defense").
Actually, nearly each cigarette smoked is a kind of a cover-program. It is used as a means of preventing the subjective experience components included in an emotional or other supra-program, from entering the awareness or to weaken and remove it after entering there.
Following now are the main results of the systematic focusing on the subjective experience of smoking for those in training in the new technique:
- The focusing enhances the pleasure derived from each cigarette one focuses on.
- It decreases the daily amount of cigarettes smoked even if this is not intended.
- When there are environmental obstacles (mostly when social pressure or laws forbid it) the focusing helps to delay the smoking of a cigarette.
- It helps those who have decided to stop smoking "cold turkey" to pass the first few days, which are the hardest.
(These observations contributed to the idea that a suitable focusing schedule can enable one to undermine the habit of smoking. This was found to be true by a few of my trainees, who used it successfully to rid themselves of this habit.)
Here's a form for marking the time of cigarettes lighted, or other bad habits.
3) Regulating the sexual functioning and reducing disturbances in it
The trash-programs involved with sexual behavior react positively and relatively quickly to focusing on the sensations and feelings related to erotic activity. The focusing on these sensations is the core of an ingenious approach to sexual therapy developed by Masters and Johnson. They were the ones who introduced the concept of "Sensate-Focus" for a wider use. Readers who are interested in this area are advised to read their books about their technique.
The application of sensate focusing to erotic feelings and behavior stresses another aspect of the new technique: contrary to what appears to be the superficial impression, the technique is not a tool for achieving a quick relief*. It is not only a treatment for stopping unpleasant emotions, feelings or sensations, and the activation programs that create them but also a means to increase pleasant ones and improve the supra-programs that create them.
*Usually, when the targets of focusing are in the range of neutral to mildly unpleasant, the immediate aim of the focuser is to sustain them as long as possible in order to derive the greatest benefit possible. Many times the focuser even initiates the unpleasant felt sensations in order to work on a specific topic.
In the erotic field, as well as in other aspects of our life, the immediate aim of focusing is to improve the use of the natural biofeedback as a means for the updating and ameliorating of the emotional supra-programs involved.
4) "Cultivating the voice" and the reduction of tension
During the development and examination of the general sensate focusing technique, a strong connection was detected between the reduction of the "trashiness" of the emotional supra-programs contributing to the general (free floating) tension, and the quality of the voice i.e. its deepening and softening. The factor most contributing to that was the repeated focusing on the tension of the facial muscles and the vocal cords. Observations also revealed a strong tie between the above and the enhancement of the natural biofeedback embedded in the quality of one's voice, occurring when trainees paid attention to it.
Very often, especially when the novice focuser is initially under a lot of pressure, the focusing effects on the qualities of the voice are already discernible during the first few weeks of training. Many times, the "chronic" deepening and softening of the voice is already consolidated after the first few weeks of focusing.
The focusing on the general tension of oneself brings about very fast and impressive changes in the quality of one's voice. Actually, the changes in the qualities of the voice are a kind of "side effect" of the decline in the general tension of the individual.
Often, when a proficient focuser detects the signs of tension in his voice, he can "drive away" part of the trash-programs involved, by merely focusing on their vocal expression. It was found that the natural biofeedback derived from listening to one's voice whiles peaking or singing, has an immediate effect on the quality of the voice.
The effect is usually so dramatic and swift that it is discernible even when one is in the middle of the a sentence. Likewise, the focusing on other sensations and feelings during conversation, unintentionally and indirectly influences the quality of the voice so much that one becomes aware of it as it happens. It seems that any shift in the felt sensations brings about a corresponding observable change in the quality of the voice.
Actually, the quality of the voice is mainly an external communication of the subjective emotional climate and a kind of side effect to the internal processes that load it. It seems that the best way to influence the quality of your voice is by introducing suitable changes in your emotional climate, whether momentarily or for extended period. A few of the trainees who are professional and semiprofessional singers were amazed to learn that so easily a new quality was added to their voice - enlargement of the range, enrichment of the "color", and improved control of all the parameters of the voice.
5) Controlling the body weight
A considerable percentage of people who live in countries where hunger is rare, suffer from overweight. Our basic genetic trend towards accumulation of fatty reserves is enhanced by a wide spectrum of internal signals, mostly of stress and distress. Some of the signals are related to natural processes like under-weight, pregnancy, aging and mourning, but most are the outcome of trash-programs. The most obvious example is a kind of obesity resulting from the activity of trash-programs related to depression, which is its known as "masked depression obesity".
As a result of various trash-programs, the pleasure derived from eating and satiety, especially if tasty food is involved, causes in so many of us the development of an addiction to overeating. Many other trash-programs and especially the cover-programs, include the behavioral component of eating that function as a "natural" means to achieve a "shift" in an unwanted felt sensation. These programs use the experience of eating, and its physiological results, to change the unwanted emotions, moods, feelings or sensations of the moment.
The outmoded-type trash-programs regulating the food intake are another reason for the accumulation of fats. Frequently we develop the appropriate habit of eating large quantities of food: during the intensive growth of the teenage years, during prolonged periods of intense physical effort, etc. When the conditions change, we are usually left with habits that need to be changed, but are often too rigid to adapt automatically to the new conditions.
The majority of people with overweight problems, and many whose problems are elsewhere, are not satisfied with their body weight. Sometimes, because of the weight itself or health considerations, sometimes for esthetic reasons and sometimes because of various trash-programs.
Innate programs that are responsible for two of the most important aspects of our eating behavior, can help us in the nearly "impossible mission" of weight control (and reduction if really needed). The first group of programs are those which announce, through the use of hunger pangs, that it is time to eat. The second group consists of those which announce through the use of satiation signals, that enough has been eaten.
Frequently, the focusing on these and the other feelings and sensations involved with our eating behavior frees the innate programs from the deleterious influences of trash-programs. For those who are lucky, this step, by itself, brings about a significant reduction in weight.
For all the others, at the beginning of focusing for the reduction of weight, the training only helps to discern between a real hunger and an urge which does not take into consideration the internal signals of satiety. Later, when other measures are added, combined with strong will-power and the investment of a lot of effort, a more substantial result may occur.
Part of the success is dependant on the focusing on the available sensations related to eating behavior. Another part, the harder one, is dependant on the application of a lot of effort in recycling these emotions, feelings, moods, sensations, etc., that are related to the trash-programs involved, but are usually outside of the awareness. The application of the sensate focus technique to the reduction of the weight involves a small investment of money and a number of steps that - how sad - cannot be redeemed by money.
In the beginning, arrange things so you have good scales available for weighing yourself freely, whenever you feel like it. Then, as a preliminary act:
weigh yourself each day and a few times a day, for about a week.
This repeated weighing will acquaint you with your body weight and the changes occurring in it during daily and weekly cycles. It will enable you to find your minimal and maximal weight for the day. It will also provide you with a somewhat delayed feedback about the amount eaten each time. Though this feedback alone is usually not enough, it is essential for the process of adaptation and accommodation of the trash-programs involved and for enlisting the will-power. If you have not done it before:
decide at the end of this step the body weight you want to reach.
After you have got to know the daily variation of your body weight and decided on your target weight, it is now time for the systematic focusing on the problem. Pay attention to the sensations occurring in your body during the last few minutes before you start to eat, pay attention to the tastes in your mouth and to the scents you smell too.
Train yourself to sense and identify all of them even when they are very weak. Get into the habit of focusing on them for prolonged periods each time they occur. Pay special attention to changes that occur in the sensations, as the urge to eat begins to ebb while you focus on them. (Unlike the focusing on smoking, when the urge to eat ceases, even the first few times, you are not supposed to eat.)
In addition to focusing on the preliminary sensations of the previous step, start to pay a lot of attention to the sensations related to eating that occur during the meals: attend to those of smell, taste, touch, and the physical resistance of the food materials to chewing. Pay attention to those of the softening of the food, while mixing with the saliva and the combined excitation of the various receptors dispersed in the mouth. Pay special attention to the pleasant feelings of swallowing and the downward movement of the food through the Esophagus. Pay also special attention to the sensations of the stomach as it gradually begins to fill.
Usually, the above feelings and sensations are messages sent to the ad hoc activation programs that regulate the amount of food intake each meal. When the amount of attention allocated to them is too small, the amount of food devoured tends to increase over and above the needs of the body. When too much attention is focused on them, the intake of food tends to drop, even to a lower level than the one needed to keep the body weight from decreasing.
Execute the second and the third steps for a week or two before
advancing to the other steps. During these steps,
keep measuring your body weight after the
daily emptying, and if possible
after meals too.
As it is with smoking, so it is with eating, the mere focusing on the appetite, the hunger and the eating, increases the pleasure derived from the food and decreases the amount consumed. The first signs of the slight decrease in the body weight, resulting from the above two steps are an external feedback. However, this is an important addition to the natural biofeedback inputted to the trash-programs, and it too, contributes to their improvement. (Just as the decrease in the speed with which the package of cigarettes is emptied during the focusing on smoking contributes to that project.)
After the habit (the group of activation programs) of focusing on the eating processes is settled - during the first week or two - you can start using them in order to achieve a more substantial decrease in the body weight.
In parallel to the two previous steps, as an addition to them, decrease or even stop the intake of tasty items that are filled with calories. Sometimes overcoming the tendency to consume foods with plenty of calories can be quickened if you swap or eliminate the most nourishing ingredient from a meal or a beverage. For instance, add milk to the coffee, instead of cream or sugar.
This step can be of short or long duration: according to the level of proficiency you acquired with the six steps of focusing for the beginners
according to the effort invested in the previous two steps; and, especially, according to the importance of the project to you.
Pay close attention to the changes in your body weight. When you see
the beginnings of the loss of body weight (or at least its
stabilization) it is time for the next step.
Decide on a certain amount of calories in your daily and weekly food consumption. This amount is supposed to be about 5% below the intake needed for the activity you are used to, and for maintaining the regular processes of your body. Be sure that you have a balanced diet that is not too different from the one you are used to. Strive to achieve a diet that is tasty, easy to prepare, and satisfying (as much as possible). The bulkier the food and the more chewing work needed, the better. (Get the help of a professional dietician if available when needed.)
It is recommended that you shift or concentrate most of the instances of your food intake so that they happen during your relatively free time. Thus you will be able to dedicate more attention on the focusing (as mentioned in the previous steps).
It is not a good tactic to concentrate all or most of the food eaten at a fixed time schedule, fixed content or fixed meals.
If you do this, you diminish the effect of the focusing on the hunger pangs, on the mending and updating of the trash-programs which are involved with overeating. From the same point of view it is not a good tactic to have a strict composition of ingredients. With a laxer regime you can always exploit opportunities, leave something unconsumed or swap it for something lower in calories.
It is most recommended to include in the daily diet components that are suitable for an emergency, like fruit or crumbs of the crust of black bread. It is good to have them on hand when "dreams about the poor" send you to the kitchen at night.
Continue with this step till it becomes a habit,
before starting the next one.
If and how much you succeed during this step, depends on the effort you have made while training for the first six steps of the beginners, and how much effort you have dedicated to integrating them with previous steps of this mission.
Once you have observed that most of the time the focusing has enabled you to succeed in restraining your overeating sprees, and you see that your new eating habits are already consolidated, it is time to enter the decisive step. In this step, you start exploiting every opportunity to change the ingredients of your menu to other equivalents that have less calories. At this stage, whenever you feel the craving to supplement your menu with high calorie ingredients, eruptions of appetite, or the urge to snatch something to eat between meals, try to focus on them until you have killed these desires (or until you have lost).
Remember!!! as in war, the winning of each battle and the success of each implementation of a tactic is not so important. What really is important, is the final success of the strategy and the victory at the end. Therefore, if you have over eaten during a meal or a day, you can always even out your caloric intake the following meal or lengthen the duration of the project.
If you find that the decrease in your body weight is too quick or that you are nearing your target, relax your effort a bit. It is time to start building new eating habits (updating the activation supra-programs involved) for the permanent daily maintenance of your body. When you reach your target weight, it is advised to know already how you are to continue, lest you regress to your previous eating habits and weight.
The importance of a close inspection and control of the tempo of the changes induced by focusing is common to all projects. Matching the effort invested to the result achieved, in order to get the optimal tempo, contributes to the efficient expenditure of effort and will power. The need to economize is common to all focusing projects you involve yourself with. Sometimes it is a precondition to success. In addition to the economization of effort invested, this kind of management can reduce the danger of leaping from one extreme to the other or from one unwanted emotional climate to another. (Anorexia Nervosa or even a "simple" emaciation are no better than obesity.)
VIII. Concluding remarks
This is a temporary end to the guide for self-training in the use of the general sensate focus technique. For some of the readers, this is a guide for a shortened trip or a journey to a better life. To other readers, the failure to apply this technique successfully will be more proof that they are helpless against the world and the troubles of life. For some, this book will enlarge their horizons, or be a reason to criticize the author for the sloppy work he has done or for the unfulfilled promises.
The one who, in spite of his disappointment, is still left with cautious optimism, and thinks that the problems encountered are due to a lack of clarity - is invited to get in touch with the author. Blessed be the reader who directs my attention to additional material, explanations and directives needed for this guide.
Staff, H. (2008, November 2). Do It for Yourself Now!, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, June 2 from https://www.healthyplace.com/alternative-mental-health/sensate-focusing/do-it-for-yourself-now