Neuroscience has a lot to say that correlates with our experience of Focusing. It’s much more than I could ever do justice to here. We do learn and explore these concepts in my classes in a variety of ways. I’ll share a few key concepts here.
To begin with, this is a piece of art work gifted to me early on in my Focusing career. I was lucky enough to be guiding someone as they experienced their brain coming alive. This is their artistic rendition of what it feels like when neurons make a new neural connection. Focusing is often described as a sense of flow, connection or ‘aha’ moments. Often with your eyes close, one might see beautiful colors or experience an inner sense of spaciousness or lightness.
You are welcome to download this pdf, Crossing Gendlin’s Theories with Neuroscience I created for a workshop on Three Ways of Experiencing. And in Spanish: Explorando cómo las teorías de Gendlin se Cruzan con la conciencia de los hemisferios derecho e izquierdo del cerebro y nos guian en el proceso.
Keep in mind that each of our brains is incredibly unique and that this information is simply guidelines to explore for yourself. Neuroscience also tells us that our brain is more complex than the entire universe yet discovered. Let’s pause here and say that again. Our brain is more complex than the entire universe yet discovered. What we can access here is often limited by what we believe is possible. And beliefs change. I have compiled here a table of a process that a typical human brain goes through in any given moment. This version was updated Feb, 2019. I will likely update this table in the future as this is all unfolding in ways we are just beginning to understand.
Our brain is divided into two mostly separate parts. Our right hemisphere (RH) is where all of our sensory information feeds into. This is happening mostly subconsciously, most of the time. Thank goodness that it is! If we were aware of the endless communications that take place to keep our body humming away, we’d all be crazy! And yet, some of this information is useful if we train ourselves to ‘drop in’. Many of us are familiar with getting some type of body communication when we are stressed. People who feel they are empathic, intuitive, follow their ‘gut sense’ or are commonly sensitive to their environment would be hearing from their RH. People who feel like their emotions are somewhat ‘distant’ in general are not receiving that information (at least routinely) from their RH. Wiring is as unique as we are.
This is step 1. We can invite our body (RH) to give us ‘its broad perspective’ on any current situation. Our RH will tend to share its perspective as body sensations, emotions, images, short phrases or gestures. This can take some practice to interpret correctly and we practice this as Focusers by taking the understanding back to our body and checking with it.
Next, whether or not we have any awareness of our RH communication, our body automatically moves over our corpus callosum (which connects the two hemispheres) to our left hemisphere (LH). Our LH stores everything we’ve already learned by labeling, forming categories and collecting this all in separate boxes. Everything that has been stored had a purpose relevant to that time. This memory storage typically happens during our sleep. Our LH also houses our language center, so typically our more wordy thoughts come from here. This information is vital for us to make sense of our current situation with what we already know. Important for us to understand is that the LH, because of it’s nature of storing only what is explicit or known, lives in the past or projects about the future. The information it offers us may not be true for the situation we are currently in.
This is step 2. Our mind (LH) gives us ‘its perspective’ on any current situation. Our LH will tend to share its perspective with lengthy phrases and opinions. There is likely a feel of control and purpose here: “I know”, “it is”, “should”. There may be competing perspectives from several boxes and a stickiness to being right.
This division is between two very necessary perspectives that every moment provide us with information that could potentially contribute toward our well-being and also potentially keep us in somewhat of a negative feedback loop.
Gendlin’s Three Types of Theories
Wholistic: we are looking at wholes, everything here is interconnected and cannot be taken into pieces without losing something of value. It is easy to see this model in nature and ecology. On its own, hard to find an end.
Unit Model: everything is broken down into pieces we experience as fixed, exploring these pieces brings clarity around what they can do, how we can use them. If there is a piece we do not understand, we’ll ignore it for now. It is important that everything here has a purpose we can wrap around. We often live as though time and space follow this model and experience stress about that.
Functional Wholes: here we are looking at one situation, one moment in time, how this functions within itself.
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