When concrete results aren't obvious while coaching someone with heightened emotions, I sometimes wonder if simply listening is enough. Focusing is one way to help clients translate their emotional pain into kinesthetic experience and imagery with the potential to heal symbolically.
Among the many free articles at Dr. Kathy McGuire's Creative Edge Focusing web site, those on grieving have been especially useful to me when someone is experiencing strong feelings: "Your body knows how to grieve and will direct the process to a healing conclusion, if you can stop suppressing it."
In her "Five Minute Grieving" process Dr. McGuire suggests:
- Invite the client to cry ("...let's make room for your tears...")
- Empathize without trying to "fix" or take away the grief ("It seems bleak right now...")
- Help the client find words or images for the tears ("It helps to get a handle on the feeling...")
- Empathize again, often by paraphrasing the client's words ("So it's your fear you won't find a new job and that's hard...")
Continue steps (1) through (4) as long as makes sense, then orient the client, if necessary, by doing a "present time" exercise ("You're welcome to sit here for a minute... let's make sure you're back in the world..."), or you may want to establish closure ("Let's see if we can look for solutions to your situation...").
This quote from Campbell and McMahon, creators of Bio-Spiritual Focusing, beautifully conveys the focusing attitude:
Imagine you have found an abandoned infant... how you would, through your bodily attention, convey complete acceptance and love and safety... "You are totally wanted in this world and safe with me."
(Leonid Sadofiev provided the above photo through istockphotos.com)