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Experiential Therapy

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Richard Wong

on 9 July 2016

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Transcript of Experiential Therapy

It is something so simple, so easily available to every person, that at first its very simplicity makes it hard to point to. Another term for it is felt meaning or feeling. However, feeling is a word usually used for [specific feelings] ... But regardless of the many changes in what we feel—that is to say, really, how we feel—there always is the concretely present flow of feeling (Gendlin, 1997, pp. 3, 6).
Experience and Experiencing
First, feel your body. Your body can, of course, be looked at from the out- side but I am asking you to feel it from the inside. There you are. There, as simply put as possible, is your experiencing of the moment, now.
Experiencing is bodily felt,“rather than thought, known,or verbalized.” It is concrete,lived experience rather than constructs, abstractions, or generalizations about experience. It is preconceptual. It is there before concepts.
Felt Sense
Felt Shift
bodily felt, implicitly rich “sense of some situation, problem, or aspect of one’s life.” It is “the holistic, implicit, bodily sense of a complex situ- ation” (Gendlin, 1996, pp. 20, 58).
What is your felt sense of right now?
What is your felt sense of yourself?
What is your felt sense of your health?
What is your felt sense of your career?
What is your felt sense of your relationship situation? What is your felt sense of the world situation?
the feeling of therapeutic change actually happening.

Psychotherapy, from this point of view, is a series of steps of finding felt senses, being friendly to them, accurately symbolizing them, and then feeling felt shifts.
“Here is a simple example of a felt sense... What is my feeling of my writ- ing right now? What is my felt sense of it? My felt sense is in my belly, it is ‘turgid ... struggling ... trying too hard to make my point.’

When I thus symbolize the felt sense, I feel more relaxed and calm. This is the felt shift. I go back to my writing from this now more-relaxed place.”
The Experiential Response
A good client-centered response formulates the felt, implicit meaning of the client’s present experiencing.

An effective interpretation must somehow help the patient deal with the inner experiencing to which the interpretation refers ... to grapple with it, face it, tolerate it, and work it through.
Successful therapy means that both the client-centred reflection of feeling response and a psychoanalytic interpretation work in the same way.
The greater the role played by experiencing during the thera- py hours, the greater will be the thera- peutic change and [the more likely] the successful outcome of therapy” (1961, pp. 240-243).
Clearing a space
From among what came, select one personal problem to focus on. DO NOT GO INSIDE IT. Stand back from it. Of course, there are many parts to that one thing you are thinking about – too many to think of each one alone. But you can feel all of these things together. Pay attention there where you usually feel things, and in there you can get a sense of what all of the problem feels like. Let yourself feel the unclear sense of all of that.
Felt Sense
What is the quality of this unclear felt sense? Let a word, a phrase, or an image come up from the felt sense itself. It might be a quality-word, like tight, sticky, scary, stuck, heavy, jumpy or a phrase, or an image. Stay with the quality of the felt sense till something fits it just right.
What I will ask you to do will be silent, just to yourself. Take a moment just to relax . . . All right – now, inside you, I would like you to pay attention inwardly, in your body, perhaps in your stomach or chest. Now see what comes there when you ask, "How is my life going? What is the main thing for me right now?" Sense within your body. Let the answers come slowly from this sensing. When some concern comes, DO NOT GO INSIDE IT. Stand back, say "Yes, that’s there. I can feel that, there." Let there be a little space between you and that. Then ask what else you feel. Wait again, and sense. Usually there are several things.
Go back and forth between the felt sense and the word (phrase, or image). Check how they resonate with each other. See if there is a little bodily signal that lets you know there is a fit. To do it, you have to have the felt sense there again, as well as the word. Let the felt sense change, if it does, and also the word or picture, until they feel just right in capturing the quality of the felt sense.
Now ask: what is it, about this whole problem, that makes this quality (which you have just named or pictured)? Make sure the quality is sensed again, freshly, vividly (not just remembered from before). When it is here again, tap it, touch it, be with it, asking, "What makes the whole problem so ______?" Or you ask, "What is in this sense?"

If you get a quick answer without a shift in the felt sense, just let that kind of answer go by. Return your attention to your body and freshly find the felt sense again. Then ask it again.

Be with the felt sense till something comes along with a shift, a slight "give" or release.
Receive whatever comes with a shift in a friendly way. Stay with it a while, even if it is only a slight release. Whatever comes, this is only one shift; there will be others. You will probably continue after a little while, but stay here for a few moments.
Not Following the steps is important! We do not control it. We let body find its own steps.
Eugene Gendlin
Experiential Therapy
Sickness is to live tied up to a binding routine, without having been in contact with the life that flows in ourselves; without having sensed the complexity of our own experience that connect us with new alternatives.
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