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Focusing: A Process for Gifting Our Children With Themselves

Marianne Thompson
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As our children grow into their teens, I find that the value I put on helping them find their own spirit has become my deepest satisfaction as a mother. We all spend so much time, energy and money on our children, hoping to give them the right breaks. This effort starts early in their lives, as we carefully choose pre-schools, music program, their ballet and gymnastic instructors. Having a child in high school who excels in sports often insures scholarships to the college of their choice. The list goes on and on. This is all fine, to some extent. But I wonder how much more effective this planning might be, and in what directions our children might go, if we taught them right from the beginning to find and be true to their own spirit, to follow their own “right” instead of someone else’s.

As youngsters, how few of us are given an opportunity to nourish that spirit. We are offered little, if any, clue about how to discover our own direction. Without realizing we already have an inner strength, a bodily wisdom that we can tap into, we easily fall into addictive patterns--trying to please others in order to gain approval, living up to the expectations of others, etc. It doesn’t take long before we find out that a great deal of pain and self-alienation lie in store for us because we can never measure up to the expectations and ideals that others have set for us. It becomes so easy to lose one’s voice as it is drowned out by the good intentions that others have for us. It seems to me we are setting our children up for addictive relationships whenever we fail to teach them to discover how to listen to their own inner guide. Parents then wonder what went wrong as we watch a growing number of young adults turn toward drugs, alcohol, sex and material goods in order to feel better about themselves. We have been setting them up for failure!

I have had to own in a Focusing way, over and over again, how I feel about not living up to others expectations for me. I have learned how painful and confusing it was when I first tried to move in another direction. Recently, my 12 year old daughter, Elizabeth, had an experience that made it very clear to me how Focusing has nourished her inner spirit, giving her strength and courage to know who she is at a time in her young life when studies indicate that many pre-teen girls become very confused. Having been Focusing since the age of 4 or 5, Elizabeth notices what it feels like in her body now when she is around people who don’t support this inner life she has come to cherish.

We were driving home from a gathering of friends, aunts, uncles and cousins when she told me how she could clearly notice those who accepted who she was and those who did not. Since she was very young, Elizabeth has learned through Focusing to create a climate in herself that nourishes congruence. Whenever she is hurt, scared, or confused, she goes inside and listens to her feelings so they can tell her their stories. Now, whenever she finds herself in situations where she makes adults uncomfortable, or when they appear to want her to be someone other than who she really is, or when adults are ill at ease with her quietness or her own comfortableness in not having to fill up the air waves, she knows how that feels different inside from the people who allow her to be just the way she is.

Elizabeth expressed some hurt and sadness to me that afternoon. She knows she doesn’t need to ignore, deny, talk out, or bury those feelings At 12 years of age she knows deep inside that being gentle with those feelings leads her into the truth of who she is as a very unique and precious person. She feels the peace that comes in her body whenever she owns what is real in herself.
It is clear that children need approval from significant people in their lives when they are young in order to feel good about themselves. But later on, to be frequently looking for approval from the outside, always trying to please others, makes them very dependent, very confused about their feelings, unsure of who they are. Children need to be guided and supported in discovering their own unique path, their own voice. They then learn early in life a discernment they can count on that allows them to follow their inner call and not just what Mom, Dad or others want for them. We, as parents, teachers, or friends are there to support them on this exciting discovery. Whenever they can make decisions from this more clear inner place, they will succeed in being true to themselves by following a path that leads toward more wholeness and happiness. My dream is that as more children are taught Focusing we will see a generation of young adults doing the right things for the right inside reasons. How different our world could be. I know it can be more than a dream!


The Institute for Research In Spirituality Is a non-profit organization supporting Christian Spirituality through Research and Education.

Members of the Institute are from all walks of life united in the firm belief that human growth forms the very substance, the vital core of personal spirituality.

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