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Felt Sense

Thank you to Kye Nelson for assembling this material.

Not everything we feel ‘inside’ is a felt sense.  These readings may help clarify what a felt sense is and is not, as well as how to help one form.  Click on any of the titles below to find them in the TIFI store - or links on the TIFI website.

The felt sense



"A felt sense is an internal aura that encompasses everything you feel and know about the given subject at a given time–encompasses it and communicates it to you all at once rather than detail by detail." –Eugene Gendlin

In Eugene Gendlin, Focusing

"The sense of 'all about John'... is a huge file of data: what John looks like, how he speaks, how you and he first met, what you need from him, what he said yesterday, and what you said in return. The amount of information is staggering–yet somehow, when you think of John, all the relevant facts and feelings come to you at once."

See ...

- Pages 32-36 for more on that huge, vague, ‘something’ you feel which is not thoughts or emotions, but is ‘all about …..’,
- Page 84 on how the felt sense is a bodily awareness made of many interwoven strands, but felt as one.

Also see…

In Elfie Hinterkopf, Integrating Spirituality in Focusing
- See page 19 on the vague, bodily, wholistic sense of something (a situation, problem, project, experience, …) which contains all of your knowing about it.

In Bala Jaison, Integrating Experiential and Brief Therapy
- See page 18 on how a felt sense takes a while to develop.  

In Campbell Purton, Person Centred Therapy
- See pages 69-70 for the example (from Gendlin) of a poet who is struggling to finish a poem with an elusive last line.
- Also page 73 on how, instead of following a well-trodden track, the client pauses to be with ‘all this about…’ –and there, in all that, he comes into touch with something new.
- And page 87 on how, even though a felt sense has so many aspects to it that it’s impossible to think about all of them explicitly, they can all be felt together.

In Gendlin’s paper "A Theory of Personality Change"
- Pay attention here to felt sense as felt meaning.

Eugene Gendlin on video, speaking about the ‘murky zone’ (recorded by Nada Lou)


A felt sense is not the same as whatever inner experience is going on.  It's not sensations or emotions–not the old familiar inner experiences a person can already easily name.

"An emotion is often sharp and clearly felt, and often comes with a handy label by which you can describe it: 'anger', 'fear', 'love, and so on. A felt sense, being larger and more complicated, is almost always unclear... and almost never comes with a convenient label..." –Eugene Gendlin

From Eugene Gendlin, Focusing :

"You might have a distinct and intense feeling in relation to some problem, and usually the same one over and over. Especially if you have had that feeling many times, there is little point in having it over again, one more time. The felt sense is the broader, at first unclear, unrecognizable discomfort, which the whole problem (all that)  makes in your body. To let it form, you have to stand back a little from the familiar emotion. The felt sense is wider, less intense, easier to have, and much more broadly inclusive. It is how your body carries the whole problem." –Eugene Gendlin

See pages 69-70 for more about how the felt sense is not a body sensation, and is not just getting in touch with gut feelings.


“When it forms, it feels pregnant.  The felt sense has in it a meaning you can feel, but usually it is not immediately open… The forming, and then the opening of a felt sense usually takes about thirty seconds, and it may take three or four minutes, counting distractions, to give it the thirty seconds of attention it needs.”

In Eugene Gendlin, Focusing :
- See pages 86-88 for practice in letting a felt sense form (and the rest of this chapter can help if it’s hard to do this)

Also see…

In Gendlin, Focusing Oriented Therapy
- See page 46 on how to respond in a way that invites a felt sense to form.

In Anne Weiser Cornell, The Power of Focusing 
- See page 93 on listening for the edge of experience.  

In David Rome, The Body Knows the Answer 
- See pages 22-23 for an exercise in going from physical sensation to felt sense
- Also see page 29 for instructions in getting to ‘the feeling beneath the feeling’