Yongwei (Carol) Xu: Dedicated to Bringing Focusing to this Harsh World
An interview by Jocelyn Jacks Kahn
Yongwei, a lively and playful woman overflowing with life, was recently recruited to join the International Leadership Council (ILC). I had the fun task of interviewing her for the In Focus newsletter.
Yongwei received her Focusing Oriented Therapist certification in 2014 and her Wholebody Focusing Professional Trainer certification in 2016. She became a Coordinator-in-Training in 2017. I was curious about how she originally came to Focusing...
I was a reporter and host at a public radio station in the city Wuxi where I live.
But I'm very interested in people's minds. Although I lived in a way that looked happy and nice to many people, I myself still felt suffering. I had so many thoughts and wasn't satisfied with my life. I was worried, anxious, self-condemning — many uncomfortable feelings.
Then, in 2005, I learned that we had a new examination in China that allowed you to be certified as a counselor. And in my role as a reporter, I interviewed some people who wanted to study for that examination. I was interested and asked them: "Shall I come?" And they said, "Of course!". So I went as their classmate.
I did not want to actually be a counselor at first. I just wanted to explore myself — Who am I? Why do I have such negative emotions? But after being certified, I began to work part-time as a counselor.
I used all my holidays for part-time learning and study. I learned analysis via the Internet. The training course was held by CAPA (The China American Psychoanalytic Alliance), which was quite systematized and strict. I was in analysis via Skype for four years, three times a week with an analyst in New York. It helped me very much. But still, I was thinking, thinking, thinking...
One day around 2009, I read a book by Eugene Gendlin. And he says that my body knows.
What!? My body knows?
But in the traditional Chinese view, body and mind and all nature are one — so this thought is not so strange to Chinese people, and I liked it.
But I could not find Focusing training in China. Then, in March 2011, I found out that Xu Jun, the first Focusing Coordinator in China, was holding a two-year training in Shanghai. I was so happy and urgently wanted to participate.
That was my start in Focusing. In the beginning I felt so excited because, I thought, "Wow, I've found the way!".
This was classic Focusing, and I enjoyed the course. But after several days' training, I felt lost... When the teacher was not with me, I just didn't know how to do it myself, because I had many problems and questions — as usual, thinking, thinking, thinking too much.
I persisted and took Focusing trainings two or three times every year. But after three years, I almost lost my faith in it.
Then I heard that Karen Whalen was coming to Shanghai to teach a 2-1/2 year training in Wholebody Focusing (WBF). I went to her introductory training to decide whether I wanted to attend the entire program.
Since that five days was a holiday for me, I just wanted to relax. So I didn't take any notes. I went back home with an empty notebook five days later, and I barely remembered anything from the class.
But I felt very comfortable!
When I went to my yoga class, the teacher said, "You look different — where have you been?" So that made me realize, "This WBF is different — really different!".
I asked Karen if she could help me learn WBF, and in exchange I could teach her Chinese. Happily and kindly, she said, "Yes!". So, we met two times every week for three years. After that, I realized that Focusing was not only a theory or philosophy — it's a style of life. When you want to learn it you need to practice again and again. I felt more and more and realized, "Ahhhh! Focusing is about the body!"
Before I started to move my core from my brain to my body, I just could not understand — "What is this 'listen to your body'? I just don't know!". But after that — "Ohhhh, this is what that means!". WBF let my body show up for me more than other forms of Focusing had.
So when I went back to classic Focusing, I could understand it.
I asked Yongwei to talk more about her widely varied Focusing background...
I have attended most of the Focusing trainings Xu Jun has held since 2011. He has invited many teachers to China, and I have studied with them.
I completed the Wholebody Focusing training with Karen Whalen and worked with her as a teacher's assistant. I studied Trauma Focusing with Shaun and Alexis Phillips, and I also assisted at their classes. They taught us in a lively and fun way, but full of power, to face the trauma. I did a three-day training with Ann Weiser Cornell, as well as Campbell Purton's seminar.
I very much enjoyed Akira Ikemi's trainings. He teaches in an exquisite way and always has something new from his research. I also enjoyed studying with Chinese Focusing teachers such as Xu Jun, Li Ming, etc.
Now we have at least four Coordinators and there are Focusers in Shanghai, Guangzhou, Wuhan, and many different places in China. I'm so happy about that!
I also wanted her to talk more about her own extensive teaching and clinical practice.
During these years I have done dozens of salons sharing what Focusing is and how it helps us. I let people have a taste of it, and they like it. I also have my Focusing groups — short-term to just go lightly and long-term to go deeper.
I teach these groups according to different people's needs. We practice how to have a pause in our lives; how to pay attention to our bodies; what the felt-sense is; and we try to understand body wisdom.
I use Wholebody Focusing a lot, and I use art Focusing. Painting, dancing, singing — there are many different ways to use art with Focusing, and people enjoy it.
I also use Focusing skills in my clinical practice. When my clients drop into deadlock or just talk or think, I like to invite them to pause and try to connect with the five body spaces. This brings them a larger space in which to contain and sense the situation, followed by more stability and possibility. When implicit felt-sense becomes explicit, we have some new perspective and our lives can carry forward.
Yongwei was eager to discuss the 2nd Asian Focusing Conference in November 2019
I really enjoy Focusing conferences! Everyone comes from different places and brings their own Focusing way to share. Everyone is relaxed, respectful, open, and kind. We communicate with each other, listen to different Focusing stories, and make friends.
I have attended two International Focusing Conferences — one in Switzerland in 2013 and one in Cambridge in 2016. I also attended the 1st Asian Focusing Conference, held in Kobe, Japan in 2017. They were all wonderful and exciting.
This November, the 2nd Asian Focusing Conference will be held in Shanghai. It's also known as the 4th China Conference on Focusing-Oriented Psychotherapy.
We anticipate this conference with much excitement, expecting at least 300 people. Most of them will come from Asian countries such as Japan and Korea, and some of them from the U.S., Canada, and Germany.
And there are more than 40 workshops and presentations during the Conference. How abundant!
Robert Lee will give a pre-conference workshop on micro-shifting. Ann Weiser Cornell will give a post-conference workshop about Inner Relationship Focusing. Akira Ikemi, Karen Whalen, Eunsun Joo, Li Ming, Peter Cheung, Achim Grube, and Evelyn Fendler-Lee will all give workshops on different themes.
And I will give two workshops. One is with my teacher Karen and other teaching assistants, and the other one is my own: Focusing, OH Card and Stories. It will be very fun! I'm so excited and looking forward to it.
Focusing is a good way to help people in this harsh world, and I want more people to learn about it. We cannot change the whole world. But if we can change the attitude — to face the situation, to deal with it — I think that is how Focusing can help nowadays.
And of course I wanted to know how she became involved in the ILC...
When Peter Cheung, a Coordinator from Hong Kong, recommended me to the ILC, I was very surprised.
Before recruiting me, Catherine Torpey, as Executive Director of TIFI, Paula Nowick, a TIFI board member, and Serge Prengel, an ILC member, each interviewed me to get a sense of whether I would make a good addition to the ILC, as well as to give me a fuller sense of the organization.
However, I hesitated because I always thought of myself as just a student. I also worried about my English.
Then one day, I received the first of several emails from the board, welcoming me to the ILC! I felt honored, but still asked if I could attend the ILC meeting two or three times to get a sense of how they work.
The Board kindly accepted, and I had a chance to get to know these great, kind people. They come from different countries: Sergio from Chile, Evelyn from Germany, Claude from Belgium, Ruth from Israel, Roberto from Mexico, and of course, Catherine.
Some people have very strong accents — well, that was difficult for me! But they work swiftly, follow the agenda, and talk issues. Everyone shares their ideas and tries to clearly understand each other. This made me feel that they were reliable.
The ILC is doing an important job because they collaborate and try to use a Focusing way in the meetings. The meetings are very respectful, giving you space. The meeting itself helps me learn how to be a person, as well as how to be a Coordinator — to give space and to see all aspects of the issues we work with.
And because we come from different countries, we have different thoughts, different cultures. North American, South American, European, Asian — all very different.
At first, to me they were all foreign, all the same. But then I realized that they are not all the same. It is not that someone simply told me "people are different, unique" — I experienced this, and I got this in the ILC during the half year I've been there.
Serving on the ILC has already helped me, and I want to help this group.
Everyone has their unique ability, their own function. We work together. And I like learning how to work together and respect others, even if you have different ideas.
We are encouraged to have different ways of doing Focusing. We have maybe hundreds or, in the future, even thousands of different ways to do Focusing — because people are different.
But Focusing also has something very core: Pause in your hurried journey and pay attention to your body wisdom.
There is something else very core: Everyone needs some support. This may come from your close friends. But sometimes maybe you have a different idea than your friends who are around you.
So we need this kind of place that can really understand the core principles of supporting people. We need people who are not only kind, but wise as well.
We have different ideas, but we have the core principles in common — and this spirit will help us to face the reality of our problems.
Yongwei talked about the relationship of Chinese Focusers and TIFI
Actually, I did not know TIFI very well before. I just connected with my teachers, and I didn't think I needed TIFI.
But now I believe we need a place to support every Focusing practitioner in every area on this earth. I like that.
Language is kind of a barrier because people who practice Focusing here in China do not speak English. That makes it difficult to connect with TIFI. I encourage people to go to the website, but I also hope the website can have a Chinese version.
With a Chinese version of the website, the communication can be more frequent and direct.
I asked Yongwei whether there was anything else she'd like to mention to our readers...
I'd like to say that during these ten years of my Focusing practice — whether in my daily life, in my clinical practice, or in my Focusing groups — I have seen many living examples of people getting out of their dilemmas, releasing the pressure they feel, and recovering from trauma.
I often share the "3P Rule" with my friends. I discovered this rule during one heartfelt conversation with my friend Gloria, who is a Focusing practitioner from Hong Kong. We need to Pause in our life and do Focusing with Patience, and then we will get Peace.
I want to thank people like Xu Jun who brought Focusing to China. I'd like to thank Karen Whalen, who really brought me into the Focusing way. And I'd like to thank all my teachers, my students, and my Focusing partners.
And I will do my best as I work with the ILC to promote Focusing so more people can benefit from it.
We would like to thank Gloria Lau Pui Wah for generously offering to translate this article into Chinese.