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October 2020 Newsletter

October 2020 Issue

Featured Articles
"How the Felt Sense Enables Therapeutic Change"
October 23-25, 2020
(in Asia/Australia the main conference begins late night Oct. 23 and ends Oct. 26)
Pre-conference October 21-22
The 2020 Focusing Oriented Therapy World Conference will be ONLINE! Our theme this year is "How the Felt Sense Enables Therapeutic Change."
There will be a blend of pre-recorded interviews, live panel discussions and demonstrations, and in between the packed schedule, some informal time. The pre-conference (October 21-22) will be a two-day introductory course in Focusing for therapists, so please encourage therapists who are not yet familiar with Focusing to attend the pre-conference so that they can get the most out of the conference itself.
Presentations, demonstrations and workshops will span global time zones and additional informal gathering times are being organized to supplement the schedule for those living outside the Americas. The entire conference will be translated into Spanish. A few presentations are offered in Spanish, which will be translated into English.
All are welcome to attend the conference. We are eager that the cost not be a barrier, and so we are offering scholarships for those living in countries with struggling economies or for other economic hardship. Scholarships are also available for people from groups under-represented in the Focusing community, and Workstudy Discounts are also available.
We have been amazed by the organizing team's work over the last year, and our incredible 31 presenters from 13 countries:
Peter Afford (UK)
Pam Bell (Belgium)
Ann Weiser Cornell (USA)
Biliana Dearly (Australia)
Aaffien de Vries (the Netherlands)
Ifat Eckstein (Israel)
Leslie Ellis (Canada)
Glenn Fleisch (USA)
Rachel Hendron (New Zealand)
Akira Ikemi (Japan)
Paul Kahn (USA)
Joan Klagsbrun (USA)
Sergio Lara (Chile)
Joan Lavender (USA)
Greg Madison (UK)
Salvador Moreno (Mexico)
Sofia Papoutsi (Greece)
Serge Prengle (USA)
Lynn Preston (USA)
Julie Ramsey (USA)
Laury Rappaport (USA)
Peggy Reubens (USA)
Edgardo Riveros (Chile)
F. Javier Romeo-Biedma (Spain)
Susan Rudnick (USA)
Veronica Toescu (UK)
Joke van Hoeck (Belgium)
Karen Whalen and Roberto Larios (Canada and Mexico)
Dennis Windego (Canada)
Jan Winhall (Canada)
Next International Focusing Conference
in France
June 2022!
Please be sure to mark your calendars to join us in beautiful France for the next International Focusing Conference. The French Focusing Community (pictured here) is making everything ready for us all to be together in June 2022. We hope and trust that by then, there will be fewer restrictions due to Covid, so that we can fully enjoy being with one another in person. IFEF (Institut de Focusing d'Europe Francophone) has been organizing summer schools each year in France for many years. Now they are ready to share their vibrant community with the world. All workshops will be in French and English. We can't wait to be together. Vivement Juin 2022!
Report from the Board
by Leslie Ellis
The Board of The International Focusing Institute consists of volunteers who work quietly behind the scenes managing the finances, overall direction and vision for our worldwide organization. At any given time, the Board is overseeing a wide range of areas related to TIFI, all with the overarching goal of spreading Focusing and continuing the legacy of Eugene Gendlin in the world.
Recently, with the exciting development of so many new Coordinators, we have been starting our Board sessions by meeting with these new Coordinators and hearing a little bit about their vision and Focusing journey. We have also begun a process of articulating an updated vision and mission statement for TIFI that will guide future initiatives and decisions.
Other areas the Board has been engaged with include overseeing several fund-raising initiatives, developing a document to clarify the role of the Board and the scope of its own activities, liaising with The Gendlin Center for Research, and monitoring the progress of website development. We continue to support the efforts of our executive director on many fronts, including the current challenge of moving all TIFI events to an online platform.
We are excited about the ways in which Focusing continues to grow worldwide and will continue to update TIFI members as new developments take shape.
Leslie Ellis' term as Board President completed in August, although she is still remaining as a Board member. Nelle Moffett is the new Board President.
Board/ILC Switch
We are delighted to announce that the Board and the International Leadership Council (ILC) have invited Nancy Falls to move from the Board to the ILC, and have invited Evelyn Fendler-Lee to move from the ILC to the Board. This idea emerged out of a number of conversations about what each group needed, as well as from a desire for a stronger connection between the two bodies. The change was effective beginning September 2020. We asked them each to reflect on what makes the switch feel right to them.
It is with great pleasure that I accept the switch to the International Leadership Council. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time on the TIFI Board and appreciated getting to know the other Board members.

I joined the TIFI Board in October 2018, and it has been a positive experience to understand and contribute to the governance-related issues of the Board. When the opportunity to switch to the International Leadership Council was presented, the “felt sense” was of excitement and “rightness.” I have always enjoyed the connections I have made at the International conferences and I strongly believe in Gene’s vision to spread Focusing throughout the world.

As a Certifying Coordinator since 2001, my interest has been to help teach people Focusing, and to find ways to help professionals incorporate Focusing into their work with clients. I am looking forward to reaching out to Coordinators from around the world. I strongly believe that The International Focusing Institute can provide the forum to bring us together as a world community where we can learn from each other and grow together.
-- Nancy Falls
My first contact with Gendlin's work had been in 2004 at the beginning of a 3-year-long training as a person-centered counselor. It hasn't left me since, and since then I've studied Thinking at the Edge and the Philosophy of the Implicit intensely. It has become the base of my work as a trainer for creative deep thinking, as a coach for personal and professional growth, and as a facilitator for concept creation in teams.
My motivation to serve on the Board of TIFI (and before that, on the ILC) is to give back some of what I've received from Gendlin's work. As a Board member, I would like to put all my effort to widen the areas of application for Thinking with the Implicit. It was a promise I made to Gendlin when I was fortunate to visit him twice in 2013.
-- Evelyn Fendler-Lee
Announcing our Newest International Leadership Council Member:
Laura Bavalics of Hungary
We are delighted to announce that following the recommendation of the Nominating Committee, the Board has elected Laura Bavalics as the newest member of the International Leadership Council. Learn more about her here.
Focus-a-thon: A Heartfelt "Thank You"
It is always inspiring when we come together as a community to share the Focusing experience with those around us, and our first ever Focus-a-thon was no different. With 350 people registered - 162 of whom were brand new to TIFI - and over $3,000 raised, the event was a huge success that laid the groundwork for similar events to come. Thank you to all who participated!
More than a fundraiser, the Focus-a-thon was a “friend-raiser” and it would not have been possible without the help and support of the tireless volunteers named below. Because of your time and service, hundreds of people had a beautiful Focusing experience and felt the warmth of who we are as a community. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts!
Focus-a-thon Volunteers
Dan Schachter
Vera R. Fryd Lyngmo
Darek Tkaczyk
Claude Missiaen
François Roussel
Taeko Sakurai
Yongwei Carol Xu
Joseph Sing
Beatrice Blake
Heazel Martínez
Florentina Sassoli
Suzanne Noel
Monica Perez Iturraspe
Roberto Larios
Olga Pasquini
Mariana Pisula
Harriet Teeuw
Evelyn Fendler-Lee
Melanie Korpi
Anat Lapidot
Liora Bar Natan
Tobias Schulthess
Hanspeter Mühlethaler
LIat Gross
Elizabeth Cantor
Kimberly Dasse
Jane Quayle
Natalia Calvino
Henry Chen
Behind the Scenes:
The 50th Weeklong Becomes a First
We had intended to have the 2020 Advanced and Certification Weeklong in New York. We looked forward to having participants from all over the world gather once again a the Garrison Institute, the site of so many wonderful past Focusing gatherings. The excitement was building as the registrations rolled in well in advance of the April date.
Edgardo Riveros (Chile), Dan Schachter (Israel), and Jan Winhall (Canada) had met twice a month for a year. By fall, we'd added the Collaborating Coordinators, Jane Quayle (Australia), Kati Kimchi (Israel) and Tom Larkin (Ireland).
By January 2020, we asked ourselves if we really needed to keep meeting. Everything was set and ready to go!
Then Covid hit. "What a shame," we thought. But when the whole team was available at the available dates in August (minus Jane Quayle, whose daughter was expecting a baby in summer), we thought that we would still be together.
It was not to be. By mid-June, we had to announce our decision to move the Weeklong online. Now, more than a year of planning had to be turned on its head. We had a few short weeks to make it all work online.
Linguistic accessibility is a high value of TIFI, and in particular it is a high value of the Weeklong. We had ended the 2019 on such a "high" -- because for the first time, we had taken this event outside the USA, and so at that event, it was English that was the second language. We wanted to continue in that spirit -- making sure that ability to speak English not be a barrier. But the newness of doing a whole conference online made us unsure how we could fulfill this goal. Experience has shown us that translation "the old fashioned way" -- where everyone waits for translation to happen after each sentence or so -- wears on everyone's patience online in a way that it doesn't in "real life." Also, because of being online, the sessions were already shortened, and taking half the time to translate didn't seem reasonable. We were on the point of, sadly, letting everyone know that the only language of the conference would be English.
Then a Focusing miracle happened (OK, a technological miracle along with a Focusing community miracle)! Two weeks before the Weeklong, we discovered a new functionality in Zoom that would allow us to put the translator on a separate channel. Suddenly, the possibilities opened up. Catherine contacted seven bilingual people, wondering if they'd be able to clear a week in August to help us with the difficult work of translation. Within 24 hours, each had enthusiastically agreed to be part of our Dream Translation Team.
These incredible people are: James Doga (Costa Rica), Mariana Písula (Argentina), Florentina Sassoli (Argentina), Gabriela Riveros (Chile), Natalia Calviño (Argentina), Suzanne Noel (Costa Rica), and Beatrice Blake (USA).
Simultaneous translation is extremely difficult, since the translator must be translating what was last said, while listening for what will be translated next. There is no time to search in one's mind for the "just right" word. So in each moment, we had one person acting as the translator and the other acting as the "translation buddy." Even this plan required improvisation and flexibility, as unexpected internet failures required the translation buddies to be ready fill in and take the reins.
In addition to the complex and challenging translation work, our seven-person translation team had to master Zoom’s simultaneous translation structure mere days before the event. In the weekend preceding the Weeklong, the translation and tech teams, spearheaded by Melanie Korpi, met for several hours each day in order to be prepared for the week's presentations. One of our Tech Hosts, Vera Lyngmo, created this drawing to help all of us understand the technology in more human terms. Thank you, Vera! This illustration helped enormously!
Working alongside the incredible translation team was the world's most dedicated and talented Tech Team. They handled the hosting responsibilities in ways that made everyone feel welcome and cared for. They, too, put in countless hours to make it all run smoothly and we owe them a huge debt of gratitude.
The Weeklong presentations and workshops were incredible and enriching. We have enormous gratitude to the team for re-working everything in a felt-sensing way in order to bring the spirit of the Advanced and Certification Weeklong to this format. The team presented the Cross-Lingual Focusing practice developed by Robert Lee. Jan Winhall presented on polyvagal theory, Edgardo presented on the panoramic vision, Dan led a discussion on diversity in approaches as a core value; Kati presented on sexuality, and the week ended with Tom leading us on a nature walk -- each in our own environment. Supplementing all that were workshops by participants.
We suddenly needed a back-up team to lead "Home Groups," not knowing whether the participants would be English speaking or Spanish speaking, and not knowing what time zone they'd be in. Coordinators Beatrice Blake and Suzanne Noel answered the call with a resounding "yes." Both are bilingual, and were willing to work with a Spanish or English speaking group. Both are also experienced and trustworthy. We knew we had a strong team. When we wrote them and said, "Besides the two-hour home groups each day, we need you to attend the Main Presentations and workshops and team meetings," they good-naturedly agreed. Their warmth and care made a huge difference in the quality of everyone's experience.
Some participants in this part of the world showed incredible dedication, staying up until the middle of the night or waking at very early hours to join. For those who weren’t able to experience them live, our tech team worked feverishly to get videos of the main presentations uploaded as quickly as possible allowing participants to watch them before their home groups. Their work was a key part of the event’s success.
The challenges we encountered in planning the Weeklong were difficult, but we faced them with in a spirit of felt-sensing and in community. We are grateful for the technology that has made this possible, and the goodwill of the community to help us navigate this new world.
"El Weeklong"

por Amalia Zimarino
(For the English translation, click here.)
EXPERIENCIA profunda que confluyó el aprendizaje CORPORAL y la mirada del alma.
Fue un tránsito por caminos interiores, en cada TALLER que presenciaba, que traían al presente, un pasado que hablaba en el cuerpo, con movimentos que ayer callaban.
Me Sentí fluir en un sinfín de emociones que me traspasaban.
Dialogar la Teoría POLIVAGAL, encontrar una DIVERSIDAD de miradas, RESONAR EN OTRO IDIOMA, LA FRASE REFLEJADA y ese cuerpo que NO QUIERE Y QUIERE se presentaba, y se entrelazaba, al ÁRBOL, que NOS comunicaba. Entendí, que la Dimensión Espiritual nos alcanzaba. Ya eramos un Nosotros, EL SER, cuya CREATIVIDAD simbolizaba, la frescura de la SANACION lograda. Y como un SUEÑO llegó: “LA VISTA PANORAMICA”, y trajo la quietud, la paz, de esa Vida Transformada.
Cual un misterio develado, llegamos nuevamente a la vida cotidiana. Sin ser los mismos pues hay una conciencia ampliada, de PERTENECER A LA BRIGADA DEL FOCUSING, que en la persona de GENDLIN, les queremos dar las gracias, de SENTIR QUE NOS ABRAZAN, y a ese bendito 1er. ZOOM, que hizo posible que muchos al WL llegaramos.
Con Cariño, Amalia G.Zimarino
The Focusing Community Offers Support During the Pandemic

by Susan Lennox
During the early stages of the pandemic, when we were all reeling and very much in need of support and connection during the enforced lockdowns, TIFI’s Membership Committee considered how it might best support the global Focusing community during the crisis. We realized that, more than ever, people needed to come together to dialogue and Focus in their own languages. Thus was hatched the idea of Zoom support groups in multiple languages.
We wanted to make it easy for volunteers to quickly and confidently present Zoom gatherings for their language groups. To accomplish this goal the Membership Committee formed a working team comprised of Mary Jennings (Committee Chair) (Ireland), Susan Lennox (USA), Mariana Pisula (Argentina), Monika Lindner (Germany), and Francois Roussel (France).
Working hand-in-hand with TIFI Executive Director Catherine Torpey, and TIFI staff member Elizabeth Cantor, we created a publicity and a sample program plan for the support groups. With these resources at the ready, in early April we put out a call to our worldwide community for volunteers to host online support groups in their own languages.
The response was immediate and overwhelming. Thirty-four people from around the globe stepped forward to offer their time and energy to host a support group. From this outpouring, 90-minute Zoom support groups were offered in ten languages during the months of April through July. Hundreds of people attended these programs, including both TIFI members and non-members.
The hosts wrote about how rewarding their participation in these programs was for them individually and for the other participants. Christine Groscarret, who co-hosted two French support groups with Coordinator Bernadette Lamboy, wrote:
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“We lived a magical moment of sharing and meeting. It allowed us to stay in touch and to maintain this nice energy that animates us with Focusing.”
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“Bernadette echoed, “Ce fut une belle et chaleureuse experience.”
Likewise, Manoj Such Deva who co-hosted the Hindi group with Sonika Gupta and wrote: “Being part of a support group was a very satisfying feeling of connecting and being connected at a deep vital place. It was incredible to see strangers be vulnerable and trusting in mutual sharing.”
In addition to providing some support and comfort during the Covid crisis, the support groups had other longer-lasting effects. Because non-members were welcome to attend, some people not yet familiar with Focusing had their first taste of Focusing and found it to be an eye-opening experience. For example, Aaffien de Vries, one of the Dutch hosts and a Coordinator reported:
We had a wonderful meeting last night. People found it supportive, to have time to connect to themselves and with each other, especially other Focusing people. One person was completely new to Focusing and impressed that she - in only 10 minutes - felt so very close to the center of her being.”
Several hosts found there was a great desire to hold additional support groups beyond the initial gathering and many responded by organizing two, three or even four support groups over those months. They reported that these gatherings created a closer sense of community among Focusers in their language group and inspired the continuation of ongoing Focusing Changes groups and Focusing gatherings.
For example, Mariana Pisula who organized and co-hosted two Spanish language support groups, declared,I am so happy with the results. I think we created a lot of bridges with Focusing communities that we were not in touch with.”
TIFI is proud to have contributed to building stronger connections throughout our worldwide community in this way. We are so happy to hear these words from one of the Italian co-hosts and Coordinator, Rosella Saleri:
“To me, though, TIFI is a sort of motherhood umbrella which shelters the whole of the Focusing Community and I have the sense that it is important to honour this feeling of belonging by doing specific actions like this second program. Mary Hendricks’ words are echoing in my mind... “Focusing doesn’t belong to anybody.”
TIFI wishes to acknowledge and thank the following people who hosted support groups and demonstrated their caring and leadership in the face of this global health crisis:
Cantonese: Fanny Ko and Joseph Sing
Dutch: Adam de Jong, Aaffein deVries
French: Bernadette Lamboy, Christine Groscarret
German: Heinke Deloch, Susanne Rieger, Astrid Shillings, Ariane Wahl
Hebrew: Ayelet Regev Kochba, Iselle Knishkowy
Hindi: Manoj SuchDeva, Sonika Gupta, Ghazala Ansari
Italian: Rosella Salari, Roberto Tecchio, Ilhem Gherbi
Japanese: Yoshiko Kosaka, Naomi Horio, Sawako Sakakibara
Spanish: Mariana Pisula, Vivianne Silva, Ginette Sánchez Gutiérrez, Natalia Calvino, Florentina Sassoli
English/DownUnder: Heather Rogers, Matthew Powers
English/European Time Zone: Nigel Gibbons, Margaret Quinn, Tom Larkin
English/Therapists Program: Julie Ramsey, Mpromptly and generouslyary Anne Schleinich, Steve Moscovitch
Thanks also to the many others who responded so promptly and generously to the call for help:

Anders Asphaug (Norway), Diane Baumgart (USA), Robert Brugger (USA),
Michelle Chan (Hong Kong), Eduardo Esquivel (El Salvador), Glenn Fleisch (USA),
Zena Goldenberg (USA), Grace Ho Tak Yun (Hong Kong), Marieke Hoeve (Nederlands),
Yoshiko Kosaka (Japan), Carol LaDue (USA), Masumi Maeda (Japan), Heazel Martínez
(El Salvador), Yu Yin Mok (People's Republic of China), Marta E. Murillo Salas (Costa Rica), Sari Pekki (Finland), Barbara Rolsma (Nederlands), Leonie Stewart (Australia), Harriet Teeuw (Nederlands), and Rene Veugelers (Nederlands).
Last but far from least, we especially want to thank TIFI’s dedicated and very hard-working staff, with a special shout out to Elizabeth Cantor for lending her able assistance and tireless work throughout this time.
Police and Focusing: An Interview with Achim Grube
by Jocelyn Jacks Kahn
“And the citizens and the highest-ranking police officer said, ‘No, this cannot be. We have to change.’ And then it did change.”
Achim Gruber worked in the police force in Germany for 45 years, until his retirement in 2018. His first years were spent as a “normal” police officer, and later in the state criminal investigation office. But in 1993 he had the opportunity to switch to the social services branch of the police division in Lower Saxony, where he was employed.
I believe it would be safe to say that, generally, the relationship between the police in the United States and the communities they are policing can at best be described as dysfunctional. Achim has played a significant part in changing a similarly dysfunctional relationship between police and their communities in Germany over a 10-year period, so I was quite interested in what he had to say about that, as well as in learning about how he has brought Focusing into the police departments he has worked with.
Achim began by giving some of his background:
I learned Focusing in 1993. It was a part of my education as a client-centered therapist. A one-weekend Focusing training was part of the program. And when I learned Focusing that weekend, I thought it would be a good match for police work.
At that time, I worked at the state criminal investigation office. I then had the opportunity to change to the social services department of the Lower Saxony police district. In Lower Saxony we have 21,500 police officers and the social department is responsible for conflict management. Conflict management is about reducing violence during demonstrations through communication – and also reducing violence during soccer games because many crazy people stirred up a lot of violence during those games! The other part was supervision, coaching and trauma therapy (which was a small part of my job).
At first, I used a combination of EMDR and Focusing. Later on, I learned Brainspotting from David Grand (from the United States), and I found it to be more efficient for working with the police and teaching them to use Focusing.
Although I’d heard the term, I did not know what Brainspotting was, so I asked Achim to tell me about it.
Working with the felt sense, as we do in Focusing, makes it easy to learn Brainspotting.
Researchers from the US discovered an endpoint in the visual field that is as large as a coin.
If you look at this point, you have a strong bodily reaction. So, as an example: perhaps a police officer is traumatized. First you ask him for the felt sense of it. And he may say, "On my chest, it's very heavy..." and so on. And then you ask him to be in contact with the felt sense.
Now, you have a pointer (a thin, long white stick) in your hand. You then move the point of it slowly and broadly across the person’s visual field. And as you do, they are gazing through the visual field - and at one specific point they will have a strong bodily reaction. That is the “Outer Reaction Point,” which is somewhat similar, or close enough anyway, to the felt sense.
And so you can combine Brainspotting and Focusing very well. The client looks at the Outer Reaction Point, which includes everything about the trauma, including the thoughts, and you can then switch to Focusing and work with the felt sense.
In the context of policing, I found Brainspotting to be much easier to use because it is so much simpler.
While your felt sense takes you into the Reaction Point, intensifying the feeling, we also have the Resource Point which brings a feeling of calm. If you look at the Resource point, you can calm down very easily. You have an immediate experience in your body of, "Oh! I feel calm, relaxed, more free..."
And if you (or someone you’re working with) are extremely stressed or traumatized, you can combine this with tapping on the knees - left knee, right knee, left, right, tap, tap, tap, tap… I might have a person do this as homework three to five times a day in order to calm themselves. It works very quickly.
In 1998, we were responsible for training the counselors for the police. Lower Saxony has 8 million inhabitants and is as large as Switzerland. We have large towns – for example, Hanover has 500,000 inhabitants – and there are large police districts. And the police districts already have three to five police officers and social workers who work together doing social work within the police force.
If a police officer has a problem with his family, or he was traumatized or attacked and so on, then this group is responsible to help them.
So, I taught them a mixture of the client-centered therapy approach and Focusing. Actually, some had a very strong respect for Focusing and said, "Oh, no, that goes too deep. I do not want this deep work." But others wanted to use Focusing, and they were really successful with this approach to counseling.
It strikes me that what you're describing - a social services approach being truly integrated into police work – could be a model of what we're looking for in this country.
I'm wondering whether you can say something about the history of how social services came to be so deeply integrated into the police force in Germany.
My former boss started this work in 1992, one year before I came into the social services department. At the time we were only five people who were responsible for all of the police in Lower Saxony.
We felt we needed 18 people in Lower Saxony, and so we really fought with the government to employ more social workers or police officers who we could educate with special skills like supervision, coaching or Focusing, and so on.
At last, after some years, the politicians accepted employing more social workers in the police force. It was a hot fight for years for us to open the minds of the very high-ranking police officials and also some politicians.
But it worked because the highest-ranking police officers – in Germany, we refer to them as our Police Presidents – realized that they very much needed people who could solve some of the problems that police officers had.
In Germany, we have very, very few racists serving in the police force. And those individuals who are racists belong to the fascists.
Officers who are racists will have a problem with the government and the police very early on, so we have a very low amount of corruption in the police. The government and the Police Presidents have a strong policy: they will not accept racism in the police. A lot of work has been done with this.
Likewise, as far as attitudes to homosexuality, today it's very normal in the German police for a police officer to say they are homosexual. But when I started in 1993, the first work we had to do was to open the minds of police officers to the fact that we had homosexual officers in the police force and how to handle this. It took a long time, but it has become normal. And similarly, homosexual counselors within the police have become normal.
So I'm wondering whether this is just one district that has these sorts of policies, or is this nationwide?
We have federal states and Lower Saxony is a federal state with 8 million inhabitants. Every federal state has its own police system. We were the first, besides Berlin.
Berlin was the first to introduce conflict management in the police. This was because they had a lot of demonstrations in Berlin and there was a lot of violence. We were the next state to introduce conflict management and after some years, other states deployed it within police departments as well.
We also had a European Union project with 12 nations – for example, Sweden, the United Kingdom and Czechoslovakia. Czechoslovakia has a really good conflict management system. We had an exchange with Poland.
We have a slogan in Germany: "A police should be your friend and helper.” It is not always so, but the idea is important to support the citizens of the state.
It's an interesting thing: If you want to investigate a crime, then you need the help of the community inhabitants. There is important research that says that most of the evidence that results in criminals being caught and investigated is due to citizens who witnessed the crime. But you'll only get this information if the citizens trust the police. Otherwise, they will not communicate with them. That means to do effective and successful police work, the police have to have a good relationship with the community they police.
So right now, is this how the police are throughout Germany, with the strong social service emphasis, the strong conflict management training, the strong effort to have positive ties with the community, this lack of homophobia and racism?
Yes, I think so.
And so when you were starting to work toward this in 1993, it sounds like you were one of the main people in your federal state that was bringing in this new way of working within the police.
Yes, but I was not the only one. There were other police officers in every district. When we started this work it was very hard! When I went into a classroom, after an hour I would sigh, "Ohhhhh!" (a deeply discouraged sigh) because they were not responding. It was hard to change their minds – it was hard for people to become more open-minded.
But we realized that if you want to change something within an organization, it takes at least 10 years. It takes a long time for an organization to develop. We knew that we would not be successful quickly – we knew that it would take time.
Yes, I can see that was key – to accept that it would take a long time and that you would need a lot of patience for the difficult road ahead.
And so you were saying that when you were starting this work in Lower Saxony, Berlin had already gone in this new direction and it was already pretty well developed there.
In most of our police departments in the United States – certainly in the big city police departments – they are not actually operating like this. If anything, police and citizens seem to be getting more polarized.
In your particular district, it was the dramatic uptick in police suicides that triggered this first moment of change. But more broadly, historically, what was the origin of this decisive realization that the attitude of the police had to change?
It's the same in every country – for example, we had a big problem in one district over the issue of atomic waste. There, we had very hard demonstrations. Police at that time hit demonstrators very forcefully. They came from Hamburg and were so aggressive that a lot of demonstrators were injured.
It was 1997. The police made a very ugly picture of police work. And the citizens and the highest-ranking police officer said, "No, this cannot be. We have to change." And then it did change. There was an order to change it.
This happened in the Czech Republic, in Poland, and in other countries: They also had demonstrations with a lot of violence that injured demonstrators. And after a very, very bad demonstration, there was very bad police work. So, the police in a number of countries were looking for other approaches to handle such situations in a better way with as little violence as possible.
And that's the history in a lot of federal states in Germany. In Berlin in 1996 there were big student protests against the government. The police were really aggressive; one demonstrator was shot down. At that time, very early on, they looked at how to handle demonstrations in another way, not so violent. And it is different now.
Here in the US right now, it seems we’re still at the point you’ve advanced from - using force as a first resort. There are pictures of New York Police leaping out of their vehicles to attack nonviolent protestors at recent demonstrations – really crazy!
There is such a deep divide right now in the United States – it seems unbridgeable.
Nevertheless, listening to you and hearing that 10 years prior to all the hard work you and others devoted to changing the situation, it was much the same situation in Germany as it is here today – I do feel some small sense of possibility that perhaps one day it could be different even here in the United States.
From a systems theory viewpoint, you cannot change a system from the outside. You have to change the system from inside, and that means you need strong people in the institution who are open-minded, who are well supported, and who have good standing. Then they can change the system from inside.
If you apply a lot of pressure from the outside, as a rule it has proportionately less influence. Because for people who are in this posture [places his hands in front of his body in a defensive gesture], they are not able to learn.
If you stay in resistance, you cannot learn. This is a very important sentence. Carl Rogers said it. If you are in resistance, you cannot learn; you have to be open-minded. It means you have to give up this resistance to think about human rights in another way.
It seems like so much healing needs to happen even to begin to come to some initial place of trust.
So it makes sense what you’re saying – that, really, it has to come from within the police leadership. I'm not sure how we get there. Especially with this stance of attack/counterattack between police and those seeking reform. It's hard to imagine where this starting point could happen.
You might begin by asking how police officers can become open-minded towards Focusing. It's actually the same for police as for fire brigades (which I have worked with), and for rescue teams and for nurses.
If you work a long time in a field like one of these, you develop a strong intuition for dangerous situations. If you do an investigation, you have an intuition whether people are speaking the truth or are lying – you can feel it in your body. After some years, police have really good intuition.
I only have to tell them, "It's very important to work with your intuition. We call it another name: the felt sense.” Then, it's an obvious way to open doors, to enrich their mindset. They already have their belief in intuition. I might say, for example, “Society says that intuition is not so important. More important is thinking. Of course, thinking is important – no question – but to solve, to overcome, to cope in a dangerous situation, you need to use your intuition. And with Focusing, you can learn how to talk to your felt sense in order to get the information that you need to overcome the bad situation.”
And that police officer, or that member of a fire brigade or rescue team, understands this immediately. I thought of that because with this approach it's easy to go to such professions.
They had no seminar for the police about decision-making in dangerous situations, and so I thought of creating a seminar using Prof. Hejo Feuerstein’s work with decision-making. If you have to make a decision in normal life, you normally have days, weeks, maybe even months to think about the best solution. But if you have to make a decision in a dangerous situation, you have seconds or minutes to come to a good solution.
With Focusing, you can work with the felt sense you already have for a dangerous situation. You can feel whether a solution you come up with feels good in your body or not.
We put all of these ideas together and offered a seminar to the police on the topic of decision-making in the police with Focusing. It was in Lower Saxony, and we offered this seminar a number of times. We had officers from the riot police, river police, bomb disposal police and helicopter police. They were very open-minded toward working with the felt sense, which was part of the seminar.
This is an idea worth exploring if you want to go into a police department, fire brigade, or a similar type of institution. The first step could be to offer decision-making in dangerous situations.
Yes, that's excellent, the way you brought Focusing into the police department through deeply understanding what they're dealing with and what interests them: further developing their intuition, their instinct, for what to do in dangerous situations. That's so great!
But it seems to me it could be difficult to have the Focusing really "take" with just one brief workshop. Was there ongoing training?
I’m afraid we only had regular trainings for the counselors, not for police leaders. The police leaders had only one seminar. That's not enough, but we thought it was better than nothing!
Yes, very much so. And yet, it sounds like it has had a far-reaching influence on the way they work.
Also, I can see how the simplicity and effectiveness of Brainspotting, and being able to combine it so naturally with the felt sensing of Focusing, would make it more likely that they could actually use it, with some support from the counselors. And having an understanding of what the counselors were doing would also be important.
I've also given seminars in using this combination of skills as an additional approach for therapists and other people who work with Focusing. There are just a few techniques, and you can integrate them into your Focusing work very easily.
To give you a bit more background on Brainspotting and why I find it so useful:
Stephen Porges (who developed polyvagal theory) explains that the eyes are moved by six muscles, and if you are in a dangerous situation, the muscles move the eyes very, very fast. And if you are on a mountain and gaze around you, then you calm down and notice the fantastic view. As your muscles are moving the eyes in this way, it calms you – and these are also the muscles involved in smiling and so on. They will then influence your nervous system.
I was part of a research study on Brainspotting. The treatment was three sessions with traumatized police officers after a difficult investigation. And after three to five sessions, the trauma was resolved. We followed up with them one year later and it was still resolved. That means it works very fast and long term, and within the framework of a Focusing session, this fits well.
I prefer it to EMDR because EMDR requires your eyes moving fast, like popcorn; but with Brainspotting, you only look at the point and go deep inside. If you look at that point and I ask you to get in contact with the felt sense, you will have the experience that you can go very fast and very deeply into the Focusing process.
Yes - I see how it's ideal for training the police in bringing Focusing into their own lives and even using it in their work because it is quick, straightforward, and effective. I see its benefits for doing some very deep trauma work very quickly, in the moment.
I specialize in solving blockages. I asked myself what I can do best and I realized that I can solve blockages in a very easy and effective way. It’s a good fit for Focusing professionals because so many people have emotional blockages to resolve. And resolving blockages with the combination of Focusing and Brainspotting is very easy.
It is a good fit for students as well. I work with students who have blockages that prevent them from learning more effectively and it resolves them. And of course it’s useful in everyday work as well if, say, you have a problem with your boss. With the combination of Focusing and Brainspotting, you can solve these kinds of blockages quickly.
Yes, it sounds like a powerful approach to emotional blocks.
And to return specifically to the issue of being able to change police culture and the police relationship with their communities: I'm sure that there are individuals who genuinely would like to change but who don’t know of practical tools as an alternative to, as you say, “the hard stick first and then talk.”
Of course, an important pre-condition to change is police leadership who have that moment of realizing that, "No, this cannot be. We have to change" – who realize that the current situation is destructive to the entire community, including the police.
Conflict management training is an obvious approach that is easy for police to see as being of value to themselves, while it is also of obvious value to the larger community.
And in terms of a strong social services aspect, the combination of Focusing and Brainspotting you are teaching seems a very doable practice for counselors in the department to use in order to deepen their work with the police. At the same time, it gives the police themselves a tool they can use not only to help themselves, but some of the people they encounter in their job.
I'm very impressed with how actively you've been involved in helping implement this work of changing the police culture in Germany. This has been a wonderful conversation.
There are certainly difficulties specific to the United States in changing the police culture here, such as the massive amounts of weapons both the police and citizens have, which is generally not true in Europe. Police in the US are put on the street with much less training from the get-go than their European counterparts (about five or six months versus two years). There is the inadequacy of the social support system in the US, which ends up unfairly burdening the police on the street with dealing with all of the problems that result. And so on…
Nevertheless, as I said earlier, it doesn't seem quite as hopeless to me now, knowing that an entire country has been able to experience profoundly positive change in a dysfunctional system once the will to change was mobilized. I am noticing this tiny green shoot of emotion that is starting to well up inside me as I feel this very small and very new sense of possibility. Thank you!
Jocelyn Jacks Kahn is a Certified Focusing Trainer in the traditions of Inner Relationship Focusing and Wholebody Focusing. She is also an instructor in the Realization Process, a spiritual practice of embodied non-duality.
Remembering My ILC Service
by Ruth Hirsch MSW, MPH, CMT
ILC Member 2014 - 2020
Ruth Hirsch's term as a member of the International Leadership Council ended this past summer. Ruth's dedication over the past six years has been extraordinary. She showed up twice a month for regular meetings, and often put in much more time in between to meet with other members or to create documents or to work alongside the Board on strategic planning. As a founding member of the ILC, she played a huge role in helping it find its footing and its purpose. We offer Ruth our heartfelt thanks for such selfless and caring service to the Institute and to the community. We asked her to write up her thoughts as she takes her leave.
In May 2014, when I first heard about the forming of the new International Leadership Council (ILC), I immediately felt excited about the idea of participating. The ILC had its beginnings at a time when The Focusing Institute was undergoing a major transition with the leadership shifting away from its founders. During this time, it was recognized that the Institute had a growing international membership and the new ILC would be one way to begin to address the varying needs of these populations.
I felt honored to be selected to join the ILC, and to be able to work along with Akira Ikemi, Hejo Feuerstein, Marine de Freminville, Barbara McGavin, and Sergio Lara Cisternas. In the first few years we met every second week as a group, plus some of us met in smaller committees often with members of the Board.
During my time on the ILC I served on a joint Board-ILC Strategic Planning committee, which included two representatives from each group plus the Executive Director. We were tasked with looking into how to approach the momentous project of creating a strategic plan for the Institute. I was also active in various small groups responsible for drafting the pilot program for naming Coordinators, collecting feedback from Coordinators on the proposed strategic plan, and collecting feedback on the proposed pilot program for naming Coordinators. Additionally, in the first few years of the Council I often served as the “Prime Mover” for our meetings.
During this time there was a lot of questioning and discussion within the ILC about our own identity; that is, what the goal of the ILC was intended to be. Were we intended to be a decision-making part of the leadership structure of the Institute? And what, specifically, was our relationship with the Board? ILC and Board members alike agreed that communication was important, and that this would optimally include regular joint meetings.
The bigger question was related to our own mission. Were we meant to be a Leadership Council of the institute that comprised international members? Or a Council on International Leadership of the institute? Or a group of members from various countries who serve together as consultants to the Executive Director and Board? Although many, many hours were devoted to this question, mostly within the ILC but also jointly with the Board, no definitive answer was ever reached.
For me, serving on the ILC was a mixed experience. As I previously wrote, it was an honor to be a part of this group. I appreciated the ability to learn from my colleagues and to contribute from my own decades-long experience in the Focusing world as we worked together toward the common goal of making Focusing more accessible worldwide.
When I joined the ILC, my hope was to look more deeply into the roles and responsibilities of Coordinators. What does it really mean to be a Coordinator, other than to be someone who is able to train and certify new Focusing trainers? In comparison to the many ideas on this topic that were generated by a small group in just a few hours at the 2014 Coordinators’ Assembly, in my 6 years with the ILC, the topic was hardly broached. While now, in retrospect, I can see that all the activities the ILC engaged in were related in some way to this question, I experienced frustration regarding the time it takes for change to occur in the context of a large organization.
Prior to my service with the ILC, I was active in several “Functional Wholes.” These were groups in the early 2000’s in which Coordinators would volunteer to work together (via telephone conference line) on a single project. In one Functional Whole, a group of us conceived the concept of the PFP (Proficiency as a Focusing Partner) document, including the design and implementation of the program. Another one I was involved in carried out a project in which we collected training plans from Coordinators who were willing to share their plans. The contrast between working on these committees and how much we were able to achieve in a relatively short amount of time was striking compared to working on the ILC.
At the same time, I remain grateful for the opportunity to have served in this way, and now look forward to being able to devote more attention to my teaching, private clients, and to new creative projects as well.
I wish current and future members of the ILC well as they continue to grapple with various important aspects of leadership of The International Focusing Institute.
Thank You, Volunteers!
We'd like to give a very special thank you to Barbara Dickinson for organizing a crew to clear out the storage unit which had held Gene's and Mary's papers for the last 3 years. When Gene Gendlin passed away in May 2017, he left his intellectual property to the Institute. Many boxes went into storage and thanks to Barbara's organizational genius, it's now all cleaned up, labeled and being stored in Catherine Torpey's office. This is saving the Institute money as well as ensuring that papers are kept in a more secure, climate-controlled environment.
Feature Heading
Barabara Dickinson (Left),
Lisa Hodorovych (Center) and
Paul Russell (Right)
Thank you for all your efforts!!
By Serge Prengel
In this recording, Harbert Rice talks about how a felt sense functions in a Quaker Meeting’s gathering circle.

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