Most people are drawn to Focusing to fill a personal need. Many go on to become trainers out of a natural generosity of spirit that prompts us to share what makes a difference in our lives. And some people take on leadership and organizational roles, spending time and energy, without remuneration, to establish Focusing in their community or country. Erna de Bruijn and Christine Langeveld, coordinators from the Netherlands, are two such people.
Erna, a doctor in general practice from 1957 until 1991, wanted to find out more about what’s really behind being healthy or sick. At first she found inspiration in Anthroposophy, the philosophy developed by Rudolf Steiner. In 1981 she attended a workshop with Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, author of On Death and Dying. She also worked with Barry Goodfield, who taught her to look at bodies in a non-medical way with video Gestalt. Then a patient brought her Gendlin’s book, Focusing. “I read it and tried it for myself,” she said. “It was the beginning of a big change for me. It was what I was looking for. It exactly fit.” She started introducing it in general practice, and it worked! See “Focusing in General Practice,” The Folio, Winter 1993.
For Christine Langeveld, Ph.D., a language and literature teacher and practitioner of Shiatsu and Jin Shin Do, the story was different. “I met Focusing through Erna,” said Christine. “She said, ‘Here is something for you,’” but I didn’t want to do it. For me it took time to experience the effects of Focusing.” Once she did, she applied it both to education and to bodywork. She describes how Focusing helped her find relief from migraine headaches in “Migraine and Focusing I and II,” The Focusing Connection, May and July, 2002.
Erna and Christine did not use existing structures like a university system or a professional network of therapists to establish a foothold for Focusing in the Netherlands. They created their own training model, introducing Focusing to people from all walks of life and qualifying them to teach it to others.
When Erna retired from general practice she thought, “Okay now I have time to bring Focusing to the medical world.” It didn’t work at all! Doctors were not interested. She realized that even if she could interest the GPs, no Focusing training existed to offer to their patients. She decided to train as many good trainers as possible, establishing a solid base of well-trained people in the Netherlands who would then bring Focusing into their own fields of interest.
Christine started using Focusing in her work as a student counselor. Since she left school in ’93 she’s teaching again, she said, but without the pressure of having to mark a lot of papers. Together they took on the job of translating Ann Weiser Cornell’s The Power of Focusing, Gendlin’s article Focusing is a Little Door, and many other publications, and they published articles in Dutch journals.
In 1993 they established FocusCentrumDenHaag with a comprehensive curriculum that includes work with dreams, the “inner critic,” and the “inner child,” and leads to certification.
“Most of our students are not psychotherapists,” said Erna. “We have people who come for their own sake, and people who want to integrate Focusing in their work — like counselors, social workers, career coaches, massage therapists, supervisors, and pastoral workers. Our main goal is to teach Focusing to people who can practice it privately and in their professional work, bringing Focusing further into the world.”
In 1996 they were invited to be Coordinators for the Netherlands. Marta Stapert, founder of the Children’s Focusing Corner in the Netherlands, has worked closely with them, too. In 2000 Christine took the initiative of setting up a network for Dutch-speaking people who use Focusing in their professions. Now there are about 90 members, a website and a flourishing journal.
Reflecting on their Focusing years, Erna said, “After I had known myself for decades as a reliable, hard working, dutiful doctor with a minimum of private social life, Focusing brought me joy and color and aliveness, the feeling of growing in the art of Focusing.” Said Christine, “Through Focusing I got connected to my body, to my inner self, and from there to other people and to the biospiritual dimension . From early childhood I had a sense of this connectedness, but there was so much that limited and blocked me. Focusing helps me to become more and more the one who I am.”
Both women see Focusing as a mission in this period of their lives, “to bring the gift of Focusing wherever we can, and to take care of our succession. Sometimes we ask ourselves what we did these past ten years. Then it’s good to realize that we taught Focusing to hundreds of people and trained dozens of trainers.”