For Whom the Following Chapters Are Intended and For Whom They Are Not
If your main goal at this moment is to read about functional means or practical ways for improving your interpersonal relations, about better ways to cope with the world you are in, or recommendations for change to introduce into it, you are reading the wrong text. This book is not even a guide for analyzing or solving problems of life by effective thinking methods.
The sole substantial usefulness anticipated from the casual reading of this book is that you may broaden your mind a little. On the other hand, if you use the knowledge and the exercises of the chapter "do it yourself now", you will have the ability to influence purposefully your feelings and sensations by giving them systematic attention.
It is reasonable to expect that after not too long a period of training, you will be able to lighten gradually: unpleasant feelings, sensations, moods and other bodily sensations felt, by means of concentrated attention. Most of the time, you will be able to reach such a state after several seconds of concentrated and focused attention paid to them (to be called hereafter "focusing"). At the beginning of the training and even afterwards, when difficult cases are encountered, changes will be felt only after a minute or even several minutes...
After a relatively short period of training (sometimes even during the first hour) you will profit immensely from the application of the focusing technique. You will be able to use your newly acquired knowledge for targets more significant than only elevating low moods and easing hard feelings. You will also be able to achieve such objectives as solving long standing interpersonal problems, internal conflicts or getting rid of damaging habits.
However, these latter aims are not easily obtained. They require preliminary attainment of suitable skills and proficiency in the new focusing technique - i.e., proficiency in concentration on the felt physical sensations of the body, and the no less important skill of the recycling of the relevant emotionally loaded contents.
Moreover, not just a few people are "stuck" with nearly permanent or recurrent nasty sensations or feelings or moods. Few of these unpleasantness are really very difficult and are relatively resistant to quick solutions. It is especially so when they are the result of a real and very meaningful event, where the results and consequences do not pass quickly. In these instances, a significant result that is more than just momentary relief is not easy to achieve. It may be felt only after the accumulation of an hour or even several hours of focusing, spaced over a period of a few days or weeks.
In the early stages of focusing, the only significant improvements one can expect - and succeed in achieving as a reward for diligent work - are only within the domain of one's emotional climate. Long-term results and basic change in the emotional and behavioral routines (habits, temper, long term moods, "personality trends" etc.) are even harder to achieve. Besides the proficiency in the technique, the more serious objectives require a lot of systematic activity over an extended period of time. These objectives are seldom achieved without weeks and months of diligent use of the various tactics of the technique - in accordance with the guidance offered in the guide - chapter 5.
During the search for the limitations of the technique many difficult goals and problems were encountered. However, I have not yet encountered an impossible one. Perhaps you will have greater success!
Before you continue to read this booklet - BE WARNED!! Too much use of sensate focusing (giving a lot of concentrated attention to the felt sensations of the body) can bring about irreversible results. The exercises and steps which will be discussed in the "Do it yourself now" section, may bring an irreversible change in the quality of your life or even in your personality.
Those whose suffering, deficiencies and inadequacies are precious to them and those in whom human suffering gains more respect than compassion or pity - will do themselves a favor if they refrain from reading this book.
These people who find it very important not to change, will be wise not to take any of the various steps in the training in sensate focus. Even a single execution of one step of the preliminary stage can cause the beginning of processes which will bring about an irreversible change.
It seems that the manner in which the text of this book relates to sensation, emotion and to human suffering may seem inappropriate to many. The treatment of this domain might seem to them too matter of fact - and thus, disrespectful. My approach may hurt the feelings of those with afflicted souls and those dealing too seriously with literature and poetry. Here we apologize for this unintentional, but alas unavoidable aspect of our de-mystification and banalization of the emotional phenomena.
The contention that emotional and other felt sensations of suffering can be relatively easily eliminated (or at least got rid of when encountered) will probably anger many opinionated people. It will anger all those who attribute an important positive value to human suffering. It will most anger those who delegate the bulk of human suffering or even all of it to a divine source.
I do not share the opinions of those mentioned above, nor do I share the belief of those who are, in principal, in favor of the eradication of human suffering, but tactically, believe that "the worse it gets, the quicker it gets better". Moreover, I do not believe in any purifying effect of suffering. Therefore, I do not see even one reason to be lenient to the feelings of the various sorts and creeds of overt or covert sadists and masochists, nor do I feel any inclination to ask their forgiveness.
Alas, in order not to infuriate those who see the main root of human suffering within the inappropriate social order, it is emphasized here that the ideas and suggestions presented in this book are not intended to replace the striving for a better social order but to supplement it.
However, the accumulated experience of many trainees shows that even before any significant improvement in the social order is achieved, alleviation of personal suffering is possible. The first steps of the disentangling of the unpleasant emotional complexity - already achieved in the beginning of the training in sensate focusing - start to contribute to this end. This, and the achievements of the following steps, enable the individual to distinguish better between the contributions of the various factors to his suffering.
This distinction allows - quite early and even before all internal and external harmful factors have been neutralized - the mobilization of resources available to the individual. This mobilization makes the dealing with all sorts of factors easier. Thus, the sensate focusing processes enable the individual to improve the quality of his life - even before any environmental change takes place.
For those who are active in the struggle to change the social order because of the prevailing unnecessary suffering involved within it, the freed resources will enable them to do so in a more successful and human fashion.
The popularity of dealing with psychology in the past decades, has resulted in an increased awareness of the different processes which occur within the individual. The general knowledge about these processes - already accumulated through systematic research and "field work" - is huge. That part of it which is accessible to all, is still too small, but it is also on the increase. There are also more people who are no longer content - and thus do not consent to leave their feelings and "emotional problems" to the professionals who specialize in this field.
This trend is similar to the spreading tendency to take part in sports and other physical activities for health and body maintenance outside of any formal framework or organization. This tendency expresses - among other things - the wish to eliminate the monopoly of orthopedics and other specialists on the maintenance of the well-being of the skeleton and muscles.
Similar tendencies can be found in the wide stream of movements for the liberation of the individual from the reign of "Professionals and authorities in their field". This stream expresses the growing tendency of people to take responsibility for their own functioning and place in the world. ("Eliminating School" and "Medicine's revenge" of Ivan Ilitch are among the outstanding books aimed at achieving this end through "destructive" means. They try to do it through their contribution of "Exposing the conspiracy of the experts of the establishment".)
There are also "constructive" means to meet this end. Many people take the trouble to make organized knowledge - based on applied sciences - available (accessible) to the layman. They take the pain to "translate" scientific findings and professional publications into texts written in everyday language, and invent new techniques of the "do it yourself" type. And so, the previously mysterious knowledge of the chosen few becomes intelligible to the ordinary person, who with this help can becomes independent of professional assistance.
The knowledge accumulated by me and my trainees and brought to this book - and especially that which is brought to the chapter "Do it yourself" is of the "constructionist" kind. It contributes our share to the growing body of knowledge that enables the liberation of the individual from total dependency on professionals.
This growing body of knowledge contributes more than any other modern factor to the growing feeling of the freedom of people in modern times. One is no longer forced to choose, again and again, between self-neglect or fearfully submitting to the experts - to whom one has to apply for every little malfunction of one of the systems.
How lucky we are that the strength of the resistance of the professionals and their ability to take revenge for their lost exclusiveness is not like that of the gods... who according to the Greek mythology punished Prometheus for divulging the secret of fire to mankind
Last Updated: 22 July 2014
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD