How change happens and letting go of the big shift


Imagine we're in a landscape or somehow custodians of a landscape and there's a river running through it. Imagine that this river is not healthy. Maybe it's causing flooding. Or maybe it’s eroding or even poisoning the landscape. It’s lack of health itself affects other parts of that landscape, affecting the animals and plants around it and so the whole ecosystem is struggling because the river that feeds it is not all ok.

Imagine too that we know that something needs to change, that the river and the landscape isn't healthy. So how might we change it?
Well, what doesn't work is shouting at the river. Telling it it should be different and having all sorts of ideas about how it should be different. What doesn’t work is criticising or judging it. What doesn't work is pretending the river is all ok. Or just ignoring it, or distracting ourselves. It’s the same inside, when something is not all ok inside and needs changing, judging, and telling ourselves to be different and ignoring it simply do not work. All those things are attempts on the behalf of parts of us to try and force things to be different. Just like in real life, shouting and judging a river wouldn't make a blind bit of difference! It’s worth saying that all of theses attempts to bring change do need curiosity and compassion.

So what might change that river? Well, just like healing a real river, it would probably be a long process. A process of taking care, of tending, of maybe clearing the weeds and blockages. Maybe strengthening the banks. Maybe introducing new species that would help manage the landscape around it. Whatever is needed, it would be a long process that is tended to over a much longer scale them perhaps we might first imagine.

I offer this metaphor because for me and for many people I know - the change we wanted through learning and practising focusing came over time. Yes, there were and are big shifts also, but a whole lot has changed slowly, and not all of it happens within the confines of a formal Focusing session. Slowly over time, the river has changed and grown more healthy. Change has come as the result of many years of practice.

Another important thing to add here is that it's not just focusing that has brought or supported change. I remember that one of my colleagues, who coaches around addiction, talks about “changing the cage". This notion comes from studies of rats whom when given better surroundings to live in, gave up their addiction to even highly addictive substances ( Supporting big changes is about all of our life, not just the Focusing session. I have been surprised again and again how making small changes can make a big difference to my life. I have seen how creating small habits can be powerful and very transformative over time.

I have even let go of seeking a “the big shift”, the big transformation that one focusing session is going to change everything. I sometimes worry that if people are always looking for this, then they are going to be endlessly disappointed and maybe even miss the slower and quieter transformation that Focusing can bring.

This does not mean that I and others cannot have big shifts and insights. I just want to say they are by no means the only thing that's brings change. There are countless tiny steps I probably can't even quantify, countless moments of tending, of being with, of self compassion, of simply naming, that over time… have changed the whole landscape.

One final thing I want to say is about how helpful focusing can be to help us to navigate our process, to navigate how to change this river. With our inner knowing we can sense what to do next, what to bring next, what tools, what approaches. So even if focusing itself can't bring you the change you are seeking (and for sure it is not the only thing we need) , then focusing can help you to navigate to it.
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