Using Focusing to unpack your feelings

Focusing is a simple approach developed by Eugene Gendlin for uncovering the meaning behind subtle feelings and emotions. Use it to increase your self-awareness.

Check out this short video and use Focusing to understand your subtle gut feelings and build sensitivity and wisdom!

Transform your Inner Critic into an Inner Coach!


When you build a more accepting internal attitude, everything else is easier.  Too many people have an internal relationship characterized by scorn and harshness.  Through practice, it is possible to change this.

We speak of having an “Inner Critic” who treats us with scorn. This sub-personality observes our behavior, and offers comments about how we should act.  It has wonderful 20/20 hindsight and is great at pointing out what we should have done. Often this is done in a shaming way that undermines our self-esteem.

To change, start by honoring the purpose of the Critic (to monitor and improve your performance) and preserve much of his/her skills of observation and analysis.  What needs to be updated is the delivery.  An Inner Coach makes comments on the same things that the Critic might, but the delivery is empowering rather than shaming.

You can begin making this change by simply affirming that you love and accept yourself despite the flaws noticed by the Critic.  For example, you notice that you forgot an important object at home when you left for work this morning.  The Critic starts to attack you for being absent-minded.  As soon as you notice your internal self-criticism, soften towards yourself. Affirm either silently or aloud, “I deeply love and accept myself even though part of me is absent-minded.” Or, “even though part of me is berating myself.”  Using an affirmation with these words will reconnect you to your self-acceptance while at the same time reminding you that this flaw is only a part of you.  Once you have softened in this way, bring the Coach in to notice what you might have done differently and brainstorm how to wire the new pattern in.

It can be a stretch to love yourself during your self-criticism. Even if it feels awkward or contrived at first, give yourself whatever self-understanding and support you can to become your own inspiring Coach.

Playing with this correction requires some vigilance both to notice your Critic when it shows up and to persevere with changing it.  This blog and other reminders are very helpful.  It is not so much that the ideas are new, but that we forget to do these simple practices. Rather than expecting to notice and remember every time, anticipate becoming distracted and forgetting.  What might be some reminders that would help you remember to be self-compassionate?  Some people leave themselves notes, some find journaling exercises a useful tool, or you may have some religious images that might help.  Personally, I find images of Buddha to be very useful reminders to be mindful and self-compassionate.

One of the things to keep in mind here is that you are changing a long held habit.  As with any other habit, you have to notice that you are doing it, stop, and then replace it with a more desirable behavior.  And you have to do that again and again until you have a new habit.  The sooner you start and the more persistent you are, the sooner you will have an inspiring Inner Coach rather than an Inner Critic.


If you are ready to transform your Inner Critic into an Inner Coach, buy my workbook of the same title or contact me for some personal coaching!

Three key areas of psychological health

Most psychological difficulties are in three areas: Issues with your past, Poor relationship with yourself, and Poor relationship skills with others. Often my clients and I assess these three areas of personal development and psychological health together to decide where to start.

Past issues:
Most people have an unconscious that is like a huge cluttered back room. This is where we throw all the stuff we do not know what else to do with. Some of it is new, some of it hasn’t been touched for decades. Buried at the bottom of the mess is the rule book we live by and a ledger of beliefs we have about ourselves and the world. Stacked on top like layers of sediment are all the events we have been unable or unwilling to organize. This may include traumatic memories as well as unaccepted or unprocessed emotions or thoughts. Many people have so much stuff in their back room that it effectively runs their lives.

One of the first steps in psychological healing is to clean up and organize this mess. We want to start with the freshest stuff nearest the door and slowly work our way down until we find the rule book. As we pick up and identify each piece of debris we want to put it where it belongs and retrieve any emotional aliveness that may be stuck to it. Gradually the room gets tidier. We put things in labeled boxes, drawers and filing cabinets. We no longer have to be afraid of the mess from our past spilling out into our current life.
Once we find the rule book and the belief ledger, we can shake the dust off and update things.
This gives us more control over our lives.

It is common in my business to work with a person who seems to have his or her life together and yet has a persistent low level anxiety from the mess in their back room. For individuals with more traumatic histories, the mess may spill out into their lives as unusual symptoms or as out of control behavior.

Poor relationship with ourselves:
The next general area is that of how you treat yourself. Most of us are aware of the “inner committee” nature of the mind that shows up when we have to make a difficult decision. The quandary brings to light the chorus of different voices and perspectives within each of us. Most people are not aware of these “subpersonalities” on a regular basis. And yet this is really the nature of the mind. Some of these subpersonalities are named in popular culture – so we speak of the “inner critic” or the “inner child”. The reality is that each of us have a myriad of different parts. Health in these terms is where 1) we admit this 2) we observe our different parts in action without getting too identified with one or another and 3) we cultivate an internal attitude of mutual respect and compassion. Having an internal committee which is feuding, snide or judgmental is a very painful way to live. Developing internal loving kindness and respect is a crucial part of a joyful life.

Poor relationship skills with others:
Lastly are our interpersonal relationships and the ability to create and sustain intimacy with others. A healthy person in the first two areas may still be dreadfully lonely if he or she has not developed these skills as well. Really satisfying relationships are built on communication skills. These are skills around boundaries, expressing emotion, conflict resolution, knowing how to love, listening, and others.

Unlike the first two areas that require a great deal of introspection and emotional processing, developing and honing these skills is refreshingly straightforward. As with any other skill, if you practice these intelligently, you will improve. Doing this requires that you make it a priority and then get a clear idea of how to proceed. Groups, classes, books and honest feedback from friends and family can be invaluable in this process.


We can all benefit from working in each of these three areas, but some people have glaring weaknesses in one area or another. How do you assess yourself in this regard? What would your friends say about you? The primary benefit of this sort of map is to help you determine where you are, and what area would be most rewarding to work on. To get the most bang for your effort, work in your weak areas – generally we have already played from our strengths.

Working on any of these areas is much more likely to lead to having a happy life than many of the other things we spend time on. If you want ideas on how to proceed, just let me know. If you are putting it off, what are you waiting for?

Each of us deserves a truly joyful life. Go for it!