Edwin Rutsch – The Center for Building a Culture of Empathy

Video Empathy and Focusing – Ann Weiser Cornell and Edwin Rutsch
Radical Gentleness The Transformation of the Inner Critic – Ann Weiser Cornell
How to Use Focusing to Release Blocks to Action – Ann Weiser Cornell
Healing Writers Block – Ann Weiser Cornell
Healing Writers Block – Part Two – Ann Weiser Cornell
Ann Weiser Cornell on her Summer School Focusing: Level One Course – Ann Weiser Cornell
Self in Presence ** We disidentify in order to do Focusing with Ann Weiser Cornell Ph.D.

Ann Weiser Cornell
is an author, educator, and worldwide authority on Focusing, the self-inquiry psychotherapeutic technique developed by Eugene Gendlin. She has written several definitive books on Focusing, including

Ann has taught Focusing around the world since 1980, and has developed a system and technique called Inner Relationship Focusing.  In our dialog she says,

I want to say first of all how much I admire your work and how much I believe in what you are doing, because I believe that empathy can move mountains. Empathy can change the world!

So the power of empathy to open a space where something new can happen is enormously impressive and yes, in 44 years now of working with Focusing and listening, I’ve seen it over and over and over again.  Now that is very powerful.

 So what I would say is, empathy releases impasse.

That is true and we see it all over the place when it’s possible in groups, in working groups,
even people who love each other.”


Edwin Rutsch
The Center for Building a Culture of Empathy
Building the Empathy Movement. A portal for empathy and compassion related resources; art, articles, definitions, conferences, experts, history, interviews, newsletter, science, videos, etc. For more on empathy visit our website. This is part of a larger documentary project by Edwin Rutsch on the nature of empathy. We hope you’ll connect and get involved in Building a Culture of Empathy.

“So the power of empathy to open a space where something new can happen is enormously impressive and yes, in 44 years now of working with Focusing and listening, I’ve seen it over and over and over again. Now that is very powerful. So what I would say is, empathy releases impasse.. That that is true and we see it all over the place when it’s possible in groups, in working groups, even people who life each other.”


Video: Empathy and Focusing – Ann Weiser Cornell and Edwin Rutsch  

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JrPm9IKulh8]

Transcripts  (53 minutes)


You’ve been teaching focusing since 1980 and I understand you were one of the first to start offering Focusing as service. Is there more by way of introduction that you would like to add? 

I’ll just say that I am very proud that I have taught in 20 countries and I am really happy that Focusing has a world wide presence.

What we want to do is talk about the relationship of empathy and Focusing. As I understood it Gene Gendlin was grade student with Carl Rogers and became a colleague and build on his work.  Carl Rogers would reference him. I see Focusing as a real  next step on top of Carl Rogers work, so I wanted to dialog with you about empathy and Focusing. We wanted to talk about general understandings about empathy to begin with.

 Empathy can change the world.
And it changes situations when we
bring empathy in.

I want to say first of all how much I admire your work and how much I believe in what you are doing, because I believe that empathy can move mountains. Empathy can change the world. And it changes situations when we bring empathy in.

 I had a story that moved me very much that I heard recently. A woman came into a children’s section of a hospital and a child was having an absolute emotional melt down. She had been told she couldn’t go home today. And she is screaming, “I want to go home. I want to go home.” And all the kind people around her, the aids, the nurses and so on, her mother are offering her, “Here is what you can do instead. Here is a doll. Here is a toy. And she is screaming, “I want to go home!”

 So the woman walks in and kneels down to the child’s level and says, “Sweetie, you want to go home” 

 And the child stops screaming. There’s silence in the room. And her attention shifts. Without even saying another word, now she is interested in the toys and the dolls and the so on. So what we see happening over and over again, is that people hold fixed positions until their position is heard and then there is a shift.  And if we look at the world today, what makes us frustrated, sad, and angry about so many of the things that are going on, is people holding fixed positions, and unable to hear each other, and even the people that we believe in, who we think ought to be the ones who are prevailing, are also hold fixed positions and not hearing or being heard.

 So the power of empathy to open a space where something new can happen is enormously impressive and yes, in 44 years now of working with Focusing and listening, I’ve seen it over and over and over again. Now that is very powerful. So what I would say is, empathy releases impasse.. That that is true and we see it all over the place when it’s possible in groups, in working groups, even people who love each other. I just came from a committee making some decisions about Focusing and how it’s taught in the world and there were two strong positions there and at the start of the meeting people were feeling I will never accept, I will never agree.

 One faction in favor of creating some standards and another faction in favor of being flexible and trusting.  I mean it’s often this kind of both and situation where really both have some rightness but they got to hold of their position. But by the end of the meeting , because we listened to each other, because we could hear where each other were coming from, each side relaxed and a new solution emerged that wasn’t even being thought of before. And so I see this also Edwin, that in groups there is an intelligences that emerges because people listen to each other, and that is very interesting to me.

So the power of empathy to open a space
where something new can happen
is enormously impressive

What I’m hearing there is that people get fixed in their way and they don’t want to change until they have been really heard. So in a sense that when we start beginning empathized with  with we, we get heard, we start softening and are more willing to listen to others but we have to be heard with.


That’s right, and right now this moment of feeling empathized with with by you. I feel already in my body a kind of relaxing, a smile, a sense of deeper breath coming.  So we right now are having that moment of empathy. And it feel like ok, it forms a kind of solid foundation. Now we can continue. If you had not understood me, we could have worked it out. But if you had not understood me and had not said anything, then we would be in trouble.

I know in terms of the benefits of empathy the one I like is what Carl Rogers says, “It feels damn good.”

Yes exactly. To put it briefly.  It does feel damn good.  That’s right and in so many instances. I was in a group recently where I was a participant and I was in a little bit of a tangle with the group leader, trying to say that something he had done didn’t work for me. And he way kind of defending it, and then suddenly he paused and said, “You know, I noticed I getting into a defensive moment and I would rather just really hear that your are feeling frustrated and confused. And at the moment he said that my whole body changed. And I felt more open more flexible, more open to understanding him, and one of the insights from Gendlin’s work and from Focusing is that hearing and being understood is a body process as well as a mental process. We are body, as we need each other, we need each other heart to heart, gut to gut, not just head to head. And you notice, I’m sure that you’ve noticed that if you only hear somebody as an intellectual exercise. If you parrot back their words, it doesn’t work. It doesn’t have the impact and effect that we love and that feels damn good. Right?

Yeah, it is what I love about Focusing  is it’s really going into and tapping into that felt experience and there is a plenty of research, especially by Frans De Waal, saying that we really start by connecting thought this felt experience.  Sometimes there’s this notion that people connect through this intellectual level and then it kind of goes into the feelings. But he’s really saying it’s a bottom up biological process, from our biological evolution, that we start connecting by the feelings and then it might go into a more of an organized cognitive metalizing way of being.  So the Focusing really takes the relationship into this felt sense, I think that it really does a lot to facilitate empathic connection.

Focusing really takes the relationship into this
felt sense, I think that it really does a lot
to facilitate empathic connection.

Exactly, because it is already true that our bodies are tuning into each other and it is trough my sense of you that I can empathize with you. The words follow along, the words come from, actually, that bodily felt place. Gendlin is fond of saying…  Well let me first define Gendlin’s viewpoint, because it actually is quite radical. We have to understand some terminology that actually isn’t in the common discourse. Most people know that there is a kind of concept of the unconscious. That we either have feelings, that we can feel now, or that they are kind of buried or repressed. And this is from Freud and his tradition. But what Rogers began to do and what Gendlin continued, is an understanding of the person in a very different way. And so that our bodies are not layers of conscious versus unconsciousness. But that our bodies are doing something Gendlin calls, implying forward.

 That what it is to be alive is that our bodies ‘know’, and this is a funny use of the word ‘know’, the next steps of life process. That in other wards the bodies next step of life process is implied and ready to happen but may not happen and when the next step of life process happens, there is a kind of relief or release. Now at the physiological level we can take hunger and eating as a simple example. When you are hungry, that is the implying of something like eating or taking in of nourishment. You body is ready for, or prepared for, or wanting, and the technical term is implying eating.  And then when eating happens, the implying changes. There is a new implying. Now the implying might be for digestion, or for taking a nap. If you eat when you are not hungry, that is a very different thing to do than eating when you are hungry. So weather you are hungry or not makes all the difference in what the act of eating means or is. And so implying is so important because the state we are in, or the readiness that we are in, when something happens, determine what that is. Now eating is a physiological example.

Maybe I can reflect my understanding of that because, that actually helps. Not only does the empathic reflection  help the speaker feel heard, but I find it really helps me in integrating what it is that I am hearing.

Is it like an intention of what is going to happen next?

13:00 Ann
It’s not intention. What I am talking about, the implying process, even plants do it. So you don’t need a central nervous system in order to be in the implying process. A plant, if it doesn’t get enough water, implies water. It it doesn’t get enough sun, it implies sun, so you can say that implying is the need for something. But  that need is known in the body tissues. And then when you move from plants to animals and then to humans, we get more and more complex in the needs. So you could use the concept of need, but what we want to do by using the word implying instead is to say that there is an implicit dimension, that is not yet formed, from which meaning forms.

 And so for example, take somebody that says, “I was angry all day. But then when I paused and really sensed my self, I realized I had actually been sad.”

Now was the sad repressed? Was the sad hidden? Was the anger, untrue?  No what we see happening there is that anger  was there, but with a pause, the feeling of sad emerges and forms. It was implicitly. It emerges and forms.

It does then overlap with other approaches that say that we have these needs, that is something like a deep inner need that we have. And this is a little bit along those lines. There are these underlying, implicit in our being, as human beings, there are qualities that are implicit in just being a human being. That we are biologically, wired for implicit qualities, and in any moment there is an implicit next steps that could happen?

I think you’ve got it Edwin. there are implicit next steps. One example that is nice is if you see a crooked picture on the wall. I see some pictures on the wall behind you and they look very straight. But lets say that one of them was crooked. Seeing the crooked picture, gives us the this feeling of offness or wrongness. and the feeling of offness has in it the knowing of ‘I or someone else could walk across the room and straighten out that picture. So one of the things Gendlin is famous for saying is that ‘ every bad feeling, is potential energy for a more right way of being if you give it space.  the crooked picture on the wall is one metaphor that helps us understand that even feelings that we are having that are unpleasant, uneasy, fearful or even very depressed or down, contain a kind of knowing of what would be needed, what would be the right next step.

So even if you are in pain, if you are feeling angry, or had different types of anxiety or fear, that underneath that is a sort of a next step or a know of what the solution would be to address that? So it’s almost as if that problem feeling or pain is like a source of it’s own resolution, in a sense.

That is what I’m saying and what we found, and so it’s very interesting to live that way, because in general the culture in general tries to push away, negative feelings. To control them, to handle or manage them somehow. And yet, it turns out that if you turn toward them, with a quality of inner empathy, like “hello, I’d like to get to know you better.” There are step of change that emerge. We kind of speak in general in the common culture about our feelings as if they are kind of unchangeable. I have this fear of public speaking, or I have this anger at my brother, as if it is some kind of piece of furniture that is always going to be there.

But the word ’emotion’  points to the fact that every emotion, is on it’s way to being something else. And yet we do experience emotions recurring, and recurring in certain situations over and over again, so why is that? I believe it is because we treating the emotions as if they are unchangeable. Now you didn’t mention in your introduction of me, that my degree is in linguistics. I bring the study of language to the work I do in emotional healing. I all it the art of facilitative language and one of the things I try to remind people, watch out for nouns. Notice the difference, between ‘my fear”, which is a noun, and so that the fact that it’s a noun makes it seem kind of unchangeable. What if we say instead, ‘afraid’? And I would add a little more language to that and I would say something in me is afraid right now. And now we have a very attitude toward what we are feeling than if we say it’s my fear.

19:50 Edwin
So your creating more of a space around it. It’s not this I am this thing and it’s fixed. It’s this I’m afraid, and it’s quality within me and there’s more space around it.

That’s right, and in that space what has become now possible, is curiosity. By the way, curiosity and empathy go together very well, don’t they? I think curiosity is another very powerful force. If someone is attacking me, verbally or is somehow holding fixed position that I just can understand. Probably the first step I’m going to need to empathize with that person is to get curious. Is to say to myself, “there must be some good reason why that person thinks that is so important. I wonder what it is? Let me see if I can understand?

 By the way, curiosity and empathy
go together very well,
don’t they?


Something that comes up a lot in the work around empathy, is the theme of curiosity. For example, here in Berkeley, in UC Berkeley, I interviewed Jodi Halpern. She has a book on empathy in healthcare about the needing curiosity in medicine as a doctor with patients. So it comes up a lot.

Yes, empathy, curiosity and compassion of course. I would theories that they come in this order. First curiosity, then empathy the compassion.

Here is a question I do want to say. In Focusing, the empathy does not seem central to Focusing.  I’ve put empathy as this core foundational value and organize around that value. And Focusing, while empathy is mentioned, it doesn’t seem to be central. For example you are saying what comes first, curiosity, empathy….   I coming from the position of mirror neurons and neuroscience that we are in a constant empathic environment. So it’s almost like we wouldn’t even function as a society if we didn’t have this ongoing empathic relationship, it’s just that we are not being as good or effective at empathy as we could be.  So it’s starting from that presence of empathy versus saying we have no empathy and you have to do all these things to have empathy. So I wonder about any thoughts around that?

it’s just that we are not being as good or
effective at empathy as we could be.  

First of all, I love the position that empathy is already here and it’s woven into who we are and what we are as a human society and that is completely consistent with what Gendlin says. He has a phrase, “Interaction first”, by which he means that we are born into relationship. There is no time when we are not in interrelationship and really that our bodies and our environment are not separate. And so where we are when we are in touch with ourselves is also in touch with what is around us, especially other people. So yes it is at the very heart of what we are as humans and that Focusing works at all, and it does, it works because we are tuning into something that is mutually felt, that is felt as a tuning in to what is here in a field, you might say. That is only beginning to be talked about in the Focusing community, if you hear most of the discussions being about a kind of self relationship. But it was clear to me from the very start, and most people do understand that we are tuning in to a kind of a shared field.

 So in my work which is moving on a little bit from Gendlin, it’s called Inner Relationship Focusing. I especially emphasize that  there is a relationship inwardly between person as a whole self. I call ‘Self in Presence’. And something inside that feels bad, so we had, ‘I’m angry’, then we have ‘something in me is angry’,  and because of saying something in me is angry, there is a space, there is curiosity, and I am turning toward this place that is angry.  Now the next step in Focusing, would be to describe the way it feelings in my body. That is also empathy, because sensing and describing how something simply is right now is an empathic move instead of all the other things we could do instead, which is, arguing with it, trying to get rid of it, being afraid of it, being afraid of what it means, and so on. So sensing and describing is actually an empathic move toward how it is feeling.

What I am hearing there is, you didn’t use the word. but it’s almost like a self empathy. A feeling into ones self and there are things or energies that block that feeling into oneself and you mentioned several of the blocks. Would that work as a term of self-empathy? Does that fit?

Yes, I saw on your website, self empathy was  a term and I would classify Focusing as a self-empathy method. I would say that my work of Inner Relationship Focusing we put that self empathy even more to the forefront. I’ll just show you the steps to Focusing.

  • 1. The first is to pause and allow a body feeling to form.
  • 2. Then to turn toward it and describe it.
  • 3. Saying that description is all ready an empathizing move.
  • 4. But then there is a deeper move which is to sense how it is feeling from it’s point of view. I surprise a lot of people when I teach that

 I remember once a woman who said “my throat is tight”  and I said, “well, how does it feel?”.  And she said, “It feels uncomfortable”.  And you can tell when she says it feels uncomfortable, she is not empathizing with it.

And you can tell when she says it feels uncomfortable,
she is not empathizing with it.

I said to her, ok, it feels uncomfortable to you, would you be willing to sense how it, itself is feeling? She was willing and she paused a moment and closed her eyes and then opened her eyes with surprise and said, “it is scared.”  And so it is teachable, this move of empathy with, the feelings we are having from their own point of view. And by the way Gendlin called these feelings, Felt Sense. The Felt Sense is the forming of the bodies felt experiencing at this moment. And he has an interesting story,  a nice little story about what can happen and how things can really change when you give yourselves this kind of empathy.  He tells the story of a client that he had, she was a student in college. She said, “I sabotage myself when it come time to turn in a paper, I pull back.” 

 Now you can imagine many conversations that could evolve from there. A therapist and a client would discuss, better study strategies, or what were the childhood sources of this, but what he said instead was, “Ahh, maybe you can sense the pull back, the pullback, in order to make is something that can be sensed.  And then she was silent, and that is an odd thing to happen in therapy too. That people wouldn’t just talk about their problems.

 She said, “OK, yes I feel it.” Then she was silent and then she opened her eyes and said, “This is an all good place that would rather be hidden, than come out and be tromped on. ” And the point is that by empathizing with the place in her that had not been handing in papers, it took a step. Everyone including her  thought that was some kind of the bad guy. The saboteur inside. And by pausing and empathizing with it’s point of view,  she was able to sense, something completely surprising and completely different. It changed her whole body constellation. It’s not just a new information, it’s something new in the whole way the issue is held. So, this inner empathy leads to really new possibilities, for life.

So let me just reflect what I am hearing so far. You can feel into yourself, and you can feel different qualities, within yourself. And you can find one of those qualities, and you can actually role play, in a sense, – take on the the characteristics of it. For example if I’m feeling a tightness in my the throat, I can say, “I am the tightness  in my throat, what is my experience as being the tightness? And have a role play with different part of my self? Is that along the lines of what you are saying?”

That’s kind of surprising and I’m really glad you shared, because that it not quite what I am meant.

 Back to the story of the woman who could feel that her throat felt scared. What I hear you doing is trying to imagine how did she do that? Did she do that by role playing her throat. And that is actually a little more complicated and not necessary at all.  Because actually, we have the ability to empathize with something we feel inside us. In the same way that we can empathize with someone sitting next to us. And if I am sitting next to a friend who is not talking, I can still feel  what mood the friend is in. I don’t have to do that by imagining I’m the friend.  I do it because, as we have already seen, we have that ability to know how someone else is feeling.

 Like imagine walking up and have a great joke, and you had a great day, and you want to share your joke with a friend. You knock on their door and they open it and you can just see from their whole face that you have better not share the joke. It happens instantly. I didn’t have to role play being the friend.

I see, in the tightness in the throat then, is she is empathizing with the tightness. She’s getting closed to it, she’s feeling her way into the experience of it?

Yeah, and she doesn’t’ have to become it in order to to do that. In fact that is why my work is called Inner Relationship, what she actually needs to do is feel that she is not it.  That there is something there, that she stops saying, ” I am tight, or I am scared”, and starts saying, “It’s tight, it’s scared,” so the sense of a separation or a relationship with it, allows an inner empathy to happen.

 so the sense of a separation or a relationship with it,
allows an inner empathy to happen.

An experience I had that is perhaps similar. I do this feel style dance here in Berkeley sometimes. One time I was noticing an anxiety, within my body. I’m feeling anxious and it is in the core part of my body.. And I will usual and dance and ignore a feeling like that, and more around and avoid it or what ever. I said, “no”, I want to to really get close to that anxiety. I want to really feel the anxiety, I want to get so close to it that it opens up and I can feel the minute granular quality of that anxiety in me.  So I started moving and dancing and kept moving toward that feeling. And it kept getting bigger and bigger, and actually then metaphors started forming. Like, oh, it feelings like thousands of little knives cutting away. And I kept getting closer to that and it was so interesting because I got closer to it and it was as if it just disappeared or dissolved. It’s gone, where did it go?

 But within about 5 or 6 seconds, a new kind of anxiety, that was more like a cloud over and around my head. A heavy cloud over me like a weight formed. I said, “Ok, I’m going to go to that.”  I started moving toward that, and had a similar experience getting closer to it and then dissolving.  I did a whole series of these, going from one to another, and kept going into it.

 Is that a little bit like what you are talking about, is going toward the feeling, getting closer to it, feeling your way into.

It makes me happy, what you are saying. I really happy about it. And actually I use a method just like if I have injured myself. And if there a purely physical sensation, that I just want to help move forward and release. But anxiety was a meaningful component. Also I so respect what you did, I would differentiate Focusing from what you did and say that if I was you, I would have said “hello” to something in me that is anxious, and said I would like to feel you, but I wouldn’t feel it by becoming it. By entering into it. I would feel it by letting it be felt somewhere in my body.

 Maybe noticing where I feel it the most, and then describing that. And then I would ask what it is anxious about. What is got it anxious? I might also, first check the work anxious, it that is actually the right word for it. So there is a kind of a communication and it’s not like it exactly talks, but it shows images. I think yours showed you images.  And metaphors come. So everything you said makes me happy and included in what we do but the one thing you didn’t say is that you found out what was getting you so anxious. And there was an Aha moment. I even wonder, this is kind of daring of me, but I even wonder, if you had done that it might have really finished. So it wouldn’t have to some back.

36:32  Outline Form. Following is not word for word transcription.


  • You engage in a relationship with the feeling instead of moving through it.
  • I’m dialoging with the feeling and it’s showing part of itself in the dialog?
  • Underneath that I’m gaining some insight what the message is that the anxiety has for me instead of moving though it.


  • there will be something surprising about it
  • what we no from interpersonal states that when they are heard they relax and a new state emerges and the same is true inwardly
  • When something inside of us is heard it no longer needs to feel the same way
  • If you are still feeling the feeling there must be something about it that, it feels has not been heard yet.,
  • sure enough, if you go back, something will emerge,
  • when something is hear there is a physiological response, a relaxing, a relief, a deeper breath and it doesn’t return


  • I’m amazed at the subtleties and nuances.
  • Your seeing the feeling into it is  form of empathy
  • There seems to be another form of empathy which I would call imaginative empathy. We can role play just about anything. I can role play my own emotion, I can role play an inanimate object. I think it was Einstein who was role play a bean of light . I am a beam of light, what is my experience moving through time and space. It seems to open that creativity that is behind the experience.
  • Do you do an empathic role play?


  • No, that is not part of our work,
  • Make me happy that exists
  • It is more the being with, it is because I am sitting with


  • Empathy does not seem like it has been a central part of Focusing. It is embedded, it seems like highly empathy process, perhaps one of the most empathic processes I know.. But from the literature it doesn’t seem to be talked about so much?
  • Am I not seeing it or what’s going on?


  • I think you haven’t seen it because it is not the very first thing you’ll see, but it’s going to be the second thing you will see.
  • When we teach Focusing in our classes we teach Focusing partnerships and that is two people exchanging the skills and what the partner does is pure empathic listening. Saying back the essence, or the felt meaning of what the person Focusing is saying. And that process of listening, is what allows Focusing as a process to happen. Because if you respond in any other way, like, even just saying “Oh I’ve had experience like that too.. It tends to shut down, the Focusing process because as you have observed, it is a very subtle process and very individual and unique. Focusing allows us a contact with a dimension in ourselves that is not like anyone else. And this was so exciting and I was 22, I joined this community in Chicago that Gene Gendlin had started where people were listening to each other and you would go to party or go to a gathering and somebody would say something and somebody else would say, “how is that for you, say more’.
  • It just blew me away. It was nothing like I had every experienced in my childhood. Focusing is a kind of inwardly and it’s ideally facilitated by empathy, by an empathic relationship, or an empathic environment.
  • So why are we excited about bringing empathy, which we also sometimes call listening, into group. settings and into every kind of setting, hospitals, schools, political arenas, an so on. Because when people listen to each other their individually unique felt meanings are able emerge.  Otherwise they have to hold fixed positions that are uncreative, that are actually a kind of impasse or block or for their own process and for everyone else’s.  So at a group level the emergence of felt meaning, is facilitated by empathy. That is something in the Focusing world we absolutely know and teach and believe in.


  • How does the group environment look?


  • In a group it means that when someone speaks there is not an immediate response from somebody else. That there is a space. The person can ask, would someone say what they heard. It is not routine or automatic, but someone says everything that anyone says. It can be asked for.
  • Also we have these white cards that say, “I need a pause” where we can just hold them up in a group.
  • The essence of bringing Focusing into the world, that we want to teach is the ‘pause’. You can ask for a pause would be a revolutionary step. The pause means wait a minute, I need moment to take in what you are saying. Or I need a moment to get myself back here and it changes the energy, it changes what is going on. And so in a group setting, and individual, you’re in a stressful situation and something is coming at you. Give yourself the right to ask for or give yourself a pause. It’s a revolutionary act. Because when you pause, you are no longer barreling forward and caught up in the energy of the moment. Reacting impulsively to what’s going on.
  • Although Focusing has a lot of details since I’ve been doing it for 44 years. How I would sum it up very simply is to say,
    • 1. pause
    • 2. sense
    • 3. be with what you were sensing. whether or not you speak, you can at least have and respect your own felt experience at that moment.


  • so when you speak, speak from that felt experience?
  • I have to get better at that.
  • We do an empathy circle. It’s a group of 4 to 6 people using empathic listening.
  • I’ve used that for family empathy circles.
  • I’ve been looking at how to bring in Focusing.


  • great, I would love to support you with that.
  • I’m tremendously excited about the empathy circles, this is so, so fabulous, and if people are only hearing what is being said, and not what is under what is being said. Than something is missing. I’m not saying they should be interpreting or guessing about what is under what is being said. It is really something the speaker needs to learn to do.
  • And so there can be in addition to the culture of listening, there can be a culture of pausing and sensing.


  • About Empathic Design. I’m looking at integrating these different empathy building processes around the empathy circle in a group.


  • wow that is really good news, I’d love to know more.
  • Yeah!


  • Any wrap-up?


  • I just want to tell you a story.  A woman locked into feeling critical of her husband. There is a whole territory of empathizing with the inner critic inside of us, that I just want to point to.
  • those vicious critical voices, that tell us that we are no good, that we are hopeless, that lead to shame. They are one of the reasons why people get violent. Because they have these kind of shaming, voices inside them. We can turn them around by teaching people to turn toward that voice. And say, “Might you be worried about something.”  My friend had been feeling so critical at her husband for not cleaning up, the house always being messy.
  • Had been doing self work.
  • She used the pause and it helped her, gave her curiosity. Then she used empathic listening and there was a big shift.  We see that all the time and to see how inner work prepares us on how to be truly empathic toward another person. Otherwise you are trying to force yourself to be interested when you are actually full of your frustrations  and upset.
  • So there is a complete relationship between the inner empathy and the interpersonal empathy.

Radical Gentleness: The Transformation of the Inner Critic
by Ann Weiser Cornell

Empathy with the Fear
“Once we are compassionately aware of the fear (worry, concern…) in this part of us, we can give it empathy for what it’s afraid of. Empathy can often be expressed with the help of phrases like “no wonder” and “of course.” This manner of speaking helps to carry and convey the attitude of understanding how it feels from its point of view.

A man who was starting out to be a meditation teacher was Focusing on a difficult area of his life. Suddenly he reported: “This part of me says, You have no qualifications to be a meditation teacher, because you’re so screwed up!” We’d often done inner work on the criticizing process, so I just said: “Wow, it must be really scared about something!” He sensed into it with the possibility that it might be scared, and reported: “Oh… It has a belief that if I’m teaching I have to present myself as having no problems myself.” I suggested he say to it, with empathy, ”


How to Use Focusing to Release Blocks to Action

“Focusing provides powerful tools for releasing blocks to action. A “block to action” is an experience which can be described as “I want to do it, but I don’t do it.” Some examples of blocks to action are: procrastination, writer’s block, inability to get organized. In working with the action block with Focusing, we assume the existence of two parts: the part that wants to do the action and the part that doesn’t want to do the action. We guide the Focuser to listen compassionately to the part that doesn’t want to do the action. Three typical patterns may emerge, although a particular session may not follow any pattern. These are: the pattern of protection, the pattern of rebellion, and the pattern of wanting something else. There may also be an Inner Critic who needs to be heard with compassion.

Healing Writer’s Block

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TDq0NwrTcf0]

Healing Writer’s Block Part Two

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2D_8B3Ef6Fk&w=560&h=315]

Ann Weiser Cornell on her Summer School Focusing Level One Course

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F3FuW2sxfSo&w=560&h=315]


 Self-in-Presence ** We disidentify in order to do Focusing with Ann Weiser Cornell Ph.D.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OneAMgMsXVA&w=420&h=315]