I woke up early this morning, my head heavy with the memory of last night’s dreams. I must have been tossing and turning for some time, as I felt exhausted. Something was troubling me.
Reluctantly, I started delving back into my dream to try and work out what was going on. Strange images swirled in the mist of my mind. Making sense of my thoughts reminded me of opening the Christmas decorations box earlier in the week and attempting to untangle the mess of the Christmas lights that lay within.
“As I lay there, I decided to try something different. I had read about an approach to problem-solving by an American philosopher and psychologist called Eugene Gendlin.”
I smiled and then gave up trying to decipher the dream.
But still that unsettling feeling remained. As I lay there, I decided to try something different. I had read about an approach to problem-solving by an American philosopher and psychologist called Eugene Gendlin.
Gendlin’s research found that his clients’ ability to realise lasting positive change in psychotherapy depended on their innate ability to access a nonverbal, bodily feel of the issues that brought them into therapy.
Gendlin called this intuitive body feel the ‘felt sense’. He published this book Focusing, which presented a six-step method for discovering one’s felt sense and drawing on it for personal insight and development.
As Gendlin explains: “When I use the word ‘body’, I mean more than the physical machine. Not only do you physically live the circumstances around you, but also those you only think of in your mind. Your physically-felt body is in fact part of a gigantic system of here and other places, now and other times, you and other people – in fact, the whole universe. This sense of being bodily alive in a vast system is the body as it is felt from inside.”
I thought I would try it out this technique to decipher what issue lay behind my dreams. So, I closed my eyes again and relaxed. I noticed how I lay. I felt the various parts of my body against the mattress. I just let the various thoughts and sensations swirl around my head until one loomed large.
Slowly, I zoomed in on that sensation and a phrase popped into my head: ‘Unfinished Business’.
“I looked back over my legal career and recalled similar patterns of behaviour, where I had ignored stuff that I should have sorted. That had never been a successful strategy, only resulting in minor issues morphing into major problems.”
I took these words and turned them around in my head, much like examining a three-dimensional object in my hands. What was this ‘Unfinished Business’ that was troubling me?
I started the process again: clearing some mental space, keeping the sensations general and then allowing the sensation to come into focus in my body.
This time, a more detailed image came into my mind. That was it! I realised that I had failed to pay a disputed bill from over a year ago, preferring instead to ignore the matter, hoping it would go away. The realisation struck me forcefully – it felt a bit like I had recalled the name of someone that I had been struggling with for a while.
Tension dissipated as I allowed a new sensation to emerge – that of determination and motivation to sort out this unfinished business.
I looked back over my legal career and recalled similar patterns of behaviour, where I had ignored stuff that I should have sorted. That had never been a successful strategy, only resulting in minor issues morphing into major problems.
In this present case, conflicting emotions of anger about the dispute and an innate sense that one should pay bills on time had resulted in anxiety. And that anxiety had resided in my unconscious for some time until it had leaked out in my dreams.
As the sun started to rise, I resolved to sort out this problem, and indeed to flush out other sources of anxiety and other unwelcome sensations. There is always time to make a fresh start.