Focusing, Internal Family Systems Therapy, Coherence Therapy, to what end?

(General content note: A lot of my thinking has really changed since the old days of this blog. There’s some weird, mean, and polemic stuff in there.)

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Brienne Strohl (who I do not know personally) is asking on Facebook:

“People who resolve conflicts between their various parts in IFS and who cause felt shifts in Focusing are changing the way they think and feel. To what end? What is the terminal goal this is aimed at? *Why* do you want to understand yourself better, and how will you know when a new belief or emotional shift has led you toward or away from that larger goal?”

I’ve spent probably a few hundred hours using these specific techniques and related. Different people will use these practices for different reasons, of course.

Mechanically speaking, I believe these techniques can forge new neural links between system one and system two. Successful application, for a particular issue, gives you three specific gains. First, for that issue, you acquire the *energy* of system one, raw motivational drive. (Whereas, before, this energy was blocked or dissipated.) Second, for that issue, you acquire *inhibitory powers,* specifically, system one *permits* itself to be overridden by system two, with respect to that issue. Third, you unlock the possibility, though not the necessity, for instrumental and epistemic *integration.* System two is now able to chew on the issue and turn gears in a way it wasn’t able to before.

For myself, I experience self and world as vague and inchoate. Possibilities, beautiful possibilities, stirring possibilities, flicker at the edges of awareness at all times: new ways of being, new ways of relating, new ways of seeing, new means, new ends. I wrote in a previous post that one of my ultimate concerns is to have ever better ultimate concerns.

I’ve been trying to find a good analogy to what this feels like. Venkatesh Rao’s latest post resonates strongly:

“Accelerating into a crash helps you regain actual control authority and predictability. If you force a crash into unfolding faster than it naturally wants to, you gain control over it.”

These practices (Focusing, IFS, Coherence Therapy, etc.) facilitate fundamental structural changes in one’s map of the territory. They “accelerate you into the crash,” as it were. They accelerate an ontological crisis that is already happening anyway.

Some of us find old patterns, old beliefs, old habits, old jobs, old careers, old relationships, becoming stale. Yet, there’s no good way to get from old A to new B. And the very idea of A and B are becoming unglued. There never was an A; there never was a B. And I’m running out of time and money; And, what the fuck do I do now? Or, simply, I sense more is possible, and it’s eating at me, clawing at me, and it won’t let me go, and I’m so very confused. It’s like, from the very depths of your soul, you sense something on par with immortality, or godhood, or the most luminescent friendships, or the kinkiest sex you can possibly imagine, beyond imagining, and, if you don’t try to reach out and take it, it will grind you to dust and destroy your pitiful little life that you pitifully covet.

But you can’t just reach out and take it. You live in three dimensions and it’s calling to you from a 4th or 5th or Nth dimension. These practices help you reliably reach into new dimensions, into new regimes of neural phase space, that you didn’t know how to access before, that didn’t precisely exist before.

Someone once commented to me that Focusing was fishy because if you did it a second time you’d get different words. How could it possibly be used for personal or general map-making if it’s giving wildly different answers each time? (Well it can be used for this, but that’s a topic for another post.) In fact, it’s a feature, not a bug. The reason is that Focusing is about becoming; it’s a transformative protocol. You are not static, the territory is not static, and “nearby in reality-space” does not necessarily mean “nearby in word-space.” The territory exists prior to logic, prior to words, prior to understanding, and it’s alive and changing.

And practices like Focusing help you adapt to that territory, when your logical system is starting to fail you, especially when your logical system fits the territory perrrrfectly, except for this one liiiittle tiny piece, and, in fact, that liiiittle tiny piece contains an entire *universe* that structurally dwarfs your entire logical system.

And you have nothing to hold onto, and you want to do a controlled free-fall, into something new.

For me, Focusing-type practices are less about achieving goals and more about what to do when goals are globally ambiguous or disintegrating, and I want to minimize the upheaval as I try to carry my entire life forward anyway.

P.S. Are these techniques an ancestral intuition sinkhole? A way to reliably self-generate personalized insight porn? I don’t think so. And, also, these practices act on a level *beneath* the level that decides whether or not to get better at rationality techniques. That said, it’s something of a strange loop…

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3 thoughts on “Focusing, Internal Family Systems Therapy, Coherence Therapy, to what end?

  1. Thanks for posting this! I followed the link from the same FB post, and am finding this whole topic very fascinating.

  2. Yay! If you search on my blog, Focusing, etc., come up in multiple posts. The posts aren’t tagged, unfortunately.

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