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pjeby comments on "Flinching away from truth” is often about *protecting* the epistemology - Less Wrong

72 Post author: AnnaSalamon 20 December 2016 06:39PM

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Comment author: pjeby 23 March 2017 03:02:14PM *  3 points [-]

Gendlin seems to think that anything not in the conscious mind is somehow stored/processed out there in the muscles and bones

That's an uncharitable reading of a metaphorical version of the Somatic Marker Hypothesis. Which in turn is just a statement of something fairly obvious: there are physiological indicators of mental and emotional function. That's not the same thing as saying that these things are actually stored in the body, just that one can use physiological state as clues to find out what's going on in your head, or to identify that "something is bothering me", and then try to puzzle out what that is.

An example: suppose I have something I want to say in an article or post. You could describe this "wanting to say something" as my felt sense of what it is I want to say. It is preverbal, because I haven't said it yet. It won't be words until I write it down or say it in my head.

Words, however, aren't always precise, and one's first attempt at stating a thing -- even in one's head -- are often "not quite right". On hearing or reading something back, i get the felt sense that what I've said is not quite right, and that it needs something else. I then attempt new phrasings, until I get the -- wait for it -- felt sense that this is correct.

Gendlin's term "felt sense" is a way to describe this knowing-without-knowing aspect of consciousness. That we can know something nonverbally, that requires teasing out, trial and error that reflects back and forth between the verbal and the nonverbal in order to fully comprehend and express.

So, the essential idea of Gendlin's focusing is that if a person in psychotherapy is not doing the above process -- that is, attempting to express felt, but as yet unformed and disorganized concepts and feelings -- they will not achieve change or even true insight, because it is not the act of self-expression but the act of seaching for the meanings to be expressed that brings about such change. If they are simply verbalizing without ever looking for the words, then they are wasting their time having a social chat, rather than actually reflecting on their experience.

Meanwhile, those bits of felt sense we're not even trying to explore, represent untapped opportunity for improving our quality of life.

[Edited to add: I'm not 100% in agreement with the Somatic Marker Hypothesis, personally: I think the idea of somatic markers being fed back to the brain as a feedback mechanism is one possible way of doing things, but I doubt that all reinforcement involving emotions work that way. Evolution kludges lots of things, but it doesn't necessarily kludge them consistently. :) That being said, somatic markers are an awesome tool for conscious reflection and feedback, whether they are an input to the brain's core decisionmaking process, or "merely" an output of it.]

Comment author: ChristianKl 25 March 2017 06:31:31PM 0 points [-]

That's an uncharitable reading of a metaphorical version of the Somatic Marker Hypothesis. Which in turn is just a statement of something fairly obvious: there are physiological indicators of mental and emotional function. That's not the same thing as saying that these things are actually stored in the body, just that one can use physiological state as clues to find out what's going on in your head, or to identify that "something is bothering me", and then try to puzzle out what that is.

I'm not sure that Gendlin doesn't believe in something stronger. There's bodywork literature that suggests that you won't solve a deep problem like a depression without changes on the myofascial level.