"Who is this 'I' who is doing the compassionate Focusing?"
A reader asks: "When I am being a kind and supportive companion to different places or parts in myself... who is this 'I' who is doing the companioning? Is the companion a part... and am I then merging with it...? How does the concept of Presence fit into to this?
"The reason I'm asking is, this really disturbed and shaken/scared place seems to arise as I start to relate with kindness to various places inside me that are feeling vulnerable, upset or shaky maybe, that need some caring, and "companioning." Then all of a sudden some sort of thought comes in, like 'Who is this one who is speaking caringly?' It is very hard to catch exact words, but feels like suddenly having the rug pulled out, and there is a sense of acute disorientation and disturbance... The thought sort of stops 'me' in my tracks...and is something like....who is relating to who...who am I?
"I am then aware that this frightened place itself needs my kind and caring attention but yet the very act of doing that is what seemed to trigger disturbance... so then I feel sort of alone and abandoned and I can't easily continue with the usual way I've had of relating to myself.... Which is horrible! A bit like not knowing who is relating to who... and who I am....
"I try and recollect models of the self sometimes then, to help me make sense of things, which does feel important somehow, but it's hard to engage the brain when in the midst of this state of confusion.... I hope this makes some kind of sense to you...!"
Yes, it does make sense. And I think I know what is going on.
First to assure you that the "I" who can give compassion is you, the whole self, called "Self-in-Presence." The capacity or ability to be Self-in-Presence is something we can develop or cultivate, like growing a garden or strengthening a muscle. Being Self-in-Presence is not an OFF-ON switch, but an ability that can grow as we use it more.
Of course there have been times in our lives when Self-in-Presence was thin, or missing. Our parts remember that.
I suspect that what might be going on is that a vulnerable, upset, or shaky part has doubts about you, whether you can really be there for it. I suspect that that is what is emerging as questioning "who is this being who is caring," etc. And then I suspect that you are slipping into identification with that questioning part.
When parts of us have doubts that we can be enough for them, the thing to do is not try to convince them... but to continue to steadily be there, hearing that that is how it is for them. "I hear that it is hard for you to trust, right now, that I am really here, really able to be strong and compassionate for you. With all you've been through, no wonder that is hard."
"Yes, that helps..."
This reader wrote back: "What you said brought a bit of ease within - Because yes, there is a part worrying 'what is going on, aagh!' - and is suddenly unsure whether it is safe to trust 'myself'.
"Your words helped me feel more the difference between the shaky part and the place that can be there with kindness. And to sort of get that ah, yes, it is also about cultivating that place of self in presence. And that's OK that it needs to be cultivated...it's understandable...
"So I've just been putting a hand there on the part of my body that is most feeling the angst, and bringing tenderness to it, and a few words like, 'Ah, I can see how much you are hurting right now... it's OK to let yourself feel that... I'm here...' Then there is a bit of softening in my body... maybe some tears.... There's definitely much more within all this, but there is a little easing."
Ann responds: Wonderful! Letting a gentle hand go there is so nice. And saying to it, "I'm here..." Beautiful! I couldn't have said it better myself!