Focusing

Eugene T. Gendlin, founder of an innovative self-actualization technique with transformative potential, talks with Linda Heuman.

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For most of us, don’t-know is a place of get-me-out-of-here-quick. As a writer, sitting down to a blank page makes me instantly want to wash dishes, dust under beds, or finally sew those buttons on a coat I haven’t worn in years. But Eugene Gendlin doesn’t see don’t-know as the Bermuda Triangle of the psyche; to him it is just unexplored frontier, seas as yet uncharted—but friendly—that we can learn to navigate. For years, Gendlin offered a class at the University of Chicago in which he taught exactly that. The purpose of the class was to get students to tap into their implicit knowing—Gendlin’s term for what someone knows but is not yet able to express. “It took weeks to explain that the usual criteria were reversed in my course,” Gendlin says. Everywhere else in the university only what was clear counted at all, he explains.

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