1. Why Companioning?
Whereas BioSpiritual Focusing can be done alone, it is more effectively experienced if done in the presence of another person. This other person is called “the Companion”. The role of the Companion is not to provide direction, feedback or instruction but rather to essentially reflect back to the Focuser what the Focuser is sensing. The Companion can help with creating the environment of safety and caring presence necessary for the Focuser to engage in his or her internal dialogue. The Companion can also offer options that the Focuser might use to keep in contact with the felt-sense and with what unfolds from the felt-sense.
2. Companioning Challenges
Companioning another person is an intermediate level in learning BioSpiritual Focusing. You must have some basic familiarity with your own personal Focusing before you can be with another person as he or she Focuses. This way of being with a person as they Focus is both a learned art and skill. It is a challenge, because to be a good Companion, you have to set aside most of the natural communication instincts that you have learned since you were a child. For example, when another person has difficulty in finding a word to express something, our ordinary response is to try to suggest a word that they might use. Likewise, if they are struggling to understand something and the “solution” is clear to us, we usually will try to recommend that “solution”. Companioning is not about fixing or solving.
Perhaps the most difficult part of Companioning is to simply be present and quietly listen as the Focuser goes within to be with their felt-sense. This means that the Companion has to set aside his or her own mental distractions and felt-senses that might be triggered by what the Focuser is experiencing. What has to be learned and experienced is that Companioning is not about a conversation or dialogue between the Companion and the Focuser. Rather, the challenge is for the Companion to keep the inner conversation going between the Focuser and the Focuser’s felt-sense as it unfolds:
This difference in “flows” is what makes Companioning a challenge and why it is considered an intermediate Focusing skill. Since the work of the Companion is to support this internal dialogue between the Focuser and the Focuser’s felt-sense. the Companion attempts to remain fully present with an attitude of caring, feeling presence exhibited by empathic listening and non-judgmental reflection. The Companion’s presence is the most critical aspect of the partnership!
3. A Companion Offers the Gift of Presence
In his book, Beyond the Myth of Dominance – An Alternative to a Violent Society, Father McMahon describes the impact of having a Companion while Focusing:
“…the mutual vulnerability of body-openness breaks down the body-feel of hardness and defenses with which we armor ourselves…It helps us move beyond trying to fix…or to manipulate…with this loosening of the dominance body-feel, we can make contact with each other at a much deeper level. We are more in each other…both connected within the intimacy of a real presence to each other…Together we need to be with whatever is real in our bodies in a safe, supportive environment, waiting and listening to the teacher within. Creating this…climate…is the indispensable role Focusing Companions play in building communities of grace.”
4. Qualities of a Companion
Companioning presence does not necessarily come from someone with a vast theoretical knowledge of Focusing or psychology. The Companion is someone who will support my inner journey and is not frightened by my tears, anger or other blocks. In truly being with me, the Companion invites me to be aware of what is real inside me. In the presence of the Companion, I am not alone on my inner quest. This gives me the courage to be with strong emotions and felt-senses within me that ordinarily I would run away from or avoid.
The Companion knows that she or he does not have nor have to have the solutions for my struggles. What the Companion does through reflective responses is enable me to nurture back into being my own innate ability to notice and connect with my own felt-senses in a way that leads to my responding to the unfolding of what is deepest within me.
The Companion’s caring feeling presence is also an insight as to how I have to be with my scary feelings when I focus alone. My experience of a Companion’s presence can be a model for the body-feel of how I need to be with myself when I focus. It enables me to separate myself from being merged with my strong feelings and creates the possibility for my internal dialogue with what most needs my loving awareness.
5. Learning Companioning Skills
The best way to learn Companioning skills is to enroll in one of the Companioning training programs that are available through the BioSpiritual Institute Network of Centers. You can find these programs listed on the Learning Experiences page of this website.