• going to the edge of awareness
  • “dipping into the larger realm at the edge of thinking” – the implicit
  • finding words, images and metaphors that can put what is beyond words into words
  • checking these words against the felt sense of implicit knowing
  • revising them and finding small steps of development in this process of enlivening the link
  • waiting, expecting, inviting, leaning into the next step of articulation and development that will come

EXPLICIT REALM - linear words and thinking

Edge of Awareness

Imagistic, metaphoric language


What we learn about the implicit through this process

  • it is non-linear, palpable felt sense
  • it is an intricacy that is not without order, but differently ordered
  • “it talks back”
  • it emerges with a sense of resonance, release, enlivenment
  • it has a forward moving direction, unfolds with little steps of development

Papers, Reading Lists

Reading list for Philosophy, Theory and Practice

Theoretical Ideas

Connectedness That Fosters Growth
DeYoung, Patricia A. (2003) “The Wonderfully Good Part of Relational Therapy,” in Relational Psychotherapy: A Primer, New York and Hove: Brunner-Routledge, pp. 163-196

Preston, Lynn (1997) “Expressive Relating: The Intentional Use of the Analyst’s Subjectivity,” in Progress in Self Psychology, Vol. 13, New Jersey: Analytic Press, pp. 203-218

Orange, Donna “Emotional Availability,” in Emotional Understanding: Studies in Psychoanalyst Epistemology, New Jersey: The Analytic Press, pp. 125-140

Orange, Donna (2007) The Kohut Memorial Lecture given at the International Conference on the Psychology of the Self in Los Angeles, CA

Therapeutic Change
Fosshage, J. L. (2000) “Fundamental Pathways to Analytic Change: Illumination of Old and Creation of New Relational Experience.” Presented at NYC APSP

Stern PhD, Donnel B. (1990) “Courting Surprise—Unbidden Perceptions in Clinical Practice,” Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 26: pp. 452-478

Working With Aggression
Lachmann, Frank M. (2001) “The Treatment of Clara,” in Transforming Aggression: Psychotherapy With the Difficult-to-Treat Patient, Jason Aronson, pp.174-175

An Improvisational Sensibility
Ringstrom PhD., PsyD, Philip A., “Improvisational Moments in a Self Psychological Relational Psychoanalysis,” Buirski Volume on Contemporary Psychoanalysis

Nebbiosi Ph.D, Gianni, “The Prince of the Moment: Diana’s Case”

Trauma And Dissociation
Bromberg, Philip M. (2001). Standing in the Spaces: Essays on Clinical Process, Trauma, and Dissociation, The Analytic Press;
1 edition

Ruptures And Impasses
Atwood, G., Stolorow,R., and Trop, J. (1989). “Impasses in Psychoanalytic Therapy: A Royal Road.” Contemporary Psychoanalysis, v. 25, pp. 554 - 574

DeYoung, Patricia A. (2003). “The Terribly Hard Part of Relational Psychotherapy,” in Relational Psychotherapy: A Primer, New York and Hove: Brunner-Routledge, pp. 133-161

The New Us
Shumsky, Ellen and Preston, Lynn (2000). “The Development of the Dyad: A Bidirectional Revisioning of Some Self Psychological Concepts.” In Progress in Self Psychology, ed., A. Goldberg, vol. 16, NY: Guilfore Press, pp. 67-83

Slavin PhD, Malcolm Owen and Kriegman PhD, Daniel (1998) “Why the Analyst Needs to Change: Toward a Theory of Conflict, Negotiation, and Mutual Influence in the Therapeutic Process,” Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 8: pp. 247-284

Stern, Daniel N. (2004) “The Process of Moving Along,” in The Present Moment in Psychotherapy and Everyday Life, W.W. Norton & Company, pp.149-186

Ringstrom PhD., PsyD, Philip A. (2007) “Scenes that Write Themselves: Improvisational Moments in Relational Psychoanalysis,” Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 17: pp. 69-99

Philosophy And Meta-theory
PhD, PsyD, William J. (2007). “Complexity Theory Made Simple: Exploring A Nonlinear Dynamic Systems Theory” The 30th Annual International Conference on The Psychology of the Self:”Self and Systems,” Wednesday, October 10 - Saturday, October 13, 2007,Omni Los Angeles Hotel at California Plaza, Los Angeles, CA

Gene Gendlin Readings
(1978/79). Befindlichkeit: Heidegger and the philosophy of psychology. Review of Existential Psychology and Psychiatry, 16 (1-3), 43-71

(2000). The ‘mind’/'body’ problem and first person process: Three types of concepts. In R.D. Ellis & N. Newton (Eds.), Advances in consciousness research: Vol. 16.The caldron of consciousness: Motivation, affect and self-organization - An anthology. , pp. 109-118. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

(1992). The primacy of the body, not the primacy of perception. Man and World, 25(3-4), 341-353

(1966). Existentialism and experiential psychotherapy. In C. Moustakas (Ed.), Existential child therapy, pp. 206-246. New York: Basic Books.

(1997). Experiencing and the Creation of Meaning: A Philosophical and Psychological Approach to the Subjective (SPEP), Northwestern University Press

Teaching Tools

Therapeutic Applications of the Philosophy of the Implicit - Guidelines for Therapeutic Responding

These Guidelines offer a framework for thinking about the therapeutic vocabulary or set of skills that help to deepen therapeutic process by facilitating a particular kind of touching into implicit experience. They lay out how the “sensing into” process is always also a relational experience. Focusing skills and relational skills are two sides of the same coin. This brief map is meant to bring awareness to the importance of the therapist’s part in facilitating new relational experience.

I refer to these guidelines as skills, not techniques. Whereas technique is associated with a “one size fits all” mentality, skills are versatile movements that make up a spontaneous, therapeutic interaction. I am hoping that these points will help therapists to cultivate the ability to be good ‘dance partners” moving naturally in the dance of psychotherapy attuned specifically and particularly to each client and each relational moment. Although some of these movements may entail giving clients suggestions, there is an emphasis here on working with the spontaneous natural flow of therapeutic interaction with little reliance on introducing “focusing instructions.”

The therapeutic skills that are suggested in these points can be organized and articulated in many different ways. They are aspects of a living system, a dynamic dance. They are not static but always evolving. In recognition of this, I invite YOU to contribute your examples and add your language for expressing the therapeutic applications of the Philosophy of the Implicit.

The first set of 10 points has to do with focusing skills, “catching the spark of life within us.”
The second set is the corresponding parallel relational movements, “catching the spark of life between us.”

1. PRESENCE –the quality of “being there”
Presence – is at the heart of a living, dynamic therapeutic interaction. It entails a set of attitudes, a state of consciousness, a mind set, a way of being, that the therapist cultivates as a home base in approaching the therapy relationship. It is characterized by openness, radical acceptance, empathic attunement, and curiosity and requires a “settling in” a “dropping down.” I think of it as a trusting expectancy – the kind of expectant looking toward the horizon line that involves letting go of all of ones specific expectations (she will leave her bad marriage, he will finally find a job, she will clean up the clutter etc.) I like Donnell Stern’s evocative phrase, “courting surprise.” “The therapist’s presence is opening a space and waiting to see what will fill it.” (Eli Dickson) The therapy process occurs within the environment of the particularity of the “beingness” of the therapist. Presence is required for focusing and focusing generates presence. As we bring ourselves into the palpable present moment and “look” to see what is there, we become more present, open and receptive.

We want to listen not only to the content level of the situation, but to the crux of what is trying to be communicated. This “more”, the implicit dimension of experience can be recognized by its visceral emotional aura –its felt sense. The “more”, the “deeper point” the “implicit” is associated with what we usually think of as a “feeling level.” We think of deepening therapeutic process by responding to affect, but these feelings embedded in the content are not only distinct, clear emotions, they are a complex union of affects, thoughts, body sense, memories, expectations, etc. (In anger, for example, there is amalgam of affective experience and the situation in which it arises – I am not only angry, I am angry at “him” for that….which reminds me of… in anticipation of… reinforcing my negative conviction that I am… The stuff of feeling, the felt sense, is a palpable inseparability of emotions, thoughts and body sensations that is always the wellspring of experience.  The implicit more than what is said – the more than is sayable, has a body quality - it is sensed, before it can be thought about. When we notice its particular sensual atmosphere or mood, we can pursue it the way one might follow a smell or a sound in the dark. It also has a holistic quality – the sense of the whole of the experience in the moment. The concept of felt sense is at the heart of Gendlin’s contribution. It provides us with a wide array of powerful clinical movements in psychotherapy and thinking and creative theoretical directions.

Facilitating what Gendlin calls a “coming from underneath” often requires not only an open receptivity on the part of the therapist, but an active pursuing of what is peeking up through the cracks of the conversation. . After taking in the whole of what is being communicated to me, I enter into the music behind the words and try to catch the subtleties of its meanings, message and tone. I find my way into the implicit “feeling level” of the client and call to it through my responses. I pay close attention to the particularity of the key words that my client uses – the words that are feelingful, poignant and particular. I often use these words in my responses. Some words seem to be a handle or title of the whole feeling state or situation. (I might ask; “Is … a name for this whole thing?”)  After recognizing a window into implicit experience, we want to enter it – catch hold of it, facilitate its opening. A reflection will often do this. A reflective response can be an articulation of the essence of what the client is expressing, or an expansion, a furthering, of the felt meaning of what is being communicated. It is both receptive and also engaging – pointing to the more that is underneath.

We look for what is not clear and finished in what the client says. This fuzzy, perhaps contradictory strand is an opening into the complexity of implicit experience. This unclear dimension points to “the larger realm at the edge of thinking”. To find this edge we have to navigate the vulnerability of what Gendlin refers to as “the murky zone” – a kind of intriguing confusion, pregnant with felt but unnamed meaning, where the known (conscious) and the unknown (non conscious) meet. We find this edge in what is “implicit.” This kind of implied is an open, not yet fully formed “more”. It can develop in enumerable directions but each “right” direction will have the felt “ring of truth” to it.

The implicit more than can be said is sensed rather than thought. It comes as a visceral aura, a “mood” that is recognized by its palpable feel. As we sense into the more of the client’s communication, we listen for openings into the larger realm, the “unthought known” (Christopher Bolas). These openings can be recognized by fresh unpackaged language or particularly feelingful words – sometimes called fire engine words. We look for nonverbal signals (such as gestures, changes in tone or expression, etc.). Images and metaphors are particularly important windows because they are like border towns; they speak both the language of the implicit and the language of the explicit. We can grab hold of an image or metaphor and draw it out finding symbols for the implicit intricacy.

We can call attention to the intricacy of the client’s experience by referring to it in the most general terms; there is something that…This points to the felt sense and also helps to find the right distance from the experience. It is not all of the client – the client doesn’t have to drown in it or even identify with it. There is the one sensing into and also there is “it”. This “it” is not the clear content of the issue at hand. It is barely known but felt. The therapist might say, “There is something that is still worried even though you know it’s all okay.” This “it” or “something” is often also a “someone” The personification of the felt sense helps to make a relationship with it - to warm up to it, and find some empathy for it. I often invite what Gendlin calls “the client’s client” – the inner person – the until now inchoate voice.

We facilitate a bodily attention to what is trying to emerge by paying attention to what is viscerally felt in the room in the moment. For some clients it is helpful to call attention to the “bodily” nature of implicit experience. Gendlin says to his client “Is all of that here now?” pointing to his chest. For other clients, however, attention to the body is confusing and off putting. There is always a visceral component to felt experience, but that aspect of it is not always in awareness. Some clients notice the sense of energy in the room rather than a physical feeling in their body. I like to use the word palpable rather than bodily because this word is not confused with a purely physical sensation.
We pay special attention to a pause in the process. The therapist pays close attention to those moments when the client stops speaking and seems to attend inwardly to what is there. Often what comes next is a deeper connection to what is unfolding. At times the client is lost or disconnected and we want to watch carefully to distinguish a process pause from a stuck pause. We encourage this visceral sensing of what is there, what needs to come next, or what is in the way, by allowing a silence or suggesting one. These are unintrusive focusing suggestions. (i.e.: “Can we give that a moment?”)

8. TRYING TENTATIVE DIRECTIONS to see if they will further the process
These can include an evocative reflection, a question, an interpretation, a personal expression, a metaphor or image. I might say to the client who feels that he is a mistake, “I am remembering the dream you talked about where you were trying to crash the party – You were the only one without an invitation” or “There is no welcome for you in this world.” Then I listen carefully to see how the client or more precisely, the felt sense of the client or the “client’s client,” is impacted by my statement.

9. CHECKING what either of us is saying against the bodily resonance.
My client might say, “Well it’s not that I am a mistake, it is more like my life has been a mistake.” Then even though he has just said that he is a mistake that “wasn’t right.” And the forward edge is in “my life has been a mistake.” I encourage my clients to check both directly and indirectly I may say, “Can you see if that is right?” Or, “Is it like that?” Or perhaps I will give a couple of alternatives. This compass of checking gives me a great deal of freedom as a therapist. Gendlin says, “You can do anything and then come back to listening.” With this safeguard I can be freer as a therapist – a joke, a hunch, a self-expression, and interpretation, a confrontation, knowing that I will then carefully listen to the next communication both verbal and non-verbal, of my client. Whatever comes next in “that place” in my client, we must follow.

10. MARKING THE FELT SHIFT – the micro moment of change
The satisfying moments of aliveness and palpable recognition, the sense of felt connection and meaning must be received marked and named. Gendlin gives the example of someone playing the lottery – buying a ticket and when it doesn’t win tossing it away and buying another one. Finally he hands in the ticket that does have the winning number and throws it away. What a silly loss not to cash it in and get the reward. We as therapists often ignore the precious moment when something that has been sought actually happens – the client is touched. Something has moved. Instead of going on to the next thought, this shift must be cashed in, recognized, elaborated, and celebrated in some way.

A Relational Emphasis in Focusing Oriented Guidelines

1. PRESENCE – the quality of “being with”
Being with what is inside is inseparable from its relational context. When I “go inside” I don’t find a pristine me, I find a me embedded in my world with you. The therapeutic relationship is more than what is being said. It is a live, evolving being together. I want my way of being present to each particular person to be a fertile soil in which our garden can grow. I tell my beginning supervisees, “If you allow yourself to fully enjoy each client, a therapeutic relationship will grow.” Every relationship is unique and has its own path of development—its own style, rhythms, rituals and vicissitudes. Being present requires me to be open to each person’s way of connecting, ready as a good dance partner to come in quite close or allow space, to flow from feisty engagement to tender, quiet listening - from welcoming the stories that want to be told to me, to encouraging the slower pace of focusing reflection.

We want to welcome and receive as many strands of the implicit relational intricacy of our interaction as we can. This entails listening and responding on two levels at once – the level of the issue or theme and the level of how and what we are living together in the moment. Embedded in these strands are the “hope for a new beginning” – longings for the kind of relational experience that can unlock stuck interactional dynamics and enable growth and healing to occur. I also listen for the strands of “dread to repeat.” – The fearful protective warning signals that are the other side of the coin of hope. I listen for the voice behind the voice – the one just out of awareness who may be saying “I wish she would notice me even though I’m hiding.” Or, “She seems like a real phony just now. How can I trust her?” If these implicit needs and reactions to me are “on my wavelength, they can more easily in our verbal interaction. My task is to notice and to welcome positive, negative and conflicted feelings. Sometimes I respond directly to these and other times am informed by the relational felt sense in the moment but leave this dimension unspoken.

As a relational focusing oriented psychotherapist, I always have my feelers out for the implicit relational intricacy of the therapeutic interaction. I want to take in through my body sense, the rich complexity of my experience of our interaction and also my sense of the client’s experience of me and of our togetherness. My client says, “I don’t have anything to talk about today.” I look for the relational sense of that communication in that moment. Does it feel shut down or discouraged? Protective? Angry? Perhaps he feels I’m not interested. I ask, “What is the quality of that ‘nothing?’” He responds, “It’s sort of like, what’s the use? – I keep saying the same things week after week.” I invite the relational dimension; “as if maybe I don’t want to hear it anymore.” He replies “No it’s not that. It’s that I’m discouraged that nothing is changing.” Or, “My wife is sick of hearing about it. So I think you must be too.” Or, “Well you seemed a little tired last week.” With this last statement, we would clearly be on a relational track.

There is always a great deal that we know and a great deal we don’t know about the many strands of interaction that we are living. The unclear edge of the relationship – the horizon line between conscious and unconscious is the place where implicit relational meanings are poised on the brink of awareness. As we “make a something,” we can “make an us,” bringing the unclear relational edge into view. “There seems to be a tension between us as we talk about this. Does it seem like that to you?” “Something between us seemed to come alive when you said that.” “We seem to have some kind of trouble talking about this together.” This something refers to a palpable sense in the room that is not yet formed but can become “the something” of our attention. At times it is best not to explicate the relational bans – we sense that it is too hot, too fragile or perhaps a distraction from where the energy is flowing.

There is always a relational edge to the felt sense of any situation or self state. Being alert to signs of implicit relational intricacy is a vital part of developing the therapeutic relationship—“the new us.” Every moment is thick with implicit relational meanings, concerns and strivings. As we attune ourselves to the underneath or barely spoken relational messages, we become sensitized to the complexities of the therapeutic dance as it unfolds. We become aware that our bodies are not contained within the walls of our skin, but extend out to include the other—the relational field. We respond implicitly to the relational movements of the other often without conscious attention. (We lean forward, we speak louder, we become self-conscious, bolder, more animated, softer). As we learn to attend to this dimension of experience, however, we can use our focusing skills to sense into what is needed, evoked and enacted. We learn to recognize implicit signals of relational strivings in the quality of a look, a gesture—in both indirect references as well as direct, explicit expressions. These windows into what we are living together as well as what we are saying to each other must be welcomed and responded to. Sometimes an explicit, direct response is most needed and at other times an implicit, unverbalized response is called for.

I want to invite what Gendlin calls “the client’s client” – the inner person – the until now inchoate voice – the one pounding on the rock from inside of the cave. We might call this the implicit self. A central goal of therapy is to help people to make a better relationship with themselves. So much of the suffering we deal with in our clients and in ourselves has to do with self hatred, self alienation, self neglect, and what we call “low self esteem”. We can think of individual therapy as always involving couple therapy (the relationship of the self to the self) It is not enough, however to try to help the client to get to know, understand and care for themselves. We as therapists must first make a relationship with this “problematic self. We have to see him or her before the client does and make a place in ourselves and in the therapy for the implicit self.

We want to attend to the visceral experience of how the relationship is living in us in the moment and not only to the content of how we are talking about it. Gene points out that what we register in our bodies is not what we are saying, as much as it is what is actually happening in the interaction.  The pause has the potential to facilitate a bodily attention to what is trying to emerge. It can be incredibly helpful, especially in a heated interaction, to stop the action and take a moment to “go inside” and see what’s there. We as therapists can support ourselves and model this for the client.

I try out tentative directions to see if they can lead to a furthering of the relationship. These can include an evocative reflection, a question, an interpretation, a personal expression, a metaphor or image. I might say, “What does ‘that’ need from me right now?” “How was it when I said…” “How can we make this whole thing different?”

I encourage my client to check what either of us is saying against the bodily knowing. This checking is particularly important in talking about “the us.” If for example, I were to say, “It seems like there is some tension here,” I want to be very careful to check how my client is experiencing what I am pointing to. Perhaps the client will say, “Well, I don’t feel any tension. I am a little restless….” Of course my “suggesting” the possibility of tension introduces my side of a relational felt sense. Talking about the relationship requires the back and forth not only of the two people involved, but the two people and each of their individual experience.

The moment of “ah” – the experience of clicking into place that occurs when the felt sense has been symbolized and carried forward changes not only the individual experience of the client, but also the relational field, the quality of “togetherness.” As the experience within us shifts, the experience between us also shifts, even when what is being discussed does not concern the therapy relationship. When the therapy relationship is the subject of conversation, it is often important to acknowledge the accomplishment and development that comes with this shift. “That last thing that we talked about seemed to make a real difference for us. Does it seem like that to you?” “How would you talk about what I am calling ‘a difference’?”


Awareness of “implicit relational intricacy” IRI
Listening for the “saying” as well as the doing. What is the relational subtext of the process? What is being called for, enacted, warded off?

Listening for, recognizing, welcoming, and validating deep relational needs and longings and the vulnerability and dread that often accompanies such needs.
Growing in comfort with being the representative of “The hole big everything” both living in the personal relatedness of it being about me and at the same time it being about much more than me.

Being open to, drawing out, explicating and negotiating one’s own needs and the moment to moment needs of the client in the therapeutic unfolding of the give and take of relatedness - the pulls and pushes of implicit as well as explicit “living” together. Issues such as boundaries, self disclosure, schedule, and fees are specific manifestations of this dance.

Learning to trust ones ability to find the right words and images to introduce the you and me and also the “we” of the interaction. This includes not only dealing with problems, disruptions and ruptures, but also articulating the developing journey of connectedness. This process is often a sequence of risk taking, attunement and trust building.

(A) Learning to use a “yes, and” rather than “yes, but” response.
(B) Playing off of whatever the client presents and moving it one step further and giving it back.
(C) Trusting the “coming from underneath” in the immediacy of therapeutic engagement.
(D) Leaning into the difficult interaction.

Becoming aware of the “doing” in the “saying.” Learning to recognize what is being played out in therapy – the dynamic system encompassing the client’s organization of experience and its intersection with the therapist’s experiencing patterns.

In partnership the therapist asks, “ How are you right now here with me?’ The client focuses and then notices if there are aspects of what comes that are uncomfortable or don’t feel alright to say. The client does not share these but looks inside and asks, “What would need to happen for this to be sharable between us?” The therapist then asks, “How are you experiencing me right now?” The client focuses and then notices if there are aspects of what comes that are uncomfortable or don’t feel alright to say. The client does not share these but looks inside and asks, “What would need to happen for this to be sharable between us?” The therapist then asks, “What is the felt sense of US right now?” The client focuses and then notices if there are aspects of what comes that are uncomfortable or don’t feel alright to say. The client does not share these but looks inside and asks, “What would need to happen for this to be sharable between us? This process is for the purpose of becoming aware of the IMI in each moment not to actually work out the relationship right then.


Focusing is…the murky edge” with Gene Gendlin, Focusing Institute Summer School, Garrison, NY 2006

“Mystery, I, Philosophy” with Gene Gendlin, Focusing Institute Summer School, Garrison, NY 2006

“Implicit Intricacy” with Gene Gendlin, Focusing Institute Summer School, Garrison, NY 2006

“Focusing Conversation” with Lynn Preston and Serge Prengel, April 2009