A Life in Crisis Explored: Combining Focusing with the Alexander Technique

As a follow-up to my article entitled, “Wholebody Focusing — In Everyday Living”, published in The Focusing Connection in November 2000, I would like to offer an example of how Wholebody Focusing has helped my partner Paul Huschilt at a very critical moment in his life. This is a part of a much larger article soon to be published on Wholebody Focusing and The Alexander Technique, which explores how the two together have worked so well for me.

This is the remarkable story of Paul, a man suddenly confronted with a life crisis similar to a crisis we may have all faced.

For some time Paul had been diagnosed with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. This is a condition where the median nerve in the wrist is being pinched in the carpal tunnel and this causes the symptoms. Such a condition is often associated with pain, tingling or numbness in the thumb, index and half the ring finger. Paul had reached his limits; he couldn’t go on. He felt despair; there was nothing he felt he could do. His wrists were just too full of pain to sit at the computer one more time. He had had enough and he didn’t know what to do, where to go. His wrists felt cold, with a kind of dull aching and it felt like they couldn’t do the work he had to do.

Fortunately Wholebody Focusing was an important part of Paul’s life, in fact Wholebody Focusing was developed and expanded as it has been through Kevin McEvenue and Paul Huschilt working with one another over the last twelve years. Paul had already received all he could medically. Special braces had been designed and fitted to support his arms and wrists while typing and at night while he slept. He had been thoroughly tested for loss of strength, loss of grip, etc. The results suggested that he was in an early stage of a chronic condition that could worsen if not relieved.

On this particular day he decided to do something different than what would be considered normal. He put his worries aside, sat down and started to pay attention to himself. He paid particular attention to his wrists with a Wholebody Focusing attitude. Paul listened inwardly to the physical sensations in his wrists and allowed himself to feel that pain just as it was without the usual tendency to try to fix or judge or push away. He just listened to the pain, felt the pain and made room for the pain.

Suddenly he became aware of his gut, something very unexpected in this context. There was such a knot there in his gut, and it felt connected to the pain in his wrists. As he made room for the knot he was filled with a new wave of despair. He could see how he couldn’t work any more, couldn’t support himself the way he has, even though he hates computer work. He was reminded of how he isn’t sleeping and how it has been ten years doing work he doesn’t like. Now he can’t work, can’t even sleep. How is he going to support himself? Despair deepened as he realized that he can’t even do the work he hates to support himself and he is reminded that he has long lost the skill of doing the work he loves. Despair deepened in the realization there was nothing he could do about this; that was so clear. He felt powerless.

Again, this time he did something different, rather than drown deeper in despair he chose to accept the truth that he was powerless and that he didn’t know what to do. He decided to listen to the pain in his stomach that felt connected to his wrists, as this felt new and maybe part of a larger story. Once again he realized that he couldn’t do anything, that what was needed was beyond him, beyond his ability to make it right.

And then there came a shift in the pain itself. If it could be put into words, it felt like there was a shift from a pain that felt stuck to a pain that felt almost pleasurable although still painful. He continued to just listen and pay attention to what was there.

This must have gone on for two hours and more. And at the end of this time there was no clear resolution. He went off to work. But when he sat down at the computer he noticed his fingers were different, they seemed to be reaching out towards the keyboard. There was a kind of conscious trembling in the fingers as though they were stretching with a wisdom all their own, not his wisdom or even his consciousness. It was his fingers’ conscious wisdom. What seemed to be flowing out of his fingers was love, not the feeling of loving, but love itself. And that surprised him, he hates using computers!

In that moment he sensed a whole relationship change not only with typing at the computer, but also with people at work and the work itself. The chronic pain was gone. It was actually pleasurable to sit at the computer. It felt like all of him was doing the typing not just his fingers. It was like a dance coming from the whole of him engaged in making his fingers push down on the keys. This felt surprising and gratifying at the same time.

That night he slept. The chronic pain had dropped by about 80%. Over time he continued to have a good night’s sleep as the chronic pain disappeared completely. He stopped wearing the braces to type or at night to sleep. They didn’t feel needed; in fact, they seemed in the way of typing. They had protected him from falling back into old habit but they prevented him from moving into this new way of typing. Looking back, there hasn’t been the need for them since.

His work habits seemed to change spontaneously. He started to take breaks during his work periods. He started to smile at his co-workers, and in time developed friendships with some of them. He began to have a relationship with the computer rather than feeling smothered by it. This event happened seven years ago. Today if he works on the computer for too long, like continuously for days, he is reminded of the pain. In fact, the pain returns sharply, even more sharply than before, as a signal to stop and take a break. But it is a reminder rather than a return of a chronic condition. Paul’s experience of his wrists and how he was willing to listen to them is an excellent illustration of those special qualities inherent in the Wholebody Focusing attitude, namely:

  • A willingness to stop and attend to what is happening inwardly.
  • A willingness to make room for what is there just the way it is and the not knowing that comes, without trying to do anything.
  • A willingness to allow other parts of the body to awaken and connect up with the part in question in the context of the body as a whole.
  • A willingness to wait for and to receive what comes without judgment.
  • Letting unexpected connections happen between different body parts.
  • Letting more of his story came to the surface that supports the roots of this condition and gives it meaning.
  • Embracing a shift in his body and accepting how the pain feels very different; how it feels new and perhaps uncomfortable, as it is unfamiliar.
  • A willingness to spend time with this whole process of unfolding and connecting, without looking for any specific results.
  • Making room for and accepting the changes that came later as a complete surprise, changes not only in functioning but also in attitude. It was the attitude change that proved to be the biggest surprise, an attitude change that really expanded the quality of his life.

Kevin McEvenue – March 2002