The power of empathy: how being heard calms the body.

For a while now I have been pondering how Focusing differs from Mindfulness and for me one of the key factors is the place of an empathic listener when we practice Focusing in pairs. This relationship with a companion or listener changes the whole process for me. There is a lot that happens in the interaction that changes the process so what I write next is about just one aspect of that.

It starts with this question, why does the presence of another matter and what do they bring to the relationship?

In 2013, I was lucky enough to be present at a day conference with Stephen Porges, a psychiatrist and researcher at the University of North Carolina. His studies on the nervous system are well known in Somatic Experiencing and other trauma healing disciplines. His model, the polyvagal theory has many dimensions to it but one essential aspect is what he calls the "social engagement system" - in essence this is all about how our safety is regulated by interaction with others.