Self-in-presence: an experiential introduction

Self-in-presence: an experiential introduction

A friend has asked me to write about “self-in-presence in plain English.” Self-in-presence is a concept from Inner Relationship Focusing. It refers to a skill or capacity, as well as an experience, that creates the conditions for physically felt inner data-wisdom-information to come into a person’s awareness.

Einstein is quoted as saying, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” Whether or not he actually said it, the idea is significant. Inner data can play an important role in taking us beyond what we already know and toward new, present-moment information that can be applied to day-to-day living. This enables us to make choices and take actions in life that are more self-connected, rather than following along with what is already known–either from socialized habits and ideas, or from our own thinking about issues and situations.

Because self-in-presence is a pre-requisite for access to this inner data or wisdom, much of the early learning in Inner Relationship Focusing attends to cultivating self-in-presence and its related inner attitudes. In this post, I’ll outline an exercise that will provide an experience of self-in-presence. It is one of the first in an Inner Relationship Focusing class. In the next part of this series, I’ll outline three of its conceptual aspects.presence

An experience of self-in-presence

Helpful hints: you might like to consider choosing a relatively mild situation, where you rate your emotions as somewhere between 3 and 5 out of 10 (where 10/10 means you are very bothered). Also, please consider writing down your responses. These two steps will enhance your learning.

1) Think of a situation that bothered you somehow.

2) Write down 1 sentence about it that includes what happened and what emotion arose. For example: “When that person cut me off in traffic this morning, I was pissed.”

3) Read the emotion part of the sentence back to yourself a time or two. For example, “I was pissed.” Take your time reading it. Maybe you might like to do it out loud.

4) Take a moment to notice what’s happening with your thoughts, emotions, energy level, breathing and body sensations. You might like to write these observations down.

5) Rewrite your sentence adding the words “I’m noticing.” For example, “I’m noticing I’m pissed.” Read your sentence to yourself slowly.

6) Take a moment to notice what’s happening with your thoughts, emotions, energy level, breathing and body sensations. You might like to write these observations down. Notice what, if anything, is different or new compared to what you noticed in step 4.

7) Rewrite your sentence again, this time adding the phrase “something in me.” For example, “I’m noticing something in me is feeling pissed.” Read it to yourself slowly. Place an emphasis on the word “something.” For example, “I’m noticing something in me is feeling pissed.”

8) Take a moment to notice what’s happening with your thoughts, emotions, energy level, breathing and body sensations. You might like to write these observations down, along with anything more you are noticing now. What, if anything, is different or new compared to what you noticed in steps 4 and 6?

I invite you to post your experience and observations in the comments below. In part two, I’ll be writing more conceptually about self-in-presence and I enjoy being in conversation about actual experiences as a way to relate the concepts to real life.

17 Comments

  1. Hi Shulamit,

    It was a wonderful experience to work through your exercise. I’ve worked with the concept of self-in-presence a little, but have never done a written exercise like yours. The format you provided really helped to slow things down and allowed me to experience each step in a more thoughtful way than I have experienced before. It was really useful to stop and feel my responses so fully before moving onto the next section. Thank you.

    Reply
    • Hi Dave! I’m delighted you decided to experiment with the exercise, and very fulfilled to hear that you benefitted from it. Thanks for letting me know 🙂

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  2. An interesting and very useful exercise. I’d like to think that I’m very much present in myself, but we all have out lapses. I’ll try to remember this one for next time.

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    • Hey Linda! Thank you for your comment. I like to think I’m pretty present to myself too and sometimes I want to sit with what’s alive in me a bit more so I use this formally in time I set aside for self-connection. I use the “magic formula” of “I + am noticing + something in me” on the fly all the time. It helps me pause and self-connect before anything else. It is what makes it possible for me to be present to myself now, when, before I learned it, I didn’t have a way, because I got too overwhelmed.

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  3. This is a terrific exercise. Getting in touch with our own feelings is perhaps the most valuable thing we could do in this lifetime, and this is a great step by step procedure for doing that. It is so interesting how it gets one closer to the emotional experience by creating some distance from it. Thank you Shulamit!

    Reply
    • Reba, I love how you noticed and commented on the fact that closeness is made possible by a bit of distance, or as it could be more technically called, disidentification: when I have a way of experiencing what’s happening inside as only one aspect of my experience, and also have a way of experiencing myself as a larger witness to my experience, then I can relate to my experience with warmth and curiosity, which brings me closer. So cool! Thanks for your comment 🙂

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  4. Hi, Shulamit,
    Thanks so much for this excellent exercise! I wasn’t familiar with the concept of self-in-presence, but I’ve benefited so much from journaling as part of my inner work, and I use the concept of “noticing something in me is feeling such and such” to gain some objectivity during unruly emotions. This simple technique pulls those two together so perfectly. I’m looking forward to using it.

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    • Hey Ange, how cool that this exercise brought together two tools you already use! Isn’t it nice when we find resources that resonate with what we already know to be true or helpful? Thanks for your comment.

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  5. This is great! I try to teach this process to people but you have laid it out here so clearly that it would be easy for anyone to follow.

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    • Celia, I’m so glad to know this will be useful to you and your clients! Thanks 🙂

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  6. Thankyou for this gentle introduction to self-in-presence Shulamit! I’d never come across this before, but after following your exercise I realise it’s a great way to slow everything down, and experience more closely what it is we actually feel. This is really powerful, and gets right to the core of those challenging emotions. Thankyou!

    Reply
    • Hi Ann! Thank you for commenting. I’m very grateful to know I’ve contributed something useful.

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  7. Hi Shulamit! Well done! Being present is essential in all relationships, especially with ourselves! I call it conscious awareness or simply being present to what is right now. With our attention being pulled in so many directions, it’s helpful to have reminders about the power of presence. Blessings to you!

    Reply
  8. Love how you take such a “big” practice and make it so accessible, Shulamit. Sometimes having a simple sequence to follow opens up so, so much more.

    My favorite part of this particular sequence is the “something in me is feeling” rather than “I am feeling.” That distinction and distance helps counter the part of me that pulls toward getting caught in a story loop…and helps counter the triggers that feed a “flooding” reaction. So powerful, the shift in experience a few changes in word choice can bring…

    Reply
    • Yes, Dana, it’s ironic how a little bit of distance helps us come closer. Thanks for commenting 🙂

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  9. What a wonderful exercise Shulamit, thank you!
    I had one situation and was really pleased with the outcome of going through the steps you outlined.
    It helped me grow beyond that emotion and acknowledge that only one part of me was speaking, when there were other layers of feelings. It helped me feel more grounded and whole, more me. Definitely an exercise I’m adding to my repertoire 🙂

    Reply
    • Hi Catarina 🙂 How sweet it is to hear how you applied this exercise to a specific situation. I especially appreciate how you share your experience with “growing beyond that emotion” and seeing that there is more to your experience. I am also relishing that you said it helped you feel more whole. The intention behind the exercise is exactly that: to support folks in seeing there is more to their experiencing, to be able to connect with the whole of the situation, and feel what that’s like. We could call it an experience of transcendence, including what we sense or feel initially, and more!

      Reply

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