Notes on Marta Stapert’s process of
Focusing with Babies
During the 2002 Children Focusing Conference, Marta Stapert asked me to “listen to the voice of her process”
that she used when connecting with babies.
We engaged in a shared field of exploration, directing our
awareness into the ‘feel of her process’ -sensing into the nature of the shared
field between focuser and child, and allowing that to have words…..
Marta was sensing into her process from the inside.
I was not only reflecting back, but also I was sensing into my
experience of her during the conference, and some of what she had written.
What follows is how I described this on the Focusing Discussion
list, with newer commentary from 2014 in brackets [ ]:
“On the last day of the conference, some of our focusing time
was directed towards 'sensing into' what is occurring when a listener is
listening/focusing with babies.
We explored this as
listeners, as practitioners, and as ‘felt-sensing observers’ into the process.
We began with wanting to understand:
foundational in us around the felt sense and focusing?
Where does this
foundation with listening/focusing with children and babies start?
How can we understand
this more deeply?"
A few of the threads that were included in this were:
-Marta's experience of
her own process listening and working with babies and children.
-My sense of Marta's
process that I picked up during her demonstrations and presentations at the
-Marta’s article [in
'The Focusing Connection'] describing some of what she and others are doing
with babies in Romania.
-A comment Marta made
months ago about 'the felt sense as a VERB'.
-Ann Weiser Cornell's
comment that "in a way, it seems that the baby IS the felt sense."
(While Marta’s process with babies, and her ‘sensing into’ her
own focusing process was key in articulating what follows, we wanted to be
clear that what follows applies to focusing with children or
babies IN GENERAL. We used what we knew and “what Marta does” as
an ‘INSTANCE’ of the process of listening to children and babies that ANY good
1) Thread One – the
nature of the baby’s felt-sensing.
The felt sense has a conviction of its own, a knowing.
SOMETHING is already there, in/with the baby.
This something is …. ???
Is it a felt sense?
(Hmm, not sure if ANY noun works here to describe this. Maybe it
is not a thing.
How about a verb?)
Yes. THE BABY IS ALREADY
There is something here about the fact that the baby is felt
sensing, that FELT-SENSING IS AN ASPECT OF THE BABY'S NATURE.
The listener can 'sense that'/attune to that/ 'pick that up' and
be with it.
[now, in 2014, I might
not say that the baby is felt-sensing, because I have no way to know that.
Given what is known now about social resonance circuity, I might say “the baby
has an energetic nature, is living energetically. The listener can attune to
some of those frequencies and connect energetically with the energy system of
The baby's felt sensing involves BOTH transmitting (its needs
and wants) and receiving (something- from the environment or from the
When we sense into what is happening in the listener, there are:
a) Receptive qualities of love.
A warm welcoming acceptance, and a highly attuned sensitivity
(receptive qualities of attention) to the nature and needs of the baby
b) and, transmitted qualities of love (expressions of
warmth/love/energy from the listener towards the baby.)
Something is happening WHEN THE BABY IS HELD IN AN ATTENTIONAL
EMBRACE by the listener.
When the baby is "held in that energy space", THE BABY
CAN SENSE THAT SHE IS 'BEING HELD' in this way.
There is something very nourishing and life-giving that happens
in the baby from:
- The healing and nourishing that is implicit in being embraced
in this way - being 'fed' this loving care.
- When the baby registers,
or recognizes, that she is being embraced in this way.
Either/each/ both of these
recognitions can be experienced as felt shifts in the baby.
[since this was
written, I have read Winnicott, and have personally
experienced what it is like for an infant part of me to first connect
interpersonally with the mother in a few Focusing sessions. I even more
strongly agree with the above statements in 2014, than before.]
2) Thread Two. What
actually happens energetically and attentionally
within the baby, and between baby and listener.
The baby’s wanting involves a significant amount of her life
energy and attention. Often, what is wanted is not something she can get for
herself, but needs sensitivity and assistance.
The listener may be able to tune-into what the baby is feeling
In this listening, THE BABY IS BECOMING PART OF A FIELD (not
only a separate thing from the listener; but there is also a shared field). THE
LISTENER CONNECTS WITH THE FIELD OF THE BABY.
Something can happen between the two of them because of the shared
field (there are links formed between felt and cognitive processing, and
the link between two beings).
When this sort of thing happens, we sometimes feel a larger
presence in the interactive field.
When this larger presence is there, we KNOW that it is there.
The Focusing attitude works on all sorts of levels.
The listener can be the loving attention and 'be with' the baby
(as being and/or as felt sense):
a) THE UNIT OF LISTENER-BABY BECOMES ONE JOINED SENSING SYSTEM
b) And, there is a supportive loving holding space/ field AROUND
that joined system, which is holding, protecting, nurturing it.
There is BOTH connection AND protection/safety happening in this
All of what is being described above seems to be some of the
MOVEMENTS OF LIFE at an energetic/felt-sensing level.
3) Thread Three -
working with what is happening before and after a felt shift in the child.
What is the role of the listener and articulation - how does it
help the baby, and what role does the listener play?
Something about 'life wanting to be known.'
Something is already FELT, it is "implicit", but it is
wanting to be known in a different way, in a way of 'more'.
The listener plays a key role in this process.
There is something in the baby that is 'wanting to be known/
But the baby doesn't yet 'know' what that is.
The baby has an idea or a need - something that wants to be
Our caring and listening facilitates that process.
Something INSIDE the baby WANTS TO BE "KNOWN".
And IN THE LISTENING, WE TOUCH THIS PLACE in the baby.
The baby FEELS, she doesn't "know' yet. She does not have
The listener provides the space and the sensing into (attuned
conscious awareness) SO THAT THE BABY CAN BE MET ON THE LEVEL THAT THE BABY IS
This increased space and capacity for conscious articulation (as
in all Focusing) facilitate life-forward movement.
It is not the listener’s knowing, but the listener TOUCHING
THE BABY'S KNOWING that is at the core of this.
LISTENING IS THE BRIDGE to articulation.
It gives space and a voice to 'what is wanting to come.'
There is a linking of 2 places - now they are no longer
experienced as separate.
For example (from The Focusing Connection
article about Marta with Romanian infants) realizing that 'the mouth needs to
The baby can be met with that knowing.
Any words THAT CONNECT to the baby’s experiencing would be ok.
(Marta didn't have to use
English words to reflect, could have been in any language)
When there are the “WRONG words” (when the words are NOT an
expression of/ connected with felt experiencing moving forward in some form),
the felt cannot become known.
JUST THAT LINKING IN ITSELF is profoundly healing in some way,
when this occurs within the space of a deep understanding.
Some further thinking about levels of connection and need of the
babies. This came from adapting Gene Gendlin’s stages
of listening and helping someone focus from the chapter called “The Listening
Manual” at the end of his Focusing book:
Perhaps some babies, or
(certain aspects of some babies), ARE 'NATURALLY CONNECTED’ in this way, just
as some of Gendlin's therapy clients were.
In these situations, simply offering the baby a safe space and
listening presence may be enough for the baby to 'shift' and more forward on her
? Some babies might need
more help to CONNECT WITH THEMSELVES. Just like some adults need help with felt
listener's sensitive receptivity can build a bridge, and 'energetic link' to
the baby. The listener can assist in the connecting of the baby to herself, or
to some ‘understanding’ of what is wanting to come forward.
3) Some babies MAY NEED HELP IN “ARTICULATING” what comes.
By linking up the listener's awareness and cognition with the
babies felt sensing, the baby's life forward movement/felt shifting is
To say the upper few sentences again in another way, there are a few levels on which the
listener assists in this:
A) There is the
connection in itself. Listening and connecting BUILD A BRIDGE OF CONNECTION
to the child.
B) The articulation of
the need by the listener, the finding the right words, may be associated
with a felt shift of being not only connected, but also UNDERSTOOD.
C) If something more is necessary in order to actualize
what the need is wanting, (such as making a special nipple for the child to
use), then the listener can communicate that need to others the
communication of that need to the outside world builds another
bridge of connection. (the 'word needing to
So, the ‘action’ or expression that is needed to complete the
knowing may BE word, or it may be communicated BY a word.
…in other words,
'being held' is enough.
-Sometimes one also needs
to 'be heard' - by another aspect of oneself, or by another - and that is
-And sometimes, the next
life-forward step is taking a needed action, or offering some form of needed
care TO the baby, to that which one listened to.
In these cases, this ALSO TAKING EXTERNAL ACTION is implicit in
the listening - to NOT do that could be considered 'not listening' in a way.
If you ARE already connected to your own or another's 'felt
sensing system', then ANY additional spaciousness and attention will help allow
the felt sense to unfold. (More than one listener can be
As Marta concluded with: "We need to be in the same way
with adults and with babies."