John F. Kennedy Top Minds: Professor Albert Wong

Closing Your Eyes to See: The Art of Focusing

Professor Albert Wong goes into detail explaining the topic of somatic psychology and how it is introduced through certain kinds of psychotherapy. He further explores the idea of hyper intellectualize and how it exists in today’s culture.

So, somatic psychology is really body-oriented psychotherapy. It kind of comes about almost in response to certain kinds of psychotherapy that really prioritize rationalism, thinking as opposed to embodiment and feeling. So it’s kind of a response to a certain kind of hyper intellectualization. You can see in our culture today that so much of our lives is spent like thinking or texting or being really just disembodied selves. And somatic psychology believes that part of discontent sometimes emerges as a result of kind of being disconnected with our bodies.

And one way back into a place of wholeness and wellness is to reconnect with our bodies, to connect again with our body’s wisdom, the knowledge that it has, and to start listening to it again.

I think the biggest clarification, just like a lot of people kind of don’t even know about it. That, like yourself, it’s like, “What does that even mean?” And I think that there’s so much richness just in the body and the interconnection of the body with the mind. I think the biggest clarification is really just getting people to wake up to the fact that our physical sensations, our body sensations are really just always present. That’s one of the core methodologies within somatics is the method called focusing. There’s a way of attending to inner experience, where you’re listening to what we call the felt sense. It’s this kind of … I don’t know if you’ve ever had this tip of the tongue feeling where you’re, kind of there’s something inside that you don’t quite know, but it’s just there. And if you just kind of listen for a little bit, kind of it comes.

Well that’s kind of the essence of the felt sense, and kind of the essence of somatic psychology. It’s starting to tune into that felt sense, these kind of inklings that emerge, kind of if we just let ourselves be open to just this vague something that wants to come out. So much of our time and our life is spent just cut off.

And it’s not easy, because we do get so busy in our lives and fixed in on autopilot sometimes. So a lot of it’s sometimes just about slowing down, like slowing down, tuning in, creating a space of listening. Kind of asking the questions that matter. Creating enough safety and space. And it’s allowing things to emerge. I think as therapists, what we want to do is try and help people learn how to be good stewards, good kind of co-journeyers with their clients, so that these really very tender, timid things that are just inklings that haven’t yet formed into words, kind of like in their newborn phase get sufficient nurturance and attention that they can actually form.

So just creating that time and creating that space for people, I think is really important. And that’s how we try and teach psychotherapy here.

I think a lot of people just are going so quickly, and then don’t even realize how fast they’re going. It’s just like the pace of life is just internet speed. And there’s so many things that draw them just clicks and going down the rabbit hole of the worldwide web. And so what does it mean to unplug? Unplug from the things that pull at us and turn inward. There’s this notion of looking inward rather than outward. And yeah, I think it’s something that we can do, but oftentimes, we don’t make the time to do it, and we really have forgotten how to just take a timeout.

I think some of it is you have to walk the talk yourself. You have to kind of create a space within yourself of spaciousness. You have to kind of create room for your own mystery, the mystery of whatever is unfolding in the space, in the moment. You have to let yourself slow down. And frequently, people start to resonate to that. They start to allow themselves to deepen, because you’re deepening yourself. And when you do that, and whether it’s with an individual or with a group, then something important and new can emerge.

Yeah, just creating space for silence, create space for things not to get cluttered in, for empty spaces out of which novelty, newness, whatever’s underneath starts to percolate out and up. That’s kind of the essence of somatic psychology. Just creating the space, allowing and trusting.

John F. Kennedy University’s Top Minds Video Series

The Top Minds series features video interviews of JFK University professors who are preeminent thinkers in cutting edge fields. From virtual reality to gender identity, housing policy to somatic psychology, these interviews feature experts speaking candidly about the work they’re best known for and make knowledge accessible and available to the public. Each installment is geared toward offering unique insight into some of the most important questions facing human society today.