Anchors and Swimmers Group Focusing Salon

by | Nov 10, 2022 | Uncategorized | 0 comments


Anchors and Swimmers Focusing Salon began as a FORCE project (Focusing Oriented Relational Community Empowerment with Lynn Preston). The project was inspired by the question floating around the group at the time which was “How can we safely be vulnerable with one another when talking across differences?” The idea of FORCE was to use Focusing as a tool to depolarize viewpoints. When speaking about highly charged issues such as politics or racism we were being asked to “go underneath” our possibly usual defender and protector parts to speak from a place of vulnerability. That vulnerability might then, perhaps, enter the heartspace of a differing viewpoint holder.

One of the main differences that emerged in the group was a type of personality difference between people who preferred a more curated meeting with many set social agreements including timing and order of speaking and those who preferred a process oriented approach, a type of “see what comes” and a following of that process.  The original question was “how can we feel safe enough to be vulnerable?”. The answer from one side was “More Rules!” and the answer from the other side was “Follow the process, trust the process!”.

In response to the seeming dilemma of disagreement over process oriented vs rules oriented I came up with a group focusing exercise I called Anchors and Swimmers.

During the Anchors and Swimmers group focusing session each Swimmer/Focuser is paired with an Anchor/Reflector for the duration of the meeting. The Anchors job is to provide emotional support for their swimmer by reflecting the swimmer after each spoken expression.

A personal dilemma I was also addressing with my Anchors and Swimmers exercise was my concern that during a group discussion, even among seasoned Focusers, therapists and social workers there was, in FORCE an inconsistency in reflecting individual speakers. My wish, therefore, was to provide a safe container where reflection was not left to chance but built into the structure of the meeting. It was important to me personally that my speaking and the speaking of others was recognized and reflected and not just by the group leader. My feeling was that a lack of feeling truly heard contributed to division between group members including the “team” or group organizers.

As a freedom loving “fewer rules, free process!” individual the irony was not lost on me that as I created this tight little group dialog ship I was balancing a polarity I had in myself. I liked the idea of going deeper into group process safely. I felt that strongly anchored swimmers might be able to do so.

At the same time I was participating in the FORCE training I started taking Focusing classes from Focusing Resources, which helped me refine my listening and reflecting capacity sufficiently to begin my Anchors and Swimmers project in earnest.

Our first few Anchors and Swimmers meeting participants were 3 professional clowns, a longtime focuser a therapist and myself. My clown friends and I had recently gone into hiatus due to a challenge that had arisen around the desire for more or fewer rules for our clown meetings (!). We used the Anchors/Swimmers format to uncover deeper feelings about the use of gender pronouns and around “more rules vs more freedom”. In listening and being reflected we were able to release inner fears around loss of control on those subjects and were able to open heartfelt reception of the “other view”. It was most helpful relationally.

More Focusers joined our meetings and we discussed rules vs freedom, gender pronouns, money, covid vaccines and abortion. We had many meaningful interactions on these subjects. Gentle movement happened in the individuals present.

I would attribute the success of Anchors and Swimmers to the strongly held intent of all individuals, sincere commitment to openness and flexibility/receptivity, small group (8 or fewer) dynamics rather than a larger group, clear boundaries/ roles, a sense that I had of wanting to attract participants who cared about each other, and finally to my sense of leading the group in a “go slow” approach. I had learned in Focusing Resources Path 1 that time limits and clear rules help tremendously in creating a safe atmosphere. I also learned that within this clear structure that process surprises can (and do!) happen thus fulfilling my desire for freedom of process. I learned that a committed team of individuals can create a safe enough atmosphere to be sufficiently vulnerable to communicate across differences. I learned that strong anchors really do make strong swimmers.

In moving forward with Anchors and Swimmers my intent is to share power/leadership with group members who have thus far participated and go on to a next round of A&S starting January 2023. I feel confident that with a strong unified team we can safely hold larger groups in this process including individuals with little or no focusing experience (we had participants of this nature in every session of A &S 2022). I also believe that we could experiment with longer meetings designed to deepen our group process.