There is far more than meets a reader's eye in this powerful sequel to Cornell's pioneering primer, The Power of Focusing. Along with co-creator Barbara McGavin, The Radical Acceptance of Everything ("RAE") expands and sharpens that widely read Focusing guide of ten years ago. With Ann's empathy and precision she has since substantially extended the original Focusing protocol from her mentor, Eugene Gendlin.
RAE comes as an anthology of articles, about one for each year since Ann became the first self-supporting Focusing practitioner. The articles include ones written specifically for the book, which integrate the articles into an organic whole. Radical Acceptance is the here-to-fore hidden nest of intertwining threads from which their Inner Relationship style of Focusing was woven.
RAE is also a history of her work, a reference guide for major Focusing concepts, and (to use the book title in its second sense) a radical concept of psychological change. Her material is drawn from her field work as a focusing teacher. But she is more than an excellent teacher--she's a training program developer, a linguist (more, a psycholinguist), a theory constructor, a healing facilitator, and, some would say, a contemplative scientist.
The book abounds with new technology about inner work: sensing the *living It* within ourselves, having Presence with It, acknowledging Inner Relationships, finding inner Treasure with maps to the Soul, Facilitative Listening, disidentifying with hidden parts, Standing It....
Take Standing It, a technique created with McGavin. It has a certain transcendental appeal along with its effectiveness. Standing It means giving space to two seemingly opposed parts, such as having both fear and excitement. Standing It "brings with it a special kind of grace." Yes. Yes. It was C.G. Jung who said, the transcendent functions come through when holding two contradictory feelings simultaneously.
But RAE is not a compendium of dry methodology. RAE is also a tender self disclosure of two people discovering and healing themselves through the very process they now share in their workshops. Ann shares her struggle with drinking and Barbara with suicidal bouts. There are some major transformative stories here, and yet, especially in the ever-evolving Focusing process itself.
Even without the benefit of any of the many different Focusing workshops out there, the reader can get a sense of what RAE contributes towards the meaning of healing, personal growth, and spirituality. They are clearly seen in RAE--especially in its discussion of Presence, Inner Relationship, and an otherwise unnamed philosophy of personal change, which to this reviewer is Evocative change ("Being/Allowing"), as opposed to PROvocative change ("Doing/Fixing"). Evocative change means that a change can come which is beyond our conceptualization. The underlying principle is that within our inner lives "change happens when something is fully heard."
Is RAE for non-Focusers? Yes! The skill of awareness learned in Focusing sessions is helpful in understanding the meaning of much of Ann's discussion. Still, a reader can glean some answers to some historically profound questions, say, about the self and about the body:
Is it meaningful to ask if there is "in reality" a self?, to ask if there is a true self?, if this self can be known?, and, if we know that we know it?: Yes, yes, yes, and yes. Ann parses these issues with strong philosophy and methodology. It is the real self if it is the one in Presence. It's what we think of as the observer 'I', but a particular one. It's one which turns acceptingly towards other ones--ones which are judging, resisting, and those struggling with and attempting to control. The true self turns towards these parts with the acceptance we know as Presence.
Or take the old body-mind issue. Does the body have a physical locus? No, it doesn't--at least if it's something within Focusing. Here again we see Ann's systematic precision: "We either have to say that Focusing can happen outside of the body, or we have to re-define 'body' as being something larger than a set of physio-logical processes bordered by the skin." Actually, body based solely in physiology doesn't work whether it's within Focusing or not. "In Western industrial society, the body is generally body as matter, as 'stuff,' devoid of meaning, at best a ... complex machine." Focusing would simply not be possible if that were so. As Gendlin showed with his powerful philosophy, "There is no body separate from process."
RAE will leave you in resonance about the meaning of change and the meaning of the self. The one thing that leaves me clearly dissonant is my sense of separation among so many, many users of the term, radical acceptance. It's bewildering to find in Google 707 URLs for "radical acceptance"! These are finds which -exclude- the two recent, outstanding authors on it. There seems to be no, um, acceptance of the convergent evolution of the two books--one from Buddhist tradition, and one from the tradition of Western science. Yes, it is *astounding* that the authors end up in the identical place, each from completely separate origins. But it would be so very healing for us the bewildered to see our authors embracing each other!