I have volunteered to work with Afghan refugees for three years now. One of my clients came to me, three years after I first worked with him, and said, “I’m OK now. I have a good relationship with my family members. I’m enjoying my work. I help my wife and children in their activities, and also go to the gatherings of our relatives. I feel better. Coming here to you and getting your good advice has given me a new life, especially Focusing.” Then he added that he wanted to continue our relation- ship and continue Focusing with my guidance. He said, “Focusing gives me more confidence and shows me the way of a happy life.”
I became a Focusing Trainer in 2006 and was taught by Dr. Pat Omidian when we were both working for the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) in Afghanistan. When I came to England in 2015, myself a refugee, I began volunteering for Paiwand Afghan Association one night per week. I work one-on-one with two or three clients per night and usually see each one only four or five times. Yet even this small amount can make a difference.
For instance, one client said, in effect, “I was in a bad situation and felt I was dying. I lost everything because of my digestive and psychological problems. I couldn’t find anyone to help me, not to give me money, but to give emotional support. When I find you, you are a good listener to my problems and you feel my sense from inside. Now I’m able to tell my problems and share with you. The practice you did with me, especially Focusing, helps me know the reality of life. Now I can speak with all my inner guests. All things happening with me are part of my life and my body.”
I find that all my clients need the ability to communicate better, especially with their families. I tell them that in order to communicate well with their families, they need to communicate well with themselves. Most Afghans have memories of violence, war and fighting from back home. They may be good fighters, but they are not good at listening and speaking nicely with each other. I start out my session by having them listen to what they’ve said, listen to their whole body from inside them- selves. I tell them that everything coming to them, all the feelings and emotions, are part their lives and their bodies. “They need your attention and they want to help you if you can accept them,” I say. Then I ask them to listen to how they are feeling inside. I teach them to pause before they speak.
Most of my clients are adults with jobs and families. They are busy and don’t have much time. Most come once a week, or every two weeks. So, I make short lessons for them. I connect the Focusing practice I am doing to their Islamic faith. Then they understand easily.
Most Afghans are quite religious, so they like the idea of taking time to be with themselves in order to listen to themselves and to God. I usually bring in Rumi’s poem about each person being a ‘guest house’ where everyday new guests are coming and the old are leaving. Rumi was Sufi, which means he believed in spiritual connecting. I teach them Guest House Focusing (See Reaching Resilience, Activity 6), and explain that Rumi also believed that all parts of a human being make one body and if one part of the body is ill or uncomfortable, then the whole body will be ill or uncomfortable.
In the clients’ first session, I use an activity I call “Drawing Yourself”. It helps me get to know them quickly and starts them talking about themselves. At the start, most of them say their life is full of problems and sad- ness, but after the activity they feel much happier. They sometimes say, “We didn’t know we had this much happiness in our lives and our bodies, and God (Allah) has given us a divine blessing.”
(Note: Mateen’s activity “Drawing Yourself” is available in the full e-Journal, which is available to you for a donation of any amount. Please click here to donate.)
I use the exercise of Green Stick and Dry Stick to show resilience (See *Reaching Resilience, Activity 9A). People who are like the Green Stick have the ability to return to normal life; people who are like the Dry Stick don’t accept feelings and emotions as guests or as part of their lives. They can’t return to normal. They will be broken and lose everything. I show them these two sticks and ask them to give some examples in their own lives.
I also do Pat’s activity on Balancing your Blessings and being grateful for what you have. (see *Reaching Resilience, Activity 10A)
There are many kinds of Focusing practice. This article refers to an adaptation of Inner Relationship Focusing (Ann Weiser Cornell and Barbara McGavin) which Nina Joy Lawrence and Pat Omidian named Guesthouse Focusing.
*For more information, see Reaching Resilience: A Training Manual for Community Wellness, which is published by Focusing Initiatives International, and is available by clicking here.