Sensing the dialogic field


by Eelco de Geus




Not knowing is nearest… 

(Zen saying) 


Dialogue means to me, to be in relationship and finding new meaning through it. Be it in relationship with ourselves, our inner parts, in relationship to other people, or in relationship to our environment.


When we open up, listen to what is being spoken, and authentically bring in our own voice, we enter a field of resonance. It is a field, that is not you, it is not me. It is not me or that… it is a field, that holds and includes us both, arises in the space between you and me and between us and our environment. We are both part of this field, you, me and the environment. Something arises between us, that is unique and new, and when we open up and allow ourselves to be touched by this ‘in between’, it affects us. As soon as we enter this dialogic field, we are changed by it, and it moves us, like a wave of the sea moves us when we surrender to it. Or like a piece of music that moves our heart. And in the same way this dialogic field is changed by us. The voice we bring in, the song we sing, with our whole being, shapes the dialogic field and changes all the parts in it. As Eugene Gendlin (Focusing) expresses so beautifully:


„How you are when you affect me is already affected by me. 
And not by me as I usually am, but by me as I occur with you” 


Getting access

We access this field of resonance, in which new meaning can occur, through dialogue: when we slow down, when we listen carefully, when we are being heard, when we can speak from our hearts. We open the space between us, when we suspend our judgements and respect and hold the different positions in the field. Holding that space together, that dialogical field, with all its diversity, creates a field of resonance, that affects and moves us together.



When we engage into dialogue, we cannot know in advance how this field will feel or look like. It differs from moment to moment, from person to person, from group to group. It depends on the place where we are, the themes we are addressing and what we want to get done together. It depends on the timeframe we have, the pressure we might be under, on how we can count on our relationships or how fragile they are. It depends on the way our personal intention merge into a common intention and to which extend we are able to get that intention clear. It depends on how free we feel to express ourselves, how alive we can be. But when we get together, there is always a potential for that specific field, to move in a certain direction; something that wants to happen, that wants to evolve or wants to become clear. From that perspective a field is always ‘pregnant’, waiting for something to be born, to become possible. It is a moving field, and when we keep it open, the movement, the next step will surface, sooner or later.

When we are sensing the field, we consciously open up for this implicit potential of this field; What wants to happen here? What is implicitly wanting to become possible here?


Sensing the field

Of course, we are always part of many fields and sensing into them automatically, because we are an undivided part of it.  We cannot do something else, for we are relational beings, not only outward, but also inward; our own body is a field of elements interacting with each other, and how we feel is a direct expression of that. So, sensing the fields, inward and outward, is an ongoing, mostly unconscious process.  If we want to move freely in relational fields, it helps to raise our awareness about it. And if we want to facilitate and lead groups it helps when we find words for it, name it, so that we can share our experience and help group process get more aware about itself. Then the implicit potential, that what wants to happen in this field, can show itself, become explicit and carry the dialogue forward.


Using your body as an instrument

Although we perceive our body’s more less as being separated from its environment, we are all part of it all the time. We sense the field through our body, because our body ís the field.
Eugene Gendlin formulates this beautifully in his ‘process model’:


The body IS an interaction process with the environment and therefore the body IS its situations. The body isn’t just a sealed thing here, with an external situation over there, which it merely interprets. Rather, even before we think and speak, the living body is already one interaction process with its situation. The situation is not out there, nor inside. The external ‘things’ and the subjective ‘entities’ are derived from one single life-interaction process.



With our eyes and ears, we notice and register what is happening concretely in the field: We notice ourselves and others, the environment, things, colours, the themes we talk about, the words that are being spoken. We see how the dialogue is being facilitated, the characteristics of the people, the history of the group, the rules we are following, the steps that are taken, etcetera. We see the different positions and perspectives in the group. We can also see why we are together, what the intention for our gathering is. It is an important information-gathering aspect of our sensing into the field process.



Especially with our body, we feel the atmosphere in the group, we may have personal feelings, are touched by some words more than other. We feel into how other people might feel, what we avoid talking about, what is being expressed and being withhold. We sense emotions, whishes, needs, that are part of this group and part of this field. And though they might be our very personal feelings and emotions too, we can also trust, that most of the time they reflect also something important within the group. It can be something that wants to be seen, something that cannot be integrated or respected, or it can also be something that wants to be recognized, like a hope, a vision or a certain power to move.


Let the universe move you

It is my experience, that most of the time, after consciously seeing and sensing, it is not so, that we have immediately a sense of what is needed or what is wanting to happen here.  I am often not clear about myself, or about the group process and what might be a helpful intervention or step in the group process. Generally, I enter some space that Eugene Gendlin would call ‘a murky edge’; a space in between what is and what wants to become.  It can be a place that is unclear, sometimes inconvenient, it can be a place of silence, where are no names yet, cannot be defined in anyway. Dwelling in this liminal space is an opportunity for something new and creative to surface.  We enter this liminal space by dropping what we have seen, and we have felt, and let go of it. We just move our experience in a dreamier state, loosen and soften our focus, move out of it, go out in nature, meditate, or just do something completely different. Sleeping things over is a wonderful way to dwell fully in liminal spaces, and to surrender to what wants to become clear, what wants to happen. Sooner or later a next step, an idea, a possibility, will come forth out of it, sometimes in the most unexpected ways.




The liminal space is the space

that lies between the known and the unknown

It is a transitional space of heightened intensity

that we experience when we traverse

the threshold of the creative unknown



Eelco de Geus, June 2020










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