by Stuart Alpert
We are all healers at heart. Our heart and spirit want to lead us on a path to wholeness. On the way to wholeness, we are being invited by our innate deeper place of wisdom to heal our emotional and physical wounds. This path brings us home to ourselves. When we are at home with ourselves, we can more effectively aid in our client’s healing. Although I’m writing this article for psychotherapists and healers, all people can benefit from this information in order to affect their own health and healing.
When we integrate the five keys of excellence outlined in this article into our lives and into our practice, we develop a roadmap for understanding every emotional, energetic, relational and physical dis-ease and distress in ourselves and our clients. We will be able to understand the very center of our own and our client’s issues and how to guide them toward a more self-accepting, grounded and harmonious existence. Then, how to work with the intricacies of our own and our client’s process can flow from the integration of all of these five elements.
Let’s look at the five key elements that can promote emotional and physical healing and transformation. As we do this we’ll explore what produces a great psychotherapy/healing session and what we need to understand about our own and our client’s process in order to invite transformation. Remember, although this article is written for therapists and healers, it can be adapted for all people and for all relationships.
People entering therapy want something in them or in their life to change. They are looking for the cessation of suffering and the end to what they consider negative thoughts, emotions and physical discomfort. They may not know how to deal with their emotions of grief or anger, they may feel anxious and depressed, or be in chronic longing or suffering for what they feel that they need but can’t have. They may feel stuck in a negative loop with their partners, friends, or employers or feel that they can’t get out of their own way and make decisions. They may need support to live through their experience of loss or anger, their feelings of isolation or meaninglessness, or to deal with their physical tension, pain and illness.
After listening to the details of the client’s life and what they want from therapy, many therapists open the prescribed template in their minds that determines how to deal with the issue. Other therapists may struggle and automatically ask themselves, “What should I do to help my client?” In actuality, either way of approaching the client, doesn’t allow for the therapists or healer’s realness and authenticity. Authenticity is essential if you want to be a master therapist. Asking, “What do I do?” is the last question that should be asked.
Going to a prescribed way of working with a client or entertaining the “what should I do” question first, overlooks many of the factors that lead to a deep understanding of our clients and prevents the unfolding of our client’s process. It also prevents us from providing an energetic invitation to our clients that will encourage their curiosity and motivation to explore the factors that keep them stuck. The therapist’s realness and authenticity also helps our clients have understanding and compassion for whatever they feel or think.
Let’s leave the “what to do?” question for last and look at the creation of a session from the roots on up to the blossoming of excellence. What we need to focus on before the, “What do I do?” question, is:
1)…developing the ability to be intimate with our self by living each moment of a session mindfully. This means that we develop an awareness of ourselves so that we have the ability to know what we feel, sense, and intuit every moment of a session. We allow ourselves to be aware of every response we have to our client, no matter what these responses may be; happy-unhappy, involved-uninvolved, calm-agitated, engaged-bored, loving, compassionate, sad, angry, frightened, hopeless, stupid and unknowing, blank and confused, contemptuous, sexual or disgusted and turned off. You get the picture. The list is endless. Our job is to bring awareness and acceptance to all of our thoughts and feelings, not attempt to rid our self of them. We are making friends with every feeling, thought, and body reaction. In this way we are accounting for our energetic impact on the client every moment of the session. Even when we are only talking with our client about their feelings, we are recognizing that the way that we live with our thoughts and our emotions create an energy that has impact.
In this first key we are involved in the development of our professional self through the evolution of our personal self. We are developing the ability to live all of our emotions as waves of experience which we accept. We don’t block, deny or hold against any thoughts or feelings that open in us. We come to know that accepting whatever we feel leads to an open and flowing system, a way of being that is centered and grounded. Denying and fighting our feelings, being at war with ourselves, creates a denser and darker system. When we are not fully present with ourselves, we may be denying or justifying what we feel. Because of this, we are not truly present with ourselves or with our clients.
2) …being aware of the moment to moment shifts in our client’s body, energy, and emotions. As we are more attuned to the gross or subtle shifts in our own energy, senses, emotions and body experiences, we are more able to focus on the subtle shifts in our client’s emotions, energy and body at the same time. We become more attuned to how our client is absorbing or resisting our support and how open or closed they are to exploring how their defensive organization co-creates the dilemma that they are bringing to therapy. We also become increasingly aware of their unspoken emotions and attitudes, their hidden resistances, their unformed negativity and defeating energies. We can then give up working hard to get the client to give up their resistance and instead, help them see how their resistance and unformed defeating or their way of adapting, where they seem to be in agreement with us but actually are not, has been an ally in helping them survive. We need to realize that everything about our client is also inside of us. What we are unaware of in ourselves, we will be unaware of in our clients. The more that we can understand and accept all of who we are, the more that we can understand and accept our clients. Denial never occurs in only one direction.
3)…understanding the basis of all emotional, energetic, and physical issues. In this third key, we are focusing on understanding the underlying energetic, emotional, and body dynamics that create what our clients consider to be the problems that they bring to therapy. Seeing how the blocks in the client’s energy and body co-creates the dilemmas in their life, allows us to feel clearer and be more agile in each session. It also helps us work more effortlessly as our deeper understanding translates into greater appreciation for our client’s distress and less emphasis on attempting to change them. We can learn how different childhood traumas create specific dynamics and the illusions clients have about their own emotions and what is necessary for them to do, feel, or believe in order for them to feel whole. Furthermore, we become more aware that our client’s living away from ground, center, heart, and spirit is what co-creates and perpetuates their personal, relational, work related and physical issues. We can emotionally and energetically hold in our self and with our clients their lack of awareness of how their unresolved childhood traumas perpetuate their inability to resolve and heal the issues that they bring to therapy. The client’s lack of awareness also perpetuates their fears, depression, helplessness, tension, stress, and inability to co-create intimacy and love in their life. The more that we understand this paradigm the easier it is to be with our clients.
4)…understanding how transformation occurs… I especially want to credit Naomi for the parts of this section that were her original formulations about the transference of energy and matter and the nature of transformation presented in “understanding how transformation occurs.” Some of these concepts were channeled from her spirit guides. The origin of these ideas was given to Naomi during a time of Adrenal Failure that she had twenty years ago.
Quantum Physicists have discovered that Subtle Energy is the energy that connects everything in the universe. On our most fundamental level, the human mind and body is a packet of pulsating waves and particles constantly interacting with this vast energy field. Wave–particle duality is the concept that every elementary particle or quantic entity exhibits the properties of not only particles, but also waves. Therefore, waves and particles of energy are interchangeable. As Einstein postulated, matter and energy are also interchangeable.
The science of our psychotherapy is rooted in these discoveries about the Subtle Energy makeup of everything that exists, including human thought and emotion. It is at the sub-atomic, subtle level that trauma impacts us most profoundly, and it is at that level that healing needs to take place. The process of our therapy works within this world of pulsating waves and particles and allows healing to take place at the level of physical and emotional DNA. To repeat this essential point, the source of all emotions, thoughts and feelings is energy. Awareness or consciousness is also pure energy and therefore, it too is made up of waves and particles. A short hand way of expressing this is that we are conscious beings made up of molecules of awareness.
Because of having shut down elements of our consciousness as a result of childhood trauma, many of us are disconnected from this truth and live various levels of unconsciousness. Conscious or not, let’s understand the implications of the fact that we are made up of molecules of awareness. All transformation occurs when any two molecules interact with one another. An example of this is when egg and sperm come together creating new life or when molecules interact with one another producing an altogether new substance such as hydrogen and oxygen creating water. The same is true when we shine the light of our consciousness, when we bring a molecule of awareness, a moment of understanding, to whatever thought, sensation, or emotion that opens in us. As we allow ourselves to be conscious of our thoughts, sensations, or emotions, we embody acceptance, for the nature of consciousness is acceptance. There is no judgment in consciousness. When we can accept and love ourselves for whatever it is that we feel, sense, or think, transformation is immediate. It is immediate because the molecules of consciousness vibrate at a higher frequency than the dense molecules of trauma. This may seem an over simplification of a complex process. In fact, it is as simple and complex as any two molecules coming together that produce an alchemical reaction.
As therapists, we need the firsthand experience of accepting our own thoughts, emotions, or body experiences and to have experienced the immediate transformation that occurs. Also, we need to be clear about the difference between acceptance and justification. Acceptance leads to openness, warmth and wholeness, justification brings us to levels of hardness, density and rejection. When we know these experiences deeply inside of ourselves, we can then help our clients learn these simple and profound truths about the nature of transformation. Each time our clients accept whatever they are experiencing, they automatically release outdated beliefs and outdated defensive patterns. They are now fully present to themselves without judgment and therefore, feel whole. Whatever experience that they have accepted has become a part of their wholeness. They have transformed and come home to themselves.
5)…what to do. It is only after being versed in the first four keys that we activate the fifth key and relate to “what to do,” with technique. When technique emerges from the integration of the other “keys,” our knowing what to do becomes organic and creative rather than mechanical and intellectual. Then the procedures that we employ emerge from our deep place of wisdom, as we possess the ability to see the very essence of our client’s issues. We become part of a live process that we co-create with our client. How we employ the five keys is flexible, not meant to be lived hard and fast as if they are cast in stone.
Let’s return to and expand our discussion of each of the five keys and consider how they relate to one another. As this article continues, you will notice there are times that sharing our observations about our client’s relationship with their own thoughts, feelings, and body experiences, and how they are at war with themselves, in and of itself is an important part of the therapeutic process. We will also discuss the importance of practicing various techniques in order to become versed in when and how to utilize them.
As therapist, how we live within our self becomes an essential part of the therapeutic process. The more we practice the Five Keys with an open mind and open heart, the more we can utilize the various colors in our palette of possibilities. Our practice then comes from flexibility, technical understanding, and artistry.
Remember, the first key is the ability to be intimate with ourselves by living mindfully in every moment of a session.
Living mindfully is about a commitment to developing our professional self through the evolution of our personal self. We need to be engaged in a process of being intimate and accepting of every aspect of our ever-unfolding present experience. As we get to know and accept every one of our emotions, senses, body reactions and thoughts simply as waves of experience that can pass through us, we remain grounded and centered more of the time. We radiate authenticity and genuineness. Our commitment enables us to know how we feel each moment of a therapy session and to develop support to have compassion and acceptance for whatever it is that we feel and think. We understand and appreciate that there are no good or bad feelings, sensations or thoughts. All feelings, sensations and thoughts are part of the flow of life and need to be welcomed as a part of our wholeness. Without this ability to know and support all of what we feel and think, we lose ourselves and we become less embodied, as our focus is only on our client and what to do.
If we lose track of our sense of self and, therefore, are unconscious of our own experiences, we easily become fused with our clients in a counter-transferential relationship. That is, we are so focused on helping our client that we lose our sense of presence. Without the ability to ground ourselves in our own thoughts, emotions, and body experiences we often express unreal warmth and understanding. We then try too hard to take away our client’s pain, anxiety, and depression…any distress they feel. We don’t realize that our job is not to take away our client’s feelings, rather to be with our clients in whatever they feel, including their pain. In the same way that we allow all of who we are to be a part of the unfolding present, we focus on helping our clients bring consciousness and acceptance to whatever they feel or think, so that it all becomes a wave of experience that can pass through them. Focused on helping our clients only seek relief, we can become easily frustrated and controlling, or wind up being distant and uninvolved, overly tactical and technical. This constant outward focus also leads to exhaustion and burnout.
To emphasize this essential point, it is through the acceptance of all of our feelings and thoughts, we come to know that the essence of integration and wholeness is being conscious of each feeling and thought as a wave of experience rather than a concrete reality. We develop a first-hand understanding of our own process of acceptance and non-acceptance and what we need for our next step of coming home to ourselves. Our ability to truly know and accept ourselves creates the ability to deeply feel and understand our client’s emotional, energetic, and body dynamics. We then don’t have to resist any of the experiences that our client is having.
The more that we accept our own feelings and thoughts the more that we are able to understand what it is about our client that touches us in the way that it does. Without denying and blocking our feelings and thoughts or making our clients responsible for how we feel, we can ask ourselves the question, “what is it about the client that touches me, that impacts me in the way that it does?” We can ask ourselves what our thoughts, feelings and body reactions are here to tell us about our client. In being conscious of all of our feelings, we have room to understand what it is about our client that touches us in a way that we feel accepting or rejecting, open or withdrawn, happy, engaged, sad, angry, confused, blank, stupid, ineffectual, unfocused, helpless, wanting to take care of the client, cautious, sexual, fully alert, or about to fall asleep? We now have an infinite range of feelings that have become a part of the therapeutic process. By including ourselves in the interactional field we can also ask, “What is it about me that I am being touched in the way that I am?” We don’t have to feel defensive or feel that something is wrong with us since we now accept all of our feelings and experiences.
We are constantly dealing with our own and our client’s integration. Again, integration occurs as we embody all of our thoughts and feelings. In turn, embodiment occurs by bringing support to each experience so that we know in our bodies that everything that goes on inside of us is simply an experience that we can be conscious of, make room for and live into. We then don’t have to defensively organize our body to resist what we feel. This allows us to avoid living in denial of anything that we feel and think or being at war with certain feeling. We then bring acceptance and kindness to each thought and feeling. It is worth reiterating that the more that we accept and are compassionate with all of our thoughts and feelings, the more that we accept and are compassionate with our clients. We can only be aware of those aspects of our clients’ process that we see about ourselves. Where we are blind to our own trauma and how we learned to organize ourselves in relation to it, we will be blind to the same thing in our clients. To the degree that we are at war with how we feel, that we are antagonistic toward our own thoughts, feelings and body experiences, is the degree that we can’t truly accept our client’s feelings.
We are not attempting to ignore or deny any of our feelings. We are not attempting to act and live in the role of a caring and compassionate therapist. It is just the opposite. We want to be conscious of how we are being impacted so that we can look deeply into what it is that our clients are doing that impacts us in the way that it does. At the same time, we also need to understand what our experiences are here to tell us about ourselves in order to use our feelings diagnostically and, at the same time, not blame our clients our self for how we think or feel. Living in this way would be like having a constant ticker tape of self and other awareness going on inside of us that is moving us toward understanding our client and ourselves at deeper and deeper levels.
Now, we can acknowledge that we are corporal beings that absorb information through all of our senses, through our body and emotions. These primitive ways of knowing can inform us before our mind does. This is our primitive animal nature letting us know about danger and safety. We instantaneously know when to stand our ground and fight, when to run, and when to soften and open in a welcome to another.
An example of knowing and trusting our own reactions and being able to use our emotions and body reactions diagnostically can be seen when our client feels that nothing we are doing is helpful. Underlying our client’s reaction maybe a deeper, unspoken reality that they want us to save them from having to feel their trauma. If we are fused with this client’s upper level experience, that nothing we do is helpful, we might continue to try harder and feel that we must say something better and brighter; that it is solely up to us to provide the perfect intervention. If our client’s pressure energizes our own insecurity and pressure, we will eventually feel inadequate by blaming ourselves that nothing we are doing is helpful. We might remain over involved to compensate for our insecurity, become uninvolved and stuck because we don’t know how to process our feelings of helplessness, or frustrated and angry that the client isn’t growing the way we feel that they should.
Continuing with the above example, if we are conscious of how we feel and can ask ourselves “what it is about the client that touches my feeling of insecurity and pressure?” we remain conscious and supported inside of ourselves and can be aware of the client’s underlying, unexpressed “nothing is right, defeating energy.” By asking ourselves what it is about the client that is co-creating our feelings, we can realize that they are unable and or unwilling to open to their authentic expression of need and “take in” our understanding and support. By remaining unformed as the hidden expression of “save me,” we can also sense the client’s negativity and revenge that wants to make us responsible for their life.
We can see that the client won’t take anything in. They are holding us out, rather than can’t take anything in and that something is wrong with what we are providing in the therapy. Underlying their blame that we are the problem is their energy that they want someone to pay for the abuse they have suffered. They are displacing the anger that is meant for their abusive parents onto the rest of the world. For them to feel their feeling of revenge and who it’s actually directed toward, would open the client to the pain of what they didn’t receive growing up.
Furthermore, if we are open and accepting of our own feelings, we then can see how our client is still living as a victim and acting out the revenge and the unformed, unspoken desire to be saved. As we become aware of the client’s unformed, “save me” dynamic, we can deal with this central issue in a clear, open and direct manner without being judgmental. In fact, without dealing with this issue the therapy will easily become bogged down. We need to help our client experience their unformed and unspoken revenge. We don’t open these feelings to help the client give them up, rather, simply to bring awareness and acceptance to the feeling. Also, we don’t have to get into an intellectual discussion about how we can’t save the client. Instead, “save me,” is an understandable feeling that can be brought into the light and accepted. We can bring our own and our client’s consciousness to the understandable feeling of wanting to be saved thereby, accepting it simply an experience to be lived. We understand and help our client understand that anything we try to repress comes out in some distorted form. Our life force wants to express itself; it won’t be restrained. In this way the feeling of “save me” is another wave of experience that is part of our wholeness and not something that that our client or we need to get rid of.
The second key to mastery is simply deepening our awareness of the gross and subtle moment-to-moment shifts in our client’s emotions, energy, and body.
Let’s focus more deeply on how our clients are living themselves. We want to see beyond the content that our clients are sharing with us. Stories are so often a defense against experience. We need to understand what the client’s relationship is to their own thoughts, emotions and body experiences. Are they accepting or rejecting themselves? If they are rejecting, what is the nature of their rejection? For example, is it pressure or abandonment? Are they undermining whatever it is that they experience? Are they withholding their heart from themselves? Are they pulling up away from the ground and the lower half of their body? Do they dissociate as they come close to touching their emotional life? Do they intellectualize their emotions or obsess about what they feel?
We need to understand the specific moment to moment nature of the client’s internal war with themselves and how the war manifests itself in the way that they organize their body. We are always asking ourselves; “what do I see about my client’s way of living their thoughts, emotions, and body experiences? “ We want to know more than the content, the story, of what they are sharing. More importantly, and what has the potential of bringing the session to a deeper, core place, is how the client is living out their experience. We are focusing on the question of how the client feels about the way that they feel. This is the real problem. Remember, acceptance leads to transformation; rejection to remaining stuck. Therefore, once again, we are looking at the client’s relationship to their own experience.
To emphasize this point, we want to feel whether our client feel accepting and compassionate toward themselves or negative and rejecting? Are they able to take in support and caring from us for how they feel? Or on the other hand, do they keep themselves isolated even as they are talking about feeling lonely as if we aren’t actually with them? Are they pressuring themselves to be different than the way that they are? Do they want to be saved and can’t reach out and express this need? Are they intellectualizing their story and not feeling what they are saying? Are they sharing irrelevant details that take them away from the center of their experience? We want to understand how our clients are embodying their experience at any given moment.
Following what has been presented so far, we understand that in every session we can have a deep awareness of self and of our client. We still don’t have to be involved with the question, “what do I do?” With just these two key elements under our belt we have a growing our understanding of the movement of our client’s emotions and energy and a beginning understanding of how they are living themselves in a way that creates and perpetuates their dilemma. What this means is that any way that we don’t accept what we are feeling and thinking perpetuates our being away from our center and therefore, away from the experience of self-possession. We can’t resolve the issues in our lives when resolution calls for us to have the personal power to affect change. We co-create and perpetuate the problems we are faced with when we live as a victim of life and of our own internal process. However, we need to look into the meaning of the third key to understand and have perspective about what we are seeing and sensing.
Remember, the third key of excellence? It’s about our ability to make sense of our client’s emotional, energetic and body dynamics.
In being able to do this we know what creates and perpetuates the issues they are bringing to therapy. As we deepen our understanding of our client’s dynamics, we need to remain focused on our awareness of self and other. It’s important that we don’t intellectualize our client’s dynamics; rather we need to open ourselves to feeling what is going on with them. We need to bring the totally of who we are into the therapeutic process.
With this third key we are pulling apart how our clients create and perpetuate the dilemma that they are in. We are bringing a heightened awareness to how our clients live in relation to the ground, in relation to their hearts, and to their own deeper places of wisdom and spirit. Without a connection to the ground, to compassion, to inner wisdom, and spirit, our clients either feel themselves as victims of their own feelings and/or as victims of other people. They will have become hardened, over controlled and emotionally untouchable, collapsed and dense or flaccid and unformed. They may live their life as an image of how they feel they should look, rather than from any sense of authenticity. Addictions become a way of attempting to find some sense of relief and pleasure and to avoid discomfort and emotional pain. Not being supportive and emotionally backing ourselves up in relation to all of their thoughts and feelings, some form of self-destructiveness becomes the order of the day.
We have learned to defensively organize our bodies in order to cope with childhood abuse and trauma and the resultant emotional pain. We have learned to cope with and move away from the center of our sadness, loneliness, isolation, anger, and fear, as well as feelings of aliveness that weren’t validated and welcomed. Unsupported feelings create an underlying sense of impotence. Our clients will manifest their impotence either through passivity and inertia or through rigidity and control. They will feel that they don’t have the personal power to deal with their own emotions and with the vicissitudes of life. The various emotional and physical compensations that our clients use prevent them from being centered, grounded, and in connection with their heart and with spirit. The compensations also prevent a deeper sense of aliveness and intimacy. In fact, these compensations are the basis for all of the emotional and physical issues that our clients bring to therapy.
We need to appreciate that the same principles of body and emotional organization is true for us as well as for our clients. Appreciating our own humanness gives us a sense of humility so that we don’t feel superior to our clients and therefore, harden and distance ourselves from them, attempt to pressure them to give up their defensive structure or become frustrated and hopeless because we might feel inadequate.
We all co-create our own emotional, physical, and relationship issues by the way that we live in relation to the ground, to our heart and to our own connection to wisdom and spirit. We are all human…client and therapist alike. As we will see in the fourth key, transformation is possible for all of us no matter how we feel about ourselves and where we are in our process.
If we feel supported and grounded in relation to what we feel in ourselves and what we see about our clients, then what we share with our clients can come from separateness and non-attachment. If we’re living in our self from a place of honest and open connection, we won’t feel any pressure to make sure that the clients “gets someplace.” We stop trying to “fix them.” We can give up the belief that we have to help our clients be different than the way that they are. What we are doing instead, is meeting the clients “where they are.” We are bringing acceptance and compassion to their immediate experience. We are inviting our clients to be aware of their breath so that they can experience themselves more deeply by being aware of whether they are open or holding their breath. With our own feelings of self-acceptance and lack of pressure, we are bringing an energetic invitation to our clients to go deeper into their process simply by sharing what we see about them. As we live ourselves from authenticity, our energy itself impacts the session and invites our clients to embody themselves and deepen their experiences.
Living from acceptance and nonattachment, there is absolutely no pressure for our clients to get anything or be other than where they are. We are always emphasizing self-acceptance as the cornerstone of personal growth. Without any pressure on our part we’re not aligning ourselves with our clients’ victimizers that they should be different from the way that they are. In other words, we recognize that all clients have resistance and can be defensive. We learn to understand and support their resistance, rather than trying to get them through it. If we fuse with our clients’ pressure to feel better and feel that we have to develop an effective strategy of how to change them, it will only activate their own victimizing energy of pressure and inadequacy and in turn, energize their impasse and their resistance. We need to believe that our grounded, real presence is enough for transformational to occur.
We always need to be aware of the subtleties of the client’s relationship to pressure to prevent becoming aligned with it. As therapist, we are releasing ourselves from the bondage of feeling that we are “not enough.” We do this by being able to support our feeling of “not being enough.” When we support this feeling as an experience and not the truth of who we are we don’t need to act on it. We are also able to use this feeling diagnostically to further understand our client. In this way we are allowing our understanding and compassion to deepen. By living our own process with awareness and compassion, we may simply feel that we wish that our client wasn’t so stuck and bound by old, negative beliefs. Rather than the pressure and frustration we feel of caring or even being over protective. And in the same vein, we don’t have to act on feeling over protective.
Again, we do have the option of trying harder to get our clients through being stuck. Taking this road, we often wind up feeling tired and frustrated. We use too much energy trying to convince the client that there is a more effective and ultimately, satisfying way for them to live. However, rather than attempting to devise a more effective technique, we could share how we feel. The sharing would need to be real and at the same time have therapeutic value. For example, we might tell the client, “I feel sad that you’re stuck and I would love to help you feel more powerful and alive. I know that being stuck doesn’t feel good and at the same time, it is a safe way of being. I would love to surround you with a caring and supportive energy so that you can feel safe. It’s what you’ve always needed. See if whether you can take in my caring or need to hold it out.”
If, for a moment, we skip to a discussion about technique, we can say that simply sharing what we feel from separateness and non-attachment is the foundation of all masterful therapy and is a powerful tool in and of itself. We need to be clear that sharing what we see is for the client’s benefit, not for our feeling of importance or our need to discharge our own feelings. The sharing allows us to be with client in their taking in a new feeling of support and safety or helps us be with the client in their resistance.
From our non-pressured place of separateness and non-attachment, what we’re sharing can break the fusion of mutual pressure. We are just sharing ourselves and being in relationship, rather than putting all our efforts into trying to get the client to change. Therefore, everything we say becomes an experiment regarding how it is received by the client, and however the client reacts is perfect. It’s perfect in terms of the fact that it provides us with more information and understanding of our client’s process. If we don’t have to “change” the client, if we believe that everything about the client is a part of their wholeness, if we believe that meeting the client where he/she is at, is what allows for transformation, we can remain open hearted and non-attached at the same time.
There is no agenda, no goal. So far, in the first two keys to excellence, we are staying connected to ourselves and reading the client’s energy. We are also being real not being narcissistic. Our feelings shared with our clients should come from our heart not from a desire for fusion and a lack of separateness.
On the surface of things it might look as if we aren’t doing anything or it might seem that we are just “hanging out” with ourselves and with our clients. In-Depth Body Psychotherapy is a model of therapy that encourages mindfulness and non-attachment, continuing development of self, and the awareness at deeper and deeper levels of what is going on with the client. As we live from non-attachment, we see our client and all the nuances of their process more deeply. Living mindfully and being present with our client, open to all of our client’s thoughts and feelings, allows for the energy of non-attachment and holds the session in a way that invites the client’s curiosity and exploration. For example, if we understand that a client’s resistance is a carryover from a childhood where the only way that they could protest and form a ‘No” was to live in resistance, we can honor their resistance as their ally, rather than as an adversary to be gotten rid of.
Supporting and accepting the client where ever they are allows them to feel accepted for who they are. Discussing the meaning of their resistance as an unformed “no,” as a protest can help the client develop perspective about why they remain stuck and unwilling to let go. You are now supporting their right to have a formed “No,” a formed protest, rather than having to say no to everything. Having more perspective becomes an important element to self-understanding and self-acceptance. In turn, having a more formed “No” can provide more ground to stand on.
I’m being reminded of a live supervision session that I had with a student and her client in our professional training program for psychotherapists and healers. The student’s client felt that she had to know what was taking place in her session every moment. Her need to know came from her controlling, intellectual defense. The need to know in this way prevented her from softening into her body and experiencing life, rather than always thinking about life. Her need to control caused her to feel frustrated and critical with herself and with others. Given how important she felt it was to understand everything, even before it happened, she didn’t have an ability to accept any sense of the unknown or the feeling of “not knowing.” Growing up she was never supported to be a child who didn’t understand something and could be curious. She was constantly pressured to be the best and the brightest. Actually, knowing what we don’t know and accepting the experience of not knowing is an important step in all learning and allows us to be open to new learning and to new life. Then, not knowing isn’t a problem and a sign of our deficiency, rather a doorway into expansion of the magic and mystery of life.
As the client became more frustrated and angry with herself her energy backed up inside of her. She was a system on overload, fighting between her feelings wanting expression and her need to control herself and hold back her emotions. She was supercharged and began to cry hysterically. What I mean by hysterical is that although she was crying, her tears were tears of ungrounded frustration, rather than grief. Even as she cried she was attempting to control and stop her tears, therefore, her tears were stuck in the upper half of her body. She was unable to feel any satisfactory release. She couldn’t relax and support herself or take in the therapist’s support to feel her sadness support and “ground her tears.”
Typically, a therapist at this point will attempt to have the client stop pressuring them self. The paradox in this situation is that the therapist’s desire to help the client in this way often fuels the client’s pressure in that they feel pressured to not pressure them self. Trying to be in a different place other than where she was, although good intentioned, would activate her victimizer of pressure.
I advised the therapist to stop trying to be helpful and instead, to experience her client’s dilemma in her own body. I was inviting the therapist to know her client inside of herself rather than purely from a clinical and intellectual perspective. Then I prompted the therapist to share what she saw with the client. Being able to experience her client’s dilemma inside of herself she felt more understanding and compassionate. With an open heart, the therapist was then able to say; “I see how much you want to soften in your body and how much you have to stay away from yourself and not drop at the same time. I sense that you believe that if you relax and give up the pressure you won’t know who you are and how to navigate yourself in the world. You live as if no one will be there with you. I know that you bonded so deeply with your family’s pressure that you wind up feeling alone and unsupported. Actually, letting go is only going to activate all of the ways you were consumed with pressure.” You live as if pressuring yourself is safer than feeling how you were pressured as a child to be perfect. What your parents missed is that you were already perfect. As the therapist said this, the client felt calmer, she felt understood, how she was living made sense to her and she relaxed.
Before the therapist shared what she saw about her client, she was trying to figure out what the “right thing” she could do to help her client. In the therapist’s mind, the “right thing” to do was helping the client give up pressuring herself. She wanted to help her client soften, “drop further into her body sensations,” and accept her emotions. Furthermore, her intent was to help her client accept the feeling of “not knowing.” Although, these were admirable goals, she was fusing with the client’s pressure. The therapist’s pressure to be a “good therapist” was activating the client’s pressure and at the same time, the client’s resistance. Unknowingly, the therapist’s pressure was reinforcing and perpetuating the resistance and hysteria.
Experiment: Imagine that you are in a live supervisory session with me so that we can underline the importance of the first two keys to excellence. Imagine yourself as the therapist that I’m supervising. First, ask yourself what you see about your client. Tell me about how their body is organized — tight, rigid or flaccid muscles, aligned, broken or fragmented? Do the different parts of their body seem like they belong to the same person or are they disproportionate to one another? Does the client seem grounded? Do their words match their emotions? For example, are they smiling as they share some traumatic memory? What sense do you have about the client’s center of gravity? What do you see or sense about the client’s energy; such as, high and intense or low and tired? What do you see and feel in relation to how the client is responding to you physically, energetically and emotionally? For example, do they seem distant and uninvolved or are they “in your face” as if they want to devour you?
Take a breath! How do you feel about what you’re seeing? Are you aware of what you feel in terms of the client or have you lost a sense of yourself? I want to help you balance how you hold your awareness of the client and how you hold your self-awareness. We’re slowing down the pace of the session. Therefore, in slow motion, look at what you see every moment about the client and at the same time what it is like to be able to focus on yourself. How do you hold both foci? Does it seem difficult and disparate for you? You may have been taught to only focus on the client and believe that there is something with focusing on yourself. In fact, it may touch a feeling that you are doing something wrong by focusing on yourself as well as the client. Perhaps it touches an old childhood belief that you are only supposed to focus on everybody else and that focusing on yourself is selfish and narcissistic.
Actually what I’m suggesting is that we need to focus on ourselves, not in a narcissistic way, but rather in a way that supports separateness and non-attachment. In this way, you will be able to practice knowing the difference between which experiences are your clients’, which are yours, and which are happening in the interpersonal field between the two of you. Also, by feeling comfortable with your own and your client’s feelings, you will have a greater sense of when your sharing is narcissistic and self-serving and when it is therapeutic. You will also develop a greater facility of when to share yourself with a client and when not to. You will have a keener sense of when your sharing is going to add something to the client’s session and when it will detract from it because you are pulling the client’s attention to you.
There are therapies that advise us to never share anything about ourselves with the client and that sharing is invasive to the client and a loss of boundaries. That belief brings a rigid separateness into the session and this rigidity will affect the nature of the bonding experience that you will offer the client. The deeper you accept whatever it is that you are feeling and have the flexibility to share or contain your feelings, sensing how it will benefit the client, the more are aligned in ourselves. Only through self-acceptance can we come to a place in ourselves where we see the depth of our client’s process and authentically accept them. So far, in this supervision session there is no discussion about technique and “what to do.”
At any given moment we need to understand and embody the first four Keys to Excellence. The final element to integrate is learning the techniques of the therapy. All of the five elements can then take place in conjunction with one another, like various dimensions, transparencies, or puzzle pieces that fit together and form a beautiful mosaic. When we integrate the Five Keys we are integrated and work with our clients with “all of our cylinders firing.”
Again, in the fourth key to excellence we are focusing on understanding the science and the soul of transformation.
The essence of how transformation occurs is simple and elegant. It is about consciousness, acceptance, and love. In the 1970’s, Fritz Perls talked about transformation occurring the moment we bring awareness to an experience. What that means is that when we simply allow ourselves to be conscious of any feeling or thought, we’re bringing the energy of acceptance to the experience and we’re giving up resistance, and therefore, allowing our molecules to come together. As two molecules come together, like sperm and egg, transformation takes place; something new immediately begins to grow inside of us.
For example, being conscious and accepting that we are being inauthentic allows us to be more authentic and move beyond living in role layer, in the layer of unreality. The moment we bring acceptance to being stuck and to all of the different aspects of impasse, is the moment we can relax into our body and move through impasse. The moment we bring support and acceptance to death layer, the layer of childhood trauma, is the moment we move through death layer. As we live inside the experience of death layer without resisting the experience our bodies relax and we open to aliveness and to spirit. Transformation occurs through our sense of being and not doing, allowing not pressuring.
We are now engaged with the essential aspect that allows for transformation; that is, bringing the light of consciousness to any thought or feeling. For example, we can look at the feeling of hate. The moment we accept our hate as simply a feeling that we don’t have to deny, resist and be at war with is the moment we start to love ourselves. As we stop fighting and judging our hate, we realize that hate is only an experience to be lived, not a statement about who we are that is written in stone. The same is true for sadness, emotional pain, need, fear; any and all feelings and all of our thoughts.
We are now…
1)…conscious and accepting of all of our thoughts, emotions and body reactions and at the same time
2)…aware of the movement of our client’s body, energy and emotions
3)…understanding how our client’s body and energy organization creates and perpetuates their emotional issues
4)…aware of how the client’s defensive structure and their beliefs prevent transformation from occurring and what needs to be set in place for transformation to occur
At this point, let’s weave in a discussion about technique.
The fifth key, what to do.
As we have already discussed, in any given therapy session we can be present with our self and be aware of our client and not have to do anything more than share what it is that we see about them. It’s not that there aren’t many other possible interventions. However, it is worthwhile to practice simply sharing with our client our awareness of how they are organized in their body and how they relate to their emotions in a way that impacts the issue they are bringing to therapy.
We are helping them understand how their antagonistic relationship with them self affects being un-centered and ungrounded and therefore, their sense of well-being. We are letting them know that this way of being totally impacts every personal and relational issue in their lives. We know that being un-centered and ungrounded creates a lessening of personal power. A lack of personal power causes us to live more reactively to difficult situations that we are faced with rather than being able to have an intentional response. Being able to hold our ground and our center allows us to feel rooted. Uprooted, our emotions and other’s reactions are like a hurricane that we need to avoid or feel broken or overwhelmed by. Therapy is about helping our clients feel flexible even as the strong winds blow.
With this cornerstone of the work established, whatever we can learn about technique can be held like a buffet of possibilities to be called upon when the other Four Keys to Excellence are in alignment. Now, there can be an automatic, organismic movement within us that chooses the technique that is going to highlight and bring support and acceptance to the client’s experience and allow for their transformation toward greater personal power, self-acceptance, and aliveness. We’re honing our ability to tune in to our client’s needs, which allows for the client’s greater consciousness, acceptance, connection, and contact to take place.
We’re also developing our sense when the client’s defensive structure prevents them from “taking in” understanding, acceptance, connection, and support. It is in those moments in therapy when nothing we do seems to impact that client’s remaining stuck, in impasse; when sharing with the client what we understand about them and their process is not enough. This is when we begin to employ techniques from the buffet of possibilities that are stored in our body/mind memory.
In-Depth Body Psychotherapy and Subtle Energy Healing offer a myriad of technical possibilities of “what to do.” The techniques are taught in our training program. They are detailed in the Training Manual in In-Depth Body Psychotherapy and Subtle Energy Healing.
An example of when to employ technique could be when our client is unable to move through impasse because they believe the negative voices inside of them are true. They believe that they aren’t good or smart enough, don’t deserve love or are too frightened or too defeated to live into their depression as an experience, rather than as an ultimate truth about themselves. They may believe that their parents were right, and that the reason why they are being abused “was all their fault.” Or, perhaps they live in so much stress and pressure to “be perfect” that there is no room to be human. Breaking the fusion with these negative voices, negative beliefs, and negative energies may require us to help our client “take on” being the parent.
This is like trying on a suit of clothes, so that our client can feel and understand the energy in their parents that came at them as children causing them to organize themselves in the way that they did. Here, we are separating the content in what the parent said to their child from the energy with which the message was delivered.
It is the negative energy within the words that does the damage. We are being brain-washed if we only hear the message in the words and don’t realize that the negative, judgmental words are always in the service of the destructive energies in the parent toward their child. Feeling the truth of the parent’s negative energy helps us separate from our negative beliefs about ourselves and helps us dissolve impasse. The truth will set us free.
Guiding the client to invite an image or sense of a spirit guide to be present with them is a technique that is so much more than simply a technique. It is an avenue to help the client contact and dialogue with their own wisdom and with Spirit. In this way we are guiding the client into connection with him/herself. One scenario when we can offer this to the client is when they are acting out revenge toward their parent onto you as therapist so that anything you offer them is going to be defeated. This is when you need to step out of the way and stop your offerings. Having the client work with a spirit guide to help guide the session rather than remaining in the “line of fire,” is a possibility at this point. It is the guide that will determine the next step that the client is ready for, rather than you attempting to determine the perfect, next step.
Our work is to help our client develop the inner dialogue with their guide so that their spirit is determining pace and movement. If the client’s revenge holds them away from connecting to a deeper place of their own wisdom or to Spirit, we need to let the client know that we understand and appreciate that their revenge was an honest response to the nature of the abuse that they received as a child. We might say to the client, “I understand that you felt that you didn’t have any power to be angry and to protest being abused as a child. Revenge was your way of feeling that you had some power to protest. I want to back you up in your right to have the feeling of revenge and to know that this is your protest. I understand that you want revenge for how you were treated and that revenge feels like the only power that you have when you were being abused and then defeated for having a protest against the abuse. I don’t feel judgmental for how you feel, although, I aware that acting out revenge limits you feeling even more powerful and alive.
I’m not suggesting saying this be a “canned speech.” That would be disingenuous and counter-productive. If this awareness of your client’s process emerges from your own deep appreciation, your sharing becomes a gift of compassion.
At times like this we need to be aware of any pressure or self-blame in ourselves for how the therapy is stuck. Without self-criticism, our wisdom, spirit, and creativity can come forward and we can be open to the various ways that our “knowing” informs us. Our knowing may be in the form of an intuitive hunch, or like the way Shaman’s receive messages through imagery or by experiencing a felt sense of knowing or perhaps we have a body/sensory or emotional knowing. Certainly, let’s not leave out the possibility of our mind developing thoughtful knowing. We may be open to the hearing or feeling the client’s spirit talk to us, or an integration of all of the above. We come to this knowing spontaneously when we make room for ourselves and our clients, when we make room and accept our experience of every feeling even when we feel stupid, blank, stuck, or that feeling of “not knowing.”
We help the process along when we can fully identify with the client and at the same time not get lost in their experience. Paraphrasing Thich Nhat Hanh’s famous poem “Call Me By My True Name:”
“I am all people, I am all experiences, I am the river pirate who raped the girl and threw her overboard, I am the girl who was raped, I am all the negativity in the world, all the aliveness in the world, all of the heartlessness and potential assaults, as well as all of the love, understanding and compassion that exists.”
We have the capacity to know all experiences first hand. When we tap into this level of knowing, when we are at one with our client, we are living in profound acceptance and an energetic invitation for the client to experience, accept, and bring compassion to them self no matter what it is that they feel.
When we are conscious and accepting of our own emotional process our self-acceptance propels the session. As we live in support of ourselves and can see and understand our client in the depth of their process, our grounded and heartfelt energy is always present. We are now working effortlessly. We don’t work effortlessly when we are blocked from self-acceptance. We become stressed when we are blocked and wrestling with our own demons, our own victimizers, and our own impasse. Unaware and unconscious, we are doomed to pressure ourselves and work from “role layer,” (our “as if” therapeutic personality). We are not stressed when we are conscious and accepting of our being blocked.
For example, we don’t have a problem if we feel stuck. If we are stuck in a session and live into the very center of that feeling with acceptance, transformation of our own stuck feelings occurs. We then bring this understanding to any session and understand that it is consciousness and acceptance that will allow our client to transform their impasse.
A common experience for therapists is that we may feel protective and want to save our client. If this is the case and again, we recognize that transformation occurs through consciousness and loving acceptance, we could then say to the client, “I feel how stuck you are and I would like to wrap you in the energy of acceptance and love and take you away from all the assaults.“ When what we say comes from a real and authentic place in us, what we tell the client is both a technique and not a technique at the same time. It is an intervention that comes from our heart. If we are simply speaking our truth and not trying to make something happen, we may quickly realize that the sharing, in and of itself, has become the support and connection the client needs. It can make it possible for them to absorb our heartfelt and supportive energy, open to them self, and transform out of their stuck place.
If we share the same thing with our client from attempting to say something that sounds caring, without being authentic, it would not move the session in the same way. In fact, it could add to the client remaining stuck. Authentic caring is open hearted. It comes from a place of supporting our self in whatever it is that we feel. We are being ourselves with our client, not trying to be someone else. Energy matters! Energy follows intent! Our own rigidity, pressure, frozenness, intellectualizing quality will be the energy that’s in the session, not our warmth and caring. Therefore, even though we may have something wonderful to say, energetically, we will be appealing to the client’s mind rather than to their heart, rather than to the little kid inside of them. It’s the energy that that comes from us that is centered and authentic that has the ability to touch the client and stimulate transformation.
We are now working on a subtle energy level, at the very core of the emotional/mind/energy/body connection. We are communicating with our client on a deep body and energy level. We understand what it takes for muscles to relax, cells and organs to align, oxygen to flow unencumbered when there is an opening from deep blocks in the vascular system. We are aware that the brain can develop new neural pathways that allow for greater perspective and, therefore, an ability to not be swept away by our emotions and reflexively stimulate the fight-flight mechanism in our brain. At the same time, we are working at the level of heart and soul. We are responding to the heart and soul of our client. Consciousness comes from the integration of energy/ emotion/body and mind, rather than just intellectual understanding. The more systems of the body and energy centers of the body we involve, the more we create an energetic impact for the client rather than only an intellectual understanding.
Learning to be a therapist isn’t about just learning techniques without the other four keys. It is about living our life from nonattachment and faith. The realness that we bring to the session is vitally important. Deep transformation, at the level of subtle energy occurs with life touching life, realness touching realness, not through cognition and information alone.
Elevating intellect above other ways of knowing causes and perpetuates a split in our bodies. I am not recommending that we give up thinking; that we give up our intellect. Rather, we need to embody our intellect so that our intellect becomes a part of the totality of who we are. Our intellect needs to be integrated with our body, our emotions, with all the different places of knowing within us, rather than our intellect being separate and “more than equal.”
We consider In-Depth Body Psychotherapy and Subtle Energy Healing a therapy that is based on relationship, love, support and at the same time, encourages the therapist to live from non-attachment. How deeply we can be a part of the transformational process depends on how much of our own work we’re willing to do. Again, it’s not about being “finished,” it’s about being “real.” We can live any therapeutic interaction from dignity and personal power or from helplessness and feeling like a victim of our clients. We can live ourselves grounded and centered, thereby, meeting the challenges of each session and interaction in a way that provides perspective and endless possibility or we may remain unconscious of the trauma of our childhoods and stay away from ground and center. We are all co-creators of our lives. We have now returned to the principle that the development of our professional self occurs through the evolution of our personal self.
After hearing me talk about the Five Keys to Excellence, one of the trainers in our Training Program shared the following experience with me. Here is what he told me. “I brought in two elements from your article into my group for them to consider. The first element was ‘what it’s like to be part of creating an experience of intimacy tonight?’ I asked them, ‘what do we need to make room for within ourselves to create intimacy with ourselves and with others?’ The second element, is the power of not having to know the next line, the next thought, the next action, the ability to sit in the unknown.”
When we can allow for both of these experiences, we are engaging in the most healing aspect of therapy. We are creating a beautiful bonding experience for our clients and an invitation for them to open to themselves as well as with us. We are creating the conditions for intimacy and healing in our work. This is another core element of our work. It allows for both deeper wisdom to emerge within yourself (as therapist) and allows for our client’s natural, true unfolding process to occur.
Summary of Techniques
This is an outline of some of the methods used in Body Centered Psychotherapy and Subtle Energy Healing that help a client feel more alive, greater self-acceptance, and more centered and grounded. Refer to other articles in the Training Manual for a deeper understanding of our therapy.
As already written in this article, the foundation of healing relationships is mindfulness, non-attachment and compassionate understanding. As therapists and healers, we need to meet our clients without pressure to be different as well as providing an energetic invitation for the client to go deeper.
In order to release the molecules of abuse that are stored in the body all of the techniques presented here need to be felt as body experiences rather than simply as intellectual understanding.
- Understanding how to work with the different layers of the personality: Role layer, impasse, death layer, aliveness, and spirituality.
- Helping our clients understand why they feel the way they feel and helping them develop a deeper understanding and compassion for their process.
- We are helping them accept there is a good reason that they are organized the way that they are.
- We are also helping our clients experience the consequences of how they live. For example, the defensive way that our clients organize themselves prevents them from feeling more centered and powerful.
- Employing compassionate confrontation to help our clients experience their self-defeating patterns.
- Understanding how transformation occurs. We can provide our clients with a road map for their healing and we can be with them on their road to expanded consciousness.
- Helping our clients understand how their resistance has been a creative ally against their childhood abuse.
- Inviting our clients to be aware of what they are feeling emotionally and sensing physically moment to moment. Inviting our clients to live into opening to a non-judgmental awareness of each and every feeling/experience they have (this is the essence of mindfulness).
- Developing body awareness through inviting the client to scan every part of their body.
- Bringing our client’s awareness to their connection or lack of connection to the lower half of their body and to their connection to the earth. It is this connection that allows us to feel empowered in all of our feelings. We call the connection to the earth grounding.
- Understanding illness as a part of process. All illness contains the way that we were victims in our childhood and how we were victimized so that many illnesses are manifestations of unfelt emotional pain and abuse. The therapeutic work is to unravel the unconscious abuse and defensive structure that has been organized in the body that prevents a healthy energy flow to take place.
- Guiding our client to live into their intent (their desire) to feel better.
- Supporting our client’s immediate experience.
- Helping our client invite an image or sense of safety and protection. The feeling of safety and protection is essential for any transformation to occur.
- Helping our client invite an image or sense of loving, validating and supportive parents.
- Supporting the inner child’s reaction to the abuse they endured.
- Guiding our clients to surround themselves with light and love.
- Therapeutic and inappropriate use of touch.
- Contact, bonding and attachment-this includes a real, authentic connection between client and therapist, while still maintaining healthy boundaries.
- Asking for an image or message from different emotional and physical symptoms and from the different chakras.
- Directing the client to invite a Spirit Guide to be with them on their journey toward integration.
- Working with the animals of each Chakra to help the client feel balance and harmony in their body.
- Dialogue with the symptoms (What are you here for, what do you need from me)?
- Helping the client become the voice of their tension so that the client can hear the message that their tension is expressing.
- Helping the client know that they can have impact of their tension by having them purposely create their tension by increasing and decreasing their tension in minute increments. The client does this in order to receive the message in the tension and to gain a sense of mastery of how they are creating the tension.
- Helping the client create the tension on a pillow that represents them.
- Inner child work. Talking to any of the children that we once were that still exist inside of us so that we can help heal any pain created by childhood abuse.
- Victim/victimizer work. Since we all introject the abuser from childhood, we are both the victim of the abuse and become the victimizer to our self. This work releases the introjected negative bonding to free us of this energy. The client needs to identify and accept how they are now the victimizer to them self.
- Victim-victimizer is a two chair process. You can also have a third chair where the client become the observer to the process.
- Working with dreams. Dreams are a valuable avenue into helping the client understand the victim that they were and the victimizing that they received.
- Accepting the inherited darkness and negativity within. Understanding the darkness as the raw material of power.
- Beginning anew-Couples counseling! Thich Nhat Hanh’s form of conflict resolution. Helping each person in a conflict take responsibility take their part in order to a joint resolution.