In this article I would like to tell you about ways in which my therapy processes engage with the imaginative faculties of one’s inner world. In therapy, I help people connect to themselves and uncover and live more of who they are.
Working holistically with a person in therapy, means that I address their internal and external context and their core self.
The internal context consists of IE gifts of creativity; patterns of behaviour and thinking, self-talk, interests, underlying emotion, groundedness in sense of self; values, beliefs and dreams and their health and physical well-being.
The external context can include current living conditions, relationships, family, friends, work, culture etc.
The core self is the self that came into being with conception. As an adult it is likely we have limited groundedness in this self; defining ourselves by the different identities we’ve taken on during the course of out life.
To work holistically with someone is to assume that all those aspects are there at work in a person, and can be used to fuel the process of therapy and also underpin the support needed.
One personal experience with many layered aspects of reality
I do really enjoy my therapy work. Magic happens. Magic happens often in processes that engage the subconscious, which speaks through feeling, imagination and visualisation. The intellect can only reach so much into one’s inner world. In fact, if I’m truthful, I think the intellect is pretty ineffectual when it comes to working with the psyche.
As human beings we have so many layers of experience and reality. We have our literal reality, subconscious reality, our feeling reality, individual reality, community reality and so on. Using literal thinking, or intellectual perspectives and theories, is often not very helpful in approaching an issue that is emotional and even unconscious. This is especially important when that emotional issue has its origins at an age before language.
Our sensing and feeling reality is our deeper inner world, together with our somatic and subconscious reality. It lies closer to the core of who we are than our literal, intellectually formed reality.
Building a new relationship with Self and the world
Most clients come with issues that originate in their childhood past, even when the presenting problem is showing up in their life right now. These issues often influence their capacity to live their lives happily as adults. It can affect how they treat themselves internally. It can affect what behaviour they allow towards themselves from others. It can affect how they are able to regulate anxiety, anger or inappropriate behaviour in themselves or towards others. And it can affect how they are able to build a life for themselves in general.
To shift this, I help them build a relationship between them, as their ‘Adult Self’ and their ‘Inner Child’; the feeling self. Often this Inner Child feels disconnected, abandoned, exposed, neglected, unloved, unsafe, unheard, misunderstood, unseen etc.
These feeling states in the Inner Child in us, can cause an experience in the now, of being triggered by similar events that caused the original issue. Or it can cause behaviours that the person doesn’t feel they have control over.
In introducing someone to their Inner Child, they can start to relate differently to themselves and what happened in the past. They can explore ways of parenting themselves, in the way they needed, so these younger parts can grow, develop and mature.
An open attitude to welcome what is hidden
It takes open-mindedness and an open imagination to uncover what is hidden, in order for the therapist and the client’s Adult Self to validate and understand their Inner Child and its behaviours. Being listened to, heard, seen and validated, always goes a long way to relax anxieties in the Inner Child and in this way, also in the client. It’s actually a beautiful thing, to see that someone’s Inner Child feels safe with their Adult Self; it is like a homecoming.
Feeling in the body = digesting the experience
From there, my client as his/her Adult Self and I, can help the child feel and so digest the unprocessed experiences of the past. Sometimes this child is 3 or 8 or 13. But sometimes this hidden and suffering Feeling Self is a Younger Self at18, 25 or 35!
In doing body-oriented psychotherapy, I tend to focus a lot on the physical and emotional feelings in the body, in order to connect into past experiences. The reason being that the feelings present in the body always tell the truth of what was experienced.
Whereas what the mind interprets is happening in the body, is made up and shaped by personal, professional or cultural bias and interpretation. The mind doesn’t allow for deep connection and often only notices the body in a very superficial and cursory way.
Mirroring good enough self-parenting
I have always felt that working with a client as their therapist is quite a privilege; to be trusted and entrusted with a client’s inner world. A world normally hidden from others and even from themselves.
The space I create is one of compassion, safety, non-judgment and confidentiality and love (sometimes even tough love). It is the space in which the client can give space to things hidden, knowing they are safe, supported and held.
It is always my aim for my work with clients, that they can learn to bring these aspects (compassion, safety, non-judgment and confidentiality and (tough) love) to the space that is their self-relationship and so also to their lives.
The metaphor used for that is self-parenting. Our parents might not have been able to meet us, in being our source of love and care. And we therefore find it harder to know how to relate to ourselves lovingly. We might be very loving towards others, and very considerate and thoughtful parents for our own children. However, we might still not be able to do this for ourselves.
As our Adult Selves, we learn to notice, see and speak to the Inner Child or Feeling Self, in a way that is loving, gentle, acknowledging, reassuring and validating. By postulating the Inner-Child, we, in our Adult Self, can be safe and wise in relating to the Inner Child in the way they need to be met. This has the effect of grounding ourselves, we come to know how to live our adult
Only you can know what is going on for you. No-one can understand and know what you’ve gone through to the extent that you can for yourself.
When thinking back to something traumatic that happened in your life, what if you simply said to yourself internally: ‘I’m so sorry you had to experience this.’ Try it and see what happens.
Meeting your own needs for acknowledgement, validation and reassurance
When you say to yourself ‘I’m so sorry you had to experience this’ there is no need to explain or try and convey the terribleness of what happened to you and how it impacted you. Because you know. And in acknowledging that for yourself, you meet yourself. You connect to yourself. And the relief that can come from being seen and heard and listened to, by you yourself… is transformative.
What do you say to your Inner Child that feels abandoned?
I am here with you; I will never leave you.
What do you say to your Inner Child that feels exposed and terribly sensitive and vulnerable?
I am here with you. You are safe. What do you need right now?
Even so, it’s not all as easy as knowing the right words. It’s an embodied process of being fully, lovingly open and present to your feelings and your body. This in itself takes some time and practice to do. In a session it is easier for the client, as the space I create, and hold are already conducive to that. It is what I provide for the client, to be able to do this deeper work with them.
When at home in your own space, you will be able, through intention and practice, to learn to let go of the critical or dismissive or absent way of relating to your self. To replace it over time, with an attitude of kindness and presence and commitment.
My enjoyment and gladness are seeing the client connecting to their Inner Child, finding a way to meet them and look after them. It is often experienced as a big shift.
The first question: What do you notice in your body?
When I notice that the client has feelings come up in the course of exploring an issue, I will ask them to take a moment to close their eyes and notice the physical sensations in their body. To just notice them and put space around whatever feels restricted. Then the body opens up and there will often be an emotional feeling.
To give permission to the feeling, I ask the client to speak to it and say: ‘I see you’. To go more deeply into it, I ask if they can see their little one who is having the feeling; how old are they; what are they wearing and what is the expression on their face? From there I guide the client to ask the Inner Child to share with them what’s going on for them. After this I explore with the client what can be done to validate and reassure them.
Inner-Connection and a way forward
My favourite part though is at the end, where the Adult Self is invited to ask the child if they would like to come and live in their heart. Only once did an Inner Child say ‘no’. After which we had a little more work to make the Adult Self stronger within the client. However, most of the time, the child is relieved and happy to do so. The Adult Self then gets to ask the Inner Child what they would like to bring, if anything; a pet, a bedroom, a toy, a favourite tree form the backyard etc.
Then we go through the beautiful energetic process of allowing the Inner Child to walk into the Adult Self’s heart.
As said before….This is a process that can bring about a profound shift and recovery from trauma. Also, because it is often a strong, positive and loving emotional experience, it stays in the psyche of the person as a feeling of connection, to return to, again and again. Just as trauma often comes from a strong emotional experience and stays in the body, a positive loving experience also has the power to shape our experience of self in the best of ways.
Have a go
To end, I will share again some statements that you can experiment with. Sit quietly a moment and notice your body. Notice the physical sensations of well-being and also of restriction, pain or discomfort, without trying to regulate them.
Then say to yourself with your internal voice (and use your softest, most gentle of voices):
I see you
Your feelings are ok
I love spending time with you
You can always talk to me, and I will listen
I’m so sorry you’re having such a hard time.
I will look after you; you don’t need to look after the adults.
Whenever you say any of these statements, notice how your body receives it. If your body receives it, you will either feel a relaxing in the body, or welling of emotion, or a tightening of the body if there is resistance.
So spend some time each day noticing, just noticing, giving your self space to be. 😊
For more information or to book a session
contact me on 0418 992 166 or firstname.lastname@example.org