I’ve been asked recently how I work with a person in therapy. Of course, each situation is unique and in large part a matter of (al)chemical interaction and our intersecting worlds of emotional, somatic, and imaginal experience.
If someone is struggling with trauma, drowning or flooded by unbearable feeling, together we discover and craft resource in the nervous system, bottom-up by way of metabolizing sensation in the body. Tracking micro-moments of moving outside window of tolerance, together we come back into safety and connection.
Slow. I’m here with you. So that you feel felt and understood. The timeline for this unfolding is written inside you and we will listen and attune to that, together.
With borderline or narcissistic organization, we build structure in the sense of self, where there has been consistent empathic failure, a seemingly infinite number of relational ruptures with little or no repair. The patchy self is mended by the substances of empathy, presence, and a mercy that enters into that space between.
In these situations, we would not lead with transpersonal work such as active imagination, uncovering shadow, or resting in and exploring open awareness, but first build the requisite safety or structure, and repair the pathways of relational misattunement.
Safety first, exploration second, in a dance and dialogue and dialectic that will be unique for each of us. Safe, but not too safe. Exploration, but from a secure base. Crafting a save haven from which to enter into the tender places.
Where there is enough safety, ego-strength, and capacity for containment, we would explore the existential and transpersonal bands, opening into relationship with the lost pieces and figures of the psyche and the soul. To discover experientially the necessity for certain symptoms, their coherence, and the schemas and complexes which give rise to unwanted behavior, moods, thoughts, and somatics.
And then into meditative experience, if that is of interest and curiosity and passion... shifting one's psychic center of gravity into the embodied experience of open awareness… touching and bearing witness to the luminosity of form, its radiance and warmth.
But underneath it all, it’s clear I know little about the soul, how it heals and unfolds. The person in front of me is vast and majestic and I can only stand in awe at the power and beauty of one human heart as it longs to return home. To attune to and be a companion within that level of benevolence and grace.
In the end, in my experience, it’s not techniques that heal. It’s love that heals. Techniques are fine, but it is the relationship between two nervous systems and the love that infuses that middle territory between which allows the techniques to come alive, if and when they do. Love first, techniques second.
The nature of what this love is must be discovered moment to moment as it emerges in that vessel where we dwell together and is the neural and spiritual scaffolding that opens a light into the darkness.