1: PRESENT SYMPTOMS
A: UNDERSTANDING TRAUMA AND RECEIVING ACCEPTANCE
If the traumatic event has taken place in the past 3 months or so, the client still needs to tell the story in detail, voicing all the feelings, and having both the story and the feelings received with acceptance. If the traumatic event took place more than 3 months ago, it is more expedient for the client to stick to the facts. This is based on our experience that a longer period of time has passed during which the client has been functioning relatively well and has come to grips with the event, but is now seeking help because something is not working as well as he wishes or as before. In such a situation, retelling the story complete with feelings and details will oblige the client to relive the trauma, with all the concomitant physical and emotional reactions. We thus run the risk of re-traumatising the client, so keeping to the bare facts keeps the client on a more cognitive undramatic plain.
In the beginning, I would tell my story all the time, even though I couldn’t really remember all that much. It was as if I were narrating an exciting dramatic story and I got lots of attention.
Bit by bit I realised that the attention was directed at the story itself and at what it evoked in the person I was telling it to and with no genuine attention towards myself. As a matter of fact, several people distanced themselves. I began to discover that after I had told the story I would get even sadder, suffer from sleep problems and flash backs that would isolate me even more. So at some point I no longer felt like telling the story anymore. It had become too much for me!
B: MANAGEMENT STRATEGIES AND BUILDING NETWORKS
We teach the client certain basic skills, such as grounding, centring, energy management, and boundaries – 4 of the 11 Ego-functions. Thanks to concrete body exercises that relate to specific psychological themes, all these skills partly restore the connection between the head, the body and the dissociative state.
In addition, this training in basic skills offers a possibility to bolster forgotten resources or discover new ones.
When working with shock, networks are important. It is imperative that we have safe people to contact or be with. In this part of the process we also work on the Ego-function of Connectedness.
C: SAFE SPACE AND SAFE PEOPLE
A vital element of our working method is to find our safe space and safe people – both in the present and perhaps also in the past.
When the Ego splinters and our integrity shatters, we feel alone and insecure, because the world has become an unsafe place to be in. Working on re-establishing our connection to the world, other people and ourselves fosters a sense of security, and new learning can begin.
In the therapy room we utilise the person’s unique ability to visualise, so that when her heart begins to hammer, her hands go clammy and the head goes blank, we ask her to remember her safe space and safe people and ‘run there’. This often works. The client’s heart calms down, and we can begin to talk about what has just happened, what it felt like, what she is experiencing and so on and so forth.
D: RECOGNISING THE PEAK EXPERIENCE OF THE MANAGEMENT STRATEGIES
In Bodynamics, Peak/Culminating Experiences are defined as highly intense experiences with heightened senses, altered sense of time, spiritual openness and a strong feeling of happiness.
In some of the survival strategies there is a peak that is involuntarily linked to the shock event. The peak of the shock can be the point in time when we become aware that we just got through it, that we didn’t die, or that we expanded spiritually. In this part of the process, we become consciously aware of the power and energy of this peak moment, bringing it into the here and now.
As we return to our bodies from the peak moment, we take a decision that is highly spiritually charged. First we perceive and acknowledge the peak moment and in the next phase we work on the decision.
2: EXPLORING THE CRISIS ELEMENT OF THE SHOCK
Every traumatic event unleashes a period of crisis, during which re-alignment takes place. During the second part of our work, we talk about the physical traumas and the problems the trauma has caused in the family and work spheres. We look at ‘how we moved on with our lives’ and which issues we still haven’t worked with.
3: PROCESSING THE CORE OF THE SHOCK
PEAK-EXPERIENCE OF THE SHOCK TRAUMA, PROCESSING THE CORE OF THE SHOCK TRAUMA
A shock may consist of several attendant shocks, which means there may be several shocks and peaks. At the core of each shock we find survival strategies, a peak, and decisions.
When we come out of the shock, there is a period of time when we cannot use the Me and we haven’t activated the Ego yet, so we find ourselves in a no man’s land for a while. It is during this time that we make decisions – core decisions, such as ‘I’d rather die than…’ ‘I will never ever…’ These decisions are so crystal clear and precise about everything or nothing that they seem almost inviolable. ‘I will never go out there again’ ‘I will never again get close to…’ ‘I’d rather die than get intimate again’. We can’t just change decisions such as these. Instead we have to attend to them and investigate what the client gets out of sticking to these decisions.
Occasionally certain skills freeze up, so we end up behaving in the same pattern or repeating the same experience over and over again. Only by reinforcing the Ego and getting new automatic skills from the Ego – skills that can be incorporated in the Me – can the PTSD reaction patterns begin to change.
Given that core decisions are basically decisions piled on top of more decisions, our work doesn’t revolve on changing decisions but only on investigating them and becoming aware of them. Becoming conscious of our decisions obviously also brings about changes, but if we say to people that they will change, they immediately build up new defences to avoid the change.
When we work on blocked areas, and people express that they want to change them, we need to stop them and let them know that we are merely going to help them investigate, find explanations and be there with them, without trying to prove them right or wrong. We will simply be there with them, so that they may take ownership of what has happened.
As soon as we discover our blockages and become conscious of them, both at a cognitive and physical level, the unconscious need for them disappears, and they stop being automatic. They have become conscious, and thus we can choose to use them or simply drop them.
WORKING WITH ENGRAMS
Given that the Ego was not present at the event, it cannot remember what happened, but with the help of somebody else who can offer support and think rationally, traces of the memory may surface up in the Ego, parts of the event may be suddenly recalled, and then the entire explanation / logic behind the event may come back.
It is not important to remember the entire story, but just to remember the things that provide a sense of meaning and wholeness in the client, that help him gain insight into the bits that cause guilt or shame, the parts when he did something that was not okay for the Ego. This integration work will help point out that it was okay, because it was exactly that thing that got the client through and kept him alive.
Memories get stored in several places. We need physical memories and cognitive explanations – we need many layers of memories in order to become integral again. Some people are extremely clear about details and can talk easily about them, but lack the physical memories and need to be helped restore them. Others need help with intellectual understanding. Lots of people don’t remember all that much, but have an unbelievable number of physical reactions, e.g. tics or physical symptoms that they can’t connect to what they remember.
In our experience, it all boils down to which defense mechanisms surfaced from the Ego and how we stored them. All new automatic skills can be created only through the Ego, and that is why it is important to work with physical skills and consciousness in the psychological themes (Character-structures).
WORKING WITH THE FEELINGS THAT TAKE OVER
All emotions elicit a physical response in us, which has an impact on any group’s interaction and survival. Joy opens us up, anger freezes us and shuts us off, sadness lowers our energy levels and makes us vulnerable, disgust causes nausea and an urge to push things away, fear increases our urge to be alert and look around, sensuality/sexuality increases our desire to touch, become attached and get close to someone, shame can either increase energy levels –we blush and look away– or lower energy –we go pale, our hands go cold, we lower our heads and want to crawl away and hide.
Throughout the entire course of therapy we will be working with both the quicker more irrational emotional and sensory input and the more conscious emotional experiences.
STRATEGIES TO CONCLUDE THE SHOCK WORK
Realigning ourselves into a new way of being, integrating new skills and finding new ways of coming back to ourselves takes time and can be boosted through rituals, such as writing a note and sticking it on the fridge, e.g. ‘Remember to say stop!’, ‘Remember to breathe’, go for walks along the water, ask a friend to call you every week in order to maintain stable contact, etc.
Every time we do something that we know is good for us, the body remembers, our sense of security increases and realignment is consolidated.
Working with PTSD means working with several layers in a person. If PTSD has really got hold of someone, something has died in the life that that person used to life. She can never get that life back again, and she always feels a sense of loss of innocence. She must create a new life, and that requires a lot of new elements.