Chapter Five - "Help Me --- I'm Tired Of Feeling Bad"
The Brain's Active Search To Complete
We come now to a turning point in our journey. We have been speaking so far of techniques used by the therapist. Now we must speak of the mechanism which impels the patient forward.
The completion of early unfinished childhood business requires two mechanisms which impart power and direction to the therapeutic process in Level Four regressive psychotherapy. I am going to call them The Search for Congruence and Body Necessity. The first term expresses what is happening and the second term describes the power behind the process.
At Therapeutic Intensity Level Two, we saw that in free association the mind seeks to complete its unworked-through material. This need guides the seemingly non-logical free associative state, according to the deeper logic of Gestalt formation. Thus the ultimate goal of remembering and speaking aloud what has heretofore been unconscious, can be achieved. What is crucial to remember is that the intensity of the experience is a Level Two intensity, nothing at all like what we will find at Level Four. At Level Two the patient's boat is, as we say, in light air and lazily finds the harbour of remembering.
At Therapeutic Intensity Level Three, the intensity of the drive toward remembering unconscious material increases. This increase is defused, however, by therapists who convert the feelings and body sensations into words too soon. Thus, at Level Three, a grounded and high quality recall may occur but an actual re-living is less likely to be ignited than at Level Four, where we remain in the feelings for a longer period of time. Ignition of re-living, then, occurs without the therapist having to stitch together the connection between feeling and memory. The little fish in the shallows do not have to be coaxed into the cerebral net. In an instant, they grow very large indeed and leap into it without any urging. It is at this point we encounter our new phenomena of the SEARCH FOR CONGRUENCE and BODY NECESSITY.
The push toward remembering, which we have seen on previous levels of therapy, is now converted into a push toward 'doing.' The doing in this case means the arranging of a congruence. The body actively struggles toward finding the congruences previously discussed, so that it can actually re-live early buried trauma rather than simply recall it.
It is in the SEARCH FOR CONGRUENCE and BODY NECESSITY where we see the real power of regressive therapy. The mind pushes open to feel, the voice pushes toward the exact sound, the body pushes toward placing itself in the position of the original trauma. In addition, the mind/body axis actively seeks or pushes to touch or be touched in a way that produces congruence. Just as at a certain point in the birth of an infant, the woman loses control and contractions come of their own primordial volition, so, too, the mind/body axis takes over, pushing toward congruence so that it can re-experience what is repressed. It is the power behind this push which I have called BODY NECESSITY.
Something quite new now arrives on the scene: a new kind of insight occurs when we re-live early painful experiences in this way. In this case, the awakening of consciousness is altogether more profound. It is more profound because of the enormous internal impact. It is more profound because it is multi-dimensional, nonlinear and hits us more like a wave front than a single event. It is as though we are feeling our way through a garden in absolute darkness when suddenly a flashbulb goes off , illuminating not only the garden, but the house to which it is attached, and the entire surrounding neighbourhood.
A patient tries to describe the sudden and complex insight he has during one of his re-livings. His father, in a railway station, was lifting him off his shoulder and handing him to his mother as she boarded a train. It was in England, in 1940, at the beginning of the Second World War. He was three and half years old. He would not see his father again until he was fully grown.
In his re-living he felt his cheek against the Harris tweed jacket which covered his father's shoulder. He felt the full tragedy of losing his daddy. He saw how, down through the years, he had made friends with men whose shoulders, unknown to him, recalled to his unconscious that terrible moment of parting. In a flash, he sensed the warp and woof of his life and its relationships across the decades. At the very same time, he felt on a different plane altogether: how not ever having been held by his father had doomed him to having an uncreated body. By this he meant that in all his physical activities he was timid and lacking in male strength. It became clear to him that physical power in a man is deeply related to the physical presence of that man's father. The gardens, with their grief, were illuminated as was the entire neighbourhood of his life as it pertained to men he had liked and his relationship with his own body.
These insights well up instantly, seemingly from the whole body. They move like a wave front or wall of comprehension, seeming to originate from the abdomen, chest, bones and muscles, moving upward into consciousness. They do not feel like thoughts; they feel like sudden illuminations. They have the quality of sun suddenly breaking through cloud, illuminating the darkened landscape around us in a single awe-inspiring burst of comprehension. After these kinds of experiences in regressive therapy, linear intellectual thought is like watered-down soup imbibed while watching black and white television. It ceases to satisfy. It is the power and depth of these re-livings that finally free us from the grief that we can shed in no other way.
People who have these experiences often feel afterward both overwhelmingly exhausted and overwhelmingly relieved, as though five hundred pounds of cement have been lifted from them. Large chunks of repressed pain and accompanying processes surge forward, causing profound shifts in growth. Patients experience a lightness of being, a loss of fearfulness in their day-to-day lives, a sense of internal blockages crumbling and the birth of a new sense of self.
The feelings experienced at this level were often not even felt at the time the event occurred. For example, one woman in my practice regularly floated to the ceiling when her father beat her. The job of Level Four therapy is to bring her down from the ceiling and allow her to actually feel the beating.
Now you will begin to understand the mechanisms behind not only the bizarre quality of what follows, but the intensity with which these experiences will be impelled towards a conclusion.
Let us look at a series of examples to demonstrate the principle that the mind\body axis in Level Four psychotherapy actively searches for a congruence, which then allows its defences to crumble so that it may re-experience an early trauma. You will see that, illogical and non-linear on the surface, the deeper logic of Gestalt formation will always prevail.
Example One: Body necessity driving a patient toward congruence so that he may re-experience an unconscious issue
A middle-aged man sits facing the wall in my primal room. He feels impelled to make faces (body necessity). No sound emerges as he grimaces and twists his face into an endless series of horrible masks. He does not know why he is doing this. We know that if we trust this body necessity, he will achieve congruence eventually with some issue deeper down that we cannot yet see. He does nothing but this for six weeks. I assure him that, if he stays out of his head and trusts what is happening, eventually understanding will come. Week after week he looks for all the world quite insane. Surface logic has gone to the wind and a deeper logic is impelling him forward. Finally congruence is achieved and the penny drops. The insight is as simple as it is profound. He has simply been creating the faces which he would have shown if he had been allowed to when he was traumatized as a child. As yet there are no feelings attached and neither are there any sounds, but these will come as long as he trusts his body and his feeling to lead him. For now it is sufficient that he realizes, at a gut level, that he is these faces and not the well-dressed, urbane business executive he has thought himself to be. The next step in this therapy will be to further the congruence by asking him to make the sounds which exactly fit the horrible faces. You will understand why a soundproof room is necessary.
Example Two: Body necessity driving a patient toward congruence so that she may re-experience an unconscious issue
A woman in her thirties lies in my primal room, adrift in the winds of time. She unconsciously reaches for my hand and begins to play with my fingers. The object of her touching is not romantic or sexual, it is something deadly serious in her search for growth. Slowly she plays with each finger and then, quite unconsciously, she closes my hand and makes it into a fist. She begins to whimper. She is six years old now and she recalls how her daddy used to beat her with his fist. Unconscious necessity, below the level of logic, has impelled her to arrange a congruence, the fist of her therapist has been brought to match the fist of her father. The tumblers fall, defences clear away and the original event is re-experienced.
Example Three: Body necessity driving a patient toward congruence so that she may re-experience an unconscious issue
A 25-year-old woman sits beside me. She has been mute in my practice for six months. She had been absolutely silent in a previous psychiatrist's practice for over a year. I notice that she is making small motions with her fingers towards the buttons on my shirt. Recognizing a body necessity, I ask her to let her fingers do as they wish. Slowly, over several sessions, she undoes the buttons and, even more slowly over many more sessions, places her lips against my nipple and begins to suck. She suckles at my breast, lying beside me with my shirt removed, for three years, her hands kneading and squeezing my arms and back.
It seems that in early childhood her body had been covered with weeping, ugly sores and she had not been held during long periods in her infancy. She was fed by bottle in her crib. Her body found in therapy exactly what it needed. She was drinking both with her lips and her fingertips. Her unmet infant need for touch, holding, and suckling was now being met. We will have more to say of this patient in a later example.
Example Four: Body necessity driving a patient toward congruence so that she may re-experience an unconscious issue
This brings us into a therapeutic situation where, if the previous risks weren't sufficient for the therapist, we are now moving into much more dangerous territory.
A woman who has been working with me in the primal room for at least a year is moving deeply within herself at Level Four. She asks me if I will lie on top of her in a sexual position with both of us fully dressed. Sensing that this is a body necessity but afraid of losing my licence to practice medicine, I undergo a considerable internal struggle. I decide to help her and climb between her legs as though we were about to have sexual intercourse. She begins thrusting her pelvis against me and making guttural sounds. After twenty minutes or so, she lies back exhausted and no insight has come forward. There has been no sexual pleasure, if anything the experience has been physically painful for both of us. I remember how long the man who made faces had to stay with his `illogical' search for congruence, and when she asks me in our next session if I will please do it again, although the whole thing is making me quite anxious, once again I say yes. Finally the penny drops and she realizes that she has been trying to expel her mother from her body. She feels she is succeeding.
This patient had introjected a maternal personality which was profoundly negative, and all her life she had worried about having these deeply negative qualities. Her body, needing to expel this maternal introject, had unconsciously sought a female way of doing it, such as through her vagina. To achieve the necessary congruence and the necessary intensity, she had needed someone to buck against, thereby experiencing congruence through the creation of a body metaphor. Just as she had bucked against her mother whose vicious personality granted her no success, she bucked against me whose receptive and empathic stance permitted the completion of her symbolic act. Without this experience, healing would have been greatly hindered and possibly never have occurred.
Example Five: Body necessity driving a patient toward congruence so that she may re-experience an unconscious issue
This final example crosses over even more deeply into the sacred area of sexuality.
You will remember the woman who suckled my breast. After three years of suckling, she developed a compulsion to fondle my penis. Again and again I pushed her hand away until I realized that I seemed to be bumping into a Level Four profoundly powerful body necessity. Once again, I decided to let her go ahead and do what she needed to do. After the long suckling experience, she needed to establish deeply within herself that I was, in fact, a male. Her deepest sense of my gender had blurred. This was impinging upon the edges of her own sexual identity. In feeling my penis, and in this case feeling it respond to her touch through my clothing, the male in me could call forth her sense of womanhood and re-balance both our gender identities in her mind.
But something much more profound was yet to come. After a few sessions of gentle touch on her part, the biggest penny of all dropped into her life. She remembered that her father had sexually molested her every single day of her life from age three to thirteen. So powerful was her repression of this event that, after four years of depth therapy, only this moment of congruence could bring it to the surface. So powerful was her repression of this event that down through the years she had had epileptic seizures rather than allow these memories to the surface. In our work together, at times like these I had to hold her firmly by the shoulders, shake her gently and tell her, session after session after session, not to have an epileptic fit but to hold the memory of her father's sexual activities with her in her consciousness.
Many, many memories have come forward over the last couple of years and much, much healing has been achieved. She could only re-enter and experience these memories when she put her hand on my penis thus recalling how her father taught her to put her hand on his penis. It was the compulsion to do this which constituted what I am naming a body necessity. When this body necessity pushed her hand towards the congruence of her present and past experience, repression was then defeated, the tumblers fell and childhood reappeared. I think you will appreciate that even though these events are connected with sexuality, they are not sexual in the social sense. There is no seduction here. There is no sexual titillation for pleasure here. We are in the deadly serious business of honouring a body necessity so that a congruence may be achieved so that a re-experiencing of childhood trauma may occur. This search for pathology is no different than the internal examination of a gynaecologist searching for pathology on the physical plane. This search is no more sexually self-indulgent than the research of Masters and Johnson observing a mechanical penis plunging in and out of women's vaginas to record their true physiology.
We need to continue talking about use of touch and holding in deep, regressive therapy much beyond even the ground that we have already covered. In fact the most profound use of these techniques has yet to be discussed.
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