Natural Health Clinic, 98 Cathedral Road, Cardiff, CF11 9LP. tel: 07533 496568
I invite a client to inquire into their distress, and stay with their difficult feelings in a way that is not overly challenging, but does bring with it the challenge of being at a ‘working edge’. In order for this to happen, I generally spend some time in the first few sessions checking in with clients’ feelings of safety and resource: how do they resource themselves? How do they know they feel safe and feel ok? The more ground they have under their feet, the more effective they will be able to deepen into their processes.
I often work with feelings and sensations that are coming up for clients, in the therapeutic room, which feel important to them, and this is very much a client-led process: my grounding in Rogerian / person centred counselling places empathy, congruence and non-judgment at the heart of the work. My training in Karuna, ‘Karuna’ meaning compassion, has helped me to lean back into an empathic field which is non-dual in nature, without judgement or labelling, and I believe this contributes to a safer holding field and container so that the client is able to be with their distress in a way that supports their growth and development.
I invite clients to notice where they may feel their feelings or sensations in their body, and this might be their heart, stomach, or any part of their body, and offers a space for clients to have a more embodied sense of themselves, to become closer to their emotional pain. For some clients, their hearts may be needing attention, such as a softening or some compassion, and for some clients, noticing their legs or arms wanting to move might help them contact some frustration, or anger perhaps.
In order to facilitate a client’s noticing, I might say: ‘What’s happening now?’ and ‘are there any words, feelings or images that are coming up for you as you deepen into that area?’. This may bring up a wide variety of insights or sensations for a client, from areas around their self-identity and of how they ‘do’ themselves, to a deepening into their feelings of themselves and a deeper awareness of their distress, to a psycho-spiritual touching into personal meaning or source. Again, I see this as a continuation of the Humanistic Existentialist counselling qualification (such as Emmy Van Deurzen’s 4 realms of being and Yalom’s quest for meaning) into an acknowledgment of a deeper truth for the client that Buddhist mindfulness techniques can offer.
My approach also integrates psychodynamic theory, which I have become trained in since the counselling course, through the Karuna course. Person-centred theory such as conditions of worth, integrate effectively with psychodynamic models, such as Fairbairn’s Endopsychic structure, which acknowledges how a baby needs to idealise a parent in order to survive, no matter what the parenting was actually like. Because of this a baby or young child tends to internalise conflict or ‘badness’ in order to maintain a loving connection to the parent, which brings ‘splitting’ from the real or authentic experience, dis-ease, and an internalisation of such ‘badness’. A young child may feel completely responsible for their parents’ unhappiness for example, or believe that whatever happened was their fault. Such well-held structures can take time for a client to stay with, notice, and acknowledge, in order to consider different ways of being in the present. I work in this area by sitting with a client’s life narrative, and a client spending time noticing their childhood patterns of relating, and of being, with curiosity and non-judgement. For example, a pattern of behaviour now, or a way of being anxious perhaps, can often remind a client of how they were as children, which can be explored and named in order for a deepening into awareness to take place.
'Anguish maintains its power only as long as we allow it to intimidate us. If we try to avoid a powerful wave looming above us on the beach, it will send us crashing into the sand and surf. But if we face it head-on and dive right into it, we discover only water.' - Stephen Batchelor