Don’t try to fix it, try to understand, more and more, and show how you are affected. Then it may fix itself. If it fix itself the fix is real. If you fix it is is probably only cosmetic.
There is a parallel process between that is happening between client and rupa and what is happening between client and therapist. This will tend to invite the therapist into being like the rupa but the therapist should resist this and remain empathic and genuine, or the therapy will only reinforce the client’s existing pattern. Thus if the client’s rupa is his father and he is imagining his father as he talks he will subtly invite the therapist to behave as his father did/does. If the therapist falls into this and becomes like the original father, by, for instance, telling the client what to do rather than listening to him, this will only reinforce the original pattern.
We also talked about the need to be expressive.
Warm Up Exercise
Making expressive faces at each other
Counselling in which the client uses no words.
One client, six counsellors in succession doing 2 minutes each, staying close to the bodily and facial expression of the client who does not speak.
Say what you see; what you think it may mean; what you feel or intuit as you are with the client, noticing each small change of expression or posture. Trying to stay closely with the client in this way is like the expression “two arrows meeting head on in mid air” in the text. This is something that cannot be contrived. It is not a direct consequence of skill. Skills are necessary but are secondary. The human contact is what is primary.
We had a lot of questions and feedback from these exercises. The six therapists shared their experience and we looked at details of counselling interaction, how to express things that one is experiencing in a way that reaches the client in as immediate a way as possible, how to use all the the information that one receives, how to use all dimensions of expression including words, face, body, and position. Sometimes these seem to be saying different things - e.g. the person says he is happy in a sad sounding voice - we should treat this as a complex message and try to understand the whole of what it means. This is sometimes called “incongruence”, with the implication that it is somehow “wrong”, but if the client expresses himself in such a way then there is a reason and we should simply try to understand the whole message, not assume that the client is communicating badly. In fact, he is telling us a lot in a very condensed manner.
If, for instance, the client says “I think I ought to finish now,” but her tone and face tell that she really wants to continue, we can understand that she is sensitive to a supposed obligation to stop at that point in time while at the same time having a desire to go on. One needs to respond to the whole message. Similarly, sometimes it is the counsellor who gives complex messages playing upon a sense of mutual understanding with the client and this can deepen the relationship, as when the therapist says something ironic that resonates with an ambivalence felt by the client.
The work was seriously undertaken and we saw how the client can go through a process inwardly facilitated by the therapist without the therapist needing necessarily to know cognitively what is happening. By working in this intuitive way we increase the possibility of having the kind of special meeting indicated by the phrase “two arrows meeting in mid air head on”.
We did action work in three groups investigating school experience, starting from sculpts and progressing into experimenting with short pieces of action work.
Guidelines for small scale action work:
1. The protagonist is in charge, can stop when he likes, can accept or reject suggestions.
2. Group members can make suggestions but must accept the protagonist’s decision.
3. Protagonist puts auxiliaries in the positions and postures that express his intuition of the situation.
4. If auxiliaries are left with feelings these should be expressed in the sharing phase.
5. If an auxiliary has strong persisting feelings, he should become the protagonist for the next piece.
6. If the protagonist chooses to have somebody as a moderator for the piece, the role of the moderator is to make suggestions, not to “solve” the issues that arise. The protagonist is in charge and can accept or reject the suggestions of the moderator.
7. The group should not persist in a direction that the protagonist rejects. (Even if the group were right in their diagnosis, this should be kept for another occasion).
8. The sharing phase is for sharing, not analysis. Suggestions should be kept to a minimum. The protagonist has done his work and this is a time for the auxiliaries to discharge feelings, get out of role and share anything from their own lives that has been warmed up by the work.
After the action work there was debriefing in twos and threes, sharing what had been learnt from the work in the different groups.
I went over some of the main points referring back to the text. If one speaks what is true about what one sees and feels and does so in a respectful way, nothing can go wrong. If one expresses it immediately it has greatest effect, is most use to the client and helps to build the relationship on a basis of trust. Also, when one expresses something that does not resonate for the client, if it has been said immediately it is easy to let it go, whereas when one has been thinking about it for a time and building up a theory in one’s mind before speaking it is much more difficult to relinquish one’s investment in the idea. The truth is not something we construct - it is “bestowed by heaven”. We find it by penetrating into the things that are mysterious. Thus when the client says something that seems not to add up, we know we are on the edge of something interesting, some aspect that we have not yet understood. In any case, causes and conditions are ripening as they should. When we have this deep respect, then it is safe to go into the client’s hell or prison. Like the bodhisattva who goes to rescue beings in the infernal regions, we can safely enter the client’s world and accompany him on his exploration.
Group members spent some consolidation time in pairs before the final conclusion.