“The master within the master”
The client follows prompts that come from within. This is what is called a “felt sense” in the therapy method Focussing. Carl Rogers developed a theory of what is needed to be a good therapist. His colleague Gene Gendlin then developed a theory based on the question: What does one need in order to be a successful client? Gendlin’s answer was that one needs to pay attention to the felt sense and he set out to teach people how to do so. The felt sense is an inner prompt that comes spontaneously. It is not under the rational control of the person. The inner prompt of the client is the “king” in the therapy situation. However, the therapist also has to attend to her own inner prompts. If she is in empathy with the client she will resonate with the client and will start to experience things that are an infection of feeling from the client. Bringing these into the dialogue can also stimulate the client’s process, the therapist being a mirror. Within the parameters set by these intuitive prompts, client and therapist can use their rational faculty to try to make sense of what is arising. It is important, however, that the inner prompt remains “king” and the rational mind “minister” and not the other way round. This is not easy because anything that is not under our conscious control is an affront to the ego. The ego of the therapist wants to get back in control, but if this happens it leads to conflict and “resistance”. In order to get back into the flow the therapist has to let go of their “good idea” and let the intuitive messages take precedence.
If one were to be client today, what would one work on?
Discuss the theoretical material of the morning talk and yesterday.
Fifth Demonstration Session
Anger. Client gets angry frequently whenever contradicted. He is suffering abdominal problems he believes to be connected to the anger.
Client talked about having received advice to counter his anger by practising laughing and smiling, which he does. Client mentioned particularly losing his temper with his younger brother and also mentioned the death of his father. The therapist reflected these items but they did not seem crucial. Client then continued with a series of reminiscences about childhood and early adulthood when, as the eldest son, he had been treated differently from his siblings. There were incidents of unfairness and of him being misunderstood and criticised unjustly. It was apparent from the client’s face that he was getting closer and closer to feelings of great distress. The therapist moved to one side and closer so as to support the client as he recalled more reminiscences. These included some successes as well as disappointments. He told briefly the story of his marriage, of plans to move house, of his own sons, of his business and of occasions when he had done things that pleased his mother who also had a difficult life.
The client experienced the connection between present anger and childhood sadness, disappointment and rage. The client’s tenderness toward his mother was acknowledged. There was some release of painful emotion and increased awareness of the connection between sadness and anger.
Points of Interest
1. Initially it seemed that the piece might generate scenes for action work. Although a great many scenes were presented, none individually seemed crucial. Rather they provided a tapestry of the client’s whole life, through which ran threads of recurring sadness and tenderness.
2. The therapist particularly supported the client’s expressions of sadness and disappointment, and associated pain, which appeared as the flip-side of his anger. However, the therapist also showed enjoyment in listening to the client’s accounts of his successes, even though these were also mostly laced with pathos.
3. The client has learnt how to convert his misfortunes into amusing stories and this is a valuable social skill but not a remedy for the suppressed tears.
4. The crucial element in this session was the rapport the therapist managed to establish and the understanding shown for the painful aspect of the client’s life.
5. One can assume that some degree of father transference was happening. This demands that the therapist act as the good father so that there is a reparative experience.
6. The therapist should avoid pushing too hard for more and more tears. Once the client has achieved something it can be better to consolidate it then to press for more.
7. We discussed the problem of what happens if the therapist were to become identified with one of the auxiliary figures rather than the client himself. The problems presented in this case were grounded in a classical Korean family structure in which the eldest son has a special role which is often burdensome to him and which provokes envy from the other siblings. A therapist from this culture might well have difficulty seeing things from a position different from their own. We talked about the need for experience of the perspective of all positions. One does not abandon one’s experience but one must not hold to it so tightly that one cannot understand other viewpoints.
8. We also discussed how a session moves on. The therapist can be still holding onto a diagnosis that was correct ten minutes ago, but the client has now moved on to a new perspective or aspect. Keeping up with the client without losing track of how he got there is challenging. One cannot hope to understand every small turn of he client’s mind. One simply does the best one can.
Reflecting upon the ideas and work done.
Six, Seventh & Eighth Demonstration Sessions
Three short sessions
Sixth Session: Client talked about changes in her interaction with her husband resulting from learning how to accommodate each other’s very different styles of dealing with issues. When they do not try to "fix" each other there is less conflict and more scope for tenderness.
Seventh Session: Client talked about memories that have surfaced during this workshop of critical incidents in her childhood that shaped her attitude to life leaving tendencies, on the one hand, to feel useless and incapable and, on the other hand, an obsession with preparing everything minutely so as to appear as perfect as possible. Client experienced much emotion while recounting these stories, and also spoke of her difficulty in understanding why these memories have remained dark to her until now.
Eighth Session: Client shared her anxiety and grief about Dr Brazier’s illness and the possibility that “we may lose you” and shared how this reactivated a grief for another person in her life in the past who died.
Points of Interest
1. In all three cases the therapist deeply appreciated the trust shown by the clients in sharing these experiences.
2. In the eighth session the therapist suggested that the client give more thought to the old grief and then have another session in the next couple of days. This separated the two issues.
3. Sometimes the significant rupa is the therapist and the therapist needs to have sufficient objectivity and lack of self-consciousness to respond in the same way as would be the case if the rupa were somebody else.
4. The three cases express aspects of the drama and pathos of ordinary life - marital relations, social relations and loss. Each has a dramatic and moving quality and there is a great value in sharing such experience and receiving confirmation of the significance of deep emotions.
5. In the seventh case it was apparent that some emotions had become frozen as a consequence of the incidents recounted and that their coming to the surface now was a sign of the frozenness melting.
6. The therapist suggested to the seventh client that she perhaps feels compassion for the child that she had been. This provoked a new flow of emotion and understanding.
7. These clients were all well motivated and warmed up. We talked about how to connect with unmotivated or hostile clients. There is always some way of making a connection but it may be hard to find. One has to get alongside something that is important to the client which may be something belonging to a different aspect of life from that which the therapist ultimately wants to address.
8. The seventh client later reported that several new insights had occurred to her since the session. This illustrates how the work goes on after the session. If a real shift has occurred, then it will go on having a domino effect in the client. The client will go on working, pondering, dreaming, and making new connections. The therapy, therefore, simply plants a seed that will go on growing in its own way. This also means that often “less is more”. A small change that is real is more effective than a seemingly more dramatic session that is merely superficial.