Saw a short video by Dr. Pat Ogden, the creator of Sensorimotor Psychotherapy, on helping a young anxiety client to counter her own reactive responses to the world around her.
Ogden is one of the few well-known psychotherapists who treat clients more holistically recognizing that the kinetic movements or posturing of the physical body often provides clues to what is happening in the client’s mind.
She was telling the story of a too-quiet, young Latino girl of 13-years old who had been bullied and ridiculed from age 8 onwards. The girl was very shy and had retracted into herself with a natural posture of cocking her head strongly to the side and hunching her shoulders. Had she been a turtle, she would have retracted completely into the shell.
After prompting the young client to explore what was going on in that cramped-up neck and shoulder area—encouraging her to just say out loud whatever images or memories came into her mind when she explored the physical body parts of neck and shoulder, the girl began to unravel an entire memory sequence of how badly others had treated her at age 8—particularly her peers; how terribly it had hurt and traumatized her when she had been bullied, scorned, and ridiculed by her fellow classmates—to the point that she began to view herself in the same negative way that the others had once treated her.
The current anxiety felt by the now 13-year-old girl was primarily due to the emotional impacts of previous cruelty by others; and those traumatic impacts at such a vulnerable period of her young life had created constantly reinforced memories looping in her current mind continually reminding her of her diminished self-worth. So the memories from 5 years prior were still creating a barrage of negative programming constantly bombarding her throughout her present life.
Dr. Ogden treated the physical body evidence first—encouraging her to slowly straighten her neck and hold her head level on her shoulders. When the young girl started lifting her head higher, it instantly created anxiety in her stomach area. So Ogden then told her to put her hand over her stomach to protect her while she raised her head and straightened her neck.
As the body slowly straightened, the offending memories quickly surfaced from her earlier traumas as an 8-year old. Dr. Ogden told her to use the present knowledge and courage of her 13-year-old self to now sooth and help calm that younger 8-year-old version of herself. Ogden encouraged her to help that younger version of herself regain her lost confidence and to reestablish her proper elegant stature. (Sounds a lot like what’s called Inner Child work.)
By keeping her one hand on her stomach area to protect her energy field, the girl was slowly able to successfully straighten her neck and hold her head high and straight. When she had accomplished that feat, she took a deeper breath and began to smile. That simple act of retraining and straightening the body to face the world ahead allowed the girl to shift her perspective on herself and the world around her; and it helped her to begin to redefine and eventually to rebuild her sense of self-worth.
All that diagnosis and treatment came from first addressing hunched shoulders and a head held cocked to the side.
I’ve listened to Dr. Pat Ogden before on treating trauma patients, and I like her straight forward, down-to-earth style to helping her clients. It’s practical and effective, and a little bit familiar.
Two things that rang very true here with me is that I’d previously mentioned that my REIKI clients tended to hold deep emotional traumas in various parts of the body and that I as an energy-worker helped them to release those trapped energies existing in those body parts, and by also utilizing ‘release statements’ in the process, which means the client must actively engage with the memory and intend to release those energies still trapped in their body through the breath.
And the familiar second thing was the “holding your hand over your stomach area” is a classic energy-worker suggestion for dealing with negative people to avoid their noxious projected energies, OR to prevent them from stealing YOUR energy by pulling it from your solar plexus region which is the easiest energy region for them to access.
These are actual techniques that I teach to my REIKI classes—as energy-work, NOT psychotherapy.
One of these days hopefully modern medicine will recognize the holistic nature of the human experience and realize that we are much more than physical masses lumbering through our lives. Emotions are far more energy-based than they are physical-location-in-your-brain specific.
And even though memories might well be located in the brain region as stored electrical-impulse packages, they are also the basis for programming our current daily perspectives on our environment, and as such they can powerfully skew how we view the world around us and how we consider our rightful place in it.
I will repeat this statement over and over: We are NOT victims of the world around us—we are co-creators of this world!
So let’s start focusing on creating something better here than what we must currently endure.