As we approach the Original Wounding....fight or flight?
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Jayne Phillips, Psychotherapeutic Counsellor, Dip Couns, MBACP Registered
4th July, 20120 Comments
A theme that occurs in therapy, are feelings of the 'fight or flight' response from the client, as we approach their 'wounding' within the therapeutic relationship.
What do I mean by wounding?
Our birth family acts as a 'holding' environment similar to the safe, warm environment of the womb. As the baby enters into the physical world, the home environment or family becomes another 'holding or safe space' for the baby/child to grow, learn and explore.
However, as children, if we do not receive the love, care, support and safety needed for us to feel a connection, we begin to shut off aspects of ourselves to avoid the pain of that rejection. We can disconnect to those around us and to the world but ultimately, we disconnect to our true selves.
Within the therapy, I try to create that safe, holding space for the client, so as to enable them to safely explore. There is no judgement or criticism but complete acceptance of what the client needs to bring.
However, it seems inevitable that as you approach the wounding, the client can respond with the 'fight or flight' response. Defences arise and the client will try to avoid, sometimes projecting their feelings of anger or frustration onto the therapist or the relationship. In some cases, the client will abruptly leave the relationship, taking flight from the pain.
It is at those times, when the client wishes to fight or fly, that it is so important to remain 'with it'. To look at the wound, to gain an understanding and acceptance. To work with the strong emotions or the numbness that might present itself. To not retreat back into the world, with the wound left untreated.
At this point I often say to clients, if you could see your wounding as physical, would you leave it unattended to bleed and become infected? Would you not wash it carefully, treat it gently and get the medical help needed to help heal it? Our emotional wounds are just as important, if not more so. They bleed internally and can cause us immense pain, which can be invisible to others around us.
A holding, therapeutic relationship can help support the client move through this process of pain. To gain an insight and view their wounding with new eyes.
Both Counsellor and Client are needed to go through this process together; one cannot do it without the other. To work with the fight of defences and to stay, rather than fly...
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