PSYCHOANALYSIS EMBODIED:

RE-EXPERIENCING THE OLD and CONSTRUCTING THE NEW

by Martha Stark, MD / Faculty, Harvard Medical School

FIRST LOUISA HOWE MEMORIAL LECTURE

Saturday, June 11, 2005

 

In Loving Memory of Al Pesso and Diane Boyden-Pesso

CO-FOUNDERS OF PSYCHOMOTOR PSYCHOTHERAPY (PBSP)

 

Welcome.  It is a great honor for me have been invited to present to you this First Louisa Howe Memorial Lecture.  I regret that I never had the privilege or the pleasure of meeting Dr. Howe, whom I understand was always unwaveringly supportive of Al, Diane, and PBSP; passionately committed to social justice (particularly around issues of race); and deeply appreciative of psychoanalysis (especially the writings of Freud himself).  Word has it that Louisa found it intolerably disturbing whenever Freud's theories were misrepresented.  She was clearly a woman with incredible determination, rock-solid integrity, heartfelt compassion, exceptional dignity, remarkable vision, a razor-harp intelligence, and profound wisdom.  An old soul, a woman way ahead of her time.

 

I have been looking forward to this day for months now, and I thank Jim Amundsen for extending me the invitation to speak to this group of dedicated healers willing and able to think and feel outside the box.  And Al himself is truly one of the most astoundingly gifted clinicians I have ever had the delight of knowing and the thrill of working with. 

 

I first met Al on June 15, 1996, exactly nine years ago – at the First U.S. National Conference on Body-Oriented Psychotherapy in Beverly, Massachusetts.  Bessel van der Kolk and I had gone to a workshop conducted by Al, in which he explained his theory and then offered a live demonstration of PBSP.  I remember looking at Bessel and saying, "Oh, my God!"  We were both absolutely enthralled and, in that moment, we both fell in love with him.  Al is a man with both soul and heart, comfort with both his body and his mind, facility with both his right and his left brain, a truly extraordinary, brilliant, one-of-a-kind healer who has, with much courage, dared to go places most would fear to go.  The PBSP approach that he and Diane have developed is a profoundly transformative treatment modality involving, as you well know, mind, body, and soul.

 

Al has written several books about PBSP – including Movement in Psychotherapy (1969, New York University Press) and Experience in Action (1973, New York University Press).  He has co-authored a book entitled The Wounded Self and another entitled Structures of the Unconscious.

 

Al has also written numerous articles on PBSP and, in the last few years, has been developing some groundbreaking ideas about "Holes in the Roles," an extremely powerful and clinically useful concept that puts forth the profoundly novel idea that an important aspect of the "resistance" with which the client (as an adult) presents – to translate Al's holes-in-roles concept into a psychoanalytic concept – will often have been her innate knowledge (as a child) that a family member could have and should have been better cared for by her genetically appropriate kinship figures at the genetically appropriate age and that, because of those deficits in satisfaction of that family member's maturational needs, that family member had been wounded and therefore unable to provide for the maturational needs the client had had as a developing child.

 

Furthermore, because the client, even as a child, had had an innate knowledge of – and deep compassion for – the woundedness of that family member, she had subsequently found herself compelled by a fundamental thrust from her genetic, evolutionary memory to "do justice" – that is, to make restitution, to make right the wrong done unto that family member in order to effect some kind of closure or resolution.  In essence, the client, as a child, had been "parentified," constructing out of her omnipotent "stem self" a "virtual kinship figure" for the afflicted family members, thereby enabling the client, unwittingly, to fill the holes in the roles of those deficit-ridden, wounded family members who should themselves have been fulfilling their roles as kinship figures in relation to her.

 

In other words, not only did the client, as a child, not have her own maturational needs met by the kinship figure (perhaps a parent) but much of her energy had been siphoned off into providing caretaking for that parent – all because of her compassion and her biological need to put right what had been done wrong, to complete what had been left undone, to bring closure and resolution to the unmet needs of that wounded parent.  Even as a child, therefore, the client had extended herself (in much the way that an amoeba extends its pseudopods) to that damaged parent, the underlying (largely unconscious) hope being that perhaps, through the client's caretaking, the parent might someday "grow up" and be able to return the favor, becoming thereby the wished-for, longed-for parent she should have been from the get-go.

 

Al's idea here about the client's unwavering "hope" dovetails with a psychoanalytic concept about which I have been writing in recent years.  In the 1990s I coined the term "relentless hope" to capture the essence of this life stance – a masochistic one, to be sure – in which the individual hopes that perhaps someday, somehow, some way, were she to be but good enough, try hard enough, and suffer deeply enough, she might yet be able to extract from the object (sometimes the parent herself, sometimes a stand-in for the parent) the recognition and love denied the client as a child.

 

And so the patient, even in the face of incontrovertible evidence to the contrary, pursues the object of her desire with a vengeance, the intensity of this pursuit fueled by her conviction that the object could give it (were the object but willing), should give it (because this is the patient's due), and would give it (were she, the patient, but able to get it right).  This latter speaks to the patient's need to see herself as having the locus of control and the power to make things change – easier this than to confront the intolerably painful reality that things were and are entirely outside her sphere of control.

 

Please note that the patient's investment is not so much in the suffering per se as it is in her desperate hope that, perhaps, this time...  From a psychoanalytic perspective, we might say of such a patient that her stance is a masochistic one. 

 

My belief is that sadism is then the patient's response to the loss of hope she experiences in those moments of dawning recognition that she is not really going to get what she so desperately wants and feels she must have. 

 

In psychoanalytic theory, it is believed that, ordinarily, a person who has been told "no" must confront the pain of her disappointment in the object and come to terms with it – in other words, she must grieve this thwarting of her desire.  If she can make her peace with just how devastated and angry she feels, then she will be able to internalize the "good" that she had experienced in the relationship prior to her disillusionment – which will enable her to preserve internally a piece of the original experience of external goodness.  Such internalizations are part of the grieving process and are the way the person masters her experience of disappointment and heartbreak.

 

Growing up (the task of the child) and getting better (the task of the patient) have to do with coming to terms with the disappointment and the pain that come with the recognition of just how imperfect one's objects really are (be they the infantile, the transference, or a contemporary object).

 

But the patient who is relentlessly hopeful cannot tolerate being disappointed.  Instead of confronting the pain of her disappointment, grieving the loss of her illusions, and relinquishing her pursuit, the patient does something else.  With the dawning recognition that she is not going to get what she wants, she becomes overwhelmed by feelings of hopelessness and plummets into a chasm of absolute and utter despair.

 

The patient may also respond to her disappointment with the sadistic unleashing of a torrent of abuse directed either toward herself (for having failed to get what she so desperately wanted) or toward the disappointing object (for having failed to give it to her).  She may alternate between enraged protests at her own inadequacy and scathing reproaches against the object for having thwarted her desire.

 

Sadism, then, is the patient's response to her loss of hope. 

 

So if a patient (during a therapy session) becomes abusive, what should the therapist do?

 

If she asks the patient "How do you feel that I have failed you?" at least she knows enough to ask the question, but she is also indirectly suggesting that the answer will be primarily a story about the patient (and the patient's "perception" of having been failed).

 

Better, then, to ask "How have I failed you?"  Now she is signaling her recognition of the fact that she herself might have contributed to the patient's experience of disillusionment and heartache, perhaps by not fulfilling an implicit promise she had earlier made.  The therapist must have both the wisdom to recognize and the integrity to acknowledge (certainly to herself and perhaps to the patient as well) the part she might have played by first stoking the flames of the patient's desire and then devastating through her failure, ultimately, to deliver.

 

In any event, the cycle is repeated if the (seductive) object throws the patient a few crumbs.  The sadomasochist, a real sucker for such crumbs, is once again hooked and reverts to her original stance of suffering, sacrifice, and surrender in a repeat attempt to get what she so desperately wants and feels she must have.

 

Relentless hope, then, is a defense to which the patient may cling in order not to have to feel the pain of her disappointment in her objects, the hope a defense ultimately against her grief.

 

The patient's refusal to deal with the pain of her grief fuels the relentlessness with which she pursues the object – both the relentlessness of her entitled sense that something is her due and the relentlessness of her outrage in the face of its being denied.  Hoping against hope, she pursues the object of her desire with a vengeance, insisting that the answer be "yes" and refusing to take "no" for an answer.

 

In truth, relentless hope is a defense to which many of us cling (to varying degrees) in order not to have to confront certain intolerably painful realities in our lives.

 

When I learned about Al's brilliant "holes in roles" concept, it enabled me to understand a whole other dimension to the relentless hope that characterizes so many of my psychodynamic psychotherapy patients – namely, that part of what fuels the relentlessness with which she pursues her love objects is her compassion and her genetic, biological need to do justice, to make restitution, to make right the wrong she "knows" was done unto them – and then, yes, there is the unconscious hope that the now-healed family member (by virtue of the client's ministrations) might someday be able to return the favor in kind...

 

Al and Diane's work has had a profound impact on the way I look at the therapeutic process.  My struggle has been with how to integrate PBSP theory and technique into my psychoanalytic work – especially challenging, perhaps, by virtue of the fact that PBSP structures are most easily done in a group (and not one-on-one).

 

I would like now to present an overview of some of the ideas I have had about the therapeutic action of psychotherapy and then attempt to create some kind of link between Al and Diane's work and more mainstream psychodynamic work.

 

For years I have been thinking in terms of, and writing about, the different modes of therapeutic action – enhancement of knowledge, provision of experience, and engagement in relationship – about which I will be saying more in a moment.  But over the course of the past several years (as I have been studying with Al), I have come to appreciate that another mode of therapeutic action is the construction of memory – very much at the heart of the work done in PBSP.

 

So – enhancement of knowledge, provision of experience, engagement in relationship, and construction of memory.

 

Whereas Freud and other classical psychoanalysts conceived of the client's psychopathology as deriving from the client (in whom there was thought to be an imbalance of forces and, therefore, internal conflict), self psychologists, object relations theorists, and contemporary relational analysts conceive of the client's psychopathology as deriving from the parent (and the parent's failure of the child). 

 

How are such parental failures thought to be internally recorded and structuralized?  Interestingly, some theorists (like Balint) focus on the price the child pays because of what the parent does not do; in other words, "absence of good" in the parent/child relationship is thought to give rise to structural deficit (or impaired capacity) in the child.  But other theorists (like Fairbairn) focus on the price the child pays because of what the parent does do; in other words, "presence of bad" in the parent/child relationship is thought to be registered internally in the form of pathogenic introjects or internal bad objects – filters through which the child then experiences her world.

 

But whether the pathogenic factor is seen as an error of omission (absence of good) or an error of commission (presence of bad), the villain in the piece is no longer thought to be the child (as it was by Freud and his followers) but the parent.

 

As psychodynamic psychotherapists shifted their interest from nature to nurture, understandably the locus of the therapeutic action also shifted – from "insight by way of interpretation" to "a corrective experience by way of the real relationship" (that is, from "within the client" to "within the relationship between client and therapist"). 

 

No longer was the goal thought to be insight and rendering conscious the unconscious so that structural conflict could be resolved; now the goal of treatment became filling in structural deficit by way of the therapist's restitutive provision.  No longer was the goal thought to be enhancement of knowledge; now the goal became provision of experience.

 

With respect to that experience:  Contemporary theorists believe that when the client suffers from the internal absence of good, she must have the opportunity to find a new good object – so that there can be restitution.  When the client suffers from the internal presence of bad, she must have the opportunity to re-find the old bad object – so that traumatogenic interactions experienced early-on at the hands of the parents can be worked through in the context of the client's here-and-now engagement with her therapist. 

 

The distinction I am making here is between conceptualizing the therapeutic action (in psychodynamic psychotherapy) as involving the creation of new good and conceptualizing it as involving the recreation of old bad. 

 

Along these lines, Jay Greenberg has suggested that if the therapist does not participate as a new good object, the therapy never gets under way; and if she does not participate as the old bad one, the therapy never ends – which captures exquisitely the delicate balance between the therapist's participation as a new good object (so that the client can have an opportunity to begin anew) and the therapist's participation as the old bad object (so that the client can have an opportunity to achieve belated mastery of her internalized traumas). 

 

A particular issue with which I have been struggling in recent years involves the following:  Although much attention has been paid in the psychodynamic literature to the client's need to be failed and her active efforts to re-create – with her therapist – the old bad object situation (by way of projective identification), scant attention has been paid in the literature to the client's equally powerful need to find now what never was and her active efforts to create opportunities for such restitution. 

 

As Steven Stern (1994) has astutely observed, "...there has been no systematic effort to define a ... counterpart to projective identification, that is, the patient's unconscious efforts to evoke in the therapist specific responses that are different from those of the traumatizing figures of the past" (p. 320).

 

Nonetheless, I believe that most of us have experienced pressure from our clients to participate not just as the bad parents they did have (so that they can rework their internal demons) but also as the good parents they never had (so that they can have a new beginning – this new relationship a corrective for the old one). 

 

It is unfortunate that so little has been written about the client's activity with respect to creating new good.

 

Again, although the client with internal presence of bad is thought to enact her need for old bad in the transference, the client with internal absence of good is not thought to enact her need for new good. 

 

Unfortunately, in the psychodynamic literature, there is a fairly pervasive sense of structurally impaired and deficit-ridden clients as not accountable, as passive, helpless, innocent victim of parental deprivation and neglect.  The client with internal absence of good is disempowered – is not seen as an agent, as proactive, as responsible for what happens to her.  She is not thought, therefore, to exert pressure (albeit unconsciously) on the therapist to participate as a new good object. 

 

Let me back up for a moment:  In corrective-provision models of therapeutic action (of which self psychology is a prime example), the locus of the therapeutic action is thought to involve the therapist's provision of some form of corrective experience.  The healing is believed to require a real experience in the present with a new object, an experience in the here-and-now that compensates for the damage sustained early-on at the hands of the infantile object.  It is in the context of the relationship between client and therapist that there is thought to be opportunity for reparation – this new relationship a corrective for the old one.

 

The emphasis, however, is not on the client's proactive efforts to bring about that which she most needs in order to heal.  Rather, the therapist who embraces a corrective-provision model of therapeutic action believes that clients who suffer from the internal absence of good must be provided with a new good object so that they can have the opportunity to start over; the emphasis is therefore on the therapist's empathy, the therapist's ability to use her finely tuned intuition and sensitivity to determine how best to compensate the client for what she suffered early-on.  It is the therapist, not the client, who is thought to have the responsibility for seeing to it that the client is offered some form of corrective provision, so that the difference can be made up to her, her deficiencies made good. 

 

It is to Al and Diane that I owe my understanding of, and appreciation for, the importance of the client's activity in bringing about what she most needs in order to heal – the client as agent, the client's activity as intentioned, the client as proactive, the client as choreographer of the object's moves, the client as enacting her need for good by drawing the object into participating as the good parent she never had. 

 

Again, activity on the client's part for which psychodynamic psychotherapy has no term whatsoever.  Projective identification for the client's need to re-find the old bad object, but no analogous term for the client's need to find a new good object. 

 

Furthermore (and here is one of the things that makes Al and Diane's approach so extraordinarily unique), in psychomotor work the emphasis is on the client's experiencing of good not in the present but in the past. 

 

In other words, as you will soon see for yourselves, the therapeutic action in PBSP involves the client's construction of good memories.  The client (in the context of remembering, and reliving, the early-on "bad" experiences at the hands of her parents) is given the opportunity to construct in the present what she wishes had happened in the past.

 

Accordingly, in psychomotor work a "structure" is set up in which the client revisits the early-on traumatogenic scene (the so-called "historical scene") and, in the process, re-experiences (in her mind's eye and in her body) the anguish and the devastation she had experienced as a child in relation to her parents. 

 

But the healing is thought to involve not so much this cathartic discharging of long-repressed feelings and body memories or even the grieving of early-on parental failures but, rather, the creation of salutary (health-promoting) virtual memories, the creation of positive false memories (if you will). 

 

In other words, the so-called "healing scene" involves the client's proactively choreographing the responses of group members whom she enlists to role-play her childhood objects – not the actual bad ones but hypothetical good ones (ones she wishes she had been lucky enough to have had).  The healing scene involves the client's creation of believable alternatives. 

 

When the client constructs a missing positive experience, there is usually the click of recognition – now the world is as I always knew it should be.  The new memory is placed in the mind's eye (and registered in the body) alongside the memory of what actually happened – an antidote to the original pain.  The new salutary memories do not replace the old pathogenic memories – rather, they take up a position alongside of the old memories.

 

More specifically, the client instructs members of the psychomotor group to behave in accordance with what she wishes had happened when she was a child – the accommodators she selects are enrolled as "ideal figures." 

 

The client then instructs them to say, for example:  "Had I been your ideal mother back then, I would have held you when you cried and you would have felt safe in my arms."  And then the accommodator holds the client as she cries.  Or, "Had I been your ideal father back then, I would have delighted in your competence and would never have felt threatened."

 

The exact form of the ideal figure's response is programmed by the client – who, with often unbelievable accuracy and precision, somehow seems to know exactly what she would have wanted. 

 

Crucial here is the following:  Although the client knows that the people she enlists as positive accommodators are in the present, she experiences them "as if" they had been there for her in the past. 

 

For psychomotor work to be effective, there must be a split within the client between her "pilot" (to which we might refer as her observing ego) and her kinesthetic/sensorimotor experience (to which we might refer as her experiencing ego) – such that the client always knows that it's really happening in the present but experiences it "as if" it had happened in the past.  The client must be able to hold within her this dialectical tension between what she knows to be real and what she wishes had been real.

 

The client also knows that the people she enlists to role-play her ideal figures are responding to directives from her; but, interestingly, clients appear to benefit even so – taking it in "as if" it were real, not just role-played (taking it in as if it had arisen spontaneously from within an authentic self-motivated other, not just play-acted).  In other words, despite the client's knowledge that it is she who is choreographing the object's moves, her experience is that it is very much a 2-person, interactive process. 

 

In essence, the client (as agent) creates, or constructs, positive artificial memories – synthetic virtual memories, positive false memories, that are thought to serve (symbolically) as an antidote to the client's early-on bad experiences. 

 

In psychodynamic psychotherapy, if the client is sobbing as she relives an early-on painful experience, the therapist offers the client her listening presence and her empathic understanding; perhaps (if the therapist decides to risk introducing an outside parameter) she even offers the client a kleenex.  In PBSP, on the other hand, if the client is sobbing as she relives a past experience, the figure whom she has chosen to role-play her ideal parent holds her, soothes her, comforts her as her body (racked with the pain of remembering just how bad it really was) trembles, cringes, convulses, collapses – and the client takes in this powerfully healing experience of being nurtured and held "as if" she had lived it back then. 

 

Again, a mind/body memory is being constructed that functions as an antidote to what actually happened.

 

To review: 

 

(1)  Whereas in corrective-provision models the emphasis is on the therapist's ability to intuit what the client with deficit will need in order to heal, in PBSP the emphasis is on the client's proactive efforts to create what, on some deep level, she knows she must experience in order to get better. 

 

(2)  Furthermore, whereas in corrective-provision models of psychodynamic psychotherapy the emphasis is on the provision in the here-and-now of the missing positive experiences, in PBSP the emphasis is on the provision in the there-and-then of the missing positive experiences. 

 

(3)  Finally, whereas in corrective-provision models of psychodynamic psychotherapy (like self psychology) the emphasis is on empathic recognition of need and validation of experience, in PBSP the emphasis is on not just empathic recognition and validation but also actual gratification (of the client's unmet developmental needs). 

 

Interestingly, in psychodynamic psychotherapy grieving (that is, confronting the reality of certain excruciatingly painful experiences and feeling all that needs to be felt in order, ultimately, to get on with her life) is thought by many theorists to be at the heart of the therapeutic action. 

 

For example, in self psychology (a theory about the internal absence of good because of what didn't happen in the early-on relationship between parent and child), as the client confronts the reality that her therapist (a stand-in for her parent) will never be all that the client would have wanted her to be, the client must make her peace with the reality of that disillusioning, heartbreaking truth so that she can move on (in the process, internalizing the good that had been present prior to the "introduction" of the "disillusioning" bad).  Self psychology refers, of course, to this process as optimal disillusionment and transmuting internalization.

 

In contradistinction to this is PBSP, in which the role of grieving is very different.  Although the client may well grieve as she re-experiences the historical scene and as she experiences the "pain of contrast" between what was and what she now knows could have been, it is not the grieving per se that is thought to be healing – because PBSP is not about coming to terms with the reality (1) that things were as they were and (2) that there is nothing to be done now to correct for this horrid truth. 

 

Rather, PBSP is about creating possibilities – for things to be and, therefore, to have been different.  PBSP is not about confronting the reality that one's developmental needs were never, and will never be, met; rather, it is about creating a space within which the client (in a regressed child state) can have the experience of having thwarted developmental needs therapeutically reactivated and symbolically met – an experience that is internally registered as a healing alternative (or antidote) to the original pathogenic situation. 

 

Before I offer a clinical vignette and then close, I would like to speak briefly to the role played by the "witness" figure in PBSP.

 

In psychodynamic psychotherapy, the empathic therapist resonates with the client's affective experience and offers some form of validating response – in the form, say, of "You become deeply saddened as you think about just how unprotected you were as a child."  Certainly an empathic response that will enable the client to feel understood by her therapist. 

 

But in PBSP, things are a little different.  A witness figure is created who literally bears witness to the client's experience, offering not the statement "You become deeply saddened as you think about just how unprotected you were as a child," but "I can see how deeply saddened you become as you think about just how unprotected you were as a child."  The simple addition of "I can see..." transforms an empathic response that enables the client to feel understood into a deeply empathic response that enables the client to feel deeply understood and seen. 

 

I think that part of the power of such an intervention derives from the introduction of the observer's "eyes."  It is much more powerful even than an intervention that introduces a listener's "ears" ("I can hear how deeply saddened you become as you think about just how unprotected you were as a child"). 

 

But also important, I believe, is that the intervention is being offered by a stranger, an outsider, who, by observing the client, is able to name the client's affective and bodily experience – which is somehow deeply affirming for the client.  Perhaps we're speaking here to the distinction between a friend noticing how sad you look and someone in the street whom you may never before have met noticing how sad you look. 

 

Let me describe for you an example of Al at work. 

 

CLINICAL VIGNETTE:  Andre ~ A Lovely Story of a Man in Conflict 

Andre was a high-level "executive" from a South American country who had come to Strolling Woods, upon the recommendation of a colleague, to do a structure.  His colleague had told Andre that it would be a powerfully transformative experience, but Andre was having trouble getting started and found himself beginning to question the wisdom of his decision to have traveled thousands of miles in order to have the opportunity to do something that now seemed almost silly.

 

As Andre sat cross-legged on the floor, embarrassed, anxious, frustrated, and distressed, he began first to press the tips of his fingers into the rug on the floor in front of him and then to rub them, slowly and rhythmically, back and forth, back and forth.  Meanwhile, Andre's story was beginning to unfold and to take shape. 

 

Andre's father, whom he had loved deeply, had suddenly left his wife and child when Andre was but 4.  Subsequently, Andre had had a very intimate relationship with his mother, who nurtured him well but was filled with hatred for her husband because of his abandonment of the family. 

 

To make a profoundly moving story short, at one point, Al, noting the way in which Andre was stroking the rug in front him, suggested that Andre consider enrolling one of the women in the group as Andre's real mother and that this woman be instructed to lie face down on the floor in front of Andre, under his fingertips. 

 

Even when this woman had positioned herself face down on the floor in front of Andre, he continued the now more obviously tender back-and-forth stroking movements – his hands never once leaving her back. 

 

After a while, Al suggested that Andre consider enrolling one of the men in the group to role-play Andre's real father and that the man be instructed to lie face down on the floor beside the woman role-playing Andre's real mother.

 

Interestingly, Andre continued the gentle caressing of his mother's back but shifted his eyes, now filled with pain and sad yearning, to the back of the man role-playing his real father.  Never once did Andre remove his hands from his mother's back but now his attention was riveted on his father's back.

 

Andre was obviously being gripped by a powerful internal conflict – between his intense desire to reach out to touch this man (his father) and an equally intense inability to do so.  Clearly, Andre wanted desperately to establish contact with his father but simply could not bring himself to break the contact with his mother. 

 

To bear witness to Andre's extraordinary struggle was profoundly heartbreaking for all of us in the group.

 

The witness figure, in response to Al's prompt, observed the following:  "I can see how much you long to be able to reach out to your father" – at which point Andre, still unable to break free of his mother but still obviously hungering to make contact with his father, bowed his head (though never once taking his eyes off his father) and began to sob – deep, heartrending, anguished sobs that contorted his face and convulsed his body. 

 

Al then introduced a contact figure who, instructed by Andre (through broken sobs) to sit by his side, held Andre as Andre collapsed into this man's arms.  Al suggested (with Andre's agreement) that the contact figure expand his role to that of an ideal father and that another member of the group be enrolled as Andre's ideal mother. 

 

Andre's ideal mother took up a position on the other side of Andre and both parents encircled Andre lovingly in their arms – maintaining, all the while, contact with each other.  Andre's ideal father was instructed to say that, had he been Andre's ideal father back then, he would never have left his wife and son.  Andre's ideal mother was instructed to say that, had she been Andre's ideal mother back then, she would never have felt betrayed when Andre wanted connection with his father.  Both parents offered this and many other statements that indicated their commitment both to being there for Andre and to not insisting that he choose between them. 

 

Eventually, Andre's sobs began to subside and his body began to settle into a state of deep relaxation – as he began to allow himself to take in the profoundly healing experience of being comforted and nurtured by ideal parents who would have loved each other and would have loved him and who would not have made him choose between them.  As Andre nestled securely in their arms, his body, once tense, was now at ease – a beautiful peaceful smile lit up his face. 

 

Andre was instructed to register the experience internally as a positive memory – to construct an image of that child finally finding what he had spent a lifetime pursuing.  When Andre signaled his readiness, the figures who had been enrolled were de-roled and the structure was complete.

 

It was such a powerful experience for all of us in the group to bear witness to the power of PBSP with this man, a high-level business executive who had never before been exposed to any kind of psychotherapy and probably hardly even believed in the unconscious.

 

Al and Diane – We miss you dearly …    M Stark 2018 

© 2020  Martha Stark, MD ~ Founder / CEO, SynergyMed for MindBodyHealth ~ 617.244.7188 ~ MarthaStarkMD@HMS.Harvard.edu


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