Case #205 - Hands around her neck

Rosa was a recovering addict. I asked her what part of her body she associated with the addiction (alcohol). She said her throat. I asked the feeling - she said, like bands, choking her. I asked her to show me, with her fingers. She did so. This is important in Gestalt - to focus awareness, we say sharpen awareness, both for the client, and also for me to be more in touch with their experience in detail. I then suggested an experiment - I would move my hands slowly towards Rosa's throat, and would stop whenever she said to. The Gestalt experiment is a combination of safety (I would stop, she was in control) and risk (the experience of choking). Its also a way to move away from what we call 'retroflection', which is something that you do to yourself - the energy is all internal. This way, I could take over that aspect, to allow her to experience it in a different way. It also creates a relational experiment. So I did this, and she told me to stop when I was 3cm away from her throat. I asked to feel, breate, stay present. This is important, or else the person can dissociate, and then the awareness experiment has no value - there is too much risk. I then pulled back. I asked what she was feeling - she said 'one of the ropes has snapped'. I then noticed 2 marks on her neck, and asked her about them. She told me they were 'from childhood', and she started crying. I did not enquire more- we could go into the story another time. In the present it was more important to stay with the experience. So I moved my hands closer, and this time she asked me to stop at 2cm away. Again, I asked her to breath, feel, stay present. I stepped back I now asked her to make a sound - she found it hard to so so. I asked her to breath out, and let whatever sound could come out. I then moved closer again, and this time she let me put my hands around her neck. I asked her to make a sound. I could feel a small vibration in her throat. She was trying. She felt warmth in her neck and told me the ropes were gone. She said it was hard for her to stay present, and she felt embarassed. This means we had reached her exposure limit. So I invited her to put her hands around my neck. This exposed me, and allowed her to take over that energy. She said she felt more steady and comfortable, and more present with me. She then stepped back. There was a very strong connection between us, and she felt safe, and warm. This was an important transformative experience for her. Some of the energy which drove her addiction was confronted, head on, and then she could experience it, in the safety of the experiment, and the relationship. This relationshiop between us became very strong through the experience, and lay the ground for excellent therapeutic work in the future. There was a high degree of trust, and this is an essential ingredient in successful therapy.

Posted by Steve Vinay Gunther