Category: Uncategorized

Verbal Judo – Getting Unstuck in Therapy

Sometimes we keep running into a wall – or a fist. When doing therapy sometimes clients stop moving forward. It is frustrating to both the therapist and the client when this occurs. They spend their time and money coming to therapists to relieve their suffering and here they are stuck. We run into a wall – meaning we just come to a point where the client stops moving forward. They loop back to common themes- they are plagued by their “feeder memories’, or maybe they have blocking beliefs. Sometimes it’s like a fist – not just blocked or stalled from progressing but they counter you. They challenge you and your work with them. If we can’t find our way through this impasse, we run the risk of losing our client. Learning skills to help move a client through these impasses will teach the client that they can overcome their own stalled processing and, doing it right, may keep them working with you until their issue is resolved.

Looping can be the death knell of a therapeutic relationship. Clients experience looping when they seem to be progressing and then, suddenly, they come back to where they start. This may happen during one session or over multiple sessions. Both you and your client may become frustrated but it’s your client who had trusted you with their time and money and you are seemingly getting nowhere. You both begin to wonder where your adventure together will lead. For example, a client may say they are worthless, they hate themselves, they are defective. Through some difficult work they start to have better perceptions of themselves. They see themselves as successful and as survivors. Moments, a session, or a few sessions later they loop back to self-hate and worthlessness. This occurs repeatedly making the work that you do together seem tentative and developing mistrust of the clinician and the whole therapeutic process. Blocking beliefs and feeder memories may be the reason for looping. Managing these can help stop looping and move the client on to more successful therapeutic experiences.

Blocking beliefs seem to stop therapy in its tracks. Blocking beliefs often pop up quickly and seem to be commonsense to to the client:

“Men don’t cry”

“Feelings are for the weak”

“I should be over her death”

These thoughts are taken for granted by the client. The source of these thoughts are unquestioned and represent an imperative for the client- this is just the way it is. Often blocking beliefs are easily distilled and sometimes the client will volunteer the belief without any clinician involvement. Other times a clinician may need to do some digging to find out why therapy has stalled and what blocking belief is getting in the way. You may have seen this with a client who seems to get close to feeling and then shift quickly to intellectualizing. The assumption could be that they are avoiding the material but in reality it may be that they have a blocking belief about having feelings or showing them. Asking a client about a certain belief may result in the client becoming confused. The belief is often a “just because” belief as it has not been questioned. Some are strongly held beliefs that may take some time to explore. Despite this, blocking beliefs are often more easily overcome than feeder memories.

Insidious. An infection. Feeder memories are those past difficulties that leave remnants and scars that carry into your current life experience. They are akin to an infected splinter, apparently healed on the outside while releasing toxins into your body. No matter how much antibiotic you take, unless you cut open that wound and remove the splinter the infection will keep returning. While you are able to challenge beliefs and desensitize feelings in the now, the past re-infects the client. Feeder memories affect how you view the world and how you will encounter new incidents. The idea, “I’m defective” after being chastised as a child may recur when you are being reprimanded at work. Although we can challenge that belief and the client can learn that he is not defective because of a work difficulty, past experiences may challenge that and remind your client how defective she has been. Feeder memories may be at the core of blocking beliefs and looping.

For the month of May I will be exploring looping, blocking beliefs and feeder memories. The posts will be split up so that you can explore the topics that most interest you. If you have any ideas, questions or thoughts that you might want me to explore in my writing, please feel free to contact me.