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#37681 - 01/26/03 11:33 PM Touching.
Lloydy Offline
Administrator Emeritus
Registered: 04/17/02
Posts: 7071
Loc: England Shropshire
Has anyone experienced the therapy technique where the therapist uses stones, shells, buttons or anything like that to help you connect and sort out your relationship with those around you ?

My T never used it, although I know his colleague does. And a few weeks ago at my Counselling class we talked about this and tried it.
As usual I was sceptical about it, but I was the first to get up in front of the class and try it with the tutor.

The idea is nothing more complicated than to pick a shell or a stone that represents you, then pick others to represent other important people in your life and arrange them on the table before you at distances and in relation to how you feelabout them. Like I said - simple.

But I immediately found myself studying the shells and stones and attaching personalities to the way they looked and felt. The way I placed them on the table was important,as was which way up and the way they faced.
It took about ten minutes for me to to do myself, my wife, brother, mother and father.

The idea of it is that the the T then has a great way into geting you to share how you feel by explaining why you chose them and how you placed them.
We were just practicing in front of a class, but it was so powerful, I'd love to do it in a therapy session.

Anyway, each week we have to write a log and this is what I wrote about this remarkable therapy tool.

If anyone has any experience of this I'd love to hear about it.

Touching the Mind.

Often when dealing with “things of the mind” it seems hard, sometimes impossible even, to visualise what we feel, mean or think.
Sometimes it would be nice to have a tangible thing we can focus on, something we recognise, touch and maybe even show to others.
But the troubles we have seldom appear to have anything tangible we could use to express things like emotions and feelings.

However the opposite is often true, we can be triggered into all manner of thoughts, emotions and feelings by inanimate things.
Peeling paint on a window, the smell of a new car, the way a door creaks on its hinges or the way a person walks can all fire off memories and feelings within us.
Sometimes they are pleasant memories of good times, holidays and happy people, or just as easily bad memories of pain and torment.
The stronger more emotional memories are called Flashbulb Memories, or more commonly - Flashbacks. They appear suddenly and are usually very clear and emotionally charged, whether good or bad.
Although it’s the bad ones we tend to take notice of, the disturbing and traumatic ones
Often they don’t always have an easily identifiable trigger, and they can also be triggered by strong emotions that are aroused from other places, allowing an escalation of emotion and stress to take place. Often with no apparent reason as the trigger remains hidden.

This is a very disturbing experience, and one that I still have occasionally, but therapy has led me to an understanding of the triggers and an acceptance of the outcome. That way I can deal with the flashbacks when they take place, but I can’t remove or avoid the external triggers. They remain and still have the ability to kick in a memory at any time, but to lose the effect of my traumatic flashbacks would most likely remove the pleasant memories as well.

But if these inanimate things trigger strong emotions then we really should be able to turn the process around and express emotions through inanimate objects, and with a leap of imagination we can.
By using something as simple as stones and shells I found I could attach to them the personalities, and my relationship, of those close to me.
I had heard about Therapists and Counsellors using props such as stones, shells and buttons before, but never knew the reasons or methods involved. In fact the sceptic in me had wondered “Why ?” with some degree of doubt rather than curiosity.
But I always try to remain open to suggestions and ideas, and once again I was happy to be enlightened.

By relating the shape, size, colour and feel of a shell to someone I was giving my “things of the mind” a form and substance. The selection of the shell became important, and I could put one down and choose another that was more suitable.
The basic form of the shell had a meaning; a snail type of shell gave me the feeling of someone ‘contained’. Someone who had everything within them, and the wide mouth to the shell indicated openness and sharing. The large size of the shell and its smooth texture and warm colours looked comforting. Just like my wife.

The placing of the shells was just as important as I laid out the relationship of my immediate family and myself.
And once done it gives the Counsellor such scope for leading the client through their decisions and exploring so much more than I think would be available by just asking “tell me about your family ?”
The technique captures the imagination, itself an important emotion, and allows a client to think about multiple aspects of a person and how they actually relate to them.
Interaction with the Counsellor afterwards can make it a very meaningful exploration.

Linking what we think and feel to something tangible can be very powerful, even when it appears to be as simple as using stones and shells.
To watch Michelle and Betty handle them with such feeling, take such care with the exact placing of them, and share the emotions they were obviously feeling was a very moving experience, as indeed was my own experience with them.

Most problems don’t have anything we can latch onto in that way, although the feeling of ‘attachment’ to a particular item or place that triggers us can sometimes be broken if identified.
I had a ceremonial burning of some things that had bad memories attached to them, and it freed me of so much pain by breaking the trigger. Although setting fire to an early 19th Century country mansion is probably a bit drastic !

I said at the start that we seldom have anything tangible to focus on when we are trying to sort out our problems, and while that’s possibly true it’s something we shouldn’t ignore.
Our imaginations enable us to make enormous leaps, mine certainly does. And it enabled me to say “This shell is my wife”.
And, just a few years ago and without knowing why at the time, I imagined how well a country mansion burns while watching the flames rise from my old school cap and tie.
I played with the shell and the flame, I touched what I was thinking.

Dave Lloyd

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you've imagined. As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler.
Henry David Thoreau

#37682 - 01/27/03 06:12 AM Re: Touching.
Sleepy Offline

Registered: 10/08/02
Posts: 288
Loc: Arizona, USA
I'm so glad that you brought this up. I read Brian Z's post about art and I was going to post it there but here is much better. When I started therapy again last October my therapist that I was assigned to was an art therapist. I, like you, was very sceptical about it. I never saw the need for it and for the first few sessions I didn't want to do it. I finally did it figuring I didn't have anything to loose. She took me into a room filled with art supplies. Everything from modeling clay to paint to whatever you wanted to work with. I went straight to the paint and after 20 minutes I had painted a raging bull, the Texas long horn type. I was not expecting to paint that but it felt good to express it. In subsequent sessions she would sit next to me and I found it to be so soothing to paint while we talked.

I found that the art serves a dual purpose. First, as you explained, it gives the T something tangible to work with. They can get to know you in a different way. It's kind of like an end run around your natural defences. I know that I always try and tell her everything I can but in past sessions I know that my mind shuts off and won't let me access some of my feelings.

The second purpose that I found most benificial is that it gives my mind something to focus on while we talk. Kind of like a benign distraction that gives my active mind something to do. For example, without doing the art I find brief moments of dead silence between us to be very uncomfortable. I felt like I was racing to fill the time with something, anything for that matter. I was grasping for words. But while I paint I can sit there for a minute or two without a word being spoken. I feel like it allows me to calm down and therefore allows me to talk in a very direct manner. And I'm sure it gives my T time to more fully comprehend what I'm telling her. It's pretty cool, actually.

Thanks, Dave, for bringing this up. Maybe it will work for someone else. And don't be afraid if you're a terrible artist, I completely stink.

"It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end."
--Ursula K. Le Guin

"Mental health is a commitment to reality at all times."
--M. Scott Peck


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