One-to-one session with Ute Arnold, body-psychotherapist (presenter at the upcoming Male Survivor conference in NYC in November), who has created the holistic therapy method she has called Unergi (unity & energy) which blend touch (Alexander Technique), talk (Gestalt Therapy), and body-brain movement sequences.
The following Unergi session took place in front of a Unergi student audience. Many of these sessions are videotaped with the client's permission.
Robert (all names have been changed to insure confidentiality) is a blue collar professional on a thorough search for himself. He knows that his traumatic growing up years need a lot of healing. When I asked for a volunteer, he presented himself eagerly and jumped on the body-work table. That became the opening for this session.
Ute: “When I was looking for a person to go on this Unergi Journey, what persuaded you to get up and say ‘I want to do this'?”
Robert: “What do you mean? That's what I do – therapy. Raise my hand and say ‘Me next', ‘cause if I don't do it then I don't get what I need.”
Robert had been in therapy and received psychotropic drugs for many years. His voice has a light-hearted quality as he says this. At the same time, both of his hands touch his heart.
Ute: “I see. So you want to get what you need – and I saw your hands doing this.”
I lightly touch the chest area.
Robert: “My heart chakra – it's all jammed up after the Unergi Movement Sequences we did this morning. A lot of old feelings, I was very sensitive as a child.”
I have moved to the head of the table, have placed my hands on either side of his head, making contact, while speaking through my hands and whole body awareness to his nervous system. I gently begin to roll his head a little to the left and right to sense his level of trust. Is he letting me roll his head, or does he need to be in control by either stiffening or rolling the head for me?
Robert is – very subtly – a little ahead of me, not completely trusting me at this point – with a sort of wait and see attitude. He begins to sense that I have no intention to push or manipulate his body, but rather am moving into my own expansiveness. I simply stay in contact with him, while he is able to take the next step.
Robert: “So many feelings, ahh … I'm feeling like I have to stand my ground, and fight and try – I can't fight anymore.”
His last comment shows me that he is surrendering to go to a deeper level of trust and safety, and I would like to offer him the kind of support that allows that to happen.
Since I am working in front of a group, whose members he knows and has befriended, I can enlarge his experience by helping him become aware of a larger group support that encourages him.
Ute: “Say that to us – “I don't want to fight anymore!”
Robert: “I don't want to fight anymore!”
To amplify his words, I repeat and mirror his previous statements again, by slightly reframing the sentence in an “I” voice! I have found that whenever someone begins a sentence with “I”, he/she is able to learn to own what is said, which is very empowering!
Ute: “Such a sensitive child, and you have so many feelings in your heart.”
Meanwhile, my hands have moved under the throat chakra, under his neck, to call on deeper levels of verbal communication so that we can access his younger self. This leads to the next suggestion.
Ute: “So let's talk to that inner child. Is that OK? The child who has all these feelings in his heart, and you noticed him during the Unergi core support movements we did this morning, and the feelings in your heart are really present for you right now. If you could talk to this little one… how old is he right now?”
Meanwhile, I have walked to his feet (he had said earlier: “ I have to stand my ground… ”) and placed my hands on his ankles connecting feet, neck and head to bring in the whole support of his body. I begin with an ankle and hip release to also bring the lower chakras into his awareness. We are now amplifying the first chakra: connection to his family, represented by our group right now, but also his ancestors and the “tribe” that came before, and the grounding assistance of Nature.
As I am widening his hip area creating more room for feelings, and physical and spiritual support, we can now attend to the story of “little” Robert and look at his survival issues. He slips easily into an earlier time of his life.
Robert: “Four or five years old.”
Ute: “Umm, four or five year old little boy Robert… can you see him?”
Robert: “Ah. Yah.”
Ute: “Where do you find him if you were looking for him? What do you see?”
Robert: “He's hiding.”
Ute: “He's hiding.”
Robert: “Ya. He has to hide in the trash can.”
Ute: “He hides in the trash can. Have him talk to us. Tell us how it feels to be hiding in the trash can.”
I have really slowed down the dialogue now, carefully repeating his statements, meeting him at this very young place so he can continue to feel safe hiding, while at the same time staying in contact with us.
Robert: “It's safe here. They can't find you.”
I reframe his statement in an “I” voice again.
Ute: “If I go into the trash can, hiding, no one can find me. It's safe, there.
- (pause) ….. Say something to the trash can.”
I am now showing him how clever and ingenious this child was to have tried to find a safe hiding place, and encourage him to make a deeper contact with his “trash can ally”.
Robert: “It's safe here. I like it here. It's dark. I can hide.”
Ute: “You provide safety for me and I can hide here, and I'm glad you're here. At least I can hide here and no one can find me. No one will look in the trash can to find me.”
I am attempting to deepen his relationship with the ally – trash can – so he will not feel so alone, but rather develop a sense of trust in himself knowing that he is able to provide safety and survival for himself. I also continue to encourage him to change the “it” (talking about something,) to an “I” and “you” for direct contact. Simultaneously, I work with his hips, legs, lower chakras so he can learn to rely on his ability to individuate, to detach from his childhood events and begin to sense a larger self support.
Ute: “Hmmmmmm – then what happened?”
Robert: “Somebody found me.”
Ute: “Somebody found you in the trash can. What do you want to say to this somebody?”
Repeating the words of his situation as it happened and leading him to try out his own voice with all of its present support gives me a sense of how far the four year old self is able to trust the growing, expanding adult Robert.
Robert: “Just go away.”
We both repeat this last statement a couple of times to access his budding power.
Ute: “What else do you want to say to this somebody?”
To slow down the direct confrontation, I have not asked him who he is talking to yet.
Robert: “I just want to be by myself. It's not safe to be with people.”
I am sensing him withdrawing to a well-practiced inner safety. His body is contracting, and I have to be very careful now of my next step to make sure I don't become part of the “people” he doesn't feel safe with. His last sentence is a red flag for me, I imagine that he may have experienced abuse, probably touch abuse of some kind.
Ute repeats: “Yah. It's not safe to be with you.”
I have reframed the “people” into “you”.” I repeat his sentence. Now I want to make sure that he knows it is me, Ute, touching him, so I can continue the body work with him. Since he is very regressed right now, it is important that he does not confuse my touch with the touch of his possible abuser.
Ute: “Robert, is it OK that I am touching you?”
Robert: he sighs, long pause… “Yes.”
Ute: “It's OK?”
I repeat, to make sure.
Robert: “Uh huh.”
Ute: “Anytime it isn't, will you tell me?”
As he is reliving this early event, his body is also sensing the new choices to widen, lengthen and deepen. The process of rescripting a traumatic experience with self-support continues without retraumatization.
Ute: “Was there anybody in that child's life you didn't have to hide from?”
Since we are getting closer to the deeper conflict, I make sure that he has the biggest support possible and help him to look for more allies other than the trash can.
At this point I have lifted his left leg (the receiving, nurturing, feminine side of the body) and placed its foot on the table to give him the sense of additional grounding support from the earth. I increase the bridge of his arch and direct the energy up through the bones of his legs, contacting his whole body and the spiritual energy surrounding us.
Simultaneously my other hand anchors the energy flow through toes and heel into the space below to connect deeply with planetary energy. He is learning how to build a bridge between his younger self and the adult, his life on earth as a human being.
Robert: “The invisible people.”
Ute: “So this imaginative, smart child had invisible friends. Tell us what the invisible people were like.”
This may be the first time this four or five year old is acknowledged for being smart and creative, further strengthening the belief in himself.
Robert: “They like to play and have fun and we played a lot of music and had big meals together when we were hungry; we'd have whatever we wanted. Lots of food.”
I imagine that the “food” refers to spiritual sustenance to lift himself out of the belief, that though he is sitting in a trash can, he is not trash, and he has transformed the trash can into a welcoming home.
Ute: “A feast! Prepared by the invisible people.”
Robert: “That's it, they were my friends.”
Ute: “And you could see them, they were your friends, and they were visible to you.”
I need to affirm and have him dip into his immense creative, childlike abilities again, so that this time the child can become the ally, the wise one deeply connected to a larger sense of self, who will in turn lead the present-day adult Robert.
I suggest: “Let's imagine for a moment that you are with these invisible people, these friends you can always count on. What would they say to this somebody who came after you in the trash can? Lets' pick some strong ones of these invisible people.”
Meanwhile, I have worked with his right leg, the masculine active, take-charge side. Again, I place the foot on the table while connecting it to the earth energies and “send” it through the knee up towards the heavens, so both energies are in flow. The chakras are rebalancing and recharging. All of this facilitates what comes next.
Robert: “Well, they say, ‘We'll protect you. It's safe.' Just … ‘We love you. We don't want to hurt you, or have sex with you, or do things that scare you.'”
He now trusts us enough to share his difficult, abusive journey. I repeat his last statements which he can hear on several levels as we, the Unergi group, are joining with his “invisible people” for support.
Ute: “We are just here to love you. We won't make you do things you don't want to do. We are just here to love you.”
And I add, “Can you feel that love?”
This is our invitation to transform his experience of abuse to support and love.
I am working with shoulder releases and arms now, helping him to sense his expanding heart chakra. At some point, I just hold his right hand.
Robert's left hand slides up to his heart.
Robert: after a pause : “I feel it, but it fights with the tension.”
Ute: “It doesn't last. You have it for a while, and then the other somebody comes in, huh?”
I affirm what he experiences, and also take his hand and place it on his third Chakra: the center for power and emotions.
Ute: “Are you willing to do an experiment that we can stop or change any time?”
Again, Robert nods.
Ute: “Let's imagine that amongst these invisible friends there is somebody really powerful, really big. Can you imagine that?”
Robert: “Uh huh.”
Ute: “What does he look like?”
Robert: “Big, real big. Hairy, big knuckles.”
Ute: “OK, we invite Big Hairy Knuckles right here.”
I am sitting on a chair at the top of the table holding his head and neck in my hands to amplify the strength of the upper three chakras; the fifth chakra for creative expression, the sixth for far seeing, and the seventh for connection to a larger consciousness.
Robert: “He's gonna be my sidekick.”
Ute: “What do you want him to do when someone comes after you?”
Robert: “Protect me, warn me.”
Ute: “Anything else, you can ask him anything you want, he is here for you. He's your sidekick.”
Since he has regressed to a very small scared child right now he has a hard time imagining anything much more than the need for protection and warning of impending danger. Therefore, I am leading him a little into expanding his imagination to ask for anything he wants. Feeling empowered, he takes it further.
Robert: “And if they won't listen to the warning I give them, then just stop ‘em!”
Ute: “Stop ‘em! So if that person infringes on your boundaries and comes too close this side-kick is going to go out there and warn ‘em and then, if he doesn't pay attention?”
I introduce him to the idea that he has boundaries and can learn to enforce them.
Robert: “Let ‘em have it!”
Since he is now easily able to imagine his own self-defense we can proceed carefully to enter the stage of confrontation with his abuser.
Ute: “I imagine you can remember scenes like this, but let's remember just one. What's happening, in this one scene?”
I am helping him to “chunk it down”, to focus on just one situation right now.
Robert: “I'm in the trash can.”
I have now moved to the left leg, supporting the standing foot, grounding the receiving side again.
Robert: “It's nice, it's quiet, no one around. Then my father comes home. He's been fired from his job, and he opens the trash can to throw something in and finds me.”
Ute: “Hmmmmm, where is your sidekick, and what's he gonna do?”
I remind him of the strong, now internalized part of him expressed by his “side kick”.
Robert: “He's gonna tell him, be nice, Howard or I'm gonna knock you on your ass.”
Ute: “That's right, tell that to Howard again.”
Robert: “You touch this little boy, I'm gonna knock you on your ass!”
Robert is finding his voice and power, and with that he is able to differentiate between his inner child and his own adult self. The adult is now moving from the sidekick, to front and center and is becoming his very own best parent and caretaker. He is ready to confront his abusive father, his own power is “kicking” in!
Ute: “What's Dad say?”
I switched from “Howard” to “Dad” here on purpose, so he can consciously separate and detach from Dad and his abusive actions.
Robert: “He says what he always says. Fuck you. I'll do what I want. You're just a kid.”
I repeat the same statement so he can begin to claim his own new choices on how to proceed.
Robert: “Not this time!”
Now his legs are beginning to shake, and all the pent up energy, that probably had wanted to kick the hell out of Dad for a very long time, is safely releasing and streaming out of his body.
Ute: “Let that shake. I know it's shaky. Just let it shake.”
By reframing shake to “shaky”, I confirm that this is still a scary moment for him no matter how ready he is to move away from his past and claim his growing power.
Robert: “Not this time. You can't beat this kid anymore. It's over.”
Robert affirms and repeats these statements several times.
Robert adds: “I just remember that it wasn't that way though.”
Ute: “I agree that it wasn't that way then, but in this moment, we listen to you as a child who deserved to be cared for by a loving parent and still needs protection when he gets scared and you can creatively redo the past right now.”
As he is shuttling back and forth to review the past from his new perspective, he is beginning to integrate his younger self with his empowered newly emerging adult self. He has to come out of the trash can, he is growing up to become the adult.
Robert: “I need to be the person who I am. Inside has to come out.”
Now Robert is shouting : “I need to come out Dad! And you are in my way!”
He is finally coming out of the trash can. His third Chakra is adding power to his emotions!
Robert: “I am mad as hell and I ain't taking it no more.”
His anger is helping him to move forward. He is becoming an equal to his father. Now that the power chakra has been activated, I can simultaneously engage the heart chakra, so that at a much later time forgiveness toward his father may become possible. Once again, I have slipped my hands under his left and later, right shoulder, to create space in his heart for himself, moving the energy from his third chakra into the fourth chakra: love of self and others.
I encourage him again to talk to his father and role model by repeating his previous words.
Ute: “I am mad as hell and I'm not taking this crap anymore, you're beating me and I am having to hide in the trash can.”
Robert: “I can be me. Nobody can beat me up for being me. Nobody can abuse me or use me.”
His body energy feels strong and balanced now, and with this statement we are coming to closure. After he sits up, I invite him to share with the group, his fellow students.
Robert: “It'll be easier to watch Sesame Street now. I'm no one's trash. Oh, I'm beautiful.”
The group laughs with him, and I see many reach for tissues, grieving and celebrating Robert's and their own difficult past.
Every one is profoundly touched when a person is ready to experiment with his vulnerability and discovers his internal, most often hidden strength. When we are no longer able to deny the truth of the past, we can learn to sense the vast support system of body, imagination, emotions and spiritual connection. We can begin to live in the present.
Ute Arnold, MFA
Body-Psychotherapist, artist, author
Unergi Holistic Therapy School