Learning to Comfort and Soothe Yourself
by Judy Lightstone 2012
In human infants and children, the ability to comfort oneself is learned through extensive experiences of healthy "bonding" with one's caregiver/s from early on. Healthy bonding requires long periods of holding, cuddling, mutual gazing and adoration between child and caregiver/s, and that the child is kept safe and protected from abusive or violent experiences, especially in the family. Early emotional neglect, childhood abuse and/or the unavailability of reliable soothing in early childhood, which can be due to many causes, such as illness in the caregivers, can have dire consequences when the child grows into adulthood.
1. Sensorimotor Psychotherapy Founder: Pat Ogden
History of Sensorimotor Psychotherapy
In the 1970's, Pat Ogden became interested in the correlation between her patients' disconnection from their bodies, their physical patterns and their psychological issues. As both a psychotherapist and body therapist, she was inspired to join somatic therapy and apsychotherapy into a comprehensive method for healing this disconnection. SPI offered its first course in the early 1980's under the name Hakomi Bodywork. Influenced by leaders such as Bessel van der Kolk, Emilie Conrad, Peter Levine, Peter Melchior, Allan Schore, Ken Wilber, Onno van der Hart, Ellert Nijenhuis, Kathy Steele, Stephen Porges, and Martha Stark, Sensorimotor Psychotherapy draws from somatic therapies, neuroscience, attachment theory, and cognitive approaches, as well as from the Hakomi Method, a gentle psychotherapeutic approach pioneered by Ron Kurtz. (http://www.hakomi.com/) SPI conducts trainings throughout the world, and has gained international acclaim over the past twenty years.
Sensorimotor Psychotherapy integrates both cognitive and somatic methods in the treatment of trauma, attachment, and developmental issues. It is taught internationally to psychotherapists and allied professionals who want to include somatic interventions in their clinical work.
2. Ego State Therapy
Founders: John Watkins
The concept of segmentation of personality into discreet parts of self has been around for many years, but has only recently been validated scientifically by new brain scanning technologies. These technologies, by measuring blood flow patterns in the brain, demonstrate how ego states form around neural clusters that fire together repeatedly (and therefore "wire together"). Such neural nets form the basis for most implicit learning - such as learning how to ride a bicycle - a skill that improves and eventually "clicks" as the neurons, which fire together in the same pattern whenever riding is practiced, form a network with a particular skill set. When such a neural net forms in the context of a relationship, it will develop a unique point of view and way of behaving.
Ego states exist as a collection of perceptions, cognitions and emotions in organised clusters. An ego state may be defined as an organized system of behaviour and experience, whose elements are bound together by a common principle. Ego states may also vary in volume. A larger ego state may include all the various behaviours activated in one's occupation, whereas a smaller ego state might be formed around a simple action, such as using a mobile phone. They may encompass current modes of behavior and experiences or include many memories, postures, feelings, etc that were learned at an earlier age.
The human mind is a collective "family of self"
within a single individual. How well these "family" members get along, and how
effectively they cooperate can vary considerably from individual to individual.
This segmentation has been called many names over the years, depending upon
which psychological theory is being used. In Freudian language we are all
divided into Ego, Id and Superego; Jungians refer to "complexes" which are
described almost identically to ego states; Transactional Analysts talk about
the internal Parent, Adult and Child; and Psychosynthesis refers to
"sub-personalities." Ego states exist on a continuum of separateness, with the
most extreme dividedness being caused by the most extreme early relational
trauma. Although everyone has ego states, those states formed in response to
loving supportive experiences do not tend to require psychotherapeutic
intervention. When ego states are more split off and engage in internal battles,
Ego State Therapy can be employed to help resolve some of these conflicts, often
using techniques found in conflict resolution, group or family therapy, to
enable a kind of internal diplomacy. This approach has demonstrated that complex
psychodynamic problems can often be resolved in a much shorter period than with
3. DNMS (Developmental Needs Meeting Strategy) basis for use: scientific: To read an article demonstrating the efficacy of the DNMS, click here: http://www.dnmsinstitute.com/doc/casestudiesarticle.pdf
Founder: Shirley Jean Schmidt
(DNMS) is a therapy approach synthesized by Shirley Jean Schmidt, MA, a licensed professional counsellor in private practice in San Antonio, Texas. Its development was informed by a number of well-known therapies and disciplines, such as neuroscience, developmental psychology, ego state therapy, inner-child work, and EMDR. It is based on what is known about how a child’s brain develops within a healthy family.
The Basis for the DNMS
Children grow and develop in stages. Each developmental stage involves a set of needs which should be met by parents or caretakers. The degree to which your childhood needs were not adequately met at a given developmental stage correlates to the degree to which you may be stuck in that stage. If you’re stuck in childhood, there’s always a risk of something retriggering a child part of self. For example, you may feel like an adult one minute – then something upsetting happens and you’re suddenly seeing the world through the eyes of a sad, angry, or fearful child. This could account for behaviors, beliefs, or emotions that you have now, that you do not like and do not want.
Getting Stuck: Unmet Developmental Needs
Children become stuck when they cannot make sense of highly significant disturbing or confusing experiences. This is obvious in the case of outright abuse or neglect by a highly dysfunctional parent. For example, a child who was assaulted during her father’s violent outbursts may carry a fear of men into adulthood. In less obvious ways, children can become stuck when well-meaning, caring parents are simply not sufficiently equipped to meet certain needs. This can happen if the child’s needs are particularly complex or obscure, if a parent has parenting skill deficits, if a parent has emotional baggage from the past that compromises good parenting, if the overall family or environmental situation is very stressful, or if any combination of these is true. Children who expect their loving, caring parents to meet their needs well are confused when their needs are ignored, misunderstood, or trivialized instead. When this happens often enough, or around significant issues, the child will get stuck in those experiences. When there is a good match between a child’s needs and a caregiver’s parenting skill, the child will grow up feeling secure. When the match is not so good, however well-intentioned the parent, a child will accumulate emotional baggage. The bigger the mismatch, the more baggage accumulates.
What are Ego States?
The brain is composed of billions of individual cells, called neurons. These neurons form simple and complex neural networks which hold specific information about the behaviors, beliefs, emotions, and body sensations associated with specific experiences. Complex neural networks can become ingrained when positive experiences occur repeatedly (such as praise or encouragement), when negative experiences occur repeatedly (such as neglect or verbal abuse), or when highly traumatic experiences occur.
These types of complex neural networks can take on different points of view, like sub-personalities. For example, a neural network formed experiencing praise and encouragement may have an “I’m worthwhile” point of view, while a neighbouring neural network formed experiencing verbal abuse may have an “I’m worthless” point of view. Likewise, a neural network holding a highly traumatizing experience may have an “I’m not safe” point of view.
An ingrained neural network with a point of view is an ego state, or a part of self. It is very normal to have parts of self – everyone has them. We experience parts of self when we feel ambivalent. Perhaps you can recall a time when one part of you wanted to tell a lie while another part wanted to tell the truth, one part wanted to get drunk while another wanted to stay sober, one part wanted to eat smart while another wanted to eat junk, or one part wanted to give generously while another wanted to be miserly.
Ego states can develop in reaction to both positive and negative experiences. Ego states formed by positive/affirming experiences live in the present. Ego states formed by negative/wounding experiences, such as trauma, abuse, neglect, or unmet developmental needs, are stuck in the past. Some ego states are large, such as the part of self that includes all the behaviors and experiences of a person’s occupation, and some are small, such as one holding the experience of a single event at age three. Ego states are dynamic and change over time - usually becoming more ingrained (for better or worse), as new events are interpreted based on past experience and bias.
Parts of self can interact with other parts of self, in a cooperative or combative manner. Because ego states can have different points of view, they can have competing agendas. That can lead to internal conflicts or double binds. You might be aware of times you have felt an internal battle about something you should or should not do, or should or should not believe about yourself.
The DNMS can help wounded ego states have the corrective emotional experiences necessary to get unstuck from the past and come forward to live comfortably in the present. It can also help resolve conflicts between ego states. All this can lead to positive changes in emotions, beliefs, and behaviors.
What is the DNMS?
The DNMS is a therapy for getting parts of self totally unstuck from the past. Getting unstuck can be considered a process of archiving past hurts. For example, in a typical office there is an in-box on the desk, a file cabinet next to the desk, a file cabinet across the room, and archive file cabinet down the hall. The in-box contains the most current papers. The archive file cabinets contain the oldest records, not vital to day-to-day business. The archives are available, when needed, for researching the past. When we are stuck in past hurts it’s as though the old painful experiences that should be in the archive cabinet, are in the in-box. We have to deal with them every day, whether we want to or not. We want to file them away, but have no idea how or where to file them, so sadly they stay in our in-box. Getting unstuck means we can finally archive those old experiences. Our previously unfinished business gets finished. Our memories of the painful experiences still exist, but they are no longer charged with powerful emotions and no longer irrationally intrude on daily living.
The Three Resources
The DNMS can help people get unstuck
from the past by using Resource parts of self to meet the needs of child
parts now. These Resources can provide the wounded child ego states the
necessary corrective emotional experiences required to heal old wounds.
This needs meeting work helps child parts feel safe and securely attached
to competent caretakers, so they can safely shift attention from the past
to present time. One of these three Resources is a Spiritual Core Self.
A guided meditation is used to help clients connect to a Spiritual Core.
The other two Resources are a Nurturing Adult Self and a Protective Adult
Self. There are many skills and traits a competent adult should have to
be a good-enough parent. Most people already have these skills but they
are not always consolidated into a sense of self readily available for
this work. Again, a guided meditation is used to get clients securely connected
to adult skills and traits they already have, such as compassion, empathy,
understanding, caring, courage, protectiveness, etc. It won’t matter if
you don’t manifest these skills all the time. If a skill is applied even
once, it is in the brain somewhere, and the meditation finds it. The skills
are consolidated to form the Nurturing and Protective Adult Resources.
How Does the DNMS Work?
When developing children get their emotional
needs met by parents, their brains develop special neural pathways linking
emotional centres to thinking centres of the brain. These neural pathways
allow a child to grow into an adult who can self-soothe and feel secure,
even when bad things happen. If these neural pathways did not adequately
form in the brain when a person was little, the DNMS can help. It appears
to be able to create these neural pathways now, so a person can become
the healthy secure person they would have been if needs had been adequately
met in childhood.
Adapted from: http://www.krystynakinowski.com/forward.html
"Put Your Best Foot Forward" is an offshoot of EMDR. It can be done in one session and it empowers clients who have habitually difficult stress responses. It focuses on changing the way the stress is experienced in the body, rather than uncovering the historical origins of the problem or teaching stress management skills. It is especially helpful for those who have trouble getting in touch with their positive qualities.
Best Foot Forward is a non-logical, right brain kind of process. It begins by helping clients retrieve positive bodily experiences they may not be consciously aware of. It begins by having the client take a physical position that approximates their emotional state, and to then find a physical position that feels the opposite to that. Imagery is then evoked in a structured three-part sequence. The image/emotion/sensation triad then becomes the felt evidence on which to base a new more positive belief. The felt experiences are then used to reprocess the problem the client wishes to change. The entire process allows clients to find from within themselves a physically felt counterbalance to a difficulty that has plagued them despite awareness and self-help books.
The consensus from therapists who have attended the workshops is that this is an empowerment protocol; the consensus from clients is that it increases confidence and self-trust. Working with the protocol is continually surprising and frequently very moving. Although we may not always know where the client’s resource imagery has come from, it always feels “just right."
for more on the "Put Your Best Foot Forward" approach, see http://www.krystynakinowski.com/forward.html
4. Relational Therapy - Description taken from the Toronto Institute for Relational Therapy:
Relational therapy is a powerful, effective model for working with individuals who suffer from chronic emotional, psychological, and/or relational distress. Relational therapy is based on the following principles:
Relational therapy balances the study of structures or patterns of self experience with the study of persons in interpersonal process. Through the interpersonal process of therapeutic interaction, relational therapy strengthens and transforms a client's sense of self, which in turn enhances his or her confidence and well-being in the world . Empowerment and growth through interpersonal connection are both the process and the goal of relational therapy.
With this perspective on therapy and relationship, a relational therapist takes seriously the interpersonal impact of power differentials and social issues such as race, class, culture, gender, and sexual difference, and works with these issues as they are present in the client's life and in the therapy relationship.
The principles of relational therapy taught
by the Toronto Institute for Relational Psychotherapy are drawn from self
psychology, intersubjectivity theory, relational psychoanalysis, psychodynamic
developmental theory, trauma theory, and feminist theories of therapy.
Also link to: Guidelines for helping Trauma Survivors; Effective Treatment Approaches; Overcoming Powerlessness; Sharing Power in the Family; Fat, Thin and Power; Trauma Survivors Treatment; Self Empowerment for Women Improving Body Image, The Diet/Binge/Purge Cycles, Techniques for Treating Eating Problems;