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Person-Centred Therapy: A LEADING EDGE

Professor Dave Mearns

The Counselling Unit, University of Strathclyde, Jordanhill Campus, Glasgow G13 1PP www.davemearns.com

• • • • • • • • •

PCE Worldwide; A schema of working at relational depth; Client processes; Working with the client‟s „configurations‟ of self; Configuration Theory; Revising Rogers‟ Self-Theory; The developmental agenda for the therapist working at relational depth; „Existential Touchstones‟; 2 Working with Dominic.

Same family – different emphases
• emphasising „non-directivity‟ (Brodley, Bozarth) • emphasising the client‟s „process‟ (Greenberg, Elliott) • emphasising „focusing‟ (Gendlin, Lietaer) • emphasising the client‟s existential experiencing (Cooper) • emphasising the relationship (Schmid, Mearns)

2006 Potsdam.org> • The Triennial World Conference – July 12-16. Norwich. 4 . 2001-present. 2008. England • The International Journal: Person-Centered and Experiential Psychotherapies. Germany – July 6-10.A World View of PCE • The World Association of Person-Centered and Experiential Psychotherapy and Counseling (WAPCEPC) <pce-world.

S.PCE Worldwide U. Britain Germany Austria Holland Belgium France Italy Greece Croatia Slovakia Portugal Brazil Argentina Japan China 5 .A.

A schema of working at relational depth. 6 Working with Dominic. „Existential Touchstones‟. Working with the client‟s „configurations‟ of self. The developmental agenda for the therapist working at relational depth. .• • • • • • • • • Contents PCE Worldwide. Revising Rogers‟ Self-Theory. Configuration Theory. Client processes.

A Schema of Working at Relational Depth A Offering relational depth B Negotiating client processes (including „difficult‟ process) C Contact with the existential process 7 .

(2005) Working at Relational Depth in Counselling and Psychotherapy. M. and able to understand and value the Other‟s experiences at a high level. in which each person is fully real to the Other. & Cooper. 8 .Definition „Relational depth‟ is a state of profound contact and engagement between two people. London: Sage. D. Mearns.

„Knowledge or acknowledgement? Psychotherapy as “the art of notknowing” – prospects on further developments of a traditional paradigm‟. 9 .F. (2002). P. Person-Centered and Experiential Psychotherapies. 1(1/2): 56-70.„I-thou‟  „Thou-I‟ relating (Buber) (Schmid) Schmid.

Encounter. not invasion 10 .

• relational depth experienced as a continuing relationship 11 .Two Aspects of Relational Depth • „moments‟ of relational depth.

„Presentational Level‟ of Self 12 .

„Approach/ Avoidance‟ towards being met at relational depth 13 .

Disguises. Lace Curtains and Safety Screens 14 . Clues.

15 .How do we show our client that we are willing and able to meet him at relational depth? • We touch him in his experiencing. • But we do not collude with a superficiality norm. • We „knock on his door‟ at a deeper level of his experiencing. • We respect his positioning.

16 .Creating the conditions for meeting the client at „relational depth‟ • High levels of the „therapeutic conditions‟ in mutually enhancing interaction. • The „stillness‟ and „fearlessness‟ of the therapist.

Two aims in offering the client an engagement at relational depth • „Listening to the expressing rather than the expression‟ • „Meeting the client inside his experiencing‟ 17 .

…. • Bill: • Tony: • Bill: 18 . No. Silence. I need to go …. I must go away from me. you can‟t.. Silence (Thumping his fist on the floor and screaming) I need to kill myself. I can‟t …. No one can... Silence. I can‟t. I can‟t.„Listening to the Expressing/ Entering the experiencing‟ • • • • • Tony: Bill: Tony: Bill: Tony: I can‟t. I must go ….. I can‟t.

• • • • • • Tony: Bill: Tony: Bill: Tony: Bill: I don‟t know how to do it.. It‟s hard ….. No way …. It‟s hard. Can you warm me Bill? Puts his arm round Tony.. no way …. 19 . How do people do it? God knows Tony.. Tony …. there‟s no way ….

But. of course.to kill it or for it to go away to „exorcise‟ it might be a good metaphor.that‟s what we 20 were in. there was no way to do it . Yet all the time you can feel them and be with them feeling. Tony was „being‟ the part of him which had done some bad stuff. Tony was feeling that part .he wanted to get rid of it . In war people can do bad stuff that they can‟t live with later. It was weeks later that I found out the „content‟ of this meeting.Much later Bill comments on this meeting: It‟s an example of how you can be with someone and have conversation without having any idea what it‟s about. .

„Relational Depth‟ „Emotional Depth‟ 21 .

Relational depth is about the quality of the relational contact. not the quantity 22 .

Relational Depth in Everyday Life • Doug the teacher • Mhairi the nurse • Lillian the social worker 23 .

• • 24 . The developmental agenda for the therapist working at relational depth. Client processes. Configuration Theory. A schema of working at relational depth.Contents • • • • • • • PCE Worldwide. Working with the client‟s „configurations‟ of self. Revising Rogers‟ Self-Theory. Working with Dominic. „Existential Touchstones‟.

Client Processes „Existential Process‟ „Psychotic Process‟ (Prouty) „Fragile Process‟ (Warner) „Dissociated Process‟ (Warner) „Ego-Syntonic Process‟ „Existential Disconnection‟ „Transference‟ Restricting Existential Contact 25 .

The Developmental Basis of „EgoSyntonic Process‟ • The person has survived a parenting in which love and acceptance was not reliable. 2) Find ways to control the relationship 3) Find ways to control themselves in relationship. 26 • . the person needed to: 1) Withdraw their emotional attachment. Negative experiences would follow when positives might be expected – there was no way to rely on the relationship. Ridicule. hate or abuse would come when love might be expected. To survive.

At the time when I came to the school I think the difficulty was. who was an exceptionally fine human being and a very affectionate and decent human being.„Sandy‟ The fellow who has a parent who is sometimes nice and sometimes horrible thinks that is the way the world is. that is how it was. Now. 27 . among other things. which caused even more anger because everyone likes to accept affection. I wasn‟t able to accept the affection. that I was confronted by Patti [his counselor]. in my own case.

London: BBC Television. Horizon. B. step by step.But if you condition yourself to not accepting affection because. whether or not the affection would continue to come… Bettelheim. maybe. you put yourself in a position where you don‟t dare to hope that the affection is for real and you keep testing to find out if it is for real. (1987). „The man who cared for children‟. that explains my own need to hurt them. if by accepting it you only let yourself in for the next downfall. and that‟s the process where. you find out whether it is. In a sense. 28 .

29 . cold. cruel. alone and lonely. The seriousness of the resulting pattern can vary hugely. The person may become: • • • • • • popular but „unreachable‟.Ego-Syntonic Process in Adult Life The person‟s self-protective systems become generalised to other relationships (cf Sterne‟s „RIGs‟ – „Representations of Interactions that have become Generalised‟). controlling. homicidal and suicidal.

They know that things go wrong for them and they come to expect things to go wrong. and be that (within limits). They have done their best. They have even tried to think about what the other person wants. 30 . But they genuinely do not understand why they go wrong.In its mild expression their ego-syntonic process leads the person to be confused and scared in relationships. But it always goes wrong.

they have to be so controlling. they had done their best. ultimately. They provide well on a material level. 31 . but they must not make themselves existentially vulnerable. Usually they are genuinely surprised when the other person leaves them. Again. function well enough in more superficial relationships.In another expression they attract relations but fail in relationships because. They need to define the reality and protect against its changing.

but in detachment and even violence. They are so threatened by relationship that their self-protection manifests itself not in confusion or controlling. 32 .In a more serious expression. the person is dangerous to themselves and others. Their fear is so profound and the degree of adjustment they have obtained so tenuous that detachment and even destruction (of self or other) are the only existetial „protections‟ they have left.

We could even talk about how he couldn‟t let me in – Maybe that was it – at times he wasn‟t who he was‟. For 20 years he couldn‟t let me in. I couldn‟t let him go because there were times I really saw him. • „It‟s so frustrating – sometimes she was a wonderful person – she was the fullest human being anyone could want…but then it would evaporate in tears and anger‟. • „It‟s not just a “rescuer” thing – it‟s much stronger than that‟.The „Hook‟ in Ego-Syntonic Process • „But there really was someone there to love – I saw him – I saw him often‟. • „He couldn‟t let me in. 33 .

Client Processes „Existential Process‟ „Psychotic Process‟ (Prouty) „Fragile Process‟ (Warner) „Dissociated Process‟ (Warner) „Ego-Syntonic Process‟ „Existential Disconnection‟ „Transference‟ Restricting Existential Contact 34 .

Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson in „Lost in Translation‟) 35 .f.„EXISTENTIAL DISCONNECTION‟ The separation of the person in their everyday life from the existential significance of their life (c.

Client Processes „Existential Process‟ „Psychotic Process‟ (Prouty) „Fragile Process‟ (Warner) „Dissociated Process‟ (Warner) „Ego-Syntonic Process‟ „Existential Disconnection‟ „Transference‟ Restricting Existential Contact 36 .

• „I can‟t believe I‟ve just talked about me. with an old man like you.Getting beyond Transference • „A part of me is not sure she should trust you.‟ 37 . but…‟. like that.

‘Difficult process’ rarely defines the whole of the person. 38 . Its appearance can be erratic and its voice very small. Often there is a dissonant part that houses a different conception of self. Often its dominant feeling is sadness.

39 .protective strategies • He finds it impossible to lie.Working with the Client in his Existential Process • He gives you his self as he experiences his self. • What he gives is not dominated by relational self.

do you want to meet the „me‟ that I am to myself? Yes.. I kill my babies.I think that‟s why I was glib. They are hard words for me to say . I want to meet all of you. Is that meant to put me off? No. It‟s a difficult thing even for me to say.Striving to meet at Relational Depth with the Client in her Existential Process Sandie: Dave: (Pause) Sandie: Dave: Sandie: Dave: Do you really want to know me? Like. it‟s just what I do. (serious eye contact) You „kill your babies‟ …. 40 . I have to „steel‟ myself to say the words.

I‟ve killed three babies inside me. Yes …. You sound …... 41 . I think I can understand that …. it‟s the only way …. to ….the words are me . Yes.I‟ve never thought about that before.Sandie: Dave: Sandie: Dave: Sandie: Dave: Sandie: Dave: Sandie: It‟s what I do ... I think I really can ….. Isn‟t that funny …...? I need to feel „flat‟ inside about it as well. Survive. You sound „flat‟ about it . you still want to survive? Yes .I don‟t know what you are „inside‟ about it …. That when you feel as you do.on the outside at least ..

I say „tell me Bobby‟ like I usually do …. 42 . different ….Striving to meet at Relational Depth with the Client in his Existential Process Bobby: Dave: Bobby: Dave: I‟ve been feeling really bad things Dave .. But it‟s still maybe not possible. This is really tough for you Bobby .. (Pause) Bobby: Dave ….this is …. I don‟t know if I can Dave …. You‟ve tried to make yourself tell me by bringing it up.. I want to kill me. but this is not „usual‟ stuff . Tell me Bobby. I don‟t know if I can. (Long silence) Bobby: All the roads lead there ..I can see that in your face.really bad things.I could make a good job of it too..

I could feel how „all the roads lead there‟. I knew you were going to say that. I‟m no use to you unless I can stay with you in it. this is tough for me.. 43 .how do „all the roads lead here‟? I don‟t know if I want to go into it Dave . What are all the feelings Bobby ..it‟s nice for me to hear that.I‟ve got to this point and I feel a kind of …. It would be one thing I could do well. peace. Christ Bobby. Bobby .Dave: Bobby: Dave: Bobby: Dave: Bobby: Dave: I bet you could.. you couldn‟t stop me.I‟m scared to use my imagination. and a retribution for you …. I want to stay with you in that and I want to pull you away from that. I can see how that is a conclusion for you …. Anyway. I really knew you were going to use that „peace‟ word. That‟s not true Dave .

Dave . it has the same sense of „punishment‟ and „control‟ …. (Long silence) 44 . isn‟t it? Bobby: Yes. You must face the question that perhaps the only way to make retribution is to execute yourself. (Long silence) Bobby: It‟s funny to feel so alone. Do you understand how important it is for me to face this? Dave: Yes.It‟s the same as cutting yourself used to be for you. I do.in detail.. (Long silence) Dave: You will have worked it all out? Bobby: In detail. yet with someone.

45 . he takes an „inside‟ view of his Self.When a client is met at relational depth and enters his existential process. From that perspective he sometimes experiences his Self in terms of different „parts‟ rather than a single „whole‟.

Configuration Theory. Client processes.Contents • • • • • • • PCE Worldwide. • • 46 . Working with the client‟s „configurations‟ of self. „Existential Touchstones‟. The developmental agenda for the therapist working at relational depth. Revising Rogers‟ Self-Theory. A schema of working at relational depth. Working with Dominic.

but who really loves and protects her. From the outside I look confused and selfdefeating .„Taking an “Inside” View of me‟ When you are close to me I go „inside‟ myself . Both of these parts are very alive.and see the different parts of me.I don‟t look alive at all. 47 . But „inside‟ me I see the different parts in their own right. I see the scared and angry „little girl‟ and her „big sister‟ who bosses her around.

London: Sage. Chapter 7: „Person-centred therapy with “configurations” of Self‟ in Mearns. (2000) Person-Centred Therapy Today: New Frontiers in Theory and Practice. Counselling. • Chapter 6: „The nature of “configurations” within Self‟. 48 .„Configurations‟ • Mearns. & Thorne. (1999) „Person-centred therapy with configurations of Self‟. B. D. D. 10(2): 125-130.

Definition A „configuration‟ is a hypothetical construct denoting a coherent pattern of feelings. thoughts and preferred behavioural responses symbolised or pre-symbolised by the person as reflective of a dimension of existence within the Self. 49 .

with its own feelings. Each part. thoughts and ways of behaving which may be quite different from other parts. 50 . is well-developed.Definition of „Configuration‟ (Non-Jargon Version) Sometimes people experience themselves as having different „parts‟ to their Self. or „configuration‟.

it goes to the store . It does all the “normal‟ things that other people do . I stand in the background and wonder how I can do all that stuff‟. 51 . I watch myself watching myself.it even makes love with my wife. It carries on as though nothing has happened.it goes to work . And I watch it. I have a “me” that I use for everyday life.it talks with other people .Sam: A 23 year old Traumatised „Veteran‟ „I walk around watching people and myself.

Multi-directional partiality: prizing all the parts. Chapter 7) Staying close to the client‟s symbolisation. 52 . but don‟t invent them. Empathic mediation: helping the parts to hear each other.Person-Centred Therapy with Configurations of Self • • • • • • (See Mearns & Thorne: Person-Centred Therapy Today. Therapist‟s use of her configurational Self. Avoiding „zero-sum‟ responding. Listen for the parts.

Working with the client‟s „configurations‟ of self. Configuration Theory. Revising Rogers‟ Self-Theory. Client processes. Working with Dominic. • • 53 . The developmental agenda for the therapist working at relational depth. „Existential Touchstones‟. A schema of working at relational depth.Contents • • • • • • • PCE Worldwide.

London: Sage. (2002) Further theoretical propositions in regard to Self Theory within Person-centered therapy. & Thorne. B.• Mearns. D. • Mearns. D. 1(1&2): 14-27. 54 . Person-Centered and Experiential Psychotherapies. (2000) „Advancing person-centred theory‟. Chapters 6&9 in Person-Centred Therapy Today: New Frontiers in Theory and Practice.

55 .Proposition 1 Configurations may be established around introjections about self.

Proposition 2 Configurations may also be established around dissonant selfexperiences. 56 .

Proposition 3 Formative configurations assimilate other consistent elements. 57 .

Proposition 4 Further elements may be accrued by the self-fulfilling nature of configurations. 58 .

Proposition 5 Configurations inter-relate and reconfigure. 59 .

„Configuration Theory‟: Using theory in the person-centred approach • Theory does not predict the behaviour or the experience of the client. • Theory expands the imagination of the therapist. 60 .

„General‟ Psychological Theory + „Individual‟ Psychological Theory 61 .

Working with Dominic.Contents • • • • • • • PCE Worldwide. „Existential Touchstones‟. A schema of working at relational depth. Revising Rogers‟ Self-Theory. Configuration Theory. • • 62 . The developmental agenda for the therapist working at relational depth. Client processes. Working with the client‟s „configurations‟ of self.

pp 481-533 in Client-Centered Therapy. 63 . C. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.R. (1951) „A theory of personality and behavior‟.Rogers.

64 . Koch (ed. personality and interpersonal relationships as developed in the clientcentered framework‟.R. (1959) „A theory of therapy.Rogers. C. pp 184-256 in S. Volume 3: Formulations of the Person and the Social Contract.). Psychology: A Study of a Science. New York: McGraw-Hill.

pp 1-24 in M.). C.Rogers. (1963) „The actualizing tendency in relation to “motives” and to consciousness‟. Jones (ed. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.R. 65 . Nebraska Symposium on Motivation.

Rogers‟ „California‟ Period A „Unitary‟ Theory 66 .

The „value-added‟ actualising tendency • Feelings valued over thoughts • Non-self-conscious „being‟ valued over „considered action • „Free-expression‟ valued over „censoring‟ • „Radical‟ choices valued over „conservative choices • “Volume-up” expression of feeling valued over „volume-down‟ expression of feeling 67 .

COULSON. Center for Enterprising Families. W. P. Comptche. USA. Ca 95427. 68 .O. Box 134. (1987) Reclaiming Client-Centered Counseling from the Person-Centered Movement.

Reconfiguring Rogers‟ Concept of the Self 69 .

Rogers (1959: 200) Self = Self-Concept 70 .

Mearns & Thorne (2000) Self = Self-Concept + Edge of Awareness Material 71 .

A Dialogical Person-Centred Theory of the Self 72 .

„Growthful‟ Configurations „Not for growth‟ Configurations 73 .

Proposition 6 The actualising tendency is the sole motivational force. 74 .

Proposition 7 The promptings of the actualising tendency inspire their own resistance within the social life-space of the person. A working label for this resistance is the term ‘social mediation’. 75 .

• I could do more with my life but I am scared to lose what I have. 76 . • I need to stop this road – I can see where it points and I don‟t want it – not yet anyway.

and I lost more than I ever imagined. 77 .• I fought my way out of a relationship previously. • Part of me says „go for it‟ and part of me says „watch it‟ – I need to stay with „watch it‟ for now.

• I look at what other people have got and I want it like a child wants everything. But my child isn‟t going to make all my decisions. But my family would have lost too much – and that would mean me losing too much. 78 . So I rolled up my sleeves and made the best of it. • Everything seemed to point in the direction of leaving the job – I needed to be free of it.

79 . The configuring and re-configuring of this homeostasis is the actualising process.Proposition 8 A psychological „homeostasis‟ develops between the drive of the actualising tendency and the restraint of social mediation.

(Person-Centred Therapy Today: p184) 80 . the central concept becomes the actualising process which is described by the homeostasis of the imperatives of the actualising tendency and social mediation within different areas of the person‟s social life space and the reconfiguring of that homeostasis to respond to changing circumstances‟.„In this revision of the theory.

81 .Proposition 9 „Disorder‟ is caused when the person becomes chronically stuck within his/her own actualising process such that the homeostatic balance cannot reconfigure to respond to changing circumstances.

„A Tyranny of Growth‟ 82 .

After countless years of going against my instinct and fitting into other people‟s wishes I finally broke free. 83 . For a time after that I was impossible to live with – I couldn‟t compromise at all.

It‟s like I couldn‟t go against my view of events and what was right for me in the moment. 84 . Having finally got hold of myself I wasn‟t going to let go – I suppose I was scared I would lose myself again.

They say that I look „cold and detached‟. Other people are giving back a different view of myself.I can see that my sense of myself isn‟t working. It is difficult to know who to trust. when I feel „warm‟. and they are pretty unanimous. 85 .

Either they share the same illusion or I have a huge blind spot that I can‟t see past. It is really difficult to go against my sense of myself – I have no sense of being wrong. But these are good people – I need to pause awhile.


• • • • • • • PCE Worldwide; A schema of working at relational depth; Client processes; Working with the client‟s „configurations‟ of self; Configuration Theory; Revising Rogers‟ Self-Theory; The developmental agenda for the therapist working at relational depth; „Existential Touchstones‟; Working with Dominic.

• •


The Developmental Agenda for the Therapist Working at Relational Depth
• expanding our experience of humanity; • expanding the self available in the therapy room
- configurations - „existential touchstones‟

Expanding Our Experience of Humanity
• „Eventually I realised that if I was going to work professionally as a counsellor, I had better find out something about the other half of humanity. So I started to work with men!‟ • „I never actively accepted myself as “homophobic”, but I was. Joining the men‟s group soon blew that away‟.

• „When it would come to the edge of meeting the depths of my clients‟ despair I would always pull back. initially. through reading about people‟s experiences of despair. I got over that edge.‟ 90 . That would take me into my tears – and closer to my sense of my own existence.

I used that group to stay connected with the kinds of experiencing they spoke about. 2005: 107) 91 .• „An experience which helped me to sustain myself [in the work with ‘Rick’] was attending an informal „rap‟ group of veterans….‟ (Mearns & Cooper.

„existential touchstones‟ 92 . • expanding the self available in the therapy room .configurations .The Developmental Agenda for the Therapist Working at Relational Depth • expanding our experiences of humanity.

The Therapist‟s use of her configurational self? 93 .

94 Clair 1: Dave 2: Clair 2: Dave 3: Clair 3: .k.. I‟ve seen it for ages.. I knew you wouldn‟t. She is pretty scared you know. We are o. No.I wouldn‟t take anything away from it. when we are working on my strong Self . But my „little girl‟ isn‟t so sure about you.that work has been great . You mean you knew that I wouldn‟t understand it? Yes …. She doesn‟t think you want to know her …. She doesn‟t trust me.Working all together with „Clair‟ Extract 1 Dave 1: I really don‟t understand why you are leaving the job.

. So I am holding her hand and walking her out. And what are you feeling.Dave 4: Clair 4: Dave 5: Clair 5: Dave 6: Clair 6: Dave 7: (pause) I suppose we haven‟t spent enough time on her. I see now that I didn‟t hear her very well. 95 . But I want to trust you. and I am angry. she has got to come out now. I am not sure if I can trust you …. (pause) I guess I didn‟t hear her very well .. I want to apologise to you for not really listening to you until now. And perhaps I wasn‟t as open to her as I could have been ….I didn‟t realise how bad she felt. Maybe I thought you wouldn‟t like me if I really showed you her. She needs to become a big girl now.. little girl? I am scared …. I didn‟t let her come out very often with you. Well.

But you also sense two parts to me here? Yes. He has got a softness and vulnerability which is really good for me. you have called your „strong Self‟ and your „little girl‟. The other is not so used to being here but he has been invited. He helps you to be soft with yourself …. The two parts of you. but I haven‟t given them names yet . two of you and two of me? Yes.. don‟t you? Yes. He is pretty competent.what is your sense of them? One is watching over everything that is happening. He helps me to be „soft‟ with myself.Extract 2 (two sessions later) Clair 1: Dave 1: Clair 2: Dave 2: Clair 3: Dave 3: Clair 4: Dave 4: It is better now. You mean. It feels as though there are four of us working together.? 96 . but he is also nervous. in here.in here at least .

together.then my strong self just got together with you and there was no space for „softies‟ . my „soft‟ part kind of feels okay with this but is a bit unsure.. Maybe I am more „tentative‟. I think you are more experienced at this than me.but they need to „get along‟ together.? It is important that we are all here. silly! Being „unsure‟ is part of being „soft‟. like yours do. And it is important that we touch that „softness‟ in you …. Clair. My parts both have strength .Clair 5: Dave 5: Clair 6: Dave 6: Clair 7: Dave 7: Clair 8: When it was only your „strong. competent‟ self that was here . Never mind. than I look. we‟ll help each other along! 97 . That is what „soft parts‟ are like.no space for „softies‟ in either of us.

„existential touchstones‟ 98 . • expanding the self available in the therapy room .The Developmental Agenda for the Therapist Working at Relational Depth • expanding our experiences of humanity.configurations .

Revising Rogers‟ Self-Theory. • • 99 . Working with Dominic. A schema of working at relational depth. „Existential Touchstones‟. The developmental agenda for the therapist working at relational depth.Contents • • • • • • • PCE Worldwide. Configuration Theory. Working with the client‟s „configurations‟ of self. Client processes.

Definition of „existential touchstones‟ Life events and self-experiences from which we draw considerable personal strength and which help to ground us in relationships as well as making us more open to and comfortable with a diversity of relationships. 100 .

That is a really secure part of me that helps me to feel „at ease‟ even in difficult situations.Lesley‟s existential „touchstones‟ • One of my earliest memories is sitting on my grandfather‟s knee. 101 . Every time I met him he had a radiant smile and he would plonk me on his knee. What I get from that is huge – it is the experience of completely unconditional love.

It is amazing how often that sense of a child‟s frustration helps me to get a „flavour‟ of my client‟s distress. I can feel a child‟s frustration even now. I could never please my father. 102 . It happened time after time. as I talk about it. I would be proud of myself for something and he wouldn‟t respond or he would nit-pick it and so devalue it.• No matter what I did.

the teacher announced. „Watch that Lesley doesn‟t fall through the cracks in the floorboards!‟ The strength I take from this experience is in feeling my own rage. In a flamboyant way. It is surprising how often that strong. The most distressing event happened each year when we would be ceremonially measured and weighed in front of the whole PE class. clean feeling is a source of strength for me with clients. representing nothing but her own selfimportance. At the time it happened I nearly exploded into tears but I was determined not to give her the satisfaction so all I felt was the pure rage. 103 .• In primary school I was frequently ridiculed for being thin.

„inexplicable! Yes. what the teacher did was to ask me to spell the word „inexplicable‟. I came top of the class. I was top.• One year. However. late in my primary schooling. To my enormous pride the teacher invited me to the front of the class. with a broad smile and a wave of her arm towards me she said. Usually I was around tenth place but in this particular year. once all the marks were averaged. Then. accurately I think. I was thoroughly confused but I spelled it. I thought that my considerable achievement was going to be honoured. that is the best word to describe you coming top of the class!‟ 104 .

This time I didn‟t feel angry, what I felt was an intense humiliation. That is something I have felt fairly often in my life. It is an absolutely dreadful feeling. It is the feeling of being stripped naked in public. And that is precisely the strength I take from it. I have been so severely humiliated so often that I know what it is. I don‟t need to fear it because I know it better than most people. I don‟t need to be afraid of looking silly or getting things wrong – I can take risks with my self-expression because, no matter what happens, I could never be so humiliated as I have been.

• I learned that a very slight girl needed to use her brain rather than her brawn. One example of that was when I was surrounded pretty late at night in a dodgy area of town by a group of men. Running was not an option and fighting certainly wasn‟t! so, I amazed myself by taking the initiative. I broke into talking with them and cracking jokes and making first one and then another and then another laugh. One of them clapped me on the shoulder and said, „You‟re a good sport‟ and I was allowed to walk away. As well as being a selfexperience that makes me feel good about myself, incidents like this help me to feel pretty safe with just about anybody.

• From my time as a nurse I remember one of my patients who died. It had been a medical „mistake‟ – he was given ten times the proper dosage of medication. It didn‟t happen on my shift, thank God, but I still carry a lot of guilt about it because I colluded with the cover-up to protect the doctor. At the time it felt that I couldn‟t do anything else although I was incredibly angry. The feeling was one of total powerlessness. That feeling of powerlessness is an incredibly valuable touchstone for meeting many of my clients.


so I sat with her and she used me to talk about her life. 108 . so I did it. It took two and a half hours and then she died.• Being with someone dying and opening yourself to that helps to develop depth. who was eighty-three years of age. What Mary left me is useful for me with every single client I meet. Often the nursing profession runs away from that challenge but I remember a few cases – one was with „Mary‟. There was no one to spend her death with her. I had finished my shift and I knew that Mary would not be there the next time I clocked on.

„Existential Touchstones‟. Working with the client‟s „configurations‟ of self. Revising Rogers‟ Self-Theory. Configuration Theory. The developmental agenda for the therapist working at relational depth.Contents • • • • • • • PCE Worldwide. Working with Dominic. 109 • • . A schema of working at relational depth. Client processes.

Why I say that is that I want us to have a record of what happens – when you‟re pissed it‟s easy to forget. But I‟d like us to keep the tape on like we usually do. (2005) Working at Relational Depth in Counselling and Psychotherapy. D. 110 T1 D2 T2 D3 T3 . London: Sage. I‟ll go away if you like. Do you want to go or do you want to stay? I wouldn‟t mind staying. M. & Cooper. I would like that too. Because you‟ve been drinking? Yeah – I‟ve been drinking.] Dominic 1: [At the start of session 3] D1 I shouldn‟t have come today.[From Mearns.

But you asked how I felt about you. „Scared‟? It surprises me too …. I want to tell you that I feel absolutely nothing about the fact that you‟ve been drinking.. (Long pause) How do you feel about me …. I‟m scared in case we have to start again. That‟s what makes me a bit scared. but will that still be there ….today. here. a bit …. here (pauses) I feel ….. now. It‟s like I feel that we‟ve made a really good connection …. „scared‟. Good that I mentioned it then.D4 T4 D5 T5 D6 T6 Fine – I hadn‟t realised it was on. I guess it does matter to me that you‟ve been drinking …. Dom... now ….... 111 ..

but does „drunk me‟?! I don‟t know. Dom – be here – be here drunk – but don‟t play fucking games with me. Neither you nor I deserve that. Like this isn‟t just a „game‟ to you? I think you know that. SILENCE SILENCE 112 .D7 T7 D8 T8 D9 T9 D10 T10 D11 T11 Like it matters to you? Yes it does Dom. Does he? Do you? Big question – maybe I‟ll need another vodka before I can answer that. In fact. Dom. I know you know that Dom. Yes – „sober me‟ knows it.

where should we start today? We started long ago – this is me – this is who I am. 113 . Yes. I missed that.D12 T12 D13 T13 D14 T14 You‟re really serious about this. Yes – you‟re right – I see – we started at the beginning as usual – but the start was different – because you were different. Apology accepted . aren‟t you? As ever. I‟m sorry.

fantasy.D15 T15 D16 T16 D17 T17 D18 T18 D19 T19 Dominic 2: [Later in session 3] It‟s not easy to live up to a „holy‟ name. What are you with just now? 114 . You‟re good at this shit! Hope so. „Dominic‟. Yes – a „good Catholic upbringing‟ kept telling me how important my name was. Their fantasy? Yeah ……………… It was like I didn‟t exist … you know? Like they had some image of you that was so far from who you were that it was like they were talking about someone else. pure ……………. Like it told you what you should be? Yeah – but it was a fantasy – pure fantasy ……………. Got it in one.

. T23 You don‟t know whether to believe yourself or not. D23 I‟m just so full of crap. D24 I think I‟m serious … sincere. But. 115 . That sounds like a lot. a fuckin drunk. (looks directly at T) ………. only. T22 Say more Dom. T20 (looks intensely at D and moves towards him. I don‟t know what I‟ m about. speaking slowly). really.D20 (long pause) …. I‟m only a drunk … a fuckin drunk. T21 … and …? D22 I don‟t know whether to believe myself or not. But you are really. „you– don‟t–know–what–you‟re-about…‟ D21 I‟m so full of crap. T24 You think that you are serious … and sincere.

(looks up at T) Yes… (shivers). and lonely… 116 . A fuckin drunk – that‟s all you are. (hits fist on arm of chair in apparent anger… and cries) Dom.D25 T25 D26 T26 D27 T27 D28 T28 D29 T29 D30 T30 Yes. I‟m so fuckin full of shit (cries). (moves to Dominic and puts his arm round him) (cries more and more) It feels like a lonely place. (tears welling up) A fuckin drunk. you are angry… and you are crying. Cold.

D32 It does… I can‟t describe it… I‟m alive… but it‟s killing me… and everything I love. then. But.D31 The only warmth comes through the bottle – whether it‟s „single malt‟ or cheap vodka – it doesn‟t matter. T31 It still works – it still gives a feeling of warmth. T32 Dom – can you really help me get hold of this – It sounds really strong – like you feel really „alive‟ – that sounds real powerful. there is another part…? D34 The other part is a loving husband and father… T34 Yes…? 117 . and everything you love. D33 One part of me is really „hooked‟ on it – it is the only „buzz‟ I get and I can‟t get enough of it. T33 And. it is also „killing‟ you.

D35 T35 D36 T36 D37 T37 D38 T38 D39 T39 Who is killing his family. Most people don‟t realize how difficult a choice that is. I don‟t mean to be „glib‟ – it really does sound like you are serious. Is it… does it feel like giving up on „living‟ for the „life‟ you have? 118 . I think I understand… one „part‟ – the one that is really „hooked‟ would give up on your normal life… and the other „part‟ – the one who is a „loving husband and father‟ would give up the booze. I‟ve got to do something. „Do‟? What would you „do‟ Dom? Either give it up… or give it up. And I can‟t carry it any more. That sounds serious… No. You are carrying a lot… a helluva lot.

T40 SILENCE D41 It feels like „living‟ when you‟re drunk – but it isn‟t really. I have an „ordinary life‟ – did you see that film? T43 „Ordinary Lives‟ – yes.D40 Yes. T41 SILENCE D42 I‟ve been scared of living – all my life I‟ve been scared of living. I‟ve never felt like other people – I‟ve never felt „sure of myself‟ the way other people do. T42 SILENCE D43 And so. If you feel „sure of yourself‟ you can go out and do things with your life. 119 . If you don‟t feel sure of yourself you can‟t – you can‟t really do things with your life – you‟ve always got to make „safe‟ choices – choices that don‟t really test you – choices that aren‟t really „living‟.

T46 SILENCE D47 SILENCE T47 I am feeling sad for it. I think I am seeing it better. It desperately wants to do something – but it has been „scared of living‟ for so long – it doesn‟t know what to do. That‟s the closest I can get to „living‟. D48 So all I can do is to go into that feeling of being sad – and get drunk.D44 LONG SILENCE T44 Are you stuck? Are you thinking about the film? D45 Yes – their „ordinary lives‟ were blown apart when something terrible happened. T45 And you… what about you. but it also hasn‟t got experience – it doesn‟t know how to do it. They had taken the safe choices for so long that they hadn‟t developed the strength to deal with real life. 120 . D46 Part of me tries to break free.

D52 SILENCE T52 It‟s not you. you are drunk. D53 How can I be like that? How can I be a drunk? How can I have let you tape that. 121 .DOMINIC 3: [session 4] [after spending time going through part of the tape of session 3] D49 It is difficult to listen to that. I can wipe that tape right now. T53 Dom… If you want. T51 It‟s not you. T49 Why is that. D51 I hate listening to it – it‟s not me. T50 Yes – yes. Dom? D50 Because I‟m drunk.

T54 It is you. D58 Yes… yes… I heard him. T58 You are keeping him out… but. really you heard him… 122 . but not a part of me I want. D55 ………….. T57 You „heard‟ him. T56 Where should we go with this. T55 Do you recognise him? D56 Sure… he‟s only a bottle of vodka away. didn‟t you Dom… you really „heard‟ him.D54 No………………… No………………… It‟s me……………… It is me. Dom? Where should we go with this right now? Where are you with this right now? D57 I‟ve got to meet him.

Why did I say that „I have to meet him‟? T60 SILENCE {Dominic meets T’s eyes} D61 I have been running way from him for years but what I need to do is to meet him. I cry with him. I cry for him. He is part of me. When I‟m sober I believe he is gone forever.D59 I heard ‘me the drunk’. I am him. T61 SILENCE D62 Let‟s play some more of the tape. T59 And you feel you have „got to meet him‟. D60 I don‟t know what made me say that – I hate him. 123 . I hate him.

T64 This sounds different – like you are „meeting‟ him rather than „dismissing‟ him. not just when I am drunk. It‟s like he‟s with me now. He was an evil drunk. „desperate‟ me. 124 .DOMINIC 4: [later in session 4] D63 [Dominic begins to cry as he listens to the tape – particularly D34] T63 SILENCE D64 It‟s like I‟m listening to him – to me – to that part of me. But he is a part of me. for the first time. „lost‟ me. and I‟m not drunk – nor am I going to get drunk… today. properly. „crying‟ me – though I‟m also crying now. He is „sad‟ me. I had to deny he was „really‟ a part of me. but every minute of every day – he is a part of me. I‟ve been locked into antagonism to him – antagonism and denial and hate.

I came into therapy to kill that drunk and now I am listening to him and crying for him/crying with him. T67 And how is that for you – that I am here – with you? 125 . It‟s not like I imagined it.D65 It feels strange – like I am excited but also tense – this feels different. He really is part of me – a part that I have not been open to – we had to be separated by a bottle of vodka. T65 SILENCE D66 LONG SILENCE T66 Where are you in your silence Dom? D67 I have suddenly become aware that you are here.

T70 In case he can‟t? 126 . T69 Can ‘drunk me’ also understand ‘sober me’? D70 Wow – that‟s a big question – that‟s too much right now – that panics me.D68 The first feeling was an acute embarrassment – but that quickly passed. I feel so excited but also tense – might this pass? Could I lose it? T68 „It‟? D69 This is the first time that ‘sober me’ has met ‘drunk me’ in a way that he can understand him. Now it feels good that you are here – that you are sharing this with me.

It‟s like I‟ve won a lot at the „tables‟ today and if we go too far I might lose it. „part‟ of me told me not to push… and another part – a kind of „delinquent‟ part said „go for it‟! D72 Hah! So the therapist is crazy too – he has different parts too.D71 Yes. T72 I‟ve been „found out‟ – guilty as charged! D73 Can we come back to your question when I‟ve lived with this for a while? (smiles) T73 Why can‟t I be as wise as that! SESSION ENDS 127 . In fact. I thought I might be pushing too far – I knew it was a big step. T71 Fair enough.

This session proved to be critical for the therapy. One wonders how many other people might be described as partial drunks. instead. „Sober‟ Dominic had met „drunk Dominic‟ without judgement or denial but. The problem with these configurations is that the „drunk‟ can generally undermine the whole process and take over the definition of the person. with genuine understanding. „part‟ of him was a „drunk‟ and part of him was „sober‟. In session 5 Dominic described himself as a ‘partial drunk’. if only we could be present at the meetings of their parts? 128 .

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