Emergence Techniques Used: Visual Dialogue, Direct Emergence
Personal Skills Age (estimated age at the time of the original injury): 7
Key(s): hearing the words, "sit still!"
Stories about therapists and couches make me laugh. Or squirm. A bit detached, wouldn't you say? So how did I end up in one of these very scenes? Sitting across from a fourteen year old boy stretched out on my sister's good couch, the one no one is allowed to sit on except on special occasions?
Actually, my story begins several days earlier, at a quiet, holiday dinner.
What could be easier? A quiet holiday dinner. Well, if you were me, you would know to never count on anything "quiet" ending up quiet. In the very best sense of this idea.
It was the Christmas holidays, and I was staying with my sister Teresa who lives some 800 miles from where I live. South Carolina to be exact. No snow but plenty of holiday cheer. And love.
I love being there.
As usual, my sister, the "two," had been enjoying the holidays by giving, giving, giving. What else does a "two" do at holiday times? Or anytime for that matter. This dinner, then, was but one more gift, to me, and to her friend, Evelyn.
To be honest, I was looking forward to this dinner. I had never met Evelyn before, and I had heard my sister speak of her often.
I did know they worked together, and that they had been friends for years.
I also usually liked my sister's friends a lot. Evelyn as no exception. So what was she like?
Have you ever met a woman from the "South?" Then you probably have a pretty good sense of Evelyn. Outside: pretty, soft spoken, polite, well mannered, and on her best behavior. Inside: feisty, willful, strongly opinionated, and silently keeping all this to herself, worries included.
Oh, and one more thing.
Evelyn was obviously very hard on herself.
Arrgh. Do you know what it's like for me to meet someone who is hard on herself? Even while I'm on holiday?
My "off duty" sign starts flickering on and off at a rapid pace.
Mostly, this goes on internally. And largely invisibly. To everyone, that is, except those who know me well. They can see it right away see it.
Actually, I did pretty well for myself. I lasted for about a half an hour. Finally, though, I simply had to ask.
"Evelyn, why are you so hard on yourself?"
Stares, and social shock, and slow recovery followed in rapid succession. After all, we were in the South. And they were all from the South. Except my sister, who has lived there most of her life. And fits there perfectly.
Me, I'm from New York. And happy to live there. I simply fit there, where people are more at home with my blunt but honest style.
People are people, though, and soon, Evelyn was telling me about her son. And how she had been failing to help him with his "sitting still."
"He's been like this for a long time," she went on.
"What's his name?"
As I pictured her son, then, and Evelyn trying to help him, I couldn't help but be drawn back to little Alice and what I had witnessed there. "Had he experienced a startling 'sit still' scene," I thought?
I couldn't stop wondering. And as I fought with myself to keep to the Southern cultural rule of "nothing serious at dinner," I kept feeling drawn to offer my help.
Then, as I looked back and forth from Evelyn to my sister, I found my mouth opening and words coming out...
Would it be all right if I tried to see if I can help...?"
Politely and still, both Teresa and Evelyn looked at each other for a moment. Then they both said OK. Then we agreed to meet there, at my sister's house, a few days later. Finally, the subject was dropped, as if the "silence" rule had never been broken.
The day arrived, and true to form, no one mentioned what was about to happen. Except for me, of course. Then, precisely at the appointed time, Evelyn and her son arrived, obviously anxious yet both curious. After all. What more could anyone do? Alex had already been seen my several people over the years. No one had actually been able to help. Other than in a temporary and supportive way. What was weird, though, was how still Alex seemed to be, right from the start. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
Noticing small details is, to me, the very heart and soul of healing. As is my way, then, I watched carefully for clues as to what Alex suffering looked like.
Know I never analyze. And that my "watching" consists entirely of being a loving observer, something like how very young children watch intensely and learn.
I am a lot like these children. Perhaps this is what puts many people quickly at ease with me.
Whatever the case, we soon settled ourselves into the good living room. As we did, I watched Alex closely, feeling both nervous and amused as I watched him stretch out, full length, on my sister's good couch. Shoes and all. All without asking, of course.
I smiled to myself. Kids are kids no matter where they come from. Alex was no exception.
And since I like people who can be themselves, I instantly liked Alex.
Momentarily, though, I was distracted. After all, what would my sister would say if she saw him stretched out like this. On the good couch, no less.
Fortunately, I never had to find out. And actually, I'm sure she would not have objected either. Out loud, at least.
But she would have been uncomfortable. And I would have felt responsible.
As for Alex, he and I immediately connected, slowly at first, of course, but connected none the less. And as I continued to ask him about everything and anything I could think of, I kept noting his mother's warm, watchful eyes supporting him from just off stage the whole time.
Seeing this bond made me want to help even more.
Eventually I asked Evelyn if Alex was always this still. He had not moved an inch since we arrived.
"Sometimes," she said. "If he's interested in what he's doing."
Finally, after we had spoken for more than a half an hour; what I considered the "warm up"; I figured we were ready to being the visual dialogue.
Please not that up to this point, Alex had been perfectly still and comfortable the whole time.
"How odd," I thought. I knew, though, that I if I wanted to help, that I had to get a picture of what he looked like when he couldn't sit still.
I moved into the visual dialogue.
the "Visual Dialogue"
"Can you tell me about what you're like in school?"
Here, I began to see Alex struggle a bit. Internally at least. Thus, while he was able to recall scene after scene in which he had been unable to sit still, and while he was able to remain perfectly still on the outside, I could see him squirming on the inside.
Again, I thought, "how odd. He's still not physically showing any symptoms. Something's missing here. But what?"
Finally, I asked him to picture the first time he could recall in which he couldn't sit still.
Immediately, he started to describe a scene at the dentist office. He said he was about seven.
"Seven, it is," I said.
He then went on to say, the dentist had yelled at him, and there it was.
Finally, I asked Evelyn at what age had Alex begun to have trouble sitting still.
"About seven," she answered.
And at this point, I knew we had the scene.
Now, I simply did what I do best; I guided Alex through the scene, and for those unfamiliar with what this process entails, the goal is simply this: to discover what the person can and can not internally visualize and to then help the person to fill in what they can not picture with something. Anything really.
How can I be so unconcerned about what the person uses to fill in the missing parts? Because I trust the process. After all, I've guided emergences for some nine years now.
What always happens is that something at least analogous to the literal missing piece emerges. Translation. Like the material in peoples' dreams, what emerges during Emergence as a Therapy is always perfectly relevant and absolutely what the person needs to initiate healing. After all, the wound itself is simply what the person can not picture, some part of what happened on the stage we explore. Filling this missing material in with anything visual, then, is like splicing a piece of movie film into a movie where the movie film has broken apart. Even if what you splice in is from a completely different movie, you will still be able to watch the movie play back fine. And for the most part, even if the spliced-in piece is very unrelated, the meaning of the movie remains intact.
Here, then, is what allows me to be so unconcerned about the literal events and leaves me free to concentrate on guiding the person through the process. In addition, this allows me to stay connected to the person throughout the process, and this connection is a vital part of the healing itself in that no one heals alone, at least experientially alone.
As for Alex and his missing pieces, I began by asking Alex to tell me in fine detail what the dentist's office looked like. As he did, he got more and more uncomfortable. Even so, because I kept reconnecting to him each time he "went away," Alex was quickly able to get to the salient moment; the moment in which the dentist injured him with his startling remark; "sit still!" More to the point, we were soon able to get past this point, with Alex gradually regaining his ability to stay visually conscious as he replayed the scene.
Finally, I did a bit of re scripting, something that falls into the "guide's intuition" category. By this, I mean guides usually do their best to get as much of peoples' life scripts from the people themselves, and this skill can take a while to master. Even so, there are times, especially in cases wherein the people was a young child, wherein the guide can carefully insert some piece of what amounts to a bit of ideal parenting into the scene. Thus, here, I suggested, very carefully and openly, that Alex, while picturing, tell the dentist what he thought.
I'll leave what Alex said to your imagination. Suffice it to say, he felt better afterwards.
Finally, I brought Alex out of his visual exploration and into the present, knowing he'd experienced at least some relief from what had been preventing him from sitting still. At the very least, he would have some connection between his present and his past, a connection which would then allow him to let go of some of his worry.
More than a year has passed since this "couch" session and to be honest, I have never again seen Alex. However, each time I ask my sister, I get told the same "Southern woman" answer: "He's better."
What do I think? Well, from the little I've heard, it is hard to tell. And on the whole site, this is the first time my reply is so vague. Why? Because in truth, I simply do not know.
Even so, there are some things worth noting here, between Alice's story and Alex's.
Let's start with what is the similar.
In both cases, the children were injured in and around eight years old, or at least within a year or so of eight. And in both cases, the children's mothers were present both on the stage of the injury and at the Emergence session.
Also, in both cases, the mother's were warm and loving people, and very involved in their child's life. And in both cases, the scene which emerged during the Emergence was one in which some adult abruptly started the children with the words, "sit still."
This last thing is probably what is most important here; the simply possibility that such an event could be at the root of at least some hyperactivity.
What, then, about the differences?
For one thing, with Alice, I got to do emergence within a month or so of her injury. In Alex's case, and assuming the scene he saw was accurately placed time wise, I'd say I met him some six or so years later.
Did this time passing make a difference?
Clearly, it did. But how much? Again, I'm not sure. Sometimes, it make little to no difference. Here, my intuition tells me it did matter though.
What else though?
In Alice's case, she knew well me for years. Alex only met me that day.
Did this make a difference?
With adults, I can usually overcome this distance, sometimes within minutes. But with children?
With children I believe knowing me a while matters a lot. And then there is the matter of the mothers being familiar with Emergence.
Did this matter? During the sessions, not really, But I'm sure it mattered later, wherein Alice's mother knew what to watch for and Alex's mother did not.
Important? Yes, especially when I had to rely on their observations to judge the outcomes. Even so, perhaps the biggest difference between these two cases was a much more personal difference; the personal state each child was in during the session.
Thus, in Alice's case, she was obviously reliving the scene she had been wounded in even before it emerged. However, in Alex's case, he arrived calm and still, and only briefly relived his wounding scene. In fact, he pretty much did not relive the physical squirming part, even during the emergence. Why? I would say it was probably just one thing, what I'd call the biggest difference, to be sure.
Alice had never been on medication for her injury. Alex arrived that day medicated.
How long had he been taking medication for his hyperactivity? For several years before we met. In fact, even today, as I was writing, I took a break and called my sister, to inquire after Alex and how he has been doing.
What did she tell me? First, she said her usual; "he's better." She then followed this with, "he's on a new medication."
Have you any idea what I felt in that moment? Sad, to say the least. And confused as to what to write.
I, of course, am writing the truth, but what of the work we did? What actually happened?
After nine years, I have thousands of emergences, some little, some big. In each case, though, if I were to ask even years later, can you still picture that scene, in 100% of the case, the person tells me, yes right away. Thus, I am sure that that whatever emerged in Alex that day was permanent, meaning, the scene Alex and I witnessed that day will stay accessible to him for the rest of his life. This part did heal in him. Of this, I'm sure.
But what else happened?
Here again, as frustrating as it is to have to tell you this, here, I can not say. And even if I were to have been seeing him for therapy, I'd still probably have to answer this vaguely. Why? In lieu of seeing him off medication, I'd simply have no way to tell.
So where does this leave us and all the children who need our help?
With one very important point. Both children were wounded by same "sit still" script.
Here, at least, is a starting point from which to look further.