Happy almost-Thanksgiving, everyone here in the States! As we ease into the holidays, I want to return to the GROUND series, especially since we all need a bit of extra grounding during this time. Today, then, we bring it to U. 🙂
The ‘U’ in GROUND is for ‘Understanding,’ something that all therapists strive for in one way or another. We seek to know our clients, or at least to get a sense of where they’re coming from, how and why they make the decisions that they do, what their emotional life is like. Clients are often on a quest for understanding themselves: they want to understand their pasts so they can avoid repeating them; they want to understand their responses so they can make them less damaging; they want to understand what they want so they can stop wasting energy on things they don’t. There are countless other examples, but understanding is probably one of the top things a person goes to therapy for.
Besides self-understanding, though, clients often want to be understood – felt – gotten – by their therapists. Many clients feel that they were never properly seen, or heard; they want desperately for someone to recognize and accept them. Others are looking for understanding in the sense of sympathy or empathy; they want someone to feel for them, and be on their side.
As with any therapist, it is part of the Synergist’s job to bring understanding to his clients: deep listening, empathic response, personal curiosity, and alliance with the client’s growth and health. The Synergist brings another piece to understanding, though, through the body, and this is where things get a bit punny.
As part of the “ground” of RSM, Understanding becomes the most literal of the six words: we are helping our clients under-stand, to get a solid footing and a stable base so they may carry things, move freely, reach out, and grasp whatever it is they are wanting out of life. In Rubenfeld Synergy, the metaphors of the body become literal translations of our life experiences. If a client cannot feel her own feet on the ground, it is very difficult for her to stand steadily. If she cannot stand solidly, it’s going to be hard for her to hold anything heavy, to lift anything, to walk or run with confidence. Bringing it to the mental: a client who cannot feel her feet may often be told she has her “head in the clouds,” or that she’s a “scatterbrain.” Some very smart people also think of themselves as “a brain in a jar,” someone without a body at all; it is no accident that the popular conception of a nerd or geek is someone with poor physical coordination. Emotionally, trauma survivors often dissociate – mentally and emotionally “leave” their bodies – in order to escape danger and feel safe. Some clients have told me that their feet are only there so that they can run away.
In all of these cases, under-standing becomes extremely difficult: if you can’t feel your feet, don’t want to be in your body, or would always rather be running than standing still, it is difficult to under-stand or to support anything: a heavy box, a friend in need, a difficult concept, or a difficult emotional experience. A person without understanding speaks of knowledge as being positionally elsewhere, where they can’t reach it: “over my head,” “out of my depth.”
It is part of the Synergist’s work, then, to help clients find their feet on the ground. Until the client can find his own under-standing, the Synergist brings her own: making contact with a client’s feet from a grounded place, and communicating that rootedness to the client. Bringing awareness and attention to the feet. Discovering the somatic qualities of the feet – light or heavy? Tight or loose? Fragile or solid? Bringing out the stories that are contained there – how does this person make contact with the world? And gradually, helping the client to know where they stand – and therefore, where they’re coming from, where it’s possible for them to move to, and how they might go about it.