Dec 02 2007

Healing grief and rage from an alcoholic family

As he began to calm and soothe himself, he realized that he had been holding onto those powerful feelings for a long time…

Note: This is a fictional case presentation.

David, who was 47years old, was participating in a psychodrama workshop and was an ongoing member of a men’s group. Several of his fellow group members were also participating in the workshop this day. David had participated in psychodrama and other body-centered activities before. During the opening trust circle exercise, David became frozen in the middle of the circle. He was unable to trust the process enough to be gently guided around the circle. He was unable to identify what was happening or why. I gently suggested that the group create a “standing cradle,” to which David agreed. Two volunteers stepped forward and began to hold David, their shoulders touching, and arms wrapped around David. David remained in this position of being held for several minutes. I gently encouraged David to verbalize what he was experiencing. When David was unable to do so, I encouraged him to gently push himself forward into the arms and shoulders of the men holding him. David began to push forward.

Feeling the gentle resistance of the men holding him, David became more intense and emotional. When I asked again what he was experiencing, David was able to explain that he was feeling intense anger and rage. He began to release these feelings in waves of anger and grief. He cried and raged until he was physically spent.

The men continued to cradle him and offer gentle words of support. As he began to calm and soothe himself, he realized that he had been holding onto those powerful feelings for a long time.

He had remembered the events, but the feelings were blocked from his awareness. This is the way it goes for all of us who experience trauma…our brain helps us “actively forget” these traumatic feelings shortly after we experience them.

Body-centered psychodrama helps create enough intensity to open the door to those feelings, so they can be resolved. This process is called “state-dependent learning.”

More on this later…thanks for reading.

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