Self-Observation by Nina Cherry
The Hakomi method is a gentle and highly focused form of psychotherapy
developed by Ron Kurtz. Offered through both individual sessions
and workshops, its aim is to help people discover, study and revise
limiting beliefs about themselves and the world. By proceeding slowly
and by accepting the wholeness of the client both their need
to grow as well as their need to resist and defend against pain
an atmosphere of respect and safety is created in which client
and therapist cooperate in exploration.
I know you did your best Ron Kurtz says gently. Its
something shes waited all her life to hear. Hearing it now,
in a quiet, attentive state, shes deeply touched. The woman
begins crying and then dissolves into sobbing. As her head sinks
down and her shoulders turn inward, he moves to help her curl up.
He stays with her, neither trying to comfort her, nor telling her
how to do better next time. After the sobbing quiets down, the processing
continues, and she discovers a level of acceptance of herself that
wasnt possible before. The light in her eyes and the fullness
of her breathing reflect the sense of new awareness.
The Hakomi therapist avoids giving advice or solving problems. Clients
are assisted in discovering that guidance and understanding are
inside themselves. Faith in each persons ability to find the
necessary answers and tools within is very empowering. Since much
of this potential is unused and out of awareness, the Hakomi therapists
job is to befriend the clients unconscious and create a setting
where this potential can emerge and unfold. Much of this work is
done in a special state of consciousness called mindfulness.
Mindfulness fosters open communication between the unconscious and
the conscious. It is a state in which one not only has experiences
but is able to observe the ongoing contents of the experiences without
interfering. It is non-judgmental, self-reflective consciousness
in action. Mindfulness is a place of deep knowing. In therapy strong
emotions are sometimes felt and early memories come back with intensity
and clarity. In mindfulness these experiences can be examined and
used to free us from the painful unconscious compulsion to repeat
them again and again. Mindfulness is attention to present experience.
When we examine the fine grain of physical sensation or habitual
gesture right now in the session, we can discover in them the very
roots of who we are and how we got that way.
In a therapy session Ron Kurtz is working with a woman who says
she doesnt have any particular issues up to work on this day.
He says, I notice that when you talk to me your head is turned
away and you dont look at me directly. She is very surprised
as she becomes aware of this. Ron leads her into mindfulness and
gives her an opportunity to study a felt experience of what he has
observed. He says, Lets do an experiment. Turn your
attention inward to the quiet, watchful place
and see what
happens inside you as you slowly turn your head towards me. She
reports an intense panicky feeling accompanied by a pounding heart.
A very powerful session follows, in which she uncovers a life-long
distrust of people and childhood memories of physical abuse.
A Hakomi therapist finds little value in having a client talk about
the past or about a memory or experience. Instead, the emphasis
is on the structure of experiences in this moment.
A client is curious about the anxiety and fear she feels when shes
around men. The therapist asks her Can you feel any of that
fear right now? She nods and he says Stay with it and
see what you can find out about it.
How do you experience it? Do you feel it in your body
see an image?
The client has an opportunity to discover how she creates her world
around the fear of men. She may discover that her body contracts
and she has a feeling of getting smaller. She may find meaning in
that physical response: My body is saying hide and he
wont see me
The deliberate study of the organization of experience
is the heart of the Hakomi method. Ron Kurtz says, What are
we trying to get at when we do core psychotherapy? We are trying
to get at beliefs, images, memories, decisions about who we are
and what kind of world were part of pieces of the long
ago that established patterns of perception, behaviour and systemic
experience and still control what can be experienced, felt, thought
and expressed, to this day.
The organisers of experience are full of learned beliefs, emotionally
intense events and important relationships. These are core material.
Ron says, Thats what psychotherapy is all about
bringing these powerful memories and images out of the shadows and
into consciousness. The Hakomi therapist evokes experiences
in the client that lead to this core material, and then assists
the client in processing the experience. These creative experiments
can only be done effectively in the state of mindfulness.
The therapist, a man, says to the woman who is afraid of men: Lets
study this fear and see what we can learn about it. Why dont
you turn inward and from that place of awareness, notice what happens
in you when I begin to walk slowly towards you.
It is the slowness of the experiment, the clients self-observation,
her focus on her present experience, and the openness to whatever
response emerges from the experiment that makes it a powerful catalyst.
The client has a felt experience which can be processed. In the
processing there is emotional release and often work with the inner
child that relives the memories that created the core beliefs.
As the therapist walked towards her, the client felt a familiar
anxiousness. In studying it further, she suddenly remembered an
important memory of a time when she was mistreated by her father.
The emerging memory gives rise to understanding about why she has
been afraid of men all her life. It gives her a deep compassion
for herself instead of putting herself down or blaming herself for
wanting to withdraw and hide from men.
The Hakomi therapist does not try to evoke memories. Some events
may be best left unremembered. Neither is there exploration of only
negative experiences or limiting beliefs. Often it is important
to explore one's strengths, talents, resources, or divinity. For
instance, the therapist might invite a study of a positive inner
state: "What is it like to hang out in this place of
simply being? This place where you know who you are and which has
nothing to do with your accomplishments and possessions. Just let
yourself feel it. What is it like to view the world from here?
The process of Hakomi offers the client or group participant new
options, creative options, where none existed before. By updating
the files (seeing how limiting beliefs are no longer necessary
in a world that is confining now) new choices become apparent. They
can be tried out in the session and integrated into daily life.
Transformation naturally happens.