OK, dialogue. What is that? Suppose a person has a somato-emotional event on my table. I can't do dialogue. What if I don't know what to say? What if I say the wrong thing? What if they don't stop crying? I'm not a psychotherapist. I'm a manual therapist.
Let me speak to you most directly! As a manual therapist, has any patient/client ever cried or become emotional on your table? Have you ever heard anyone say, "I was so nervous I had butterflies in my stomach" or "I was so scared my heart was in my throat" or "I was so angry I couldn’t stop shaking"? What is that? Don't you think it might be a physical manifestation of an emotion affecting the physical body? Don't you think as a complete manual therapist it might help to have experience -- and basic skill at least -- in holding space for this physical manifestation to run its course, the same as you would in facilitating the release of a strain pattern of a muscle group or the inflammatory response of a sprained ankle? Doesn't physical injury often have an emotional component?
Let me say first what CST is not. It is not psychotherapy, psychokinesis, psychoanalysis, hypnosis, hypnotherapy or a form of re-traumatizing experience. The somato-emotional aspect of Craniosacral work is a process of releasing, letting go or changing the emotional charge held in the body which is negatively influencing the CSR or negatively impacting the body, mind or spirit of a person. Negatively impacting one's belief system may invite the belief that one is not good enough to get better, or they will never be rid of this pain or dysfunction. At the very least a somatically held emotion can affect attitude which can hinder the physical healing process could it not? Somato-emotional Processing (SEP) is a process of awareness, learning, re-evaluating of belief systems and personal history with a goal of creating improved function of the Craniosacral system, balance of musculoskeletal tone, posture and function. In a somato-emotional way SEP may create better awareness, understanding and processing of life events moving a person toward a place of acceptance, forgiveness, peace and happiness. It can be a source of hope and healing for the body and mind. Importantly in SEP, the Inner Wisdom is in charge of the session. At no time does the CS therapist coerce, cajole, convince, or demand a certain point of view, feeling or belief. The somato-emotional process is never forced or pushed upon a person. Somato-emotional work is a process; release is the adverb of what happens and it's all based on the CS rhythm as it reflects through the body.
The SEP can include words. Once and for all I would like us to lose the term, "dialogue” or at least de-mystify it. It connotes some form of psychological construct, strict structural format, medical terminology or critical process. To be sure, words can be energy cyst bullets and need to be used with intention, kindness, courtesy and progressive thought and decorum. It can be as simple, gentle and compassionate as two people, known to each other, just talking. Let's call dialogue, "simple conversation." Let us think of it as "verbal support" for the patient and the consciousness of spirit. A dear friend, colleague and co-creator of our basic curriculum is Sheryl McGavin. She says when words usually begin, it is at a point of stillness. When that happens on Sheryl's table she waits. (Time is your ally you know!) She lets the patient start with words like: "I think I am starting to be a little emotional." Then, like sitting in the sun at a cafe with a friend she offers support: "Oh." Sometimes she will offer one of the following: "Really? Tell me, uh-huh, yes, mum hum, OK, then what?" It is simple, non-threatening, non-judgmental assurance that she is present, interested and listening. A big secret in this work is when someone really knows someone else has heard how badly they have suffered, without judging -- just listening -- and it seems to lessen or discharge some of the negative energy around what is being expressed. To be heard is healing and therapeutic and not being heard or listened to is often the unaddressed issue behind a person's inability to heal from an injury or event.
A couple of really simple forms of verbal support I have employed for many years I learned years ago from my other dear friend, mentor and European colleague Sanno Visser from Holland. He came to my very first CADD class in Ireland in 2009. I was very honored. We were talking one night and I said to him, "Sanno, I try to be impartial, ego-subordinated and non-judgmental in session. I say simply "how can I help you?" (I was trying to impress Sanno). Then, wanting acknowledgement of my advanced technique, I followed, "Sanno, what do you say and when do you say it?" With his kind eyes, broad smile and constantly open heart he said, (Paraphrasing), "Don, what makes you think you can possibly help this person?" Oh, I was so busted. I dropped my head and just listened. "Everything I do requires me to be present completely, he continued... I really want to know what it is that moves you to be the way you are. I want to be present." This was his answer to me. He continued to look deeply into me saying, "I want the person to be present also. When the rhythm suddenly stops, this...this is a very special moment in the life of the person. I want to know what is happening. So, I often say, 'What is happening....for you...right now?'" The conversation Sanno and I had that night was a powerful learning for me.
Now I ask you, can you think of a more neutral set of words? Can you see him asking the Inner Wisdom to raise the "what is happening right now" moment to the awareness of the patient? Can you see how he brings the person into the happening (saying "you")? Can you see how he brings everything into the present moment (saying "right now")?
By his wisdom and my humbled, eternal gratitude to Sanno, the above is what I say now. I recall an example of a session one time that went something like this: A forty-five-year-old female patient comes to see me after a fall while walking in the woods. She has had chronic neck pain for a long time, but the fall made it worse. After introductions and settling in, her rhythm stops and I ask "What is happening for you right now?" She says, "I have pain in my neck." I follow, "How does pain in your neck make you feel?" "Well it hurts and I feel sad." I follow, "How long have you felt this way?" The answer is very important. I am very aware of the CS rhythm at this moment. It might be since the recent fall on a tree root in the woods which brought her here in the first place or the Inner Wisdom may reveal and it may be, "As long as I can remember." If the rhythm came on when she was talking about the fall on the tree root, but went suddenly off when she said "As long as I can remember," I might follow with, "How far back can you remember?" "From about the time I was three." I continue because I really want to know and the Rhythm indicated by stopping at "when she was three years old" is important in this process. Remember: when the rhythm suddenly and abruptly stops, what the patient is thinking or what position the patient is in is significant to their healing process. "What happened in your life when you were three?" Some time in moments of thought go by... "Oh wow, that's when my Mom died. Yeah I remember now, I was really, really sad." (Tears appear, deep rhythm stillness.) "Can I ask you, where do you put sadness in your body?" Previously, it might have seemed obvious that it is in the neck, but you may be surprised to learn your presumption was wrong. She offers, to her surprise and awareness, that she has kept sadness in her heart all these years. (Can you see this sudden awareness has come from her Inner Wisdom and the stillpoint? (The patient is just as surprised as you are.) This was learned in conversation with the Inner Wisdom.
That sudden important awareness may redirect my manual treatment process from going to the thoracic inlet, hyoid and OCB, to staying right there at thoracic inlet but changing my intention to direct energy toward the heart, being still and waiting to know. An emotional charge may come up around the sadness and restriction in her chest and shoulders over the death of her mother when she was three years old. This could lead to a whole new and different understanding about grieving and a change in her forward head posture which could affect her chronic neck and headache syndrome that she has had all her life that no one has been able to address. After one or more sessions (it is a process) having opportunity(ies) to express her unexpressed sadness for the death of her mother may finally release her of her holding pattern posture leading to her chronic pain problems. Massage and/or range of motion exercises with another session or two may complete her healing. Historically, children have not been included in the funeral services at young ages because "they wouldn't understand what is happening" or "wouldn't be able to handle it." Grown-ups might say "Let's buy them a movie." Oftentimes these beautiful, young, smart and grieving children are ignored -- or worse yet -- prohibited from expressing emotion and left, therefore on their own to deal with their held-in emotions, sometimes years later. This is life transformational mind/body/spirit work and it may just happen to resolve their neck and head pain. Nice job, you manual therapist you!
I hope this post is helpful to you in the clinical application of this work. Comments and discussion are most welcome. Stay tuned for the final part (really!) in this 4-part Circle series which will be No. 53 "Spirit as Source" scheduled to be posted next Friday, June 15, 2018. I will discuss understanding the deeper concepts and their applications with spirit in session. Thanks for reading.