Circle No. 72: Client Says "I Feel Bad" Now What?

What does that phrase mean in terms of craniosacral therapy and can it be useful in a CST session? 


Well, we commonly work on clients complaining of chronic issues and stress to the point of feeling uncomfortable. That's why they come to us. Gradually over time, "feeling bad" may lead to chronic tension, anxiety, pain, and emotional stress. That can affect the physical and emotional body to the point of shortness of breath, insomnia, limited range of motion in the neck or back, and headaches among other symptoms.


When the client is asked, "How are you feeling?" the client might say, "I feel bad." ("About what?" might be the follow up.) They might reply, I feel bad about what happened, what didn't happen, how something turned out, how I was treated, how I treated them, her, him, what was said, what I did, what was done to me, what I didn't do, etc. 


What does all that really mean?? Are they saying they feel sad, mad, frustrated, ashamed, guilty, disrespected, abused, mistreated, punished, victimized, hopeless or chronically weak, ill, painful, discouraged, inferior, self-conscious, etc.? Is how they feel encumbered by an underlying emotion?


First let me say, what someone feels are THEIR feelings. We need to remain impartial, non-judgemental and present to listen. Whatever they are, they are THEIR feelings; those feelings are authentic and real for them in the moment.


We use words like bad, broken, confused, lost, split, not good enough, really bad, confused, lost, conflicted and upset when we are burdened by chronic physical and emotional issues held in the body by this nebulous, "I Feel Bad!"


In CST, I know I am talking to the choir, but we listen to the body, monitor the CSR and know that when the rhythm stops suddenly, it is a significance detector meaning what physical position the person is in, and/or (importantly) what the person is thinking or feeling, may be significant to their healing process. When someone says, "I feel bad, you know?," it is a very important, useful moment. Here's a way forward and some words:


"Actually, I don't know what bad means for you. Is there an emotion for you when you say you feel bad?" (I like to teach in class, it's "the pause that draws.") After a few moments, a reply from them might be: "Well, it's not good." Your reply might be: "Yes, I hear you say that, but is there an EMOTION in feeling bad for you?" Hopefully, more pause; you monitor and pay attention to the rhythm—which remains off—and more pause hopefully continues. "Well it's really, really bad," they say. "Yes. Is there an emotion underneath that for you?" replies the therapist. It's a pause that draws a deeper meaning to how they are feeling.


With another even longer pause an emotion may surface for them. Rhythm remains off, and we proceed when they say, something like "Sad, I feel sad." Therapist follows with "OK, so you feel sad. If you had to guess, where do you put sadness in your body?" Again, with time as your ally and while monitoring the rhythm they may say "My throat." The therapist follows with "May I place my hands near your clavicles, sternum and base of your neck?" With permission, thoracic inlet position begins, and away you go with maybe heat, pulsing or other physical release and/or somato-emotional processing begins AND SO DOES THE HEALING.


In craniosacral work, "I FEEL BAD" may be a precious in-road to self-understanding, healing and wellbeing.


Happy Day,

Don Ash


Comments welcome.

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