Author Topic: Reichian Growth Work by Nick Totton  (Read 895 times)


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Re: Reichian Growth Work by Nick Totton
« Reply #30 on: April 15, 2015, 07:53:18 am »
Transference feelings develop in the course of therapy as a last ditch defence against real,equal human contact. This is why it is such a positive and creative movement The clients'unconscious resistance, their character armour, is throwing everything into the battle,manifesting all its skills of defence, evasion and control. Anything is better than the achingvulnerability of spontaneous openness! If the therapist can unwaveringly hold out this optionof openness, then the client is forced to see through their illusions about who the therapist is,forced face to face with the deep childhood hurt that has crippled their capacity to be intimateand powerful.In this intense process the therapist is no unmoved onlooker, no 'objective' technician, She,too, will be stirred to the core; all her residual unwillingness to be open, equal andspontaneous will come to the surface, all her buttons will be pressed as the client with greatunconscious skill and insight, tries to throw her off balance, to turn her from a healthy,contactful being into a manifestation of the client's childhood damage and adult expectations.The counter-transference is the experience of being a puppet for the client's fears andexpectations - usually both at once. What lays us open to this is our own unresolved childhoodmaterial; especially, of course, the distorted feelings that have contributed to our desire to betherapists in the first place - the need to help people, to have power, to be appreciated.If we can stay in touch with our wholesome, rational core, we can see the counter-transferenceimpulses for what they are. They then become a treasury of information about the client, aswe realise that our tendency to fall in love with them, or bully them, or pass judgement on

them, or feel inadequate with them, is something that
are doing: a familiar pattern whichthey are trying to impose on the situation. mainly because it feels safer than the unknownterritory of openness.So what we do with this information is, in one way or another, to feed it back to the client.The therapist's ultimate resource is her capacity to be
- with herself, with her clients,about what is actually going on. This is really the only way to avoid becoming what the clientfears yet tries to create - an oppressive authority figure, withholding knowledge as a source of power.The therapist does not always need to be in control. We have both had so many experiences of losing our balance in a session, getting hot and bothered, being on the edge of panic, and havelearnt that we can resolve the whole situation and return effortlessly to centre with somesimple statement like "I feel confused, 1 don't know what's going on here". The client'stransference reaction tries to make us into someone who
knows what's going on, forgood or ill: a parent; someone unreal. Being honest and being real is a minimum condition forbeing therapeutic. In doing this, we are also modelling for our client the possibility of beingfluid in one's approach to life, of moving between positions rather than attempting to freezeand rigidify.It should be clear by now that clients' patterns of transference will match their favouredcharacter positions. Character is a defence against spontaneity and contact; it is the force in uswhich produces transference as a last ditch defence. So, for example, someone in theBoundary position will experience the therapist's offer of contact as a threat to their existence;will perhaps 'go away inside', be unable to hear or understand properly what is being said tothem. In the Oral position, we will feel ourselves as needing to be looked after by the therapist- see them as provider or withholder of nourishment, a 'good' or 'bad' mother. Holdingcharacters will expect to be rejected if they let their feelings show; Thrusting characters willcompete for power; Crisis characters will try to stir the therapist up, to unseat or panic them,as a way of unloading their own intolerable panic about contact.There is a special relationship between the crisis character and transference. since thisposition is
contact, manifesting a yes/no anxiety around the issue. When someone isstrongly in this position at the start of therapy, then their relationship with the therapist willimmediately take on a central role - sometimes within seconds of entering the room for thefirst time.In a sense we could say that we all have to pass through this position as part of our therapeuticprocess. Therapy will stir up our tendencies to each character position in turn, but it is at the'crisis stage' that the transference relationship becomes crucially important Can we movethrough to an Open character position in relation to our therapist? Can we allow our feelingsand sensations, our thoughts and energy, to arise without making the therapist responsible forthem? Can we allow the therapist to have
feelings without us having to take them on? If so, we have an excellent model for living a sane and creative life outside therapy - which, of course, is the point of the whole exercise.
 That last sentence may beg a few questions. What
the goals of therapy? Clients may cometo a therapist for all sorts of reasons, conscious and unconscious. What is therapy
? Whereare we trying to get to through these practices and procedures?

The longer we work as therapists, the more we find our original goals failing away, revealingthemselves as illusions. The first to go was an intention of 'helping people', 'making it better'.This soon revealed itself as not only impossible to achieve, but actually harmful to attempt: if I try to 'help' you, I am defining you as helpless, myself as helpful - a systematicdisempowerment which undermines your attempts at freedom and independence, playsstraight into the transference defence, and encourages me in my delusions of grandeur!Nor is therapy really even about people getting
- if by 'better' we mean their physical oremotional ills failing away, their life becoming happier and more successful. These things dovery often happen - clients gain in acceptance, confidence, creativity, capacity for pleasure insex and life in general; serious physical ailments clear up; chronic pains disappear. These, of course, are the sorts of things people hope for when they start therapy.However, we have to face the fact that all these things are essentially by-products of therapyrather than the thing itself. Occasionally a person will end therapy feeling that it has beenvaluable and successful, and their therapist will agree, yet the original problem, their reasonfor coming, may be quite untouched. It is not uncommon that during therapy a person'srelationship may break up; a life situation which previously felt fine becomes intolerable; theycan even manifest new and major physical ailments. Yet they may well still feel positiveabout the therapeutic process.Is this a tribute to our powers of brainwashing? We don't believe so. Therapy helps people toface reality; it helps them discover what reality
, to let go of illusions. At the end of thisprocess - or rather, at the end of this phase of a never-ending process - life may feel easier orharder, tragic or ecstatic. But the person will be more in touch with their own process, theirown self. They will be in contact with 'what they came for', and working out the implicationsas fully as possible. Occasionally, as Arnold Mindell says, the successful resolution of atherapeutic process is for the client to
.We don't have a lot of clients dying at the end of therapy, though it is true that a very extremelevel of defence can manifest as a person's core starts to surface. The point we are trying tomake is that although therapy allows a person's life to deepen, to become
, it does notnecessarily make it
. They may have spent their lives ignoring and avoiding pain, bothinside and out in the real world. That pain is real; heartbreak is real; exhaustion and death arereal. In an initial interview with a prospective client, it may often seem that the therapist istrying to put the client off rather than encouraging them.It may be better to speak of
for therapy rather than goals - at any moment in theprocess of working with someone, our direction will be towards more honesty, morespontaneity, more openness, more energy, more space. Whether the specific experiences thisbrings out are 'good' or 'bad' is irrelevant, as long as our belief and our experience is that thecore of a human being is loving, joyful and creative. As therapists, our work is to midwife thebirth of this core.Can therapy fail? Certainly it can. At times there seem to be so many layers of negativeemotion around the clear core that we despair of ever reaching it, and this can be as true of ourselves as of other people. The world we live in is not exactly a welcoming home, or even a
home, for an open character. People give up and leave; the therapist can give up andsend them away. Yet even then who can say that the process is over? It often goes on workinginside someone; they may come back to therapy or find some other tool, or simply live their

lives in a different and more complete way. The idea of 'reaching the core' is really an illusionanyway: we are already there. If therapy is, or tries to be, a natural process, then like the restof nature it is never complete, never wholly separate - never, really, 'good' or 'bad'.
Being a therapist; being a client
 What we have said may make it seem that a therapist is a saint-like being, one who hasresolved all her own childhood feelings and become a permanently open character. Luckilythis is not the case, or there would be a striking shortage of therapists!What the activity
require is a practised ability to leave one's own material on one side forthe duration of the session, except in so far as it becomes an important part of what is goingon. People often talk about the therapist 'leaving her own problems outside the door'; in ourexperience it is much more a question of constantly owning up to and releasing the feelingswhich arise in us. Most of the time we can do this silently and quickly, but when we hit abigger issue it is vital that we don't try to conceal it or unload it onto the client We must beable to own up to what is going on - and this is not so much a precondition for therapy; it isthe therapy.Thus giving therapy to someone else is a bit like giving it to yourself. It becomes a form of meditation, repeatedly coming back to clear attention in the here-and-now, to focusing on theother person's experience without ever giving up or denying your own humanity. The mostimportant thing is that being a therapist is just an activity, like any other activity which isuseful and satisfying.What
we get out of giving therapy? Most therapists are rather nosy people, who like toknow what's going on for everyone. Many of us have a tendency, usually reasonably well-controlled, to enjoy feeling important, bossing people around, 'helping'. Giving therapy canalso be a very effective defence against our own therapeutic process - shifting attention awayfrom ourselves and on to other people. A lot of therapists tend to reach a plateau in their work on themselves and stay there.It is crucial that therapists continue to get regular therapy for themselves, so as to remain clearabout their own motivations and their own process. We have noticed a distinct relationshipbetween our work on ourselves and our work with other people: if one becomes frustrating, sodoes the other, and if one becomes creative, so does the other. Every therapist is also a client.And being a client can also become a career! You can become addicted to therapy: use it inmany subtle ways as a means of shoring up your defended character rather than challenging it.Every therapist meets the 'professional client' who has done a bit of everything, and nowwants to add you to their trophies.With therapy, as with every other human activity that tends towards liberation, there is aconstant gravitational pull back into unreality, back into routine. The fact that we have to do itfor money as a profession is one factor here - 'Oh God, back to work'. For clients andtherapists alike there is the constant challenge to renew the process, to come back to the core,back to simplicity, back to naturalness, back to freedom.
 In this chapter we have been talking essentially about therapy in the 'classic' setting - a one-to-one relationship, usually for an hour a week, and lasting for some months or years. There are

many other possible settings. Reich himself worked like most psychoanalysts, seeing clientsfor an hour three or five times a week. Very few people could afford such an arrangement inthe milieux in which we work!Partly because of cost, partly because of other power issues which we shall look at in the nextchapter, and partly because of other advantages, we do a great deal of work in groups: day,weekend or longer workshops, usually centred around people
Reichian sessions inpairs, with the support and supervision of one or two leaders moving between the pairs.The great strengths of this kind of work (developed by William West largely under theinfluence of the Co-Counselling movement, and also of Peter Jones) are that it is cost- andlabour-effective, and it is
, proving to people that they have the capacity to care,to give, to share. Giving such a session can itself be an important therapeutic experience.Also, the sheer amount of energy generated in a room full of Reichian sessions tends tointensify the work and increase the likelihood of stirring and worthwhile things happening.At the same time, it is obvious that this structure limits the sort of work which is possible.Generally speaking the emphasis will be on bodywork, because in this sphere the client ismore 'self-starting' through focusing on the breath. The bodywork is inevitably reduced to afew clear, simple principles, since many of the helpers may never have worked therapeuticallybefore; indeed they may never before have touched another person's body in a non-sexualway.It might seem as though the structure of pair work would have less value than working with atherapist or might even be dangerous. This is by no means the case. The emphasis becomesone of 'being there': the helper's main role is to give supportive attention, to let the personworking know that someone is with them and that whatever they are experiencing is all rightAny further assistance depends on the skills and confidence of the helpers, some of whommay have attended several groups and be quite experienced and sensitive. The group leadersare always there to handle tricky moments and deal with stuckness.Running groups is in many ways a humbling experience for a practising therapist. It puts ourskills and theories back in proportion, showing us just how much can be done through thewillingness to be open and to give attention. The distinction between 'therapist' and 'ordinaryperson' is a purely practical one - by earning our living at this work we develop a great deal of experience, but also lose out somewhat in freshness and commitment Running a group can bea bit like giving an exhibition of simultaneous chess! But at other times there may be nothingfor the leader to do at all.Especially during a longer group, the more verbal, 'character-analytic' side of the work willdevelop, through time spent with the whole group together, sitting in a circle, with peopletaking turns to share and explore what is going on for them with the help of the leaders and of other members of the group. The group itself becomes a resource for its members, a source of healing and growth, with its own inherent wisdom and sense of direction

A group is also capable of very powerful negative and destructive feelings. On rare occasions,especially during long-term groups, a 'mob' atmosphere can develop as hostile transferencefeelings towards the leaders, or the scapegoating of certain group members, becomesamplified by positive feedback. This is the sort of situation where a therapist needs all hercapacity for centredness and constructive honesty, yet the possibility of deep core contact iscorrespondingly amplified by the group situation, and many very beautiful and magicalexperiences can occur.
 Love, work and knowledge are the wellsprings of our life; they should also govern it.
 Wilhelm ReichReading what we have said about the client-therapist relationship, many people will beconcerned about issues of power. Is it acceptable for therapists to work in a way whichdeliberately lets them become such charged figures for their clients? Isn't there a tremendouspotential in this situation for exploitation? Isn't the relationship structured so as inevitably todisempower the client, stripping away their autonomy and identity rather than strengtheningthem?These are serious questions, and ones which make quite a few people steer clear of therapy,Reichian or otherwise, however much they may in some ways be drawn to it. The ultimate