Your client sounds like she is not fully connected yet with the root cause of her negative emotion, such as a schema formed in childhood. Negative emotions are often the only memory traces of childhood schemas. The rest of the schema (images, thoughts, physical sensation) is probably buried deep. Assuming that you are basically equipped in trauma work, so that you feel comfortable with whatever material that might surface, here's an approach (called Theophostic)you could try:
1. Ask your client to close her eyes as she feels the negative emotion in its full intensity. Ask her to embrace the feeling and rate it on 0-10 scale (0=not at all felt; 10=unbearable)
2. Ask her to try to mentally connect with the first time she can remember feeling that way. Note: She will probably report a childhood event. Don't let her get stuck on the current event that triggered the emotion. If the emotion is "anger" ask her what emotion might be there if the anger was gone. Anger is probably secondary to deeper, more painful feelings such as shame, fear, and despair.
3. Then ask "What lie or falsehood about yourself might be connected with this feeling or memory?" Note: Be careful to listen to her perception of the memory, without agreeing with her perception. Keep asking what lie she is believing that may be part of her present distress. Let her (not you) identify the "lie."
4. Ask her to repeat the lie/ falsehood (e.g. "I'm worthless") aloud and feel the full weight of its power. Keep going until she rates the negative emotion at an "8" or higher.
5. While she in this helpless/hopeless state, ask her to draw upon whatever personal resource she has for "opening her eyes to a larger picture of the painful event". Note: Let her struggle with this. Resist the temptation to interject your own personal "truth" into her consciousness as she struggles with her pain. Resist the temptation to comfort her, or else she will depend upon you for comfort, rather than her own inner resources. If the truth is going to outweigh the falsehood and "stick" permanently, she must find truth within herself.
6. Ask her the following: What truth is being revealed to you? You could also ask, out of your own curiosity, and as a way for her to articulate her experience: How is this truth being shown to you? How strongly do you accept this truth? Where might this be truth coming from? Note: If she is getting no truth, there may be other emotions, lies, and memories, so go back to previous steps.
7. After she is calmed down, ask her to rate the negative emotion again. Keep going through the steps until she is experiencing perfect calmness with the memory, and the negative emotion is at a 0.
Hope this is helpful.
Scott Lownsdale, Ed.D
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