Tuesday, January 7, 2014


Therapist Jean Jenson disputes a client’s claim that she was “abandoned”:

“If George leaves Joan as a result of their relationship problems, she will feel the abandonment of the child she was when her parent(s) blamed her instead of comforting her, as well as any other experiences of abandonment that occurred in her childhood.  She will cry her heart out and her friends will most likely sympathize with her, agreeing that George has abandoned her and reinforcing the idea that the depth of her trauma is appropriate.  If, however, Joan has been doing childhood grief work, she will know that, in fact, what she is feeling is the heartache of her childhood abandonment – that the pain of the loss of George is different from this despair.  She will understand that George has not abandoned her, as abandonment implies a dependency upon the leaving party that is true only in childhood.  What George has done is to leave.  There is pain when we are left, yes, but abandonment is far more than merely being left.”  (Jean Jenson, MSW, Reclaiming Your Life, a Step-by-Step Guide to Using Regression Therapy to Overcome the Effects of Child Abuse, p. 43.)
Paul Vereshack explains the “time pebble”:

“These are the childhood phrases and feelings which . . . lie scattered on the beach of adult conversation.  These TIME PEBBLES enter the therapy room with great power, disguised as present processes.  If we read them in the present context and don’t realize they come from the past, they can throw us completely off track.  Once we realize they represent a past feeling fastened onto a present process, we have a major key to the unconscious.  TIME PEBBLES . . . enter the present therapy process in the form of key phrases which have a high feeling content and a simplicity which feels childlike.”  (Help Me – I’m Tired of Feeling Bad, chapter 22.  Online book at www.paulvereshack.com.*)
A woman, in one example, repeats the phrase, “I can’t do this” as she begins her descent into a painful feeling.  The therapist divines that she is speaking with an unconsciously forked tongue, at once crying her rediscovered terror of childhood incest and naming her resistance to facing it in the here-and-now session.

Both clinicians are identifying words or phrases that reveal the immanent child’s experience and the “outer” adult’s resultant misperception or avoidance of reality.

Recently, a client with a breadth of childhood trauma and neglect that eventually produced pseudo-schizophrenia – malevolent voices and constricted affect along with full insight and functionality – said he is afraid to express his feelings to anyone for fear of “getting in trouble.”  Donning Jenson’s and Vereshack’s hats, I disputed the time pebble.  Adults, I suggested, don’t “get in trouble.”  They suffer consequences.  It is the child – abandoned and stripped – who feels the sheer dread and impotence of being condemned before absolute power, of being “in trouble.”

Familiar with this client over several months, I was able to hear the boy speaking through the adult corpus.  It’s not always easy to do.  In a second example, a man insists that his boss “hates” him.  Vereshack probably assumed that “hate” was an inappropriate attribution to an employer, and was therefore his client’s projection of past injury.

But what if we don’t hear any words that unmask the child?  What if our client is verbal and sophisticated, able to psychologize tit for tat with you?  Where will you hear the proof that this screamer or philanderer is a boy in man’s clothing?  These questions matter when there is the need to save the adult victim from his defeated child – my client or to have compassion for the adult perpetrator’s rageful child.  And this need emerges when you can see that the child is more powerful than the adult, more accessible, more starving for help.

Listen for the mis-definitions, archaic thoughts – “I am abandoned,” "I'll get in trouble," "he hates me" – for the time pebbles that can carry you back to the original hurt.

- - - - - - - - - - - - -

* I am very uneasy about citing Vereshack.  His book contains some astonishing (and astonishingly honest) revelations of past clinical misconduct, as he wrote it to present his defense before the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario in the early ’90s.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are welcome, but I'd suggest you first read "Feeling-centered therapy" and "Ocean and boat" for a basic introduction to my kind of theory and therapy.