I feel some of the physiological and emotional sensations of my clients in my own body during a biodynamic craniosacral (BCS)session. The more I practise the more sensitive I become to what I perceive in my clients' organism, and in the world around and within me.
I have felt my client’s tears rising in my eyes on a few occasions. I have sensed their terror as well as their pains, their aches and how they gave way to spacious fluidity and even joyous buoyancy.
I have questioned this ‘mirroring’, this feeling what my clients feel. My reasoning mind called it projection, bias, personal reading at first. But the more I practised the more I realised that trusting this intuitive inner Knowing, as opposed to the knowing of an intellectual mind, was an essential part of my holding and of my allowing my client to in turn trust their journey home.
But this of course raises questions for any practitioner, particularly new ones: to what extent when holding another’s stories are you also holding your own?
To what extent can this skilled holding of resonances enable or disable a breakthrough in your client?
In the words of BCST teacher and practitioner Margaret Rosenau(1), “ It is normal in this work for practitioners to feel within themselves some of the physiological and emotional experiences of their clients while they are on the table. It is part of the territory. The magic of BCST includes the practitioner’s ability to sense exquisitely, including often what a client is sensing when the client is sensing it.”
We’re in the embryological, pre-verbal body world here. No words needed. All challenging by my mind’s “Loyal Soldier”(2) be gone. The words themselves especially if they are overtly critical are an expression of a pattern of self-defense, a protection which points to a past unresolved story that needs to be aired and met in personal therapy and/or supervision.
The more I am able to hold, the more my client is able to enjoy the safe anchoring gifted by these resolved spaces and feel the practitioner’s strong supporting presence. The more they can trust their body’s inner Knowing and let go of their own familiar patterns of protective holding back, of restrictive guarding.
This is such a mysterious and wondrous phenomenon.
One that BCST and pre and perinatal therapist Cherionna Menzam Sills(3) echoes: “I frequently find my heart deeply touched, even to the point of tears, by the client’s history or process. My clients mostly come to me because of my specialty in pre- and perinatal experience. It is not unusual for me to feel like I am holding a tiny little one just born or still in the womb. Often the client also feels this little. This is always a tender, heartwarming experience. I love letting myself be touched in this way.”
A few days ago I was walking in my village along an enchanting path full of fairy houses. The sweet people who built these houses around tree trunks were no doubt in great terms with the other folk, and also placed some signs with words telling the names of each in-dwelling sídhe (pronounced shi, Irish for otherworldly folk) as well as their ‘purpose’ or intentional journey. Through their protective presence, they were helping to pollinate, to nourish, to guard against disease, to heal and enable balance, harmony.
I was there with a friend and her five-year-old daughter(4) who literally lit up at the sight of each new house, and proceeded to go and knock on every door she saw to ‘wake up’ the sídhe, maybe in the hope of a response but more surely for the sheer fun of it.
As I witnessed this little one’s rush of glee at each new discovery of a house with a front door, an entrance, I too felt my heart leap and loved her complete abandon to the power of wonder. We followed her without words directed at her, letting her do her thing, and leading the pacing. The only ask was that her mother read out each sign, and then, and only then, could we move on.
Thinking back on this magical wandering, I perceive how this very much reflects the spacious holding mentioned above and how the boundaries it included were crucial to its allowing enchantment.
For if we had interfered or voiced out loud our own emotions, our own surprise instead of merely witnessing, and gently inviting as we saw each new door for her to knock on; this would have skewed the process and changed the dynamics, directing them by adding our own stories to the mix, in a way that could well have disabled the integrity and complete ‘owning’ of this little one’s journey of fascination.
The doors were sometimes quite high above the path and demanded a fair bit of scrambling amidst roots, clay, and stones. I could feel my protective patterns play out within me and no doubt her mother did too as we exchanged understanding eye contact but we did not interrupt the expression of this wonder-filled courage with our fears.
We also intuitively knew she was safe. We held these emotions and, as we did, we facilitated the whole to come through. I had the sense that this brave five-year-old pixy was on a heroine’s journey, to borrow (and adjust) Joseph Campbell’s words (5), fired up by her boundless determination and thrill, she was easily overcoming all her disabling emotions.
It did not matter that there was no reply of the kind we’d expect, to each of her powerful knocks. The knocking and the journey it took to complete this holy task were enough. Our witnessing her, like a validating of each and every effort was also important.
There were so many lessons and realisations in this witnessing. One of them was the necessity for boundaries.
BCST practitioner and teacher Scott Zamurut(6) speaks to this: “Sensitivity and perception of our clients inner state(s) is a natural facet of our healing practice, and it requires conscious navigation. Sensing another with our awareness, even through body awareness, is common. While the information gathered can be supportive in holding a safe container, “energetic hygiene” asks us as practitioners to not remain in a resonance with a client that does not disperse or clear as their system clears, and as the session ends. Leftover resonances can be harmful to us as practitioners.
I have found that holding these awarenesses like a homeopathic medicine in which just a small amount of awareness goes a long way works best for my clients, and myself.”
One of the keys of our biodynamic craniosacral allowing container lies indeed in this gentle facilitation of the expression of the subtle ‘unlocking’ of restrictions so that the living organisms of each body can ‘test’ possibilities to then let go to a fuller manifestation of the Intelligence in the tissues and fluids.
In my experience, each session is a gradual un-layering of set patterns of protection, a slow revelation of centres of inertia that each holds a story that may but not always, be expressed verbally. There are many storeys to a person's story and each voyage of discovery is unique to each individual.
This is another lesson of our work which I can relate to the wonder-walk-and-knock tale, there is no attachment to an outcome. We encourage a ‘knocking’ that is the expression of our “Knowing” and trust each dance, each emotion. Never mind if words are not spoken. Never mind if emotions that I feel in one’s chest are not ‘released’. These can manifest in other ways: a change in temperature, tingles, images, memories…In time words may come and emotions can be owned like a reclaiming of one's territory.
Scott Zamurut explains, “Since we are speaking of Biodynamic healing it is essential to remember that the resolution of inertia releases bound energies of emotion, thought, memory, and so forth, and that these phenomena will pass through a clients mind/body as they resolve.
More than this it is the Breath of Life which is the agency of healing, not us as practitioners. Our role is to support the clearing of biokinetic forces, which does include helping our client’s personality to meet their process with openness and courage.”
This unwavering support is what allows surrender to our body’s wisdom to safely unfold and re-organise, revive, and restore.
There was clearly facilitation of ‘ignition’ in this young child. Prior to this walk, she had been quite distraught and distressed. Our stepping back to hold and invite while creating the conditions for the magic of wonder to emerge turned her upset and her need to shelter in her mother’s arms into an intrepid, trusting, and glowing presence. It was such a joy to behold and resonate with.
Resonance is also something crucial to our practice. But as mentioned before it needs boundaries in order to flourish.
“The magic of BCST includes the practitioner’s ability to sense exquisitely, including often what a client is sensing when the client is sensing it. In my experience, boundaries and resonance are not mutually exclusive. I believe having a strong sense of boundaries and a clear sense of resonance are essential practitioner skills,” says Margaret Rosenau.
In my experience boundaries fuel my sense of awe. This grounded fascination would cease were I to interfere or suddenly give in to my emotions, startle or freeze with overwhelm. This awe is the voice of my trusting in my Knowing. As I anchor in my midline, I feel the force of a boundless creative impetus that is my client’s inner Intelligence unfurl more freely.
That is why personal work on our own developmental stories and patterns is essential and also why supervision is necessary for a balanced and allowing interchange, a freeing resonance between practitioner and client.
Cherionna Menzam-Sills recalls, “There are also times that the specifics or intensity of a client’s history resonate with something of my own. I am grateful that I have done enough work with myself to be able to resource and take care of my own little one, if that is who is involved. I see it as important to maintain a professional boundary as practitioner. I can feel and have empathy but I don’t want to get lost in history, either my own or the client’s. I also am careful not to share my own experience or history unless it is clear that it can benefit the client to hear this. If I have a need to share for myself, I hold this for my supervision or personal therapy.
I learned from Ray Castellino the importance of having layers of support, both in relation to pregnancy and birth and in relation to life. My supervisor and therapist offer additional layers of support. In my supervision practice, I have frequently seen how the practitioner having processed or integrated something that was activated in relation to a client can lead to profound changes for the client in the next session. “
The more I do this personal exploration and unveiling, meeting my own patterns, my birth and pre-natal story, my life's traumas, the more I can hold others' in my practice while also resonating and enabling.
The more I am met while talking about these unresolved traumas with my supervisor, the more I can allow my client to speak and reveal, to let emotions emerge and express freely as they change.
The more I receive biodynamic craniosacral sessions the more my awareness of my own body's patterns, inertial fulcra, and subtle dances, grows and the more these patterns and fulcra can more readily resolve too.
The more I can hold, the more I can track and 'follow' to its source, to the original blueprint of the body.
The more I come to life and rejoice in what makes me happy, the more I can hold these possibilities in others.
The more permissive the hold, the more powerfully potent the session in my experience.
But this also applies to our listening before and after a hands-on session. Establishing the relational safety necessary for our client to be able to resource and trust the process requires that we meet every word, every emotion, every story no matter how harrowing with a supportive presence.
If we have not disentangled our own core trauma stories we could well be activated by aspects of our clients'. This in turn impacts the quality of the session. Even if we feel we can contain our emotional reactions, our bodies communicate at a subtle level, one that is often unknown to our conscious minds.
This sensitivity is particularly high amongst babies and children, something I noticed when I began working as a BCST: I had trouble holding babies' emotional outbursts following a significant release and was personally activated by their intensity.
This activation was an invitation to explore my own traumatic birth story more deeply, something I have done in different therapeutic settings and will continue to do.
Scott Zamurut says, "In regards to our own unresolved material lighting up during a session, we can note what is arising and make note to bring it to supervision or personal healing sessions of our own. In my experience allowing my material to be active within the relational field does not serve my client in their healing, nor me in mine. Clear boundaries and containment of personal material is an essential dimension of energy hygiene."
I am now more able to anchor and hold these expressions while also connecting with mother and allowing baby to complete their process instead of disabling it because of my own confused traumatic resonance. Baby knows when I rest fully in the Knowing mentioned above. It's quite magical really. I have felt a 'yes, I'm with you, thank you', in simple eye contacts with babies that did not need spoken words. But babies also appreciate our spoken acknowledging of their emotions and what they have been through as pre and perinatal therapists such as Cherionna Menzam Sills remind us.
This is also the case for children and adults may I add. Validating someone's upset, anger, or terror is part of this seeing, hearing and 'reconnaissance' (literally knowing again or re-knowing in French which translates poorly as acknowledgment) that we all crave, especially if our trauma stories include neglect and abandonment.
"Client and practitioner share an energetic field. We cannot help but influence each other. As social humans, we need that influencing. We need to be heard, seen and felt. When I allow myself to deeply feel in resonance with the client, it offers a reflection we all need as little ones and may not have received. Seeing, hearing and feeling our clients with professional boundaries in place can provide reflection along with containment that fosters safety and trust." (3)
With each new step taken on our journey back to full aliveness, we more trustingly enter into its magic, we feel a whole spectrum of emotions that had laid hidden and were restricted, and our awareness can more readily and confidently hold the multicoloured ways our bodies' organisms express.
As Margaret says, "Practitioners must know their own sensations and emotions to be able to determine whether what they are sensing belongs to them, to the client, or both. We do this well when we can also feel ourselves as distinct from our clients, simultaneously aware of them and of our own emotions, and our triggers and history. Seasoned practitioners know the difference between resonating and merging, because they’ve experienced both. They know how to shift their attention away from the strong physical or emotional pull of another’s story to their own midlines. They’ve traveled the path between their wounds and their healed places more times than they can count. This territory takes practice to navigate, but it is precisely this navigation that makes us skilled practitioners."
Light is made more visible in the dark
Holding all this resonance with life
The nuances that make the whole
Becoming ever more salient
As midline aligns and reorganises
With porous dark filling with light
Our inner skins glowing inside out
Basking in a still unfurling nectar
While leaves gently rustling in the wind
Whisper 'welcome back to life'
Notes and references:
1- Margaret Rosenau is a teacher and biodynamic craniosacral therapist. See more at www.schoolofinnerhealth.org
2- See more on such archetypes in Soulcraft by Bill Plotkin
3- Cherionna Menzam Sills is a teacher, a pre and perinatal, and biodynamic craniosacral therapist. She is the author of Spirit into Form: Exploring Embryological Potential & Prenatal Psychology.
See more at birthingyourlife.org
4- Gratitude and deep thanks to my friend for allowing me to use her daughter's story
5- See The Hero's Journey by Joseph Campbell
6- Scott Zamurut is a teacher and biodynamic craniosacral therapist. See more at https://www.scottzamurut.com/