When working with both trauma and sexual energy it is absolutely essential to move slowly and not to overwhelm the client’s system. I will talk later about resourcing the client. This is the process of ensuring that the client has sufficient self-awareness and ability to self-regulate their nervous system without becoming overwhelmed by the feelings and sensations that may arise in bodywork.
Assuming that the client is sufficiently resourced, the PST practitioner may, with their consent, either using touch or other methods such as sound, movement and the use of breath, to invite the client to feel their body more deeply. In many cases clients will begin to access deeper states that are being stored in their body. These are usually in two categories: firstly they will likely experience uncomfortable feelings such as emotional pain, grief, sadness, anger, rage or fear that are the result of blocked emotions that have not been fully felt and released from the system.
In the latter stages of the work pleasurable or erotic feelings may begin to emerge as the client feels the natural life force energy move through their body. In either case the emergence of these feelings may be disquieting for the client.
It is essential then to ensure that the work proceeds at a pace that the client can manage and integrate. Unlike some practices such as tantra, which often seeks to help people access deeper expanded states through what is known as raising ‘kundalini energy’. Kundalini energy is the sexual energy that we can feel in our body and which is ultimately life force itself. However, much of tantra seeks to raise kundalini energy without heed to the consequences. If too much energy is felt and released then the person’s system will have a reaction against this and often lead to a kind of breakdown, physical and/or mental. This is known as ‘kundalini syndrome’. This incautious raising of kundalini energy can therefore be dangerous and is not the purpose of PST.
Another aspect of psychological growth to be aware of is that when we expand one part of our psyche, other parts will also expand. This was defined in the therapeutic approach, Psychosynthesis, developed by Roberto Assagioli, a student of Sigmund Freud and colleague of Carl Jung. Assagioli suggested that what we suppress is not only our negative, dark, traumatic past, which he called our Lower Unconscious, but also our future potential, our capacity to express our Higher Self. He called this latter aspect of self the Higher Unconscious. When we begin to expand one side of our psyche, say the Higher Unconscious, we will inevitably expand in a corresponding manner the opposite, in this case the Lower Unconscious. It is highly likely therefore that when we have ‘’positive’ expansive experiences that dark, traumatic aspects of our past or psyche will also emerge. This means that even when a client appears to be having a ‘positive’ experience, one must be cautious to ensure that the corresponding ‘negative or traumatic material is not going to emerge subsequently.
In the therapeutic approach called Transactional Analysis there is something called a Script Backlash. This was defined by Eric Berne. In essence the idea is that we are all running scripts that are the rules for life that we believe to be true, usually learnt from our family systems. In the process of therapy we will likely learn that these rules are no longer valid or true. So we can begin to behave and feel ourselves differently. However it is important that such shifts are incremental and not cathartically big. When we make too big a shift in our perspective it is highly likely that our old scripts will come back with a vengeance.
This is very often true in sexuality. Imagine that we are sexually limiting ourselves because of our conditioning from family, peers, institutions or society. Then once night we go out drinking. We suddenly feel our inhibitions set aside and may behave sexually in a way that we would not otherwise do. Of course not everything that we do when we are drunk is healthy but in some cases it is possible that we allow expression of parts of ourselves that have been unhealthily suppressed. Then we wake up the next day and feel regretful about what we have done; we feel shame. This is a common example of a script backlash. Instead of allowing us to expand the script punishes us for wandering from its perceived ‘truth’. Either we will simply regret the experience and not celebrate it or, worse still, the backlash is so strong that it creates an even tighter, more rigid set of ‘rules’. Not only is any gain lost, but we actually take a step backwards in our development.
It is important then when dealing with changes in paradigm for the client such as a shift in belief systems, a releasing of emotion or the raising of sexual energy, to support and encourage some growth and then to pause, to allow the client to integrate their experience. It is this expansion, followed by pauses for integration that allows the client to continue to feel the benefits of their work in PST. Think of the movement of the lungs, for example. We breathe in, the lungs expand. We exhale, the lungs reduce once more. This inhalation and exhalation is the essence of all life. It can be seen in the breath, in the beat of the heart, in the movement of the guts in peristalsis, in the pulsation of the cerebrospinal fluid. This pulsation can even be seen in the universe itself, which is expanding after the Big Bang and which, it is suggested, will eventually collapse in on itself in something called the Big Crunch.
In a therapeutic context this pulsation is not ‘expansion’ and ‘contraction’, but ‘expansion’ and ‘integration’. Healthy expansion only works when it is moderated and not excessive. It only lasts when it can be integrated into the psyche without a script backlash.
Instead of creating too strong an experience for the client to integrate, when it comes to both emotional releasing and the raising of erotic energy, PST proceeds slowly and gently, and with frequent pauses. These pauses give space for the practitioner to check in with the client, to ensure that the client remains grounded and in touch with themselves. It also ensures that whatever intensity has been felt can be subside and that the client knows that they can return to a safe place and that the client is constantly in charge of their own process. Proceeding with these step by step interventions is very much led by the client and not the practitioner. The expansion is paced by the client so that they continue to feel their own agency and to be in their own authority. This is in direct contrast to a process where the practitioner is ‘doing to’ the client.
Remember the story of Hansel and Gretel? The two children wander into the forest taking with them a slice of bread. Hansel uses the bread to create a trail of breadcrumbs so that they can find their way home again. Working with expansion requires us to use a metaphorical trail of breadcrumbs. If we go too far, we will not know our way home again. It is only by tracking our progress through gradual stages that we are able to return. So, we venture into the dark forest of our unconscious, ensuring we leave behind a path home that we can follow. After a little way, we pause and return home, writing the pathway into our neural networks remembering the way home. The next time we go into the unknown parts of our psyche we know that we can go to the first point easily because we know the way back. Knowing this allows us to delve a little deeper into the forest because effectively we only have to recall the new part of the path home. Each foray leads us deeper into new territory but because we have walked most parts of the path many times as we have grown in the process, no single part feels too much and over time the whole journey can be managed safely.