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On the last track, we discussed three strategies for helping a client "presentize", or facilitating the client's bringing him or herself into the "now". The three strategies we discussed were presentizing the past, reclaiming, and presentizing 'when'.
On this track, we will discuss three Gestalt strategies for helping clients increase their awareness of their responsibility for their feelings. These three strategies are the "I Give You the Power" technique, the "Now I Feel" technique, and creating feelings.
As you have experienced, two common statements made by clients are, "HE makes me feel angry" or "All of a sudden I felt my temper rising". Clearly, these and similar statements remove the responsibility of these feelings from the client. Do you have a client who is not aware who is creating his or her feelings? I have found that there are three primary problematic impacts of this lack of awareness on a client.
-- 1. First, the client feels 'at the mercy of' his or her feelings, rather than being the creator or master of them. This can lead to a sense of powerlessness and hopelessness.
Three Strategies for Increasing Awareness of Feelings
Remember Tommy from the last track? In a recent session, Tommy stated, "I don’t like it when my brother Bill comes home from college for the weekend! He's always on the Dean's list, and he pokes fun at my grades because I only get Cs in most things! He makes me feel dumb."
1. First, I stated, "Imagine that your brother Bill is sitting in this chair. Tell him what you just said about how he affects you." Tommy stated, "You make me feel dumb."
As Tommy's awareness of how he gave others the power to change his feeling increased, he became more motivated to change these relationships, and became more ready to accept responsibility for his own feelings. Are you treating a Tommy who would benefit from the "I Give You the Power" technique?
Strategy #2 - Now I Feel Technique
I stated to Sam, "what I believe is that these feelings come from inside you. You are the source of these feelings, and you are responsible for them." Sam stated, "You mean I should blame myself for them?" To respond to Sam's conversion of responsibility into blame, I stated, "I don't think in terms of blaming. Just responsibility, that it is you who makes you feel the way you do."
Sam still felt that the concept was strange, so I introduced the Now I Feel technique. I stated, "Let's try an experiment. Take the sentence, 'Now I feel, and I'm responsible for that' and state whatever you are feeling." Sam stated, "Now I feel confused, and I'm responsible for that." I told Sam that he was on the right track, and encouraged him to keep going. Sam stated, "Now I feel this is silly, and I'm responsible for that. Now I don't know what to say, and I'm responsible for that." I stated, "Good, you're getting the idea."
Clearly, this parroting technique did not result in Sam's fully experiencing responsibility for his feelings. However, I feel that the Now I Feel technique gives a client like Sam a chance to become oriented to the idea of responsibility for feelings.
Strategy #3 - Creating Feelings
Operationally, this means that the client is asked to teach the therapist what to do to make him or herself feel the same way the client does. For example, when Sam stated, "Sometimes I get a very good feeling about myself and I feel how well I can do things," I invited him to walk me step-by-step through making himself feel the same good feelings. Would your Sam benefit from taking the role of the teacher?
On this track, we have discussed three strategies for helping clients increase their awareness of their responsibility for their feelings. These three strategies were the "I Give You the Power" technique, the "Now I Feel" technique, and creating feelings.
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