A Movement Psychotherapist’s Perspective on Relationships

He said, she said, she did, he did . . . .

By Jim Kragtwyk

For those of us who have had the pleasure and curse of seeing a therapist or counsellor for relationship counseling, we can likely remember a time, or many times, when we were trying to find a shared reality with our partner about some incident; some moment that triggered hurt, shame, sadness or anger within one or both of us. The common problem with this process is that each individual’s perspective of what happened or what was said can vary in extremely diverse ways. The filters and lenses in how we see, hear and feel the world are unique to each of us based on so many factors. Issues from childhood, attachment with parents, trauma, genetics, personality, mood, physical health, fatigue and stress, medication and substance misuse all contribute to how we perceive and interpret events that “trigger” us or activate old patterns in our nervous system. In any given moment there is so much possible information available to our senses, yet only a certain amount can be taken in from the background to become the foreground and focus of our awareness. How do we decide what to pay attention to?

Our past experience (learning) forms and hones the way we perceive events. If we grew up in an insecurely attached, anxious and fearful home environment we are more likely to notice and attend to the risks and threats in life. If abuse and traumatic events were part of that experience as well, we are likely to notice and attend to risks and threats which are not only unlikely but improbable. If we grew up in a generally safe, happy and positive family environment we are more likely to notice the fun, safe and enjoyable things in life. This is how we contribute to our relationships. As one of my favorite teachers asks “Do we move towards the yum or the yuck in life?” Have you ever noticed patterns of how you react to unclear or confusing situations in relationships (yuck=fear, anger, indifference, avoidance, silence, withdrawal and yum= empathy, compassion, curiosity and humour). Where and when did we first learn these patterns? Do you move towards the yum or the yuck? If it is the yuck, unless we recognize, identify, move through and transform these patterns we will likely go around in cycles of frustration, hopelessness, depression, distractions and resentment with our partners continuing to entrench and solidify these presently unhelpful ways of reacting.

The good news is that there is great potential for healing our old wounds and in changing our “use-less” patterns and the only way to do this is in relationship. Until the realizations have been integrated into the mind, heart, behavior and spirit they are empty insights and “a-ha’s” that last as long as most thoughts do . . . which is not long at all.

Movement psychotherapy can powerfully and sustainably shift these patterns so we can enjoy our relationships instead of them wearing us down. Traditional counselling does not go to these depths of experience and transformation. As a practicing counsellor for close to 25 years and having experienced a variety of types of counseling personally, I can speak from experience.

Movement psychotherapy can support us to model a healthy way for our children to learn about relationships. It can enhance our ability to love and be loved instead of it always being so much work or so full or fear, jealousy and resentment. I do not believe that relationships require so much work. I do believe that they require attention, mindfulness and intention and that these can be joyful and enriching processes on our healing and loving paths.

Through movement psychotherapy we can externalize our relationship patterns into movement(s) and explore, feel and become intimate with them. This can give us a deeply felt-sense of these patterns and also a deeply-felt sense of a different possibility - a new way of movement within us and outside of us in connection with another. Further, when a partner witnesses us in movement as we explore our patterns and make them visible, they can appreciate and empathize with our experience, struggles and burdens in a way that language cannot make possible. By eliminating the use of language we also eliminate the possibility of argument, defensiveness and personalizing our partner’s experience further deepening their ability to see us, listen to us and feel us. Only in our vulnerability can we heal.

This type of movement can reduce conflict, deepen intimacy, increase joy and provide a solid foundation for health and healing. Move towards the yum!

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