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My Stuffed Co-Therapists


Ronan M. Kisch, Ph.D.

Often clients who come into my office sit in their seats and talk with tightly held bodies: braced hands, raised shoulders, knees locked together, pigeon-toed feet, held breaths. To say they are repressed is to say they are unconscious. This repression has often been going on for decades. Often it began in childhood to deal with emotionally painful behavior generated from their parents or siblings. Sometimes it is epigenetic; it is internalized from parents in utero. To cope with their pain, they pushed their feelings down creating an unconscious life pattern. They neither know that they are doing it, nor that it has become part of their personality. They are also resistant to unlock their tightly held bodies; the process of physically holding, pushing down the past stays unconsciously protected. It’s their defense.

In my office I have stuffed animals – a rabbit, a dog, and a bear that sit together on one of my sofas. They represent an alternative somatic psychotherapy. Treatment with them involves talk, but it also involves touch and somatic awareness. Clients usually don’t notice them. However, often in therapy, themes emerge that arise from my clients’ repressed bodies. These themes deal with both present and past events and how these clients were treated by their parents. This information is presented to me both quickly and as an affectionless series of stories. I stop my clients. I encourage them to take full slow breaths, to place their feet hips’ width apart on the floor. Then I ask them if there is a feeling beneath the story that they are telling me. Often, after the breaths, they come back to the story slower but void of feelings.

At this point I change the focus and ask them if they are drawn to one of my co-therapists — the bear, the dog, or the rabbit—and let them make their choice. After choosing, their fingers may start to caress or grip the co-therapist of their choice. Their focus is still on me; they are usually unconscious of what their hands are doing and what their experience is. I bring their attention to their hands and ask them what their fingers are experiencing. When they become conscious of what their fingers are experiencing, they get in touch with affect that has been a long time repressed.

Three Clients . . .

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Photo Credits for online use

Image by Burno from Pixabay
Image from Ronan Kisch
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash