Active Expression: An integrated mode of client engagement that generates productive experiencing by bringing an action-tendency type of processing style to bear on a range of other aspects of experiencing (i.e., emotion scheme elements).The Emotion-Focused Therapy Level 2 training workshop series, begun in November, has been continuing over the past months. Tonight, with some pushing and prodding from the group, we reached the part of the course on two-chair and empty-chair work. I love doing chairwork, but I don’t like it to be over-emphasized, as I feel sometimes happens in Les Greenberg’s presentation of the therapy. Chairwork is flashy and exciting, but I feel that the other tasks, such as Narrative Retelling, and Focusing, are also important, and were not given enough time in last summer’s EFT Level 1 training.
So I had us back into chairwork by spending much of the session practicing the basics: The Active Expression client mode of engagement (see blog entry for 10 November). This is because Active Expression is the core client process in Two Chair Dialogue for Conflict Splits, Empty Chairwork for Conflict Splits, and Two Chairwork Enactment for Self-Interruption, for which this exercise was an introduction.
Because we had covered the basic client engagement framework in November, we went right into a set of Active Expression exercises. Here are the exercise instructions, revised on the basis of the session:
Exercise: Do these in pairs around the room. It’s OK to be silly! Each person should do several of the following exercises, taking turns in client and therapist role.
Client role: Use your body to enact strong, vivid, specific reactions involving different aspects of experiencing in a relatively unreflected manner. Your job is to show rather than tell the therapist what it’s like. You can do this with expressive body movements, art, and play. You may want to stand up for some or all of these. Don’t worry too much about setting it up, and don’t try to explain it while you’re setting it up or doing it. You can use expressive language, but try to add body movements to it.
Therapist role: Your job is to encourage the client and to enjoy them doing this. After the client is into expressing the experience, ask them to add words to it, and do the expression with words. After each one, take a few minutes to process the experience.
1. Perceptual/Situational experiences: Think of something that happened recently and that is still on your mind. Enact your memory of it. Ask the therapist for help in doing this; perhaps they can play another person.
2. Bodily/Expressive: Pay attention to something you are sensing in your body. Draw picture of it, or act it out.
3. Experienced Emotion: Depict or portray an emotion you are experiencing right now. Try acting it out with your body, or drawing a picture of it.
4. Conceptual: Think of something you believe in, a theoretical orientation, a philosophy you hold, or some other abstract concept, value or ideal that you feel connected to. Try to think of a metaphor for this concept, then attempt to act it out, or draw a picture of it.
a. Action by Others: Think about something that you don’t like other people doing to you (e.g., crowding, prodding, confusing, ignoring etc.). Take turns using the therapist to: First, show therapist the action by enacting what these other people do to you. Next, have them do the action to you; help them if they haven’t got it right.
b. Action on the Self: Now think about something you do to yourself; follow the same procedure, first do it to the therapist, then have them do it to you, so you can experience both sides of the action.
How it went: I proposed that we do these exercises for an hour, and went around to the different groups reminding them to keep moving and not get stuck on any one exercise. An hour turned out to be a really good amount of time, giving everyone opportunities to experience active expression in a variety of ways. There were a lot of bodily felt shifts (to use Gendlin’s term) from doing the exercises, as the participants found they could access different aspects of experiencing this way, things that they didn’t or couldn’t from purely verbal exploration of their experiences. One of my favourites involved pacing around the room and slamming a book shut to produce a satisfying loud noise, while saying, “I’ve had it with this!” (This was for exercise 3, Experienced Emotion.) After I left the room, I could hear the slamming noise in the corridor for a couple of minutes, which brought a smile to my face. But there were many colourful enactments and dramatic drawings, and it appeared to me that a good time was had by all. After an hour, the participants were fairly played out, and had worked up an appetite, so we were all happy to take a break before continuing on to an introduction to Two Enactments for Self-Interruption.