Missing Experiences

ron-and-donna-nov-05-croppedBy Donna Martin, via email to Ron Kurtz

I still see a way that some people tend to misunderstand when you talk about “evoking early memories”… as if we are evoking accurate memories of early events or situations… and somehow fixing things that happened or didn’t happen in the past.

It’s a subtle point as I know that past experiences have shaped us and wounded us and are stored as “memories” in our habitual way of perceiving and making meaning of present events and therefore of reacting in present time.

It’s so easy, though, for therapists to get trapped in the idea that we are somehow healing someone’s history. What I love about Hakomi is its focus on present experience – and experiencing – as the only valid place we can participate and therefore change things.

It is useful to know that a person’s beliefs and reactions are adaptations to past experiences… experiences being the key word as it may have to do with what happened or didn’t happen, but it could also have to do with the way the child perceived and made meaning of what was happening… often/usually inaccurately. The truth is we can only guess about that, and I think that our guesses are somewhat irrelevant in terms of how we can support the person to open up to new possibilities.

The more we even imply that we are there to repair damage or wounding that was done in the past, the more we are in danger of colluding with the idea that something is wrong – blaming someone’s history and becoming rescuers – rather than empowering people to wake up to the unnecessary suffering caused by their own habits and beliefs… whatever they were based on.

Instead of “evoking early memories,” would it be accurate to say that we are tracking for indicators of, and possibly evoking examples of, the client’s way of remembering as it shows us how the client is organizing present experience based on ideas and beliefs and perceptual and behavioural habits that are probably a result of past experiences which we can only guess at.

I am intensely concerned with avoiding the psychotherapeutic tendency to pathologize and approach therapy in terms of what is (or was) wrong and needs to be righted, especially with the kind of clients that Hakomi works best for, who are capable of and willing to self study and to open up to more of the available ways of being nourished by Life.