Interact Journal Integrative Ideas for the Process-Oriented Psychotherapist

Categories Supervision Dialogs

On being stuck

Sometimes I’ll start an enactment and then forget the thought that propelled me to set it up in the first place. Or, I have no idea what to do with the enactment once it is set up. If I try to analyze or figure out what I am doing, I get even more stuck.

And the more often you forget your original thought, the more anxious you are that you might get stuck. And the more anxious you are that you might get stuck, the more stuck you get. Is that right?


Just so. Fear is usually the greatest inhibitor of creativity. To reboot yourself back to a beginner’s mind I suggest, for awhile anyway, you pretend that it doesn’t matter if you make a mistake. Pretend that if you forget what you’re doing, well, that’s what’s supposed to happen.

In session, try pretending that your subconscious is your friend. Pretend that your subconscious is not necessarily perfect or correct, but that it always has a positive intent. After a bit, if you pretend enough, you might begin to believe it. If you cannot pretend, then act as if it is true. While you are at it, consider the possibility that the reason you occasionally “forget the thought,” is that your subconscious lets this happen on purpose as a guide for you to not have an agenda and to stay out of the client’s system. Recall that the objective of any enactment is to invite the other person (as opposed to yourself) to become aware of his process. Your job is to issue the invitation, not to be invested in the outcome. The initial invitation is similar to turning the key in a car’s ignition.

It’s a way to get things started, but has little to do with the trip.

It’s difficult to have the words for “I am stuck,” I’m analyzing,” etc. right there in the session.

One idea is to leave the room (in your mind) for a second or two, wander into an imaginary consultation group, and wonder how you might describe what’s happening in the therapy session right now. This gets you into an observer position. Once connected to your Inner Observer, your cognitive mind is more likely to come back on line. Once you have the words to describe yourself, you can, if you choose, use them in the session as an intervention.

“I’m really stuck right now and I have no idea where to go with this. If you were me, what would you suggest at this point?”

“I forget where I was going.” (This is where you sit still and shut up). “Sometimes I start something, forget what it is, and then have no idea what I’m doing. What’s your reaction when I get lost like that?”

In general, when you get an idea for an enactment, plan for the first five seconds, only. After that, all bets are off. Set it up, let go of it, see what happens, and be prepared for it to go in any direction the client takes it.

As he speaks, make a mental picture of what the person is saying or doing. Notice all the objects in your picture. Assume that although every object, verb, adjective, and adverb in your picture represents what’s going on with you, it also might have something to do with the person who is speaking.

1 Get in the habit of listening to what is being said around or underneath the content. Wonder what the person wants right now, here, either from himself or from you.

1 Get some distance. Step back and notice what is happening as opposed to what is being talked about. Choose an action verb or find a way to create in the room a representation of the picture in your head. 1 Get in the habit of noticing the relationships between the speaker and the subjects of his sentences.

Stay aware of your body. Breathe. Clear your mind and stay connected to yourself. Allow your brain to feed you ideas. If nothing comes forward, be quiet. Do nothing.

If an idea comes as a picture, memory, thought, emotion, body sensation, or words, trust it. Find a way to use it as an intervention in some way.

For general purpose use and for when you have a temporarily brain- cloud, memorize a repertoire of generic invitations such as:
• “Notice something about yourself right now.”
• “What is your experience in this moment?”
• “What do you hope for by saying that?”
• “What is it you fear/need/want right now?”
• “Find another way to express that.”
• “Say the words that go with that.”
• “Do that more. Exaggerate that.”
• “Say (do) the opposite.”
• “Show me.” ¯

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