Interact Journal Integrative Ideas for the Process-Oriented Psychotherapist

Categories Supervision Dialogs

On help with denial

She wants me to help her break through her denial. What exactly is denial?

Denial is a refusal to admit or recognize an occurrence or possibility. I don’t know about you, but denial is the preferred state for many of us (not me, of course) when we don’t want to deal with reality, our terror, or the possibility of change. To create an enactment, think reflexively.

Whatever a person wants from someone else is usually what she needs to get from herself. Focus on process as opposed to content. If you are uncertain which process to attend to, trying thinking to yourself how you would answer the question, What is happening? For example, there are two predicates in your description above. Pared down to essentials, they are “break through denial” and “wants me to help.” With the help of action phrases such as break-through and wants-me-to, you can, with little or no experience, set up enactments that mirror a client’s process quite elegantly.

Make pictures in your head of someone breaking through something or of someone wanting someone else to help. Share your picture as an invitation for an imagery.

Hold out a piece of paper. Ask her to break through it. If she does, ask her what the difference is between breaking through the paper and breaking through denial.

Set up a couple of chairs in front of her to represent denial. Ask her to break through. She’ll say she needs to get a different perspective.

Suggest she move somewhere in the room to get a different perspective. If, in fooling around with the perspective, she somehow finds herself on the other side of the chairs, ask her to articulate in detail how she got there: “I stood up, and got so busy looking for a different perspective that I moved around the denial.”

Invite her to position herself in a way that mimes “want-you-to-help.” For example, she might get down on her knees, arms outstretched pleadingly, or palms together as if praying. Hold a container of “answers” just out of reach. Direct her to stay there and introspect as her body sends her pain, messages, or memories. She diagnoses herself as in denial.

On a whiteboard or large piece of paper, invite her to write the words “I deny that:” followed by a list of all the things she denies. The “I deny that” at the top of the list makes every phrase she writes an easy topic to use in polarity work. For example, suppose she writes, “I am happy.” When she reads the whole sentence, it will say, “I deny that I am happy.”

As an example, should she say, “I deny that I am happy,” immediately invite her to put the part of her who’s happy in one chair and the part of her who denies she is happy in the other. Direct them to dialogue with each other. She wants me to give her the answers.

So, give her some answers. Give her good answers; give her bad answers. Give her silly answers. Invite her to pay attention to her reactions each time.

Direct her to draw a picture of herself, the denial, you, and the answers.

Work with each detail of the picture.

Wonder especially, what part of her, the “you” in the picture represents.

Invite her to work with “wanting someone to help me break through something” in imagery. Wonder what that looks like. Wonder what happens next.

Tell her to say the words, “I want you to help me break through my denial,” several times and then without conscious thought or censoring, create a sand tray, dance, drawing or sculpt.

Ask her who else she wanted to help her, but they never did.

Suggest she perceive her denial as a gift from her subconscious. Invite her to respect her need to deny by defining “denial” as a way to protect oneself.

Wonder what else she denies herself.

Wonder how else she denies herself.

Wonder who it was in her childhood who denied her, originally.

Wonder what else she is “in,” besides denial.

The psyche seems to love wordplay. Invite her to have an imagery where she is living in Egypt and swimming in its longest river.

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