Interact Journal Integrative Ideas for the Process-Oriented Psychotherapist

Categories Supervision Dialogs

On working through trauma

Give me an example of how to work through a trauma. Like when you’re hit by another car on the highway.

Are you thinking of something that happened to you?

Uh huh. This guy crossed over the center line and crashed into me, and I keeping thinking about it – flash backs, I guess – and I’m still skitterish about driving and . . .

Okay. Start from the beginning and describe the whole incident.

(does it) . . .

Sounds frightening. I’m glad you didn’t get hurt.

(talks a bit more)

I have some ideas about how to work with that incident. Are you up for it?


Okay. Start from the beginning again, but this time tell it as if it is happening right now. I’ll probably be interrupting you.

Well, I’m driving in the fast lane, but there’s a lot of traffic and we’re going sorta slow . . .

(interrupts) Freeze the frame right there. Are you seeing this scene like you would a movie – from outside the action – or are you inside the body of the You who is driving your car?

I guess I’m watching it.

See if you can get inside yourself as you drive the car and be looking out through your own eyes.

Alright. I’m there.

Let’s start again. Proceed as slowly as you can.

(Big breath) I’m in the far left lane and there’s traffic and . . .

Push the pause button. From inside yourself, describe what is going on with you right now, here on the highway, with the traffic and you in the far left lane.

Well I’m a little tired and I’m glad the week is over and I’m looking forward to getting home and I could use some coffee and (continues describing herself). . .

Okay, when you’re ready, unfreeze and let your internal movie advance a few frames. Have a mental finger on the Pause button and be ready to push it.

Um, all of a sudden this car is crossing over the sort of weedy patch in between the two parts of the freeway and is coming right at me . . .

(interrupts) Push the pause button. . . Are you okay?


I wouldn’t ordinarily do any teaching at this point, but it would be okay if, say, the client needed a break or internal permission to continue or just some education to allay their fears about what they might encounter.

Before we continue, I want to let you know that I do not think it is useful in the long run to lie to one’s unconscious. Other people’s actions happened in reality, and it doesn’t make much sense to pretend they didn’t. Therefore, in this instance, the guy in the other car did what he did. He crossed over the center line and his car collided with your car. We can’t change that and your brain would probably not go along with it (long term) even if we tried. What we might change are your responses, the negative internal messages you imprinted on your brain as you walked away from the scene. Does that make sense?

Uh huh.

Ready to continue?


So let’s go back to where you left off. You’re driving along minding your own business and all of a sudden here is this other car coming at an angle straight at you. Get that picture in your mind, be inside your own body, and freeze the frame.

Alright, I’m there.

So the cars have not collided yet? And what do you notice about yourself?

I’m blank. I don’t believe it. I’m just staring and watching him get closer.

So freeze . .

Whoops. He plowed right into me and the car is spinning.

Pause right there. What do you notice about

I’m still in shock, I guess. I’m gonna be afraid in about a half a second, but not right now.

Okay, let’s fiddle with this a little. Rewind this inner movie back to just before he collides with your car. Let’s figure out something different you might do. How about having a part of you on top of the hood of your car with a baseball bat in your hand and as he gets closer, you bash his car and yell at him to pay more attention or “Stop That,” or something?

(does it, pauses) Well, I like doing that, but it doesn’t do any good. His car still hits mine.

Alright. How about you see him coming and you levitate your car. His car goes right under you.

Well, but then he might hit someone else.

Ah. How about, oh, you can fly. And as his car collides with yours, you exit your car out an open window and fly off, leaving the other driver to deal with the laws of physics as he might.

(laughs) I like that. Let’s do it again.

Okay. Perhaps you’d like to be Super Person standing in front of your car. Stop his car from advancing off the meridian strip.

(big smile while she imagines Super Person in all her glory) Yes!

Do it again, with any variations that come to mind. Let me know when you’ve done it enough.

(a minute or so passes) Okay, I’m done. I thought about me as SuperGirl running over there and giving him 4 flat tires before, but that seemed like too much work. I like the flying thing, best

So fly around awhile. Let me know when you’ve had enough.

(smiles) I’m done. For now.

Okay, so now what I’d like you to do is reverse the tape on all this and pause it right as the other driver is veering toward your lane . . . Are you there?


So time is stopped. Imagine today’s “you” can enter your car and say something to the You who is driving. What is it that you know now, that she didn’t know then?

She isn’t paying attention and there isn’t any place to go. No place to steer out of the way.

So what should she know since there’s nothing she can do?

To remember to pay more attention from now on? That she shouldn’t have been driving in the fast lane? That there was nothing she could do? That it wasn’t her fault?

Find out. Say those things to her.

(does it)

What’s her response?

She doesn’t believe me.

In a perfect world, if someone could recover easily from something like this, what would they know already?

That driving is dangerous and maybe not to take being safe for granted? That’s she about to learn to not be distracted while she’s driving.

Get in that car and tell her that.

(speaking to self) Hey there. You’re about to be surprised. Another car is going to hit you. You’re going to be okay. You’re gonna get through it. And you’re going to be a better driver afterwards. (pauses, experiences a wave of sadness, sighs) I like being you and I’m glad you’re alive.

(waits) Is there more?

(shakes her head)

What’s happening now?

I’m sad it happened, but I guess I’m glad too. I’m glad nobody got hurt and I probably won’t be so, what’s the word, complacent on the road, from now on.

(we’re quiet for awhile)

I think I’m still mad at that other driver, though.

Do you wanna go beat him up?

(nods head)

Okay. So, how do you want to do it?

I don’t know. Any ideas?

Well you could take a gun and shoot him outright. Or you could drive a stake through his heart, punch him in the face, grab him and shake him while you yell at him, try and shame him, throw him out into the street, run him over with a steam roller, embrace him with love and understanding, . . . your choices are endless.

I was sort of picturing all those things as you said them. (laughs) I feel better now. I guess I’ll just look at him and shake my head and just walk away.

Okay. Do that. (I wait while she does that in her mind) What’s happening now?

Nothing. I guess I’m done.


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