I often recommend that coaches who are interested in understanding trauma and bringing that awareness into their coaching engage with their own internal therapeutic inquiry. I have always ‘done my own work’, firstly in psychotherapy, over the last 8 years through the therapeutic process developed by Franz Ruppert and additionally over the last 2 years with somatic movement therapy and via Insight Meditation. There are other therapeutic processes I could have experienced, for example, somatic experiencing (from the work of Peter Levine) or sensorimotor psychotherapy (the work of Pat Ogden and Janine Fischer) or Compassionate Inquiry (Gabor Mate).
I realise I am very familiar with opening myself up to therapeutic inquiry, and have done that throughout my adult life. Despite, or perhaps due to that, I find there is still much rich material to explore. As a coach, there is no requirement or expectation to be open to such inquiry. And yet, we are in the business of personal development and change.
The therapeutic inquiry process that goes with Franz Ruppert’s theory brings the theory into life. By only teaching his theory, I am not providing coaches with the whole experience needed to really ‘get’ the splits in the psyche and the trauma biography concepts. There is something to be gained, if you are interested in taking a further step into this theory, of going to a workshop run by Vivian Broughton or Alexandra Smith or doing one to one work with them. I occasionally run such workshops myself for coaches, therapists and for non-practitioners. Here is what one very experienced executive coach said after a workshop:
“The workshop uses a unique approach that brings to life a powerful model of identity splits in the psyche (created by Professor Franz Ruppert). I suspect I may look back at this event as a seminal moment in my long term healing process, as well as helping me make sense of the way that trauma and survival selves show up in coaching.”
My own experience of this process has had an equally profound impact. I started off not really knowing what was going on but quickly gained insight and could feel internal shifts in my experience. There is not a linear connection between what emerges and what then happens internally or in our responses to life. But change is facilitated due to the neuro-physiological impact and to cognitive understanding.
You don’t need to do your own work if you are not ready to do so but participating in the work of others also gives us deeper learning about trauma. Ruppert’s approach is unique, using a ‘sentence of intention’ set by the client, to focus the exploration. The inquiry involves members of the group being invited to resonate with the words in the sentence in a semi-structured way. This isn’t role play, drama therapy or psycho-drama. It is a process of responding to the client’s sub-conscious connections with the word and is felt in, and expressed through, the body. Through this process elements of the unconscious dynamics between the healthy, survival and trauma parts are brought into conscious awareness where they can be worked with. I know people reading this may be sceptical, all I can say is that I have been in hundreds of such pieces of work including seeing individuals doing their own work in a different group with similar responses. This provides a form of verification for the work as does the impact of the work for the client. This approach isn’t evidence based in terms of randomised control trials, and it is very difficult to evidence base any therapeutic inquiry because of the number of variables involved. The research on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, said to be evidence based, is weak when you look deeply into it (CBT: The Cognitive Behavioural Tsunami by Dr Farhad Dalal).
Therapeutic inquiry doesn’t use a medical model of diagnosis, treatment and cure. It is a continuous process of exploration, bringing material from the implicit memory, that not available to cognitive recall, into conscious awareness. Alongside that, integrating memory (explicit and implicit) that is held in a fragmented way.
All forms of therapeutic inquiry need a safe, non-judgemental space with clear boundaries, with a practitioner who is highly skilled and capable of maintaining good contact with the client. For trauma work this is essential. Therapy aims to bring people into a healthy relationship with themselves, so that they make healthier decisions and relationships. It is a process of deep exploration into our body, mind and emotional experience and responses. The methodology will vary depending on the orientation of the therapy.
All therapeutic enquiry is a slow process, there are no quick fixes, whatever therapeutic route one wants to take. Different routes suit different people, and it is important to find a route that works well for you that takes you into unexplored territory while involving the felt experience. Trauma is a neuro-physiological-emotional process, requiring the involvement of the body and mind in therapeutic inquiry. There are various development programmes in the methods I named in the first paragraph, you may find that another way to learn more and to do some personal inquiry at the same time.
If you are interested in trauma the first next step is to start to understand your own trauma before you set out enthusiastically to fix that of other.
Julia Vaughan Smith