Case Study Gretchen

'Gretchen' came finding it very difficult to stand up to her partner and say no to him. She was afraid of a place in her that threatened to overwhelm her with pain and a fear of abandonment if she left him. She kept this place – and her heart – locked up by deep tensions in her chest. Telling me this she began to cry but stopped herself in a panic, fearing the pain would control her. I pointed out how lonely the locked away girl was and how no one had ever listened to her. I said she feels needy and vulnerable and weak and that Gretchen was frightened of being taken over by these feelings. I said it was possible to just see the locked away girl and not be swallowed up by her, by asking her to step back a little.As Gretchen recognized the fear that the pain could control her, it was possible to ask it to step back. It was also possible to ask the shame of appearing weak to step to one side. When the veils of the two defences stepped to one side Gretchen could get to know the lonely girl directly. At first it felt as if the girl was hidden in a static empty place, but as Gretchen tuned into her she was amazed to find that the girl was right there behind the stillness, and that she had the integrity and strength to be herself. The girl did not need to fall in with others, and could allow and embrace the pain she had suffered without feeling fragmented. Gretchen said she couldn’t have imagined before that the sense of emptiness was preventing her from connecting to a very truthful part of her – it had felt so convincing and disempowering. This was just one session – admittedly with someone who was ripe.(The key to how IFS heals – is supporting a connection between our capacity for awareness, and the parts of our humanness that felt overwhelmed, and need to be loved and unburdened before they can relax)

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