the heart of the Developing a Secure Self approach
Imaginal Nurturing is ego-state work rooted in attachment theory and research and is the heart of the Developing a Secure Self approach. It addresses early deficits through working directly with the need for, and difficulties with, nurturing, intimacy, and autonomy.
While the Standard EMDR Protocol works very effectively to resolve traumatic memories (i.e. things that happened that ‘shouldn’t’ have happened), it does not directly address the attachment aspects of early experience. It does not address the things that should have happened that didn’t happen. Our relationships with early caregivers is the context of our lives as we grow and develop. These early relationships have an enormous impact on who we become as adults. Typically in therapy, such early deficits are left to be somehow compensated for through a supportive therapeutic relationship between the therapist and the adult client.
In Imaginal Nurturing, we work to get to the root of existential issues, supporting the effectiveness of other therapeutic interventions and allowing psychotherapy to move forward more quickly. Imaginal Nurturing, as part of the Developing a Secure Self approach, is a natural complement to trauma work.
What Imaginal Nurturing is
Imaginal Nurturing is one of three components of the Developing a Secure Self approach:
- the therapeutic relationship recognized as an attachment relationship
- Imaginal Nurturing
- emotional skills development
Being the heart of this approach, it offers an opportunity for the client to develop a new relationship with themselves over time in the present, through the externalization of younger parts of self. It is not intended as an intervention, but rather a way of conceptualizing the psyche and the therapy, and is an approach to be woven throughout the therapy and between sessions.
The initial contact between client and younger self (or occasionally the younger adult) usually begins with a “retrieval” in which the client brings the younger self out of a memory that the client has disclosed. This matter-of-fact process disrupts the traumatic image without activating the memory network, and reflects the reality that the child is already in the present as part of the whole client. This grounding in the present provides an introduction during which the therapist talks directly to the child giving them messages they need to hear. It is usually accompanied by slow gentle tapping or butterfly hug. Witnessing the therapist talking to the younger parts with compassion, kindness, and respect can be a powerful experience and provide a new perspective for the client.
This intervention is very gentle and can be used even during history taking. It has many benefits, but is only the beginning.
Relationships take time to develop and a critical aspect of this approach is the between-sessions ‘honouring’ activity and check-ins (with the child) through which the client consolidates and further develops the new relationships and strengthens emotional skills. As the client becomes more familiar with the externalized younger parts of self, they are more aware of when they are in a younger state and more able to shift into the adult. The young parts learn that there is an adult who will look after the adult concerns.
Imaginal Nurturing differs from most other ego-state/parts work in numerous ways. The “adult” is seen as the whole, the person who is the client, who is becoming more secure, learning new skills and ways of moving forward in life.
The younger parts are parts of that whole in the present. There is no protective part in this conceptualization; the adult as a whole person has that function. Similarly, the adult may be learning to provide nurturing (self-care). The focus is on the client developing a new positive relationship with younger parts, not on helping parts to get along with each other. In practice, working in this way drastically reduces the need to address “protectors” who may be blocking trauma work.
When Imaginal Nurturing focuses on the newborn and infant self the guided imagery allows the client to meet themselves afresh without the layers of history which can cloud self-perception. In this way, we challenge the belief that the client is inherently defective or undeserving. Exploration Imagery goes a step beyond this and entails the ‘child’ moving away from the secure base of the adult to explore, and then return to the adult. This is experienced from the perspective of both the child and the adult.
Imaginal Nurturing is gentle work, and can be satisfying, productive, and playful.
Responses from therapists using Imaginal Nurturing
It worked beautifully! She was so moved! I think (and she thought too) that this was maybe one of the only times she ever had in which she could just FEEL the pleasure of holding and touching and caressing, without any obstacles.
I have found opportunities with almost every client to bring in the adjunctive nurturing, and the results have been profound for both myself (as a witness) and my clients. They are so excited to be in the nurturing role, and feel it so deeply – it is very different than any other parts work I have tried. Best of all, they report a continued felt sense of the child they have brought forward to the present, a tenderness and joy that is an honor to behold…. A client found it to be ‘the most incredibly moving experience of my life – I have never, ever gone so deep emotionally’.
Imaginal Nurturing Soundtracks
Imaginal Nurturing Soundtracks
These Imaginal Nurturing mp3 soundtracks introduce you to a younger part of your self to facilitate new experiences of compassion, caring, respect, and playfulness to promote the beginnings of a new relationship with yourself. The participant is guided through the perspectives of both the adult and child to gain a felt body experience of both nurturing and being nurtured and a sense of connectedness from both perspectives.
You needn’t be in therapy to appreciate the experiences these soundtracks offer. Enjoy them as a gift to yourself.
For therapists using Imaginal Nurturing as a component of their work, the use of these recordings between sessions allows the client to move forward that much more quickly and solidly in their therapy. The soundtracks may be used over and over, each time providing a different experience, each time consolidating the new relationship with self. Often people will use the them daily for a week or two and then set them aside, returning some time later.
These imageries were recorded in the early 2000’s, a time when language was more gender-specific; consequently there are separate recordings for women and men. In terms of copyright, therapists are permitted to share these files with clients for use between sessions. Because they induce a state of relaxation and inward focus, these recordings should not be used while driving.
“I’m So Glad You’re Here!”
With these guided imageries, you have the opportunity for experiences of gentle nurturing and connectedness. With my voice leading you, you are able to meet yourself afresh as the infant who came into this world whole and gifted. The infant here is a representation of the core of who you really are. This recording is not about healing the wounded child in the past but rather developing a new relationship with yourself in the present.
There are two soundtracks provided. In “Getting to Know You”, you are invited through your imagination to hold this infant and to spend time becoming acquainted with each other. “Taking it in” gives you the opportunity to provide nourishment for the baby. In both cases, you have the experience of the infant being held and nurtured as well as that of the nurturing adult. These scripts are interwoven with the beautiful clear singing voice of Jen Turner. The recordings are especially valuable for self-soothing between sessions for clients who are fragile. They have also been found to be helpful at bedtime for those with insomnia. There is no bilateral stimulation in the “I’m so glad you’re here!” recordings.
The following samples are from the sound files of “I’m So Glad You’re Here!” ~ Imaginal Nurturing for Women. The first is a song sung by Jen Turner; the second, guided imagery by April Steele.
These guided imageries take Imaginal Nurturing to the next level by guiding you from the secure base through experiences of exploration and back.
In the first imagery, you are invited into the lovely room of a toddler. The secure base is established as you rock with the child, and then observe as the little one is drawn over to the toy shelves across the room. Upon returning and re-connecting, this is repeated with you experiencing it from the child perspective.
The second adventure is a trip to the park for you and a three or four year-old. These soundtracks are rich with sensory experiences that foster curiosity and pleasure away from the secure base as well as feelings of loving security.
They were originally created for use to address anxiety and to help empower individuals in asserting themselves. They have also been found to be valuable to help parents understand how their young children experience the world. The Adventuring Spirit recordings incorporate periodic slow, soft, and brief bilateral stimulation.
The following sample is from the sound file of Adventuring Spirit ~ Imaginal Nurturing for Men. The guided imagery is by April Steele. The corresponding soundtrack for women is similar.
Responses of therapists and others
So thank you so much. You have changed my life.