Working through scared feelings.

At Module 4 I was asked about the process of dealing with scare or fear in clients.

Let me begin on a tangent.

Shame is a unique emotion in comparison to most other emotions in that the human psyche does not naturally cleanse itself of it. When one feels angry under normal circumstances people will generally talk about it with others often have some kind of catharsis and then the feeling can be dropped. The same for sadness and scare. If something scary happens like a car accident most people will naturally talk about it with others have some level of catharsis and then the feeling is worked through as they say. This is a natural process for humans to engage in and it naturally cleanses the psyche of that feeling.

However with shame feelings the natural Free Child reaction is to move away from others and hide in some way. The reaction of bowing the head and placing the face in the hands is the natural reaction to have. Others are not engaged in any way, indeed often they are directly avoided. This does not permit any catharsis  and talking it out with others. So one can say in this sense the human psyche does not naturally cleanse itself of shame feelings.


However as mentioned before there is a natural process for dealing with feelings of scare and there are two main ways to do that. One can approach one’s own scared Child ego state from the Nurturing Parent and Adult to provide a sense of safety and security. Just as one would do if they saw a scared 5 year old child one does the same to self. In response the child feels calmer and the process is completed.

However this usually is not enough. The problem with this process is shown in the following diagram

Self soothing transaction

To deal with the scared Child one self soothes from the NP and can provide Adult information that helps. The problem with self soothing or self parenting is you have to ‘be strong’ for self. The Parent and Adult need to be well cathected in order to soothe the Child but this means the person can not be free to just be the Child ego state. A significant amount of energy has to be removed from the Child so it is not getting full soothing. The scare is not fully dealt with.

To get more full working through of the sacred feelings one needs this transaction. One gets the soothing from the NP and Adult of a sympathetic other.  In this instance the person does not have to ‘be strong’ for self and can let themselves be much more fully in the Child ego state and hence the scare feelings get dealt with more completely.

Working through scare Jpeg

Not a complicated process as one can see. BUT, whilst it is not complicated it can be very difficult for some. To transact like that with another person means one has to deal with all the big issues in the human psyche like trust, closeness, vulnerability, reliance and dependence. Many people have difficulty with at least some of these and hence tend to avoid doing it.

First you have to go to another person and ask for their help. Many people even have trouble with doing that! Then you are making yourself vulnerable with another person and one has to trust and so forth. Very difficult for some to do and hence they often never fully work through these feelings in self and end up with a scared racket.

School girls walk across a plank on the walls of the 16th century Galle fort July 8, 2009. REUTERS/Vivek Prakash (SRI LANKA SOCIETY)

Indeed some psychotherapy approaches say that seeking soothing from others is a state of pathology because it means one is being dependent. They say the state of psychological health is when one is fully self sufficient and thus would only ever self soothe.

I personally disagree with this. In my view humans are naturally communal beings and we need (are dependent) on others at least to some degree. This is the natural human condition. So I suggest doing both in order to work through such feelings. Without a doubt self soothing is a very good skill to have but on its own it is not enough.

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One Response to “Working through scared feelings.”

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  1. Jeanette McCallum says:

    Excellent article. I agree we are not islands. To be able to emotionally support ones self when necessary is important but we have a natural human instinct to connect.

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