Dr Stephen Porges reminds us : face to face with someone we love triggers neuronal networks in our brain & helps us regulate feelings


If you weren’t one of the 2000 people who managed to make it  to the International Childhood Trauma Conference held in Melbourne on Aug 4th to Aug 8th 2014, no matter! Here are some quotes for you from the key note speakers or the  “Internationals” as they became know throughout the 5-day conference.

Pat Ogden – Pat had this lovely relaxing way of saying gently to the client, lets just experiment together and before the client even had time to consider what was going on, he was trying something new, but in a non threatening way.

1. “Let’s conduct a little experiment and get the 25yr old man to make contact with the 8 year old boy and tell him that it doesn’t matter what other people think, what’s important is what you think.”

2. Every posture has a sensible reason for existing. Use the body to track moment by moment what is going on in the room. For example, clients can lean forward  to get help with something anxious, lean away, perhaps  the client is pulling away and you may need to inquire or soften the interaction somehow. Watch the body and respond moment by moment to the non-verbal cues.

3. What kind of tears are they? Good tears or sad tears? Don’t assume you know the meaning of the tears. I love this, I sometimes make the assumption that they are “bad or sad tears”.  It’s a good reminder to find out what the tears actually mean to the client, as a method of deepening the work.

4. If you and I recognize all the different parts of you, something new will arise.  (Taken from the work by Dr Richard Schwartz) – The Internal Family Systems Model (IFS).  The adversarial parts (angry, defensive, judgmental) need respect also! The inclusiveness of describing it like this helps reframe the feelings clients often struggle to attend to.

Dr Stephen Porges

5. The metaphor of a turtle, who retracts his head and hides in his shell as a way to help clients quickly understand the freeze -immobilization survival response we all utilize.

6. Use a prosaic lilting voice and the client’s nervous system will have a tough time rejecting this.  This response is hard wired in to us all and it makes sense if you think about mothers’ voices changing when they talk to their babies.

7. Dr Stephen Porges questioned the overuse of technology. He showed a number of slides of face to face couples and reinforced the notion of humans as pack animals, we need each other to help us regulate our affect and to co-create meaning. Face to face is really critical to this creation of a strong dyad which in turn is a protective factor against psychopathology. A picture of  ipads being used in the classroom was shown, two teachers standing behind the kids having a chat. He emphasized that in the early primary school age groups interaction with the caregiver and teacher is helping shape the brain. He believed over use of technology encourages parallel play but not connectedness and reciprocity so crucial for neuronal development.

Dr Dan Siegel

8.  Stabilise the lense in which you sense energy and information flow to avoid caretaker burnout. Be clear that your empathy comes from a place where you are imagining what it would be like to be in the situation your client is describing, but you remain clear that it is their experience you are relating to not your own.

9.   Regular daily practise of meditation is more important than the duration of the session

10. People who cannot connect to themselves inside cannot connect to other peoples’ insides!

11.  If you didn’t brush your teeth for a month people wouldn’t want to be with you, if you don’t practise good mental hygiene ( defined as clearing, focusing in a close way possibly using meditation as a tool) it stands to reason people also don’t want to be around you. Has it ever occurred to you not to brush your teeth daily? Why not? What is so curious is that nobody thinks of the importance of brushing your brain (as Dr Dan Siegel would say)! Even though our brain is the most important organ when it comes to creating a healthy and happy life for ourselves, brain hygiene is a novelty.

Photo credit:Dmitry Ryzhkov via Compfight

 About Marg

Melbourne relationship counsellor, and psychotherapist Marg Ryan, is a leading specialist in working with couples and singles with emotional problems. She is specifically experienced in helping with self esteem problems that show up with symptoms like depression, anxiety, conflict, addiction and problems within relationships.  She has a private counselling and psychotherapy practice in South Caulfield in the South Eastern Suburbs of Melbourne.

Marg Ryan Relationship Counsellor and Therapist

Marg Ryan Relationship Counsellor and Therapist