Healthy Autonomy -  A Step by Step Process

One of the main aims of IoPT is the promotion of healthy autonomy. Unlike many other therapeutic approaches, where the crucible for change is seen to be the relationship between therapist and client, in this work it is the practical process itself that holds the key to better self-awareness and understanding: it is our developing relationship with ourselves, rather than with someone else, that strengthens us. The Sentence of Intention forms a safe frame within which the work can unfold. Authority remains with the client at all times to pause the process, or bring it to an end.  As trauma is an experience of extreme helplessness and overwhelm, it is vitally important that the client be allowed to set his or her own pace, which includes making a decision about when he or she is ready to do more.

 

There are four clear steps in the journey towards healthy autonomy: -

 

1. Identifying our survival strategies: coming to understand the ways in which, literally, we have survived and seeing how we continue to employ these strategies to cope in situations which are not life threatening but which do re-stimulate our previous helplessness.

 

2. Increasing our healthy part: this means that more of our 'true self' is available and we feel supported and strengthened from within.

 

3. Approaching our trauma: starting to see, know and understand the reality of our early experiences, which can be held or shown by representatives, until we are ready to experience them ourselves.

  

4. Integrating the traumatic experience: when we are ready, and our healthy self is strong and our survival self is (relatively!) quiet, we can come into contact with our split-off trauma emotions and physiological experiences. Within the safe frame of the method, these difficult or painful feelings can be safely expressed.

 

The healing of early trauma is very much a step-by-step process and the client's readiness and feelings of trust and safety are respected at all times.

 HEALTHY AUTONOMY means having a good relationship with yourself, in effect:

  • being able to access real feelings and needs
  • having a clear sense of self, knowing "who you are, and what you want"
  • being self authorising
  • taking full responsibility for your life, as it IS

...NOT to be confused with Pseudo Autonomy which may appear to be healthy through:

  • hiding vulnerability by avoiding intimacy
  • keeping emotional and psychological distance
  • acting fiercely independent; rejecting help from others or appearing not to need others
  • manipulating or controlling others to get needs met
  • symbiotic needs being suppressed and split off e.g. always "fine" or "cheerful"

 

HEALTHY SYMBIOSIS means being in a balanced relationship with others, so that:

  • we can create win-win situations, through flexibility and co-operation
  • each person is seen for who they are, and valued for their individuality
  • wants can be healthily and clearly expressed, without the relationship being threatened
  • if appropriate, the relationship can be dissolved with mutual respect

Healthy Symbiosis in infancy, lays the foundation for Healthy Autonomy as we grow and develop our individual identity in adolescence.   If bonding and attachment (symbiosis) occurs in relationship with a traumatised mother and father, our chances of healthy autonomy are also thwarted.

By working with our trauma, we increase our sense of true identity (Healthy Self) which enables us to become more autonomous. This in turn means that we are able to come into good contact with others, without losing sight of who we are and what we want.

In other words, once Healthy Autonomy has been established, Healthy Symbiosis can become a reality.