The emotional bridge

The emotional bridge

In the therapeutic setting I listen for an ‘emotional bridge’ as a client talks about the past. I am looking for signs that the client is, in effect, abreacting. It needn’t be a very strong emotion, but I can see in a client’s eyes that she is not just relating a past life experience in the moment, she has transported herself into that emotional reality and is re-experiencing that emotion in this moment.


So, I interrupt, “Tell me about what you are feeling right now.”

The emotional bridge; the conduit between reliving the past and adapting new behaviors in the present

The client typically responds with confusion since she does not yet realize the emotional state herself yet. And, because most of us are trained to do so, she immediately denies any specific ‘feeling’. Yet, I persist; and upon a moment’s reflection she is surprised as the feeling makes itself evident to her as well.


Or, as the client is relating her story, she becomes obviously emotional. I may ask her to name the emotion or to simply describe “what’s going on.” Assuming she gets past denial, the next roadblock is self-protection. She minimizes the emotion, attempts to explain it away or blames someone else. I allow her to get firmly into self-protection, then announce, “That’s a lie.”


As you might guess, it takes additional persistence, as well as a good degree of finesse, to get her to own up to the lies she tells herself. Much of the teaching I do relates to helping the client recognize that excuses and alibis are forms of lying; and that, until she owns up to the lies, she cannot progress or change.


One strategy in that process is to interrupt an alibi or excuse with, “What are you afraid of? What is the fear?”


A common response is, “Well, I don’t think I’m afraid, I don’t have a fear…” using the word ‘fear’ in a common way, as opposed to ‘fear’ as a negative emotional state along a continuum.


As I help her give the emotion a specific name, the implication is that she is learning to more accurately assess her feelings, while also acknowledging that the emotion is vested in negative energy that, at base, is called ‘fear’.


It takes a few hours for the client to begin to

  • Catch herself in an excuse or alibi and acknowledge it as a lie
  • Recognize specific feelings as she speaks and thinks
  • Associate those feelings with either Love or Fear
  • Strategize ways to transmute Fear into Love

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