YOU DONʼT HAVE ANSWERS:
Remember that you really don’t have any answers for the person whom you are Companioning. Rather, your role is simply to Companion that person, responding in a special way which supports them in discovering their own answers! The answer that a person discovers for himself or herself is always far more satisfactory than any answer from someone else.
TRUST THE PROCESS IN THEIR BODY
Your primary role for Companioning another in their inner process is twofold, (1) to help that person remain in the body-feel of his or her issue, and at the same time (2) to help create a more open, accepting, caring relationship in their body’s presence to whatever feelings they are carrying so it becomes easier for that person to risk being inside and “owning” how it feels.
THE QUALITY OF YOUR PRESENCE:
As a Companion, you help another to create a safe and supportive environment by the quality of your presence in the relationship, one which is not hampered by your own need to provide answers, to control their unique journey, or succeed as a helper! Such a non-interfering, non ego-centered attitude creates an atmosphere that encourages and disposes the one you are Companioning to create the same kind of relationship with his or her scary, lonely or hurting inner places. This simple act of yours is, in itself, a great blessing that can heal and open a person for a whole new kind of “graced” relationship to themselves.
Your verbal responses as a companion are not to comment upon nor to analyze what a person shares, but to support a forward movement of felt meaning within her or his body. This means your responses are meant to support a body-process as it unfolds. You’re not there to talk or inquire about an issue, but to help the person stay in touch with his or her body-feel of that issue so it can gradually unfold and tell its story.
NOT ORDERS BUT “OPTIONS”:
Your role as Companion is not “direct” or “order” a person to do something. Rather, you “invite” and offer “options.” The person whom you are companioning makes the “choices!” For example, if someone comes to a fork in the road and doesn’t know which way to turn, your task is not to say, “Go Right,” or “Go left.” Instead, you lay out the OPTIONS. For example: “Sense whether one of those paths or issues draws you in some feeling way in your body more than the other. Ask yourself, ‘Toward which side is my body drawing me? Is it one or the other, OR is it toward putting both of them together and holding that in a caring way? Or, maybe the real issue is my sense of being unsure about what to do in this situation right now? Can I sense deeper into what my body is actually feeling the most around all these possible choices?'”
Caring presence, especially when directed toward a hurt or difficult feeling in the body, is especially important for creating a bond or kinship with alienated or rejected places inside ourselves. Remind the one whom you are Companioning to find his or her own unique body-way of being present in a caring way to how their body carries whatever is difficult inside. (Their Affection Teacher). This is what makes it possible for them to “own” what they actually feel. Then, a symbol may eventually interact with it and a felt shift occur in how their body carries these feelings. Caring presence is the key that brings God (Agape) into the relationship.
With beginners who are struggling with an obviously difficult issue, first have them ask their body whether it is OK to be with these feelings in a caring way. If they say, “No, it’s too much to do that,” then help them to be with the feeling that, “It’s just too much to be with this right now.”
Remember, the person whom you are companioning cannot fully turn their attention inward while you (the companions) are talking or giving directions. Be mindful, therefore, of brevity and clarity. Say what you need to say in order to support their process and provide direction. Then get out of their way and be quiet so they can go inside and continue on their own.
CLEAR GROUND RULES:
Always provide clear ground rules so the one being Companioned knows what to do next, and how to let you know when they have done what you asked. For example, after inviting someone to stay inside with a feeling or issue you might add, “Take whatever time you need to be inside with that, and then let me know whether anything further comes that feels connected — a word, an image, a memory.” Clear ground rules free the person going inside to concentrate on their feelings and felt senses without worrying about how or when they are to respond to you. At the same time, such ground rules also free you from worrying about whether it’s clear how you are to be called upon if further input is needed, or if they have something to say.
WHAT STANDS OUT IN THE BODY?:
Remember to remind the one going inside themselves to notice, nurture, and take time with how an issue feels in their body, not what they may “think” about it. Stories unfold in the body, not in the mind analyzing.
HELPING A BEGINNER:
If a person who is new to this process remains quiet for an overly long time, and you’re not sure whether they’re lost or, perhaps, don’t know how to proceed or respond to you, gently come into a prolonged silence by quietly saying “Ask yourself, ‘How does it feel now inside me? Does this still feel the same as when I began, or has there been some movement or change in all that?’ Let me know if anything has come or changed.” It can also help right at the beginning to set up a ground rule: “If at any time you feel stuck or not sure about what to do next, just let me know and I’ll try to help.”
WHEN YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO NEXT:
If at any point you become unsure yourself about what to do next, simply ask the person whom you are Companioning: “Check inside and ask yourself, ‘What does it feel right to do now?'” If they say: “I don’t know”, then inquire whether it would be OK for a moment just to sit with that feeling of being unsure and sense whether any further direction comes form that. It can often help to ask: “Does this feeling seem familiar, or is it something new?” Whether familiar or new, invite the person to be with whatever edge of feeling surfaces in their body, and sense further into what that might have to say.
YOU’RE NOT IN CHARGE:
The person whom you are Companioning is always the one in charge! If he or she wants to stop, stop! If he or she runs into something that is too scary to go further with and decides to back off, that’s their choice. Let them back off. You, as guide, might suggest at that point something like: “Would it be all right for a moment just to turn your attention toward being caring and gentle with the feeling in your body of how scary this is now becoming and your wanting to back away from it?” Help the person stay with whatever comes as a real felt meaning right now.
RUNNING OUT OF TIME:
If you are running out of time you might ask, upon arriving at a natural resting place, “Check inside to sense whether what you’re working with still needs to go further at this time, or would it be OK to stop and rest here — at least for now?” Generally, we find it better to weigh the option in favor of proceeding further rather than abruptly injecting a stop sign. What you regard as a natural stopping place may NOT be such for the person you are Companioning. It can also help to set up a ground rule beforehand: “I’ll let you know five minutes before we need to stop.”
ENDING A SESSION:
If the person you are Companioning wants to stop, then move into the closing phase of the session. If they want to continue a little further, and you have the time, then invite them to be with the feeling inside of whatever still needs to go further. It also helps in advance to have an agreement that you will let the one you are Companioning know when it is five or ten minutes before you need to stop. You are the timekeeper.
STOPPING IN AN UNFINISHED PLACE:
Whenever you need to stop in an unfinished place, have the one whom you are Companioning ask their feeling that still has more to say: “how do you need me to be with you so we can continue our journey together at another time?” Support them in building some kind of bond or kinship with their unfinished feeling. Help them promise to come back at another time to go further with any feeling that still has some further story to tell.
AFTER A SESSION:
After a session it can be helpful to allow some extra time in which to ask the person whom you’ve just been Companioning: “Is there anything you would like to share about this experience, or would you rather just leave it for now?” Offering this “option” allows a person some space in which to reflect upon and share what has just happened if that would be helpful for them. Your responses as a companion during any time of sharing will be more supportive of process if they are “reflective” or “active listening” responses rather than analysis or information sharing, unless there is some call for the latter. Often, with the support of reflective listening, further feelings and felt senses will surface during this sharing time which can then be followed up on in a later session, or right at that moment if there is time and it’s appropriate.
It can be very helpful for the person whom you are Companioning to realize that you don’t need to know the details of whatever feelings they may be working with. They are free to guard their privacy. You can still effectively companion them without knowing any of their private content. What you do need to know is how they are feeling in their body right now. It is possible to go through an entire session of noticing and nurturing feelings without you, the companion, having any idea about private content. Your job is to support an inner body-process, not to get content out on the table for public examination! If a person wants to share what is private, that is their choice.
WORKING WITH STUCK, BLOCKED PLACES:
Sometimes, when a person seems completely blocked or unable to find a feeling of felt sense, it can be useful to ask something like this: “Would it feel right to stop being with your feelings for a few moments and just talk a little about what is going on inside you right now. You can go back to noticing and nurturing your feelings after talking a bit, if that seems OK or is right for you to do.”
(Then, you listen and reflect with “healing” or “active listening.” You respond not just to the content that is shared, but to how you sense the person must feel inside in their sharing this content. It can help to ask yourself: “How is this other person “IN” what he or she is saying?” Let the person know that you hear not just “what” they are saying, but “how they are in what they are saying — e.g. angry, lonely, sad, excited, confused.” If during the course of this dialogue other feelings or felt sense appear, you can invite the Focuser to check whether he or she might want to be with any of these in a Noticing and Nurturing way.)
Another way of working, with stuck places is to have the person ask their body this question: “What needs to happen inside me for this whole thing to open up and feel like a breath of fresh air? or…lighten up? or…move forward?” Or, you use some of their own body words for asking how it might feel if this were to change. For example, moving from a constricted feeling in their chest to open & easier breathing, moving from pain in their gut to easing and less pain, etc… Then, have them sit with the body-feel of anything that comes inside that feels connected.
STAYING IN TOUCH WITH YOURSELF:
Be aware as much as possible of how YOU are in your relationship with the person whom you companion. Do you have subtle needs for control, or a happy outcome? Are you threatened or defensive around anything that emerges in the process? Be sure to “notice” anything like this and after the session find some quiet time in which to “nurture” whatever needs listening to inside yourself.
YOU’RE NOT A THERAPIST:
Finally, remember that your role as a companion is never one of being a therapist, unless you are professionally trained and licensed to do so. While the process of noticing and nurturing feelings is invariably therapeutic, it is never a substitute for professional psychotherapy when that is called for!