“Yes And-ing” Obsessive Thoughts

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If you ever were to observe me working with a baby, you’d hear and see at least one hundred variations on a certain theme. With my hands and my words, I will communicate to each baby ideas like, “Good idea toes, let’s curl! I can even help you with that!” And then after a while, “And did you ever consider uncurling?” 

On the surface, the embodied message I’m looking to communicate in these moments is, “I’m supporting you where you are and only inviting you to try something new if you’re ready and open to it.” And under that is the message, “I believe wholeheartedly that your body has an innate wisdom. I believe you are good inside.”* 

When an adult (either private client or in my Roots of Resilience class) is dealing with intrusive thoughts, the last thing on their mind is the innate wisdom of their body. Obsessive or intrusive thought patterns usually feel way too charged and upsetting to take us anywhere but towards a negative direction in our bodies and our sense of ourselves. 

But my somatic approach is built on this same belief that my adult clients are good inside, with nervous systems that are operating with an innate wisdom. And just as the babies deserve accepting, non-corrective interaction, my trauma-focused work with adults comes from the same place. 

How this sounds in a session is not so far off from, “Yes, And” the core principal of Second City Improv. We don’t negate the original thoughts, we don’t try to suppress them or prove them wrong. Instead we are building up a collection of embodied experiences that are tell a different story than the thoughts.

When intrusive thoughts come into the session, the message to yourself might be, “I’ll never be able to stop these thoughts.” But you might hear me offer something surprisingly positive in those same moments. I might communicate verbally and through hands-on contact something like, “I’m so glad that your system has the ability to be that vigilant – to look out for danger and protect you……and I wonder if there is another possibility in this moment that would feel safe to try out”