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Hakomi in Action

Hakomi experiential therapy is a gentle, respectful method that allows one to access deep, core material, opening the possibility for awareness and transformation. So what does Hakomi Therapy “look like” in real life? The following is an example of one person’s experience with a Hakomi session: one where kindness and compassion, patience and pausing (and a bit of skill), allowed my friend to access a deep limiting belief: “I am not good enough to succeed in my life” and doing so, brought this belief into her awareness, allowing her to mindfully change her self-limiting belief to one of possibility, hope and competence.

Many of us are more impacted than we realize by beliefs from long ago, limiting our engagement in life, our joy and happiness – even our freedom. The following essay introduces you to Hakomi in action through an experiential narrative.

“My sister and I were recently discussing our mutually complicated relationship with our mother and how harshly she has treated us throughout our lives. While looking back at my first awareness of her behavior, a memory surfaced for me. This is a memory I have carried for fifty years. At the tender age of six, I was watching my mother get ready for an evening out with my father. Wearing a pretty dress, she was applying her make-up and looked wonderfully elegant to me. I looked up at her and said, Mommy, you are so beautiful, I love you. To my horror, she snapped at me, saying, Not now, I don’t have time! Her words stung and I left her room in tears, my spirit crushed.

This memory is as crushing today as it was fifty years ago and I suddenly realized that this experience has affected me deeply throughout my entire life. A few weeks after the conversation with my sister I was visiting a good friend and I shared this story with her. My friend, who happens to be a Hakomi practitioner, suggested that we take a closer look at this memory. With her guidance, I was able to experience Hakomi therapy for the first time.

Not knowing what to expect, she explained to me how Hakomi works and how we might approach this painful memory. To begin, with my permission and in a mindful state, she offered to say the following words to me, [Name], you are a bright, creative, intelligent woman. My immediate reaction was to hear a hopeful voice inside me saying Yes, I am instantly quelled by a negative voice, No, you’re not followed by a feeling of heaviness in my chest.

We sat quietly for a few moments and then I asked her to repeat the process. This time, after stating the affirmation, she spoke as if she was each voice, both positive and negative. Each time we repeated this process, the sensation in my chest shifted slightly. Rather than the hopefulness being completely snuffed out, it started to feel like it was blossoming, and the heaviness began to draw back.

As though she knew what was happening inside me—that I was feeling scared—she would pull her chair closer to where I sat, offering comfort by her presence, and ask what I was noticing. This helped me to stay in mindfulness, to stay with what was happening in my body, although it was not comfortable.

As I sat quietly with these new feelings, a deep grief surfaced. As tears ran down my cheeks, I felt sorrow at imagining I had lost fifty years of my life because following this incident, I never truly believed in myself. I spent a lifetime trying to please any adults in my life, no matter what the personal cost. Looking back, I realized that anytime I started to achieve a modicum of success, I heard that negative voice saying No you can’t.

In the midst of dealing with my sorrow, another thought occurred to me – the work I’ve been doing all of my life, with children, was aimed at giving them a voice, so that they could speak for themselves and be heard. As I realized that the hurt little girl inside me has now been heard, I can let go of my sorrow and continue to be a voice for children everywhere.”

In summary, my friend experienced several Hakomi techniques, assisting her to realize possibility from this painful, childhood memory.  When an “offering” was made to her (“you are a bright, creative, intelligent woman”), an opportunity to hear both an accepting voice and a critical voice became clear. As we continued, repeating these “voices” (parts of herself) allowed for a heaviness in her chest to show up, a clear indication that the grief from these childhood words were very alive in her body. Slowing the pace of our interaction, showing care and compassion and even scooting my chair closer to her chair were all sincere techniques to create trust and safety.

As we continued to work together, allowing silence and patience to guide our way, the heaviness began to lift and a sense of “blossoming” was noticed. As the heaviness stepped back, the limiting belief became evident: “I have never truly believed in myself. “And as we both dwelled in a loving, safe and trusting environment, my client and friend realized her creation of children’s story books were her way of giving voice to children – of supporting a child in being heard and feeling important. My friend now has a more spacious view of the world and clarity about her purpose in life. She continues to write illustrated story books for children and has gone on to create her own publishing company.

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