Healing unresolved trauma through Meta-Aromatherapy

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Published in Positive Health, Issue 27, April 1998

Meta-Aromatherapy as the name implies goes beyond the very beneficial use of the essential oils alone. It uses a number of therapies in combination which are particularly effective for chronic conditions and uses the psychological aspects of essential oils. Various bodywork techniques such as aromatherapy massage and gentle touch techniques aid in releasing long-held associated tensions through the kinaesthetic response. Counselling”s listening and verbal communication along with specialised hypnotherapy techniques further develop this powerful, yet safe, method of unfolding and release found through Meta-Aromatherapy treatments.

The Meta-Aromatherapy massage sets the scene for a profound level of trauma release work which Christine Westwood, the originator, discuses from the psychological viewpoint. This application owes a great deal to the influence of Grovian hypnotherapy, adapted for bodywork and aromatherapy treatments by the author.

Introduction to Meta-Aromatherapy

When a client with a chronic problem arrives for a Meta-Aromatherapy session, a detailed consultation is taken. The treatment then begins with an aromatherapy massage using specifically chosen essential oils. Through dialogue, the precise location of any associated physical or psychological condition is identified. The healing process works through identification of the specific location of associated body symptoms in combination with the aromatherapy massage, which releases surface tensions, and lays the path for exploration enabling the unconscious childlike components of the personality to emerge with the connected metaphors, the first step on the client’s recovery path.

Each time a problem remains within a person’s psyche it takes up space, not just physically, but psychologically (mentally and emotionally), and cognitively. Aspects of the problem may relate physically to the personas internal state or result from their reaction to external events or stimuli. The origins of these problems are often hidden but can be discovered through careful observation of subtle clues contained in the client’s line of vision, gestures, phrases and even subtle sounds and movements made just before speaking. Indeed the entire history of a particular problem can be unveiled from a glance, gesture or expression which incorporates the associated physical response ? for example a hunching of the shoulders in response to a particular event? that combines to permanently imprison the problem within the body.

However, each time the problem arises the response emerges out of its hiding place prompted by the outside stimuli, so that the bonds that bind it to the original trauma are tightened. This is easier to both observe and address through bodywork as once the client is physically relaxed various techniques, such as Meta-Aromatherapy can then be utilised to confront the underlying problem. Meta-Aromatherapy uses the related metaphors – a succession of mental images and felt sensations unique to each client – as a safe way of resolving these often hidden traumas.

It is important that the therapist maintains an independent stance so as not to “interfere” with this process of release, both verbally through “clean” language in reflecting the words of the client, and physically through posture and freedom of movement. As the therapist’s hands make light contact, the client’s body may respond with almost imperceptible movements which appear as ripples, twitches, lighter or deeper breathing patterns, or even intensifying related held muscular tensions on the path to release. Sighs and pre-verbal states may also occur as the metaphor story unfolds either verbally or through minimal verbal interaction, as part of the healing process. Within this relaxed state the client may experience associated feelings and images which are long forgotten through the safe vista of related metaphors, and at times prompted through the olfactory memory.

As the client describes the images or sensory experiences, a metaphor story unfolds. This is a very safe way of working as neither the client nor the therapist need to know the originating circumstances of the problem which could be genuinely traumatic; “going with the flow” of metaphors allows the client to resolve a trauma without being engulfed in the actual circumstances? based in the past? which might further prejudice their present situation.

At the next session the therapist continues to respond to physical movements, words or sounds which in turn, encourages further release. Typically at the end of a session a client may say they ‘feel relaxed’; however they often look quite different once long-held tension patterns related to the particular problem have been released. The process has been likened to a “non invasive face lift”.

At the next session the therapist will enquire as to what changes and insights have arisen during the intervening period, before the next episode can unfold. It is imperative that the therapist does not make assumptions and suggestions about the client’s metaphors, although at times this can be very tempting, albeit coming from the stance of helping the client. However, if this happens it “contaminates” or interferes with the client’s discovery. 

Hopefully, if sufficiently free, the “child within” will ? as children typically do when free to express themselves? clearly tell the therapist “That’s not right”, and state what is true for them, leaving the therapist firmly put in their place as the facilitator in the client’s journey.

So natural is this process that it is imperative to maintain clear records and develop a good memory to review the “presenting” symptoms which may now be in the past for the client. For example, sleepless nights may be forgotten as natural, restful sleep returns, or eating problems may have given way to a naturally healthy appetite and good digestion.

A client defines and interacts with their own particular world through very specific words and language. Every question is therefore based on the client’s last response and it is the therapist’s job to get the questions right. Clean language helps the therapist to:

  • Prevent placing their own assumptions and ideas onto the client’s experience.
  • Translate the words used to describe feelings into metaphors.
  • Reflect accurately the client’s model of the world.
  • Work effectively with the client’s unconscious processes.
  • Communicate with the “child within”, employing the child’s language where appropriate

Questions that are openly worded allow the client to equally accept or reject them and move their metaphor story onwards. These questions allow powerful and appropriate solutions to naturally emerge from the unconscious state within.

Metaphor work can be likened to a surgeon who has undergone extensive preparation and training, and who gathers together the necessary resources (colleagues and surgical instruments) ready for an operation. Once an incision is made, at a very specific point, the terrain can be explored and the “resources” used as necessary to transform or remove the problem. When the resources (metaphors or tools) have completed their work, the wound can heal satisfactorily. This may happen immediately or require a little time to allow for some reorganisation of the physical cellular structure and related mental and emotional state to take place.

This work can be divided into four quadrants which categorise the particular forms of information obtained through the metaphors. The use of the term “quadrant” emphasises that the psyche and all its components are viewed as a connected and integrated whole, and not necessarily as a series of discreet elements which are merely treated independently in successive stages.

Quadrant I: Setting the scene - The initial consultation and discussion

Quadrant I deals with information conveyed in words which express ideas or symptoms in the present. This is the equivalent of the initial consultation with the surgeon or the therapist, during which the required procedures or treatments are discussed and understood but do not in themselves solve the problem. This provides any necessary information or reassurance about the process and helps allay any concerns.

Quadrant II is where “clean language” is used to work with unresolved or “frozen” memories. This stage can be likened to the incision point which reaches the exact location in time when the event first occurred. Quadrant II enables the therapist to know what there is to be worked with and literally to “read between the lines”. The therapist can then identify the metaphors and associated imagery so biologically locating physiological feelings. For example, if during an aromatherapy treatment a client says that they feel scared, rather than asking ‘Why?’, or ‘Would you like to explore that fear?’, the meta-aromatherapist might ask:

Meta-aromatherapist: And when you feel scared, where do you feel scared?
Client: In my tummy.
Meta-aromatherapist: And whereabouts in your tummy?
Client: At the bottom.
Meta-aromatherapist: And what is it like when it is at the bottom of your tummy?
Client: It is heavy.
Meta-aromatherapist: Heavy like what?
Client: Heavy like a stone.

When a feeling goes into a metaphor it becomes a foreign object which needs to be placed outside the body, not inside. The metaphor takes shape in the form of the stone. Metaphors are always capable of being drawn, i.e. they are objects. The stone, represents the fear, needs an “operation” to remove it or transform it from the tummy, where it doesn’t belong, so that the fear is also removed. 

By entering the stone, information about the metaphor can be obtained and once the metaphor has completed its task(s), the object transported back to it’s natural habitat, for example in a ravine or as part of a mountain, etc. and the client can then move on in their life past the frozen moment in time when the fear first arose. This is likely to have resulted in the client living aspects of their life from this frozen standpoint and explain behaviour or communication which is not a natural or helpful response to a given situation. Whilst the foreign object stays within the body, so the feeling remains unresolved. This can be likened to the process of antibodies fighting off bacteria.

Healing needs to take place in present time; a child’s unresolved metaphor needs to be healed through the metaphors at the time of the child so that the frozen moment of time is released and can grow into the adult they now are. Quadrant II work does not bring the pain of the child into the adult body. The therapist works with the “child” concerning the trauma of the “child”, not the adult.

Quadrant III: Overview – The physical map of the holding patterns

Quadrant III provides a birds eye view, mapping the perceptual space or the way things are perceived before they are spoken or discussed. It goes to a pre-verbal source through eye movements, twitching, sighing, clearing the throat and other vocal sounds. Once healing has taken place, these holding patterns will no longer be apparent and the physiology regains its natural elasticity and ability to respond. 

In addition, the client’s physiology will change in a positive way, whether muscles are taut through exercise or relaxed and at rest. Physical space has now been released within the body. This process can be likened to a metal spring which, having been distorted or compressed, has now regained its original shape and flexibility. These aspects can also be literally “mapped” using art therapy skills.

Quadrant IV: The origins - Revealing the source of the problem

Quadrant IV holds the genealogical or originating information. Many times the symptomology relates to a client’s lineage but has continued into their own lifetime. Asking questions which ascertain what happens just before the origination of the problem or where “it” came from, can often reveal ancestral information through several generations and may cover cultural, environmental, religious and universal experiences. This ensures that the root of a problem is addressed and not just the “presenting” condition.

© copyright 1998, Christine Westwood

Christine Westwood is an eminently qualified and widely respected pioneer of complementary medicine. She began her research whilst working as an EEC accountant and fifteen years ago set up a Meta-Aromatherapy practice to cater for the needs of stressed city workers and those seeking a more holistic approach to health management and latterly an international Meta-Aromatherapy training school. She is the author of several books including Aromatherapy for Stress Management, Healthy Legs and Feet. and best seller Aromatherapy A Guide for Home Use.

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