years back I was struggling to jump free of the printed musical page and start
creating improvisations of my own. I love the way the saxophone sounds, and I
love some of the beautiful take-offs the jazz greats could do on time-honored
melodies. It was nothing less than the ability to compose music in the moment,
while keeping within the overall choral framework of the tune. It was what
Billie Holiday could do with her voice and what Stan Getz and John Coltrane did
with their horns.
just didn't trust myself. I got concerned about
the ratio of sounding lousy about 98 percent of the time and only sounding
passably "correct" the other 2 percent. Even when I heard something pleasant in
my head, I noticed my thoughts fearfully returning to fundamentals right in the
middle of a passage--the equivalent of asking myself out loud if I was doing it
right or not. Needless to say, this is not conducive to improvisation. It's the condition in RRT we call "headlights turned in," and it's the opposite of the creative freedom that comes of being tuned in
to what's going on.
the same thing happens after many of us come through Level I, Level II, and
even Level III trainings. We go back to the confines of our office and start to
stumble around and doubt ourselves. We fall into shame about not being able to
always hit the right note and begin comparing ourselves to the towering prowess
of a master clinician, like Connelly or some illusory template. We forget that
what we saw in trainings was the distillation of hundreds if not thousands of
hours of searching and stumbling; that he is constantly trying out new stuff,
throwing this away, but keeping that, refining it even further. Improvisation
for Jon is the normal process and is exactly how RRT came into existence.
I've noticed on the teleconference calls so many of us are asking
questions about why Jon chose to clear a client with one combination of
interventions and not another. Why did he put the induction at the end or not
use one at all? Why did he pass over an initial issue the client voiced and go
with a different, more central one? How does he know to do what he does? Why can't
we have a simple template that will fitour clients in every situation?
answer lies in what Jon has put right at the heart of the whole method--a
certain confidence in the connection and the centrality of continually reading
the participant. He is constantly reading a persons responsiveness, looking at the effects he is having, while keeping
his intention for the participant clearly in mind. An avenue that worked nicely
with the last one starts to not work with this one, so he switches up to a
different tool. I once heard him say in response to a slight miss in a live
demonstration, "That's all right, there are a lot of keys on
the keyring." While working within the rubrics of keeping the intention at all
times, he is not afraid to experiment with what comes to mind.
to trust the vast storehouse of our own unconscious which is packaged in
stories and metaphors. Though not an example from RRT I experienced this in
action just the other day. I was with a shamed husband, shamed because of not
being able to keep his wife happy at all times. He got triggered by her tears and
so distressed was he that he suddenly bolted out of his
chair, ready to quit the session.
I was at
a loss for what to say as he was already half-way out of the room. But all of a
sudden a memory from my wrestling days flashed back. It was 1972 and I was team
captain, enjoying some celebrity in my high school. One day the athletic
director and coaches brought in a blind kid who was interested in the sport. It
was some sort of interface with the parks and rec program, and they wanted him
to experience a team practice and a live bout so they paired him with me for
one two-minute period. I remember his name was Jimmy, and he wanted so badly to
do well. But when he went to perform the basic moves he had learned in the
parks and rec program, I was able to block him easily.
he burst out in tears. With a lot of people looking on, I was sure I'd blown it. His display became a statement about me and connoted my
failure to successfully introduce him to the sport. I was sure everyone was
looking at me as some kind of jerk. Embarrassed, I rushed out of the practice
room and stormed into the locker room, kicking stuff around for a half-hour in
a shame attack. It was not my finest hour. Back in the session, I told the
husband this story quickly, ending with, "I think I understand something about
what you just went through a moment ago as you saw your wife's tears." He sat back down nodding his agreement.
I'd say that was the turning point of the session. It felt like a
tremendous risk, but by going with it, I connected with him. And by not talking
about, but showing vulnerability, I helped him get to back into connection with
her. Needless to say, I didn't have time to consult any manuals or
call a supervisor or review teaching tapes to weigh the wisdom of such a
disclosure. And notice this: I had not thought of that incident in more than 40
years. But precisely at the right moment, my mind showed it to me, and how to
the way to learn RRT is a lot like learning jazz. We have to practice our basic
scales by listening to tapes and watching video of various sequences to learn
the scaffolding of the method. There are many new principles in RRT that
overturn what we learned in graduate school, and it takes awhile to assimilate
this. But with enough listening and watching, a storehouse builds up from which
we can draw. There is no boilerplate formula or a map that will guide every
case. Instead there is a songbook of basic tunes with many possible touches and
flourishes that we can make our own and add to as the situation calls for it.
return to our offices and face real people in the midst of real pain, ready to
have an interaction that has never appeared in history before. It is time to go
live with whatever we've got, and trust that the words will be
there. It's time to trust the intention we have
for the client who is leaning into being understood in his or her uniqueness
and following us all the way to target. It is time to take out our instrument
and play the music of RRT. And when, inevitably, we face choices about where to
go next, to simply trust whatever comes to mind.
Mark A. Chidley, LMHC, CAP, a fully licensed mental health
counselor and certified addictions professional, offers counseling services at
his office Kelly San Carlos Executive Center in Fort Myers, Florida.He has been in private practice
since 1997. He holds certifications in Rapid Trauma Resolution (2010), Imago
Relationship therapy (2001), and now specializes in the treatment of couples as
well as individual trauma recovery and anxiety issues. He brings rich experience
from a combined 26 years of hospital work and mental health counseling.