I took a course in the Applied Interpersonal Neurobiology (AIN) certificate program at Southwestern College’s New Earth Institute this past weekend. It was a 20 hour course, one of 6 courses required to obtain the AIN certificate. It was titled Neurobiological Roots and Applications of Experiential Action Methods. This all sounds pretty dry doesn’t it!?
The content of the course was anything but dry. There was laughing, crying, and every emotion possible. Oh, and a dance-off! The experiential action methods the title of the course refers to are a number of techniques utilized to access important psychological material and for regulating trauma-based automatic responses. A few of these action methods included mindfulness practices, ‘doubling’, utilizing ‘felt sense’, tracking somatic cues, cultivating regulation and co-regulation, identification, externalization, art, and play. A major component of the class was training and engaging in psychodrama.
The psychodrama was incredibly powerful and potently healing. In my own psychodrama, I chose group members to sculpt into a scene of my choosing. I created a part of my past whose emotional resonance seems to be ‘stuck’ in me. It exemplifies my sense of bewilderment and desolation as a teenager. I was requested by the counselor/instructor/director to place and give expression and description to the auxiliary in my scene. I spoke to my teenage self and told her the things she needed to hear at that time, primarily “I see you”. I did not obtain permission to photograph this scene so I later created artwork as a representation (pictured).
It was explained that one reason for the potency of psychodrama is that the group (auxiliary and witnesses) function as an important figure in the repair of insecure attachment and trauma. When trauma occurs there is most often a sense of abandonment, isolation, and aloneness. Being able to witness the scene provides an important perspective and empowerment. Having witnesses relieves the sense of being alone. These experiences can actually re-wire neurological structures that have been ‘frozen in time’.
The goal of all the experiential action methods presented in the course is to return to a state of greater natural spontaneity. This natural spontaneity is inhibited by implicit memory surges resulting from insecure attachment as well as major and minor emotional traumas. The idea is to experience the traumatic content from a specific perspective which can provide a space in which true integration can occur. Of course this is my distilled interpretation of the content presented by the instructors of the course. Their expertise, training, gentle care, and wealth of information cannot be understated. It was a truly remarkable experience and I am thrilled to have had this opportunity.