Ego State Therapy is an innovative and holistic approach that facilitates healing through the use of powerful imagery exercises.
It works by integrating parts of the personality that may be in conflict and causing anxiety, depression or other problems. In my years of practice, I have observed that the therapy is highly effective in treating mood disorders, eating disorders, trauma, anxiety and depression.
What is an Ego State?
An ego state is a part or aspect of your personality. All of us have different ego states that help us function in our different roles. We’re not the same at work as we are at home. We’re not the same when we focus on getting a task done as when we’re attending a social gathering.
For people who have been through trauma, especially repeated difficulties in childhood, the ego states are often problematic. For instance, if you grew up with a father who was judgmental and demeaning, and your boss at your job reminds you of your father, you might find yourself overly reactive to the boss.
In this case, the goal of Ego State Therapy would be to work with the part of you that learned to feel angry or shamed in the face of criticism. Ultimately this frees you from the past – to feel and respond differently in the present – when facing a critical boss.
Uncoupling Past Events from Present Day Beliefs
Problem resolution comes from using imagery to access an ego state with all of the associated feelings, sensations, thoughts and beliefs. This allows conscious visit the totality of an experience, integrating mind and body in a process that is guided by a skilled therapist.
We begin the work with a mental image (usually a memory) of an event from the recent or distant past that is upsetting to you. The imagery process uses an inner focus (like meditation) so that the situation seems very real again. By immersing in the memory, we experience the physical sensations, feelings, beliefs about self or the world are elicited by this upsetting past situation. By returning to the original events and working through them, we are able to reduce or eliminate the influence of past events over present day experiences.
How Imagery Works
Continuing with the example above of the person who is very reactive to their critical boss, we might start with a memory from earlier that day where the boss heavily edited a report. The person felt ashamed and worried they would be fired, even though they’ve worked there for years and got good annual reviews from this boss.
The imagery would start with the memory of the person finding the edited report in their inbox. Then we work through three steps:
- I encourage them to describe the feelings and sensations of that memory, then let their mind associate that one with a different memory where they had this same constellation of feelings and sensations. This is the ego state, and this technique is called the ego state bridge.
- Once they’ve made a transition from present situation to past, I ask them to describe that scene. It could be that they’ve brought home a bad report card and Dad is belittling them. He says things like “never thought a son of mine would bring home grades like this”. Going into those feelings we will most likely be able to identify a belief about self like “I’m no good” or some variation on that.
- Then we seek resolution in the imagery. I prompt the client to modify the image in a way that will bring relief to the ashamed child ego state. This is a profound experience – what happens in the imagery becomes a new psychological reality. Thus, reactivity to future critical experiences at work will diminish or disappear.
This creative psychotherapeutic approach has proven to be remarkably effective in generating an experience of healing for my clients. Please contact SSPA to discuss how Ego State Therapy might help you to work through your present situation. We work with clients from throughout the Washington DC metropolitan area and Silver Spring, Maryland.