Handling Clients' Big Emotions
by Michael J. Kline
How do you handle a client who gets extremely emotional or in technical terms, has a complete melt down during their session? How do you handle stories of past trauma? What do you do if a client goes places you are not comfortable with or feel you’re not qualified to handle? How can you help clients with their real root issue/s without digging up the roots?
I think many coaches and therapists fear taking clients too deep, either for their own comfort, or the client’s comfort. When these same helping professionals become my students, they assume a different perspective. Their prior training typically was from a cognitive perspective of helping clients shift or reframe issues. What I teach is about creating emotional safety, processing negative emotions without reliving negative experiences. This allows the emotions to freely flow and dissipate on their own while creating new positive emotions, anchored at a visceral level. As the saying goes, “what you resist not only persists, but expands.” Once we learn how to allow our own emotions to flow, we quickly realize how safely and easily we can help clients process emotions with miraculous and sometimes instant results in a single session.
At this point, I should address the immediate concern some readers may have. Yes, it is important that every professional stay in their own lane and work within their area of expertise. Coaches and other helping professionals are not mental health professionals, and must not dabble in diagnosing, prescribing, or becoming the “expert”. Anyone can do this style of big work, while staying within the legal and ethical standards of their profession. I spend a lot of time teaching the difference, and how to create emotional safety for our clients. We all have emotions, and emotions are not a mental illness. Big emotions are just an opportunity for big work.
From personal experience, I learned that getting my “own stuff” out of the way was key to better serving my clients. Once we do that, the sky’s the limit to how deep we can take clients in resolving a lifetime of blocks and suffering. The problem is our culture taught/teaches us to fear emotions. When you were four years old and cried, an adult probably told you that big girls/boys don’t cry. You may have been assured that “you don’t really feel that way”, or my favorite, “stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about.”
My own first memory of being told to “man-up” was at 5 years old. At age 7, upon my mother’s death, I was told “don’t cry, and you have to be a grownup now!” This is obviously not helpful even if our parents meant well. In fact, most parents were not taught to process emotions either. So, they feel discomfort when strong feelings arise and don’t know what to do but use the same language that was used on them as children. Unfortunately, this language can be harmful and weaken a child without even realizing it. It’s the parents, family, friends, and teachers own discomfort with emotions that can create lasting shame, low self-esteem, etc.
While participating in a ten-day silent Vipassana meditation retreat, I learned that the Buddha was teaching how to process emotions similarly, 2500 years ago. He taught that feelings are intangible, and you can’t think your way out of them. Emotions flow through the body naturally, and if you resist negative emotions they expand and if you allow them to flow, they will dissipate on their own.
Dr Deb Sandella, the creator of the RIM (Regenerating Images in Memory) method, calls it the River of Emotions. Emotions flow through the body like water flows through a river. Emotions are dynamic in nature, until we resist – or build a dam in the river to block the feelings we don’t like. No matter the size or intensity of emotions, if we allow the client’s imagination to make them tangible in their own unique way, we can create emotional safety so the client can be in it. There, they can regenerate new images in memory (RIM) and experience the emotions dissipating through their body in real time. We then anchor the new positive, lighter, freer, safer feeling in their body. Once complete, the client no longer needs to carry that history. The work on that specific negative emotion/issue is done. The original factual memory is still intact but loses the negative charge it once had. That’s the genius of Dr Sandella’s discoveries about emotions. The client can now move on, the negative emotions no longer drive their decisions and behavior that have been running their lives beneath their conscious awareness.
Helping clients bring that which is not in their awareness, into awareness and dissolving it naturally, is relatively easy after we do the hard work of getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. This happens once we can allow enough of our own big emotions to dissipate from our bodies. Once we know how it feels to allow and be free, and that we survived what we thought would kill us, we can easily walk with our clients through just about anything. Using the RIM tool, you’ll never again be at a loss of what to say or do with a client even when they go to their darkest moments.
For deeper insights to the RIM work I’ve been teaching, I recommend reading Dr Deborah Sandella’s book Goodbye Hurt & Pain or join me for a free sample RIM experience online.
Michael Kline is a Certified RIM Facilitator and Canfield Success Trainer for personal and group transformation. You can reach him through his website intus.life or e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org.