While agonizing over the presidential election, I just remembered that, in the long-term, you and I have no idea what the outcome of a Trump or a Clinton presidency would be. A so-called negative event can lead to a positive outcome and then the positive outcome can lead to a negative.

Actually, sooner or later it always does.

Not only that, but one person’s negative is another person’s positive.

Not only that, but in THE BIG PICTURE we see that everything in existence is being born, ascending, descending and dying. That includes mountain ranges, species, nations, bugs and you and me. Consciousness is an eternal changing, a sequence of interconnected beginnings and endings.

Not only that, but when my internal wellbeing is dependent on outside events (like this election), I am doomed to the stress of trying to control those outcomes according to my versions of good and bad. I am also doomed to combat about those outcomes with those whose versions of good and bad differ from mine.

Meanwhile, I am human. I agonize. I care. I have opinions. I send money. I vote.

And, when I remember THE BIG PICTURE, I also relax.



Riley K. Smith, MA, LMFT*


PREMISE: The upset about a current experience will have roots in an individual’s early history and effective psychotherapy addresses both – current event and early history.

One of my favorite topics covered in my Study/Support Series is a matrix for a somatic psychotherapy session that I learned as part of Integrative Body Psychotherapy1. It’s called Steps Out of Fragmentation.

My experience of the Steps Out of Fragmentation, both as client and therapist, is that it is both a powerful mental health tool and a step-by-step outline for a profound therapy intervention. Profound in that it addresses our upset pattern at the root of the problem and offers a self-healing experience at the level of the attachment injury. In the process of guiding our clients out of their fragmentation, we are also teaching them a way to handle their own upset whenever it comes up.



“I haven’t been able to sleep or think straight for 2 days,” David was talking as he came through the door and flopped down in the chair.

This was David’s fourth session. I had learned his history. He had responded well when I introduced him to Charge Breathing2 leading to a feeling of aliveness and calm. I had helped him identify his Basic Wound3 which is the tender place, the attachment injury, that is the primal source of his upset and the problem that brought him in.

David slouched in the chair looking miserable. This was a perfect opportunity to take him through the Steps Out of Fragmentation3 so that he can begin to learn to do the process for himself. I asked him if he’d like to learn how to get himself out of “the miseries.” He said he did, looking slightly hopeful. I guided him through the steps.

STEP ONE: Notice that you are fragmented. What you’re experiencing right now and for the last two days, the upset you feel, we’ll call it Fragmented.

“Describe it as best you can”.

“I made a mistake at work and it came out in a meeting. I felt exposed and ashamed, just like when I was a kid at school”.

“What’s the feeling in your body?”

“My face is hot. My solar plexus is on fire. I want to cry but I can’t breathe”.

“Anything else?”

“My mind is racing. That’s why I can’t sleep”.

“All those feelings and thoughts are parts of being fragmented. That’s the experience of being fragmented”.

STEP TWO: Reality check. Say, “I’ve been fragmented before and gotten out of it. I’ll be fragmented in the future and I’ll get out of it and I’ll get out of it this time too”. Say it until you can feel the truth of it in your body. This will usually bring a little relief and calm so that you can proceed to the next step.

STEP THREE: Identify the fragmenting event or events.

“When did you fragment? What was the last time you were calm?”

“I was calm when I went into the meeting. When my boss identified my mistake, I felt like I’d been pole-axed and I’ve been like this ever since”.

STEP FOUR: What happened in your childhood that felt that way – the earlier the better? He told of an experience of being shamed in class when he was in second grade. What nurturing or parenting was missing in that moment that would have soothed or prevented the upset? Make a note of the missing nurturing message(s). Examples of nurturing messages: I see you and I hear you. It’s not what you do, but who you are that I love. I’ll take care of you. You don’t have to be alone anymore.

STEP FIVE: I coached him in Charge Breathing until he was energized, present, alert and calm.ecstatic-copy

STEP SIX: Give yourself the nurturing message(s) as if you were talking to the upset child that you were. I fed him the nurturing messages that he had identified, one at a time. He repeated them until he could experience the effect of each one as a body sensation. Each message deepened the relaxation and calm that he felt until he was peaceful and present. I then asked him to think about the upsetting event at work and report what he experienced right now. He reported that he had lost the upset about it and was beginning to think about what to do to fix the mess.

He said that it didn’t feel like a catastrophe anymore, only a problem to solve.


*ABOUT THE AUTHOR: LMFT in private practice since 1976. Faculty member at the Integrative Body Psychotherapy Central Institute in Venice since 2004. Trained therapists for eight years as Clinical Director at an out-patient drug program. AAMFT certified supervisor till 2008. Co-author of How to Be Happy Partners, a cooperative problem-solving manual for couples. Member of CAMFT, AAMFT and U.S. Assoc. of Body Psychotherapists.

1Integrative Body Psychotherapy was developed by Jack Lee Rosenberg, Ph.D., Beverly Kitean-Morse, Psy.D., Marjorie Rand, Ph.D, and others.   For more information about IBP and the training, see www.ibponline.org   Also there is a summary of IBP at www.wikipedia.org

2Charge Breathing. Breathing fully is essential to feeling and being alive. Regulating the breath is also the first and most fundamental somatic defense for coping with the Basic Fault. When an infant experiences the stress of a need not being met, it reduces its breathing to reduce the intensity of the stress it feels. Reduced breathing also makes it impossible to feel fully alive and present. We must breathe fully to experience our Core Self. In IBP, breathing fully is the most important tool for attaining and sustaining mental and physical health.

3BASIC FAULT.   The Basic Fault is the bad feeling, the somatic reaction, psychological upset, confusion and negative belief about the self that results from needs not met in infancy. It is the primal wound that is the foundation and reason for the psychological, behavioral and somatic patterns that interrupt aliveness and wellbeing. The Basic Fault is a lie about the Self that is held deep in the body and the psyche. It is also the root of upsets in the present. Everyone has a Basic Fault.


WHY DO WE DEFEND OUR BUBBLE? Why do I resist expanding my bubble?


ANOTHER BUBBLE QUESTION:  Following up on My Bubble Theory.


WHY DO WE DEFEND OUR BUBBLE? Why do I resist expanding my bubble?


Creating and posting this blog has been a major expansion of my bubble. In the days leading up to posting and announcing it I was imagining negative reactions from strangers and friends. Thoughts of “Arrogant” and “Self Important Fool” and “Irrelevant” circled like vultures in my brain. I was hyper aware and awestruck at the public antics of Donald Trump. Through a misunderstanding, a good friend criticized the site and an ex-client from many years ago posted a horrible comment on a therapist review website. On the morning I published the site and began telling people about it, I had an episode of diahhrea. I wasn’t sick. My body simply said, “I can let go now” and, boy, did it.SPEAK YOUR TRUTH AND DIE

So my bubble is larger…and I’m pretty sure I know what the resistance was about. My family, my heritage, my karma, my bubble was built on shame and fear. My father said a thousand times, “Don’t stick your neck out,” and “Always Be Careful.” He even abbreviated it, “ABC,” as I would go out the door. I believe I was beheaded for speaking heretical ideas in the middle ages (or I dreamed it. That’s another bubble issue).

I can see that not speaking up was a survival issue. One of my bubble beliefs, mostly unconscious, was “speak your truth and you die.” Of course I would defend my bubble.  I believed my life depended on it.

Does this example extend to the other beliefs that form my bubble? Does it extend to other people’s bubbles? I say Probably. It bears consideration. Discuss.

Another issue is what motivates us and allows us to expand our bubble? That’s for next time. Stay tuned.