Creating the Shadow Healing score

I was at Xplore in Berlin this summer, a wonderful festival of sexuality, dance, movement and personal growth. There I came across the term ‘score’ for the first time. This term, which comes from dance, describes the outline of what’s going to happen in a personal growth sequence. I loved this term used this way, so I’ve started using it to describe the Shadow Healing sequences I create with and for clients. In this post I’ll talk about how I devise Shadow Healing scores and why they help people to heal and transform.

Each score is unique, because each client is unique. At the start of a Healing session I talk with the client for a long time (usually an hour, sometimes more) to understand where they’re at and what they want to work through. During the first session this conversation goes very deep, to allow me to understand what traumas they’ve experienced. In this dialogue I put a particular focus on childhood and the first few sexual experiences the client had.

For those who worry that this is all a bit Freudian (“Tell me about your mother”) – well, in a way, it is. I do believe that our parents are our first role models, and in a way they’re our first lovers too. I don’t mean that we literally make love with them; rather, that the nature of the relationship we have with our parents determines how we approach love, sex and relationships when we grow up.

During this initial conversation I also use my intuition to sense how strong the client’s system is and how directly we can address their issues during the session? Sometimes it’s necessary to establish a baseline of love and trust between us before doing anything more intense – particularly for those who had their trust breached so early that they don’t have any imprint of trust and intimacy.

If I sense that this is what’s necessary, I start with a score that sounds basic but is actually very powerful. I might spend a whole session holding them in a space of unconditional love and invite them to express any feelings that arise for them. If this is the first time they’ve been given this type of attention, it can bring a lot to the surface – often nothing more is needed in the first session. In these cases I often use eye gazing, gentle holding and non-sexual conscious touch to let the client’s system know that I am a safe person they can open up to.

When the client is ready – whether that’s during the first session or a subsequent one – I develop different scores to enable healing and transformation. For example: if the client experienced mixed messages from their parents – love on the one hand, violence (or the threat of violence) on the other – I recreate this dynamic with them. I might do this by tying them up and stroking them tenderly in one moment, then slapping them hard in the next. By playing out that mixture of tenderness and aggression I take them back into the feelings they had as children, with the intention of releasing what got stuck there. This can often lead to a powerful emotional release: crying, shouting, sometimes even puking or pissing. I am rarely surprised by what arises, and I welcome it all. In that space I feel unconditional love and an unlimited amount of compassion.

Another example score: the client felt utterly smothered by their parents, so they push people away when they feel crowded or hemmed in. In this case I might wrap them up in cling film or bind them with straps or rope, then sit on top of them. I might say things their parents would’ve said – for example, “we love you but we don’t know what to do with your mood swings.” Again, the aim is to trigger the client into being back in that place, as this awakens the neural pathways where those memories are stored.

Once the client is deeply in that triggered place, and they’ve released a lot of what was stuck in their system, I do a process called ‘re-imprinting’. Often this is about agency: where they had no control as children, they are invited to ask for exactly what they need from this ideal parent. Apparently when a neural pathway is ignited and then a ‘new memory’ is established, the brain doesn’t know which is which: by offering them a new version of their childhood, we are effectively rewriting their history. It’s not that the old memory gets deleted, the two memories simply sit side by side – but if the person keeps accessing the new memory, the old one grows weaker and eventually dies off.

This process is fascinating, and I’m extremely grateful to Elena Tonetti for researching it and sharing her wisdom with the world.

Whatever score I feel is best for the client, I get full consent from them before we begin. This is of the utmost importance: for this work to be transformative, the client has to know that they’re safe and that they can escape if they need to. This is one of the ways in which these healing scores are different from the original traumatic event, and the main reason that people aren’t re-traumatised by this work. By negotiating consent thoroughly and ensuring that the client remains in choice with the work, we let their system know that this is healing and not a repeat of the original trauma.

In this work I always give the client a safeword. This allows them to say whatever they need to say during the session without me needing to check in. Often they need to tell their parents or first lovers how angry and hurt they are, and a safeword allows them to do that. If they say “Fuck you” I can carry on with the score; but if they say “Red” I know that they need me to stop and check in. This is another way in which the work triggers but does not retraumatise the client.

The word ‘score’ is appropriate because a Shadow Healing score provides a loose framework within which we can ‘dance’ and improvise. Often I don’t know how things will unfold once we start playing the score together. The score establishes what the client has consented to and where I’m trying to take them. This is the framework, and the rest is a dynamic process that arises in the moment. In this way there is a balance between safety and exploration, between the known and the unknown. And most importantly, the client always knows that they have agency to stop things if it all gets too much.

Each client is unique and each session is unique. When someone really wants to transform the traumas of the past I recommend a Shadow Healing journey, typically 3-5 sessions, where we work through things step by step. (You can read a beautiful account of one client’s journey here.) I don’t create the score for the whole journey at the outset, but rather allow things to unfold organically as we take the journey together. It’s like exploring: we establish where the client is and where they want to be, and then we begin to travel together. Each score is a roadmap for a section of the journey. Between sessions the client often travels further down the road on their own. So when they come for the next session we begin with talking again, we see what has arisen since the last session and we create a new score together.

Shadow Healing is a powerful process and it’s not for the faint-hearted! This is deep, intense work and it’s ideally suited to those who’ve already done some therapy and have a solid sense of self. It ‘reaches the places other healing processes cannot reach’, delving into the depths of the psyche to remove what is blocking the client from being fully alive and feeling that they are good enough.

Would you like to have a Shadow Healing session or begin a Shadow Healing journey with Faerie? Read more here >>

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