Learning from Gogglebox
Broadchurch storyline and viewers' responses illustrate principles of Biodynamic Psychotherapy
** Trigger warning - this post contains details which some readers may find distressing **
Did you see Gogglebox and/or Broadchurch this week?
I was struck by how accurately both the Broadchurch storyline and the Gogglebox viewers' responses illustrated some key principles of Biodynamic Psychotherapy.
In case you haven't seen either, let me explain that the Broadchuch storyline is concerned with the aftermath of a rape, during which the survivor cannot at first recall the detail of who perpetrated the rape or exactly what happened. Gogglebox showed viewers watching and responding to the scene where the survivor revisits the environment and remembers the events leading up to and including the rape.
(I am using the expression "unfinished business" to refer to any unresolved shock, trauma or emotional experience we have not been able to process completely.)
Bodies hold memories of unfinished business which minds cannot access
It is only as she recreates the scene by placing herself physically in the posture and environment of the traumatic incident that the survivor begins to become conscious of the detail of what she has experienced.
Our stress response to unfinished business is the same, whether an experience is happening now, remembered or anticipated
The survivor becomes visibly more agitated as she approaches the scene of the rape. The people accompanying her become more anxious for her wellbeing, knowing that she is accurately reliving the detail of the traumatic event . The viewers begin to cower and express their discomfort at what they might be about to witness.
Our bodies are "charged" by the impulse to complete unfinished business and must "discharge" at resolution
The survivor vomits as she relives the experience of being raped. This is a visceral response which powerfully expresses her violent repulsion at what has in fact been a violent invasion - and it is therefore a highly appropriate response at a bodily level.
In Biodynamic Psychotherapy we can work with the impulse to respond at a non-verbal level before needing to put it into words. This is particularly useful for working with unfinished business from the early pre-verbal phases of life, and also for working with shock and trauma, when we are not yet able to translate our experience into words.
In the therapy room we are prepared for the occasional similarly violent visceral response, but more often we are able to support the client to discharge in a modified way which nevertheless corresponds closely enough to facilitate resolution.