As you probably know in film-making a stunt double is someone who looks like the star and stands in for them in anything that looks remotely dangerous. The stunt double takes the risk while the star remains untouched. In a session with a client whom I’ll call Katie, we developed a way of using an ’emotional stunt double’ to do the difficult work of resolving a traumatic experience that happened more than 40 years ago.
Katie had been driving home late at night on a remote country road in bad weather. To avoid an oncoming driver she swerved off the road running into a stone wall. Recounting this story provoked a lot of emotion for her. Originally we were using the Movie Technique to resolve the trauma.
Since her experience was very intense I suggested that we might think of ourselves as onlookers to that traumatic experience and watch what had happened to that ‘younger Katie’.
There are two ways of recalling a memory, we can remember it as if seeing it through our own eyes – from an associated, first person, perspective, or we can see it as if we are looking at ourselves from an external point of view, almost as if we were someone else having this experience – this is a dissociated, third person, perspective.
One of the important differences between associated and dissociated memories is that dissociated memories are usually far less emotionally intense than the associated version. This seems to be an inbuilt protective mechanism that many people use to distance themselves from unpleasant experiences.
Using words that acknowledged this third person perspective we tapped for that ‘younger Katie’ who was having that traumatic experience.
Katie said: “She thinks she’s about to die – Rather than using the standard setup “Even though I think I’m about to die” which would associate her into a very unpleasant experience we used a third person setup statement for the ’emotional stunt double’.
“Even though she thinks she is about to die, I deeply and completely accept her.”