My phenomenological journey of authentic-self at Clay Field Therapy

I had never heard about Clay Field Therapy (CFT) until I came across it towards the end of 2015, I felt an inquisitive desire to seek therapy, I wanted to test this Clay Field therapy. Being desperate, I wanted to try any form of therapy as long as my feeling of inadequacy or “lacking in confidence” is no longer an issue in my life. For far too long I have been “stuck in a web of insecurity and fear of rejection. The Clay Field Therapy sessions alluding to “here and now” experiences have enabled me to regain my authentic self. In essence, phenomenologically speaking, CFT has given me back my life at the age of 56; thus, my challenge is directed towards any age group who has given up trying many different therapies out there; choose clay field therapy (CFT) before “throwing in the towel” as your last resort. As for me, I have gained self-confidence and a high self-esteem, and more importantly, I now communicate in an assertive manner without any inhibitions conceivably as stumbling blocks in my life!

I am a 56 year old mother of six adult children and have been married to my husband now for 32 years. My ethnicity is Papua New Guinean, but I am now an Australian citizen together with my nuclear family for about 10 years since. Last year (2015) I completed my bachelor’s degree in counselling (Coaching). The journey I ventured into was mainly to develop self-awareness in order to build my authentic self in areas of social ineptness. Hence, any opportunity I get is beneficial towards my self-discovery.

Inevitably, to have an unfounded fear of being judged can render one incapable of developing a healthy self-esteem and self-confidence and that was who I had been. On the contrary, I developed a coping mechanism which is an unconscious habit of displaying positive traits like ‘being a people pleaser; or considering other people’s needs before my own for example. One may conclude that “my happiness depends on other people’s happiness.” I have always lived my life pleasing people because of fear of rejection and negative judgment. These behavioral attitudes compounded a mild form of APD in my life.

To highlight my point, I was adopted at

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just two weeks old and that is where I believe the insecurity stems from. Growing up as a child I reflect, I was always fearful of strangers. My adoptive parents were not always around and too often they would ask other people to take care of me for long periods. I remember my adoptive mother and sister would sometimes abuse me physically and verbally call me abusive names. The only person who I trusted and who protected me was my adoptive father. If my adoptive father was not around I would hide in the bush or the pig’s pen which was under the house until someone finds me. I had nowhere else to hide and be comforted especially when my father was not around.

Nevertheless, I have always believed that there were still setbacks and arrested developmental stages in my life. Even though, I have had various theoretical counselling sessions whereby the therapist applied techniques such as family systems, psychodynamic, CBT, and mindfulness techniques to help me invigorate self-confidence and self-esteem, nothing really sifted psychologically. Hence, I have gained a lot of head knowledge about my setbacks but in reality my feelings and behavior have not changed.

The first session with Donna Mahoney was the hardest because I kept trying to refocus cognitively instead of concentrating on my inner bodily sensations. When I eventually started paying attention to my body, I felt as though my physical strength has demolished as I helplessly struggle with the clay. At that instant I felt a sense of loss it’s as if someone I am close to is dead and the realization the person will never come back is overwhelming! I felt so alone and lost and it’s not okay. I am pretty sure that I felt anger. I felt vulnerable, alone and scare; that anything can happen to me and there is no one to protect nor provide a safe and secure environment. I lament the world of insecurity and terror. I remember growing up feeling that a stranger is going to kidnap me; literally I find myself clinging so tightly on to my adopted mother’s skirt, hiding my face, while at the same time I had ambivalence feelings towards her as she too might give me away to some stranger! At two weeks old, my biological mother gave me away to my adopted parents who live on a Manam island in the Bismarck Archipelago. My Biological parents and siblings lived about 15 kilometers on the mainland of PNG. Growing up on the island was fun as a child, but there were emotional detachments involved. As a matter of fact, I was moved around from one baby-sitter to the next depending on the circumstances with my adoptive parents. Apparently three nannies who took care of me, plus the whole village raised me up symbolically speaking. Consequently, these experiences could be said to have neurologically imprinted fear, social inhibitions and distrust of people in my life. Thus, my overt behavior was to control situations and to try to please people, because contrariwise I will feel awfully bad if I am not liked!

Anyhow, at the beginning of first and second sessions, I could feel my fingers were sort of clawing into the clay which felt as hard as a rock! Although there was warm water nearby to squeeze some into the clay, I could sense that for some unknown reason I was avoiding the water. I know I was struggling, I could not let go of my thoughts and flow with the sensation of my hands or fingers working the clay.

20150707_113941 (2)Anyhow, in the second session I could feel the clay was much easier to manipulate without struggling mentally as I could feel my hands digging into the clay with sensory awareness. If I could draw the contrast between the first and the second session, it was evident that the first session was filled with self-doubt; I was mental struggling to be a good client by not making a terrible mess with the clay! As the sessions continue, I gain more confidence in trusting my hands wherever they lead me. In particular, the last two sessions left a “figure print” on my life. Memories of being lost, unwanted, unloved, loneliness, and being very vulnerable overwhelmed me; but at the same time I can feel being loved and protected as my therapist confidently nudged me on into this phenomenological journey of “here and now” experiences. I am so grateful; thank you Donna!

Moreover, now I can honestly say I have self-confidence and a high self-esteem since I began the journey together with my Clay Field Therapist (I take my hat to you, Donna). The results from these therapy sessions can easily be deciphered by those who know me well; those who can tell that I am no longer someone with self-limiting negative believes especially in social situations. Furthermore, the social anxiety that I often experience is no longer a self-limiting belief as I begin to reflect on my social behavior over the past couple of weeks since attending (CFT). To recall, my attitude now is one of self confidence in my approaches to people and groups; I feel a sense of freedom as if the weight has rolled of my back finally! Obviously, besides my own self-reflection of covert changes, people within my proximity also noticed the overt changes and expressed them to me, thanks to my therapist who authentically displayed empathy, encouragement, and unconditional positive regard for me.

*This Journey has been shared with the permission of the client and identifying information has been deleted to protect her privacy.