As a beginner student (and currently non practitioner) of PBSP there seems to be a lot of moving parts to the PBSP structure. I understand there's the tracking component which observes and reflects what is happening for the client in the here and now (use of place holders, witnessing, voices amongst others). I have trouble moving from there; linking what's happening in the present with the past. I understand the concept of movies but I think I'm referring to before you even get to making movies. I'm referring to where you're witnessing and reflecting and bringing the present to light... and then what? Are you always looking out for ideals? Keeping in the back of the mind how the ideal would have been if basic needs had been met? As experienced practitioners, what generally tends to happen or how do you approach linking the present to the past? And finally… is this a stupid question?!
Answer from Jim Amundsen:
First, let me assure you that there is no such thing as a “dumb” question in learning PBSP psychotherapy. Even for me, after over 30 years of learning and practicing this method, something often will strike me as “new” about what I’ve already learned.
One of my first training workshops was with Diane Boyden Pesso and I remember her saying, “Forget all the fancy stuff Al does. A structure is basically an ideal parent exercise.” To me this means that in your attempts to organize your thoughts and observations while leading a structure, never forget that your ultimate goal is to lead the client to a point of readiness to take in ideal parents. This is generally referred to as, “making a reversal.” A reversal is a reversal of a developmental history where a basic need was chronically left in an unsatisfactory state of satisfaction. These frustrating, unsatisfying and sometimes terrifying experiences in our developmental histories are often revealed most clearly in the “voices.” People are not conscious, generally speaking, of their voices. Voices are like the person’s internal traffic laws, e.g., come to stop at a red light. In our first 5 years of development, we learn 10’s of thousands of such rules without knowing that we are learning them. Thus, as you are microtracking a client (witnessing) 99% of the time voices will come up. For example, a new client of mine was fearful to speak in her first session. She kept asking me, “What should I talk about.” To which I would respond, “whatever is most on your mind.” She left the first session in an extreme state of frustration and anger towards me. In the second session I suggested it would be important to find her words around what made her so upset. She revealed that she had been adopted and always felt like it was her job to be a “fixer.” This meant to her, to solve other people problems. This was a voice, “It’s your job to fix other people’s troubles.” I was able to interpret to her, “No wonder you were so upset when I didn’t have an agenda for you because than you couldn’t figure out how to fix me by giving me what I want.” This led to another voice, “don’t have needs.”
The PBSP therapist takes statements like these and compares them to the ideal, where all basic needs are ok and where kids should grow up with a sense of confidence that if she were to need something like love, support, protection, and so on, that she can make those needs known and that they will be met. The reversal for the voice, “it’s your job to fix other people’s problems,” would be to have ideal parents who made it clear that it wasn’t her job to fix other people’s problems. In this client’s case things were more complicated. She was adopted because she was a product of a rape. As a child she unconsciously (no words or stories were available to say this or understand it for herself) felt that she was bad because she was the product of an evil man. Her voice that ordered her to be a “fixer” was based in a desire to protect her loved ones from the evil she felt like she carried around as part of her. So, the complete reversal was to have ideal parents who conceived her out of love and that she would not have to make reparations for anything.
So, to summarize, when we accurately (without projecting our own agenda into the client) micro track, the voices tend to emerge which take us right back to their developmental history. The reversal is almost always made in the historical scene. Which means, in answer to your question, yes -- ideal parents had they been back there then.
Your questions are great because they get at the very roots of PBSP. This tells me that your radar is locked into the right target! Keep asking those questions!