I have found in my front-line clinical work that one simple, concise and effectively timed question can open up a space where critical embodied engagement can ensue.
The question, "do you feel like yourself?", can trigger a catalyst of inter-related historical and current experiences. The dialogue may unfold as follows:
Therapist: Do you feel like yourself.
Client: I don't know really, not really sure what's up with me, but feeling a bit different, a bit off.
Asking this next critical question can suddenly assist the person to recall embodied memories, surfacing as snapshots in time. This facilitates a yardstick of measurement around their range of historical experiences.
Therapist: When did you last at any point in your life feel more like yourself ?
This question can eventually extend to asking the client to do a conscious and purposeful scan of his entire life course and tweak out all those snapshots that he felt like himself, and alternatively tweak out his "off" feeling memories . In essence by the client tapping into overall dialectic (polarized) states of being they are able to recapture entangled embodied image memories, physical sensations and cultural meanings that can be unlayered at a later stage. For example:
Client: I recall being around twenty at university hanging out with my girlfriend, doing things with her, feeling really good, physically charged even, my head used to get this burning up sensation, even had these ideas that I was omnipotent and could do anything, go anywhere. In fact another time I remember about 9 or 10 years old and I played in the soccer team at my school, and we all used to go in a group to the movies following- that burning up sensation and feeling I am in charge was similar in some way. The way I feel now, this not myself feeling, is kind of like being underwater even. I feel like I am here in person but no-one sees me. Actually I felt like I was invisible also during my last couple years of high school around 16 years old. Felt like I was trapped. Stuck. That is familiar to me now . I used to lie in bed and my chest would constrict as a teen - strangely enough that is what is happening almost every night these days.
Therapist: So now you have something to compare, your sense of self at different points in your life. What is it about this moment in time that is connected to all those previous childhood moments that you felt similar?
At this juncture the dialogue shifts from abstract into concrete, in that the client may in fact have language now to align with their range of experience. In essence this simple question "do you feel like yourself" has opened a space where the client can tap more into relational embodied memory, including memory of combined and entangled bodily sensations, cultural narratives and feeling states. The abstract initial experience is now becoming grounded in language through recognizing alternate states of being.