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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Enacting an unfinished narrative event : the lived experience of sensorimotor processing in Therapeutic Enactment Tsai, Michelle Y.


Self is a perpetually rewritten script. As bodily sensations, rather than cognitive interpretation, create emotional states, awareness of bodily sensations is critical to one’s experience and expression of self (Kepner, 1987; Damasio, 1999). This qualitative study was designed to discuss the lived meanings of sensorimotor processing in group-based Therapeutic Enactment in order to shed light on the gestalt process of change involved. Utilizing the descriptive phenomenological psychological method (Giorgi & Giorgi, 2003), the present study purported to answer the qualitative research question: “What is the lived experience of sensorimotor processing when individuals complete an unfinished or uncompleted narrative event or action through Therapeutic Enactment?” Qualitative data were collected using in-depth phenomenological interviews and Kagan’s (1975, 1980) interpersonal process recall (IPR) method from 3 participants who have recently completed a Therapeutic Enactment Director Training workshop. Data analysis yielded 3 situated descriptions in respect of the structure of sensorimotor processing within the context of Therapeutic Enactment. The dynamic interplay between the phenomenon of sensorimotor processing and the nature of in-process change in Therapeutic Enactment was highlighted and compared across all 3 situated descriptions. Consistent with what is proposed in contemporary therapeutic practice (van der Kolk, 1996/2007; Ogden, 2003), all 3 participants appear to have established new connections between their cognition and associated affect through enacting an unfinished or missed sensorimotor action. The findings bring to light that experiencing of one’s sensorimotor self is at the heart of therapeutic change for individuals affected by trauma. This study adds to the understanding of how being in touch with one’s disowned bodily self can promote the integrative functions of higher-level cognitive and emotional processing.

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