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Unread 01-27-2009, 04:18 AM   #1
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Default fetal position?

Another post just referred to patients going into the fetal position.

Throughout the 13 years of therapy with my old T (over a 17 year period), I would go into the fetal position sometimes. Far more so in the early years, but even right up to 6 weeks before termination. I recall going into the position when addressing sexual issues, in particular the topic of an episode of a form of sexual abuse by my mother. So it happened when I started at 23 and the last time I was 40--that last time was when addressing the sexual abuse issue.

I'd curl my knees up and wrap my arms around them; bunch myself up into a tight ball. Usually I wouldn't make eye contact. There were other times when I wouldn't make eye contact (no fetal position, I think). It would sometimes go on for sessions in a row. I don't remember how many, but I recall once that it was 3 or maybe 4 in a row where I didn't look at her at all.

I don't think she ever offered an interpretation of it.

I do know that it happened in relation to the topic of the abusive episode, but also early on in relation to a body image issue borne of abuse by my mother about a related topic. The latter issue’s shame fell by the wayside--mostly, the sexual aspect never did.

How common is it for clients to curl into the fetal position? Are there working theories about when/why it happens? Mostly relating to sexual issues, sexual abuse, or abuse issues in general? I thought I was the only one.
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Unread 01-27-2009, 07:26 AM   #2
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Default Re: fetal position?

I don't know....I do tend to really curl up into a ball and sit sideways on the couch and rest the side of my head on the back of the couch - or hide my face behind my hands.

For me, it just feels like a way of protecting myself. It's not conscious when I do it, but I have had T try to get me to sit up, put my feet on the floor, etc when I'm getting too lost in whatever made me curl up in the first place. I tend to do it when I'm in a really young place.

I have no idea if it's common, etc - but that is my experience...


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Unread 01-27-2009, 09:13 AM   #3
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Default Re: fetal position?

I often sleep in the fetal position. I also rock back and forth (side to side) to get myself to sleep. I can remember doing it from as far back as 4 years old. For me, I think it is a self-soothing method i learned to comfort myself as a child.

It's difficult to know the exact reason why you chose to lay down in the fetal position. But my guess is that lying in the fetal position, with arms and legs curled up around you, gave you enough of a feeling of containment, safety, and protection to allowe you to explore your abuse experiences. Think about when a bear or other animal chases a person and they drop down to their hands and knees and curl up. It's about safety and survival.

I have heard of clients sitting and lying all sorts of way in therapy, including people who have dissociated and attempted to crawl under couches or hide in corners. Some attain safety by covering up with a blanket or a coat over their lap, or by holding a stuffed animal. Others use deep breathing and other coping means to assure themselves that they are safe in t's office.
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Unread 01-27-2009, 09:19 AM   #4
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Default Re: fetal position?

Quote:
Originally Posted by peaches100 View Post
It's difficult to know the exact reason why you chose to lay down in the fetal position. But my guess is that lying in the fetal position
To clarify, I'm talking about doing it while sitting in a chair in therapy--not getting on the ground--not lying down anywhere.
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Unread 01-27-2009, 09:37 AM   #5
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Default Re: fetal position?

Oh. . . thanks for clarifying. Well, it could still qualify as a protective maneuver. Because the abuse memories were very painful, you could have been protectively trying to ward them off by the way you were sitting (e.g., not wanting to let the pain in). Or if you were feeling very vulnerable, it could have been a way of trying to hide within yourself. Or, if your abuse took place while you were seated in a fetal position, your body may have been taking on a similar position as you struggled to come to terms with what happened to you. There could be so many reasons for this. Can you recall how it made you feel to go into the fetal position? Did you feel comforted, agitated, or fearful? Did you do it during times when discussing your traumas was the most intense? Or was it a way of trying to self-soothe, to contain, the frightened part of yourself that was trying to make sense of what happened to you?
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Unread 01-27-2009, 04:58 PM   #6
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Default Re: fetal position?

I have never laid down on the couch but I did catch myself bringing my knees and huging them a few times. Once I realize I've moved into this position and have inadvertently put my feet on the furnature I usually try to quietly move them back to the floor. I think my T pretends not to notice when this happens, which reduces my embarrassment. More commonly I will leave my feet on the floor and curl up that way. I probably to that a lot more than I realize.
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Unread 01-27-2009, 05:38 PM   #7
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Default Re: fetal position?

yep have found myself lost in the moment in therapy then realised i have collapsed down in the chair hugging my knees - and like Chaotic - I have slowly straightened myself up and T has pretended not to notice -(nothng to see here - everything normal! ) I have also found myself collapsed to the side - and with my arms so tightly wrapped around myself that I almost couldnt breath - I think its a protective and supportive move we give ourselves when things get really tough and we are lost in the moment. try to cntrol my body language - but I often find myself hugging myself when I am really upset - I can keep my outside looking calm but I cant stop from tapping or holding my arms if im upset - so I guess it gets out somehow!

The not making eye contact - I can probably count the times I HAVE made eye contact - I think i look away so I wont see T's reaction - I am often afraid if Im saying somthing that is hurting me that I will see a look of eek shes really crazy - or disgust - or you are sooo wasting my time with such a small thing - just get over it.! - and also I think I get lost in the moment and stare off in a certain direction to focus my thoughts......

So you are definately not alone!
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Unread 01-27-2009, 06:01 PM   #8
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Default Re: fetal position?

Hi Imapatient:

A 'physical position of protection' for a client in the therapy room, who was sexually abused as a child, no matter what position is taken, is vital, fetal or not fetal!

It may have been my post that you are referring to and I would like to clarify the context of that post. The initial post appeared to me, to be asking for 'alternatives' and I felt that I would share 'an alternative', for 'the initial poster', that I am familiar with.

(I was writing about the difference, in therapy, between the feeling of somone coming 'alongside' as opposed to somone 'combatting'. Coming alongside allows room for the memories to be revealed which may be linked to others whereas combatting has the connotation of destroying a memory, thereby destroying the link to other memories.)

I think the original post was under this forum heading. I hope this is clearer than mud!

I personally love the blanket idea, as the blanket can hide, cover and keep warm, no matter what position one is in.

Thanks, also, for the response about adrenalin or lack of it and keeping warm, safe, secure and more.

Last edited by Hunny; 01-27-2009 at 06:26 PM. Reason: CLARITY!!!
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Unread 01-27-2009, 06:19 PM   #9
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Default Re: fetal position?

Quote:
Originally Posted by IceStatue View Post
Hi Imapatient:



I think I was trying to describe the difference between OEi and EMDR, for myself. I think for me OEI functions as a more gentle, less intrusive, kinder, more tender and softer approach whereas EMDR invades. The initial post, appeared, to me, to be asking for alternatives and I felt that the softer approach may be what the poster was seeking.

There is an intensity in using EMDR that, had I kept up, would have turned me off seeking help. It was just too intense.
whats OEI? I have had EMDR but havnt heard of OEI?
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Unread 01-28-2009, 02:37 AM   #10
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Default Re: fetal position?

Quote:
Originally Posted by peaches100 View Post
I have heard of clients sitting and lying all sorts of way in therapy, including people who have dissociated and attempted to crawl under couches or hide in corners. Some attain safety by covering up with a blanket or a coat over their lap, or by holding a stuffed animal. Others use deep breathing and other coping means to assure themselves that they are safe in t's office.
I have noticed myself wanting to pull my legs up onto the couch at my T's office to get in a fetal position as well. I think it's perfectly normal. When I want to do that I usually clutch a pillow or my jacket. Nice that T provides pillows on her couch! I do the same thing when I get to a scary part of a movie, so I figure I'm just trying to protect myself. You are probably doing the same.
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