The Double Loop Experience

by Joseph Nicolosi, Ph.D.

The central healing process of reparative therapy is what we call the “Double Loop Experience.”

In this process, an accurately attuned, empathic therapist helps the client re-experience the feelings that have split apart his psyche so that he can reconnect with the renounced parts of himself. Those split-off parts of the self have, we find, often been renounced because of conscious and unconscious feelings of shame.

Intimacy, Not Eroticism

A particular benefit of the Double Loop experience for many men is that it assures them that a felt emotional connection with another man need not be "gay," and that feelings that come up through an emotional connection with another man are healing and affirmative.

The most powerful transformative moment is when the client re-experiences an early trauma, while emotionally present in the inter-subjective moment of the Double Loop. It is through this connectedness with the therapist that the client is able to feel the bodily sensations that are associated with his painful early experiences. The greatest healing moments occur when the client can feel what seems to be unbearable feeling, while at the same moment, experiencing the care and support of the therapist.

The client’s communication--the “putting into words” of his feelings--is not just a cognitive act, but an act of trust. And it is this trust that enables unification between the client's left and right brain hemispheres; between cognitive and affective; and between conscious and unconscious--all through the medium of the body.

In the Double Loop Experience, the client receives the therapist's expression of respect and esteem on a feeling level, which results in his experience of feeling deeply known and understood. At its best, this moment is reminiscent of the earliest attunement that was felt between mother and child.

Dissipation Of Shame Through Exposure

Shame is what blocks the homosexually oriented man from living in the Assertive Stance. The Double Loop experience is the most powerful tool available for disempowering the inhibitory affect of shame. And shame dissipates through exposure; the process for which the Double Loop is ideally suited.

Internally, shame is an inhibitor of emotional expression, a “shut-down” state. Many shame moments center around experiences of a deep feeling of gender inferiority. The therapeutic goal is for the client to sit in the shame -- including the feelings that surround and underlie it -- while he experiences contact with the understanding and accepting therapist.

The Double Loop experience of psychotherapy is a uniquely human event between two people in time, and contains a sort of mystical or transpersonal quality with a surreal edge to it. When the client drops his usual defenses, the Double Loop offers a transformative depth of emotional exchange.

As the True Self gradually begins to emerge, no longer constricted by illusions and distortions, and no longer bound in the straitjacket of the False Self, we see a markedly greater outflow of energy in relating to others, and far less protective self-preoccupation.

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