Corrective Emotional Experience: The paradoxical line in my understanding

Under stress, Self found relentless fear and the need for a nourishing level of reception, connection, and protection.  Under guilt, Self found deceptive disgust and the need for an adaptable level of difference, independence, and acceptance.  Under shame, Self found unparallel grief and the need for an authentic level of affirmation, appreciation, and affection.  And ultimately under these needs lay a seeking Self who needed to be seen, to be heard, and to be understood.

There is a certain something to the Corrective Emotional Experience (CEE) that draws a paradoxical line in my understanding.  Above said line is the known basis of the notion – a subconscious attentional bias toward the reception of energetic patterning in which existent familiar information is confirmed and recurrent occurrences can again autonomously occur; a bias that intentions to maintain survival through attachment expectancy (Pincus et al., 2007).  Poignantly, this subconscious attentional bias has a double edge – though designed for survival, undifferentiated adaptations can be unconducive to integration and thus well-being.  That is, when specific patterning is continuously confirmed without attention to individual relational nuances, varying streams of energy and information flow become undifferentiated and new patterning is not readily recognised – there is a disintegration between what is sensed, perceived, interpreted, thus what is reacted to (Siegel, 2012).

Conversely, when relational nuances and attentional biases are placed in explicit attention (either by Self or Other) – when specific patterns of sensations, perceptions, interpretations, and reactions are monitored – energy and information flow can be modified providing a discriminated response: a new form of patterning that provides new communicative linkages (social synapses) that promote relational differentiation and integration (Siegel, 2012).  This description is, for me, the underscoring wisdom of the known neurobiological shifts that can occur when repeated experiences of co-regulated connection and compassionate collaboration lead to a level of contextual coherence that facilitates a space for the Self to access the innate internal resources needed for change. 

Yet while this neurobiological understanding is the heart of the CEE, and indeed what my heart revels in, below the line of my understanding pains me in a profound way.  It is not that I have not experienced a deep sense of the CEE, rather the opposite – I resonate deeply with a space that non reactively contains and allows for my seeking Self to be seen and understood and in all my authenticity to shake out (sometimes literally) the anxiety that hides the depths of my grief, and to allow the years of thwarting to be unthwarted; I resonate deeply with a space that graciously holds my levels of un-actioned ambivalence – the want for overt courage alongside the comfort in meekness; I even resonate with the ability to make significant disclosures, to have deep insight, to forgive, to feel bolder and more assertive, as well as to overtly recognise patterning and to respond differently in some circumstances.  At the same time however, there is a part of me that cannot integrate these new responses in a manner that allows me to see the totality of my inherent worth.  It is that part of me that sits below any understanding of the CEE – for I wonder, is there any amount of CEE’s that could ever outdo 20 years of dismissal, diminishment, devaluation, and the complete annihilation of a Self – especially when, in certain spaces feelings of powerlessness, discombobulation, frustration, and fear still permeate the air?


Badenoch, B. (2018). The heart of trauma: Healing the embodied brain in the context of relationships. W. W. Norton & Company.

McGilchrist, I. (2009). The master and his emissary: The divided brain and the making of the western world. Yale University Press.

Pincus, D., Freeman, W., & Modell, A. (2007). Neurobiological model of perception: Considerations for transference. Psychoanalytic Psychology24(4), 623-640.

Siegel, D. J. (2012). Pocket guide to interpersonal neurobiology: An integrative handbook of the mind (Norton series on interpersonal neurobiology). W. W. Norton & Company.

Teyber, E., & Teyber, F. (2017). Interpersonal process in therapy: An integrative model (7th ed.). Cengage Learning.