Does an unhappy childhood necessarily mean that you must suffer for the rest of your life? Some people such as Oprah Winfrey and others have taken their difficult beginnings and used them as stepping stones to success. Others seem to just continue to be pulled down by shame, fear and depression as their lives catapult into one disappointment after another. Many folks with abusive childhoods end up either in the criminal justice system, the mental health system, or the welfare line. What is the difference and how can I, as a therapist, change the unhealthy patterns into stepping stones to success for myself and my clients?
Hypnotherapy is a powerful set of skills that can provide tools to use to turn the tragedies in our lives into stepping stones to success. How can this happen? Here is the story of one woman, we will call her Matilda, who has had a life of great distress. When she first came to us she could not remember anything from her childhood, which is often a clue that there is much there that has been repressed due to the abusive nature of it. She described a life of depression, anxiety and bouts of suicidal thoughts. She described her husband as the most patient man in the world since he put up with her temper, her disrespect, and often abusive behavior toward him and others. Matilda hated these reactions of hers, but could not seem to stop them. She felt that these reactive parts of her just took over, without her permission.
Through the hypnosis process, Matilda became aware of bits and pieces of memories from her childhood. She discovered that she had been motherless from the age of one and was passed around from relative to relative, most of whom were alcoholic and really did not want her there. She had memories and dreams of being abused sexually, emotionally and physically, all of which she had consciously repressed. The memories came through the hypnotherapy age regressions, slowly so that we could install resources for her to be strong enough to look at them, when she was ready.
One of the final pieces came to her when she regressed to age one. She was able to see her young mother who died from a drug overdose but who did love her very much. In the hypnotherapy, she could feel her mother’s love and realized that she had not been intentionally abandoned by her mother. All of her life she had been so filled with anger and blame because on the very deepest of levels, she believed that her mother had left her because she was bad. These are what we call subconscious conclusions and decisions which are often made at a very early age and may be based on false assumptions, as in the case of Matilda.
Through hypnotherapy, Matilda realized that she had made the very early subconscious conclusion, “I must be bad, unlovable and disgusting since my own mother didn’t even want me.” Her subconscious decision was that she shouldn’t even be here and that she should kill herself. Although most people do not realize this, we all make very early conclusions about ourselves and then decisions about how to behave, based on those immature conclusions. Our subconscious minds are very much like a computer and we are the programmers! Would you hire a one-year-old to program your computer? I think not! These conclusions and decisions are the internal programming that our very young child parts placed in our subconscious minds and that we are consciously unaware of. Through hypnotherapy facilitated by a well trained hypnotherapist, we can access the internal workings of our minds (the computer programming) and change the destructive programs that are still driving us to do unhealthy, self-defeating behaviors in our lives.
Through her own healing process, Matilda is now more excited than ever about using her own healing skills to heal others. She realizes that she became a therapist in order to help suffering people. And she certainly has done that over the years. But she now sees that she can help to heal others on a much deeper level. She calls it a soul level. This is the difference between people who use the tragedies in their life to remain a victim and play the “poor me game” and those that take the bull by the horn, so to speak, slay their dragons, and become stronger than ever. There is a song out recently titled, “What Doesn’t Kill You, Makes You Stronger.” Through Heart-Centered Hypnotherapy, people can see that they were taught in their dysfunctional families how to remain stuck, in the Victim, Rescuer, Persecutor Trap. This often feels like a hamster running around in the hamster wheel, where there doesn’t seem to be any way out. Through confronting the childhood issues and healing them on the deepest of subconscious levels, these traumas become stepping stones that we climb to get to the top of the mountain.