Dawn, a friend of mine, wanted help with her anger.
As we talked, Dawn told me how she would sometimes fly into rages, especially with men, her teenage son in particular. It could be an argument or just a discussion, and she would suddenly find herself furious, unable to calm down, while at the same time realizing how inappropriate this was, how her feelings, voice, and demeanor were completely out of proportion to whatever disagreement or conflict might have been present.
We had learned and practiced regression in my hypnotherapy class, and I thought this might be a good way to work with Dawn’s anger. She responded beautifully to my induction and now was sitting across from me, eyes closed and head hanging forward, in what seemed to be a pretty deep trance.
I asked her to remember the feeling she had had the last time she had become so enraged. I had her intensify that feeling, and even more – then told her to go back to the very first time she had felt like that.
Dawn found herself, eleven years old, in a kitchen, helping her grandmother with cooking, feeling angry with the way her grandmother (not even a man!) was talking to her. But when I asked if she had ever felt this way before, she said yes – apparently we were not back at the first time. So I asked her for a previous time, and then one before that, and one even earlier, until she was telling me about being outside of her elementary school, waiting for her mother to pick her up.
She was five years old, and a boy – a bully – was beating her up, as several of her supposed friends stood around without intervening (much of her anger was directed at them).
I sat there, wondering what I was going to do. I could try a reframe, but how? Or perhaps have her adult self go back and tell the 5-year-old that she had in fact survived and maybe it was better that she knew these kids were not really her friends. Or – what? Have her dissociate, run a movie of that scene fast forward in black and white, then step into it and run it backwards and in color, several times, until the emotional distress dissipated?
And as I was pondering, Dawn suddenly started to laugh. She laughed harder and harder, tears flowing down her face, and then – she was out of trance, still laughing, laughing, laughing.
I was new at this; I didn’t really know what was going on, but I had enough sense to let her do what she was doing, to not interrupt. I waited a few minutes, until the laughter slowed down enough for her to talk. “Tell me what’s going on,” I asked, thinking to myself, “What now? – Do something else?” but I waited for her answer.
Dawn looked at me, a big grin on her face. “I stood up to him!” she said, in a delighted tone of voice.
I smiled back and nodded.
“He beat me up,” she continued, “but I didn’t give in. I didn’t give in!” She seemed happy and very proud of herself. She had found her own reframe, dead-on and much better than anything I would have thought of.
I beamed back at her, saying to myself, “End of session!” – we were done.
I saw Dawn a few weeks later: no more rages. She thanked me. “It wasn’t me, it was you,” I answered.
I love this work!