I Haven't Slept in 20 Years!

I Haven't Slept in 20 Years!

by Donald Pelles, Ph.D., Certified Hypnotherapist


“I haven’t slept in 20 years,” she said, my new client, Jennifer, a woman in her early 40s.

“Of course, she must sleep some,” I thought to myself – we need sleep in order to survive. But clearly, she hadn’t slept nearly enough and probably not very well.

I asked Jennifer about her history. The sleep issue had started (obviously) 20 years ago; before that she had been “a good sleeper.” She was single; she didn’t sleep particularly stressed or anxious; her relationships were good; there were no physical issues – she had seen a doctor recently.

So we went to work. We talked about hypnosis, that trance is something you do: “I guide you; I instruct you; I help you access that altered state that is part of your mental equipment. But you are the one doing it – I am just the guide.” I demonstrated and talked about visualization, with some examples, and how that is really a form of self-hypnosis.

“I am going to show you a blend of self-hypnosis and meditation,” I told her, “and you will be able to do this on your own. In fact, it’s going to be an assignment – there’s homework here.” I directed her to my comfortable hypnosis chair, and led her into “The Zone” (see “Finding the Zone” in the Hypnosis Silver Spring channel on YouTube). It is a short exercise; some clients experience being very relaxed while others go into a very deep hypnotic state. Jennifer was one of the deep ones – she described her experience afterward in terms I could only envy. Doing “The Zone” at night in the bed can be very helpful in getting yourself to sleep – you take yourself into a deeply relaxed, hypnotic state, repeating the mantra over and over in your mind, with the intention of just staying there all night. This approach relives you of the anxiety around getting to sleep. Instead of lying there thinking, “I need to sleep … I have to get to sleep … When am I going to get to sleep? …, you just stay in “The Zone” and even if you remain in that state all night (you won’t!), you are still getting much of the rest you need.

We continued with the “Power Self” exercise (look up “Power Image Pelles” on YouTube), in trance envisioning yourself “exactly the way you want to be” and then stepping into and being that person, your Power Self, then stepping out but “bringing back with you some of what you learned and experienced in being her.”

For this kind of issue (and many others) I like to utilize Core Transformation (developed by Connirae Andreas). Guiding Jennifer through Core Transformation, I started by pointing out that this difficulty with sleeping was not something she was consciously doing, so there was a part of her that was behind it. I had Jennifer invite this part into her awareness, with the understanding that it had a positive intention, which she was not aware of. In the course of the process, we elicited higher and higher-level intentions, outcomes the part wanted, until finally we reached a state of “Peace” and the part could go no further. This was, for this part, what we call the Core State, a high-level existential or spiritual state of being. We then utilized this Core State to give the part what it ultimately wants, and finally to re-integrate this alienated part of Jennifer’s psyche into the whole, so that Peace became her core state of being, a wonderful and powerful resource for transforming whole areas of her life. [To learn more on Core Transformation, go to https://www.coretransformation.org/ and numerous videos on YouTube, in particular my “Core Transformation with Catherine, Session 2”)].

We worked on the sleep issue the rest of our first session and the next session, using Core Transformation to integrate some of the parts involved.. In the third session I introduced Jennifer to Wholeness Work (https://wholenessprocess.org/), as a more powerful way to get to sleep.

When Jennifer came into my office for her next session she told me that she was sleeping much better – the work we had done so far had been a big help. And then she exclaimed, “Now I remember what happened!” and went on to tell me this story:

Twenty years ago, I was engaged and about to be married. On my wedding day, my fiancé ran out on me, he cancelled the wedding and left. He broke my heart. I went over to my girlfriend’s house and at bedtime I said to myself, “If I don’t go to sleep, it won’t be over.”

And 20 years later, she walks into my office saying, “I haven’t slept in 20 years!”

In many schools of psychotherapy, including hypnotherapy, the key is insight, to discover, or to lead the client to discover, the cause, the event or experience that underlies, that caused the behavior or problem being addressed. Many hypnotherapists use “regression to cause” to find the “ISE” – the “Initial Sensitizing Event,” the first in perhaps a chain of experiences that led to what the client is now experiencing. For some therapists the insight itself is the key to the resolution of the problem; for others it is the starting point for intervention.


Jennifer’s insight was certainly significant, but it came at a point when the problem had been largely resolved; it was a by-product of the work we had been doing, rather than its goal. This is often what happens when using the paradigms of Core Transformation and Wholeness. Conscious understanding can be a good thing, but it is neither necessary nor sufficient in resolving deep problems involving feelings, thoughts, and behaviors.

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