John is a film maker and writer. He came to see me because he found himself procrastinating with his writing. John described having all the techniques to write but felt he could not let himself go. He described a feeling of fear that was always there behind him and which was characterised by a lack of confidence. It was like having a voice that 'talked things down'.
During the initial consultation, a picture emerged of John’s childhood. The younger of two siblings, he described a childhood where he was not allowed to play with the other children in the neighbourhood because they were of a different social class. At the age of 9, he was sent to boarding school where he experienced verbal abuse and physical threats. In addition to this, he was dyslexic. He stated that his belief system didn’t allow him to believe he was a talented writer.
During the first hypnotherapy session, I guided John to go back to the first time he felt anxious about his writing. John met a younger version of himself who was about 6 years old. He described this younger self as being lonely and sad. During that session, he reconnected with this part of himself using a process we refer to as Inner Child work.
The following week, John described having been less hard on himself. John also runs a writing group and felt that he had been more focused on the group. At this second session, John’s desire was very much to explore the use of visualisation to develop his characters and connect with their thoughts. I taught him how to use self-hypnosis to do this. I also took him through a process to meet his future self who had completed the book. This is known as future orientation. John’s future self appeared as a happy, successful and comfortable person. He saw himself working with cards, making notes, recording then going to the computer. The message he got was to have more fun with his writing and not take it too seriously.
Over the next two sessions, we returned to the issue of confidence and the notion of really building this up. John had demonstrated some reluctance to work directly with this issue and was now recognising the need to do so. When he thought about it, the image that came to mind was of a black “goo” that seeped through cracks in the bricks of garden walls as he walked around London. This image was somewhat disturbing to him. He said his lack of confidence was multi-layered, that he had disguised it and wrapped it up with distractions. During the session, the 6 year old child emerged again. This time, he was alone in the house with a feeling of having been ‘left’ and not knowing what to do with himself. John allowed himself to really tune in to the needs of this part of himself and spent time reassuring him.
For the next 6 weeks, John was unable to attend sessions as his daughter was on holiday from school. When he returned, he stated that his writing was definitely progressing. He had also realised that it was important to write about the things he considered important. He had also had a dream of a baby in a sink with someone trying to drown it with clothes on top. John had earlier described to me an incident when he was very young of getting tangled up in the bedclothes and fearing he would die. Since this was a fairly disturbing memory, I decided to work with it using a technique called the “fast phobia technique”. This is an excellent way of working with disturbing memories as well as phobias. Interestingly, as John was working with this memory, an earlier one emerged of his birth where the midwife had physically held him back until the doctor arrived (John had already been told this by his mother). We ended the session here at John’s request as he felt this was food for thought.
Three weeks later, John returned having had many realisations. One of these was that he had been very much held back by his mother’s expectations of him. Interestingly, he had also been invited to a meeting of his old school peers. Following this, he decided to completely let go of what had happened at school and realised that he could do so. He realised that he could move forward unhindered by the past and with self-determination. John’s overall demeanour was one of quiet confidence and centredness. The writing continues to go well.
Summary: It was very clear that John’s early experiences of loneliness, parental expectation, bullying and traumatising events had held him back and instilled self-doubt about his abilities. At a point in his treatment, he resolved enough of the issues from the past for his core self to come through and allow further healing to take place outside of the sessions. With the increased connection to his inner resources, he was able to let go of more past issues. This case clearly shows the impact of the past on self-esteem and how a few sessions with well-targeted techniques can have very powerful results. John achieved these results in seven sessions.