Because I blog so often conversations with friends usually start with, “Tell me what isn’t in your blog.”
(Boring warning, there are no boobies or Viv fails in this post)
I’ve had this conversation so many times recently that I feel like it belongs in the blog, so here goes.
Lately I’ve been a raging bitch to my family, especially Loony. I feel like I’m all sharp edges, testiness and sarcasm. I’m distant and not affectionate. I’ve been married long enough to know that when my feelings about Loony change (in either direction) it has little to do with him (because he is stable as hell) and mostly with my state of mind.
Also because he’s the mellowest guy in the world he tends to let me get away with it, for better or for worse. Definitely for the worse because everything comes back around eventually, I know that.
Recently he sprained his ankle and wears brace and he had a melanoma removed from his back. We aren’t too concerned because it’s stage zero so excising it is the full extent of the treatment, but the doctor took a large chunk out of the space between his shoulder blades which has been uncomfortable and impairs his movement as he recovers.
Because he’s in pain, or maybe he’s just sick of my shit, he’s been giving some of that negativity back to me. In other words, he’s been responding on occasion the way I feel like I respond all the time. It feels shitty.
I’m not mad at him about it. In fact, my very first thought was wow, he sounds just like me. I need to clean up my act, and not only for him but for my kids who are basing their model for relationships on us, and for my mother-in-law who will be staying with us for a while and whose failing memory will test everyone’s patience.
I’ve done a lot of therapy over the years, both with a licensed therapist and in encounter groups. While both had a lot to offer, they inevitably pivoted to the same technique: talking ad nauseam about my relationship with mother whom I absorbed some of my less than favorable personality traits from.
I don’t say this to bag on her or to blame her, it’s simply how children learn and I truly believe that she did the very best she was capable of. Nonetheless, she wasn’t a patient person and I, in turn, am impatient. I see it in how I interact with my family and I see the trait getting passed on.
This current state of conflict with Loony, as well as the damage I fear I’m doing to my kids, and my mother-in-law coming to stay with us has me looking at myself and wanting to make a change. Not just for those around me but because I am tired of going to bed full of regret and disappointment in myself.
I don’t want to talk about my mom anymore. I don’t want to blame her for anything nor do I want to have conversations that churn up old hurts and reinforces narratives of me being the poor, put upon child. It doesn’t serve me and 30 years of rehashing it certainly hasn’t fixed anything. I’m only speaking of it now for the sake of sharing my experience with this new therapy on my blog, but then I’m done.
Being a parent gives me the perspective of hoping my kids have the grace and understanding to cut me some slack when it comes time to assess their childhoods.
Given that I’m not interested in traditional therapy and I’m not interested in more woo-woo therapies beyond meditation (not that meditation is woo-woo) I don’t have a lot of options other than trying to be conscious, learning how to slow down my reaction time through taking deep breaths, and focusing my intention on being compassionate, loving and patient.
However, an old colleague of mind from my university days who a licensed therapist and a good friend told me about rapid resolution hypnotherapy. I’m afraid I don’t have any links or material to share beyond what he has told me. The gist is that instead of getting caught up in the story of one’s trauma, he helps to resolve the event through hypnosis and quick, pointed conversation. He studied with a long-time practitioner of the technique and marveled at how effective it is for dealing with PTSD.
I trust Don so I jumped at the chance to work with him despite my deep conviction that I am too much of a cynic to be hypnotized. Of course my idea of what hypnosis is like is based entirely on Hollywood so I don’t really know a thing about it.
I’ll describe my experience and let you know how I feel as time goes by.
He started with an explanation about how humans attach meaning to traumatic experiences, carrying over the reactions of past events to new and often completely unrelated experiences. His goal is to resolve the traumatic event so one can move through the world without the memories of the past influencing how one reacts to current events.
Case in point, people suffering from wartime PTSD will have full blown panic attacks at the sound of a balloon popping at a birthday party and react as though they are being shot at even though they obviously are not. But to them– in that moment – the fear, the fight or flight, and the adrenalin are completely real.
Next he asked me to tell him what I wanted to work on. I want to be more patient, more generous with my responses, less reactive, softer, and more loving and caring.
He had me to close my eyes and spoke soothingly to me, touching my hand and encouraging relaxation. Past that I can’t really remember much of what was said but I felt conscious during it, although very relaxed. He had me open my eyes and we had a conversation. He asked me the first time I felt stung with impatience, when it was directed at me.
I had a very vivid memory of my mother calling me down into the basement, I must have been five or six. She had just gotten out shower and had a towel wrapped around her and was wearing a shower cap, her shoulders were still wet. I walked down the long hall to her and just as I got to her she slapped me hard across the face. Afterwards she told me what I had done to make her angry.
Don stopped me there. He had me tell him that story as quickly as I could, then backwards, then substituting words, then while trying to mimic the movement of his hands, it was challenging and disorienting. But he didn’t want to talk about the event.
Then he asked me questions like:
Is there anything I can do about it raining in another part of the world? No.
Can I stop a car accident from happening elsewhere? No.
Can the chair I am sitting in be in another room at this moment in time? No.
Is there anything I can do now to change how my mother acted in that moment? No.
Given my mother’s upbringing and her own challenges, did she know any other way to act than she did at that moment? No.
He had me close my eyes again and talked to me a little more. He told me that a year from now he sees me being the expansive, generous, kind and loving person I want to be. “I know it. I believe it. I believe you are this person.”
In my current state I was moved by the generosity of his belief in me and I felt like it was possible. Then I opened my eyes and we were done.
I felt light, I felt like the world had tilted underneath me. I didn’t feel like I was just telling him what he wanted to hear, but the answers were inevitable and deeply true. I walked out feeling hopeful that a transformation had taken place. The skeptic in me didn’t have anything to say.
I know the power of the mind to create whatever reality it wants, that’s the point of hypnosis and for once I am open to it. A very encouraging sign was that night I had the mother (no pun intended) of all anxiety dreams. It was full of the standard stuff, being late to catch a flight, no time to pack, everything is disorganized, I’m in my childhood home, my clothes aren’t dry yet, and there was dog shit everywhere.
My mother showed up in my dream which she sometimes does. Without fail she is a stressful element, most often we are yelling and screaming at each other, or she’s trying to hit me. This time she was just a supporting cast member. She walked ahead of me wearing house slippers as I got my laundry, I think she was carrying some laundry for me. There were giant piles of dog shit on the lawn and I tried to prevent her from stepping in the; but we weren’t fighting and I wasn’t upset she was there.
I wasn’t happy she was there either, but it wasn’t the rage and anger filled cameo I’m used to. Maybe something has shifted in my subconscious.
So what next? Only time will tell if I become more patient and less defensive but I was moved by the experience and I don’t have anything to lose. As Don faces retiring from his teaching career at the university his goal is to do more work like this because he believes in it. For now he isn’t charging for his services and it’s not about the money. Let me know if you are interested in having a session with him and I’ll put you in touch. I’d love to know how other people feel about it.