Often, clients will visit me and want to be rid of a habit, memory or process that is really unhelpful to them. Naturally, they see these as important in how they currently suffering. This is especially true in anxiety related cases and depression.
There is an expectation that, as a therapist, I will ‘do something’ to take this problem away.
How hard do you think it is to take something off someone that they have been hanging on to so tightly, for so long?
The better question that I often ask myself is “what’s missing?”
If we operate from the empathetic assumption that everyone is doing the best that they can with where they are at, asking the question “what is missing that, if they had it, would allow them to experience life the way they want to?”
It is a gentle and generous approach, which never assumes that anyone is broken or beyond hope. Because it is my fundamental belief that no one is. It allows deep exploration of the situation and how the client is processing and dealing with it, providing insights to help the client move forward.
For example, recently a client wanted to be rid of the panic attacks and claustrophobia which have tormented them since the age of 5.
What do you think may have been missing?
By asking the client a simple discrimination question ( “how do you know when you are safe?”) the response was a long silence, then a shy admission “I don’t know…”.
One thing that was missing was the skill to discriminate when they were safe. Imagine how you would respond to the world if you never thought you were safe? My client’s response of claustrophobia and panic attacks is both brave and a realistic coping strategy from that frame of reference. It would be a completely natural response to be highly anxious if you always processed the world around you as ‘dangerous’.
Part of the hypnotic session included teaching the client these discrimination skills, and ensuring that the client had clear processes, practices and strategies to help empower them to build their capability and enjoy life more completely.
Result? A lifelong feeling of panic and anxiety dispelled in one session.
Because you don’t know what you needed to learn, until after you have learned it. When you have learned it, things become very different.
As you think about your situation, ask yourself “what is missing that, if you had it, would allow you to experience life the way you want to?”