By Isa Gucciardi, Ph.D.
Another example of how experienced emotion can lead us back to the self can be observed in the case of a man I'll call Rick. He came to me after having seen a succession of psychologists, psychiatrists, physicians and other hypnotherapists over a period of 10 years to help him reduce a problem which had been labeled sexual compulsive/obsessive disorder. He had seen a behaviorist who taught him to imagine he was indulging in his compulsions just when a policeman or other authority figure entered the picture. This did help in reducing some of his behavior for a short time, but he was still left agitated and seeking some outlet for his agitation. A psychiatrist had prescribed a drug for him which helped him somewhat by reducing his desire to act out his compulsions, but the drug was very expensive and left him feeling very tired. Another hypnotherapist gave him suggestions to help him enter a trance to divert his attention to a pleasant scene whenever he felt his compulsions getting out of control. This helped some of the time.
After our initial interview, it seemed pretty clear to me that all of this behavior was a compensation for a sense of powerlessness. I gently questioned him around this subject and, although the idea he ever felt powerless first seemed utterly impossible to him, he eventually confessed to having felt powerless in his early relationships. Again, we negotiated the defenses to the experience of powerlessness through hypnosis and entered into these early relationships. He entered many different situations and relationships and allowed himself to feel the anguish and shame at the debasing abuse by his early family members. By doing this, he was able to transform his relationship to his sense of powerlessness through fully feeling. He was able to find some peace from his compulsions.
But the most important learning from this process of re-entering into relationship to experience unfelt emotion was, again, the understanding he gained about his relationship to the authentic power of the self. It was not until he allowed himself the full range of emotion he felt in feeling powerless at the hands of others that he was able to see the ways in which he disempowered himself. He did this by separating himself from the experience of his power even as he separated himself from what he perceived to be intolerable emotions. As he was able to restructure his sense of self based on this understanding, he was able to experience the authentic power and courage he had not allowed himself to touch. For he had separated from his power even as he had separated from the intolerable emotions. When he was able to allow himself to bridge this separation by going through the pain of powerlessness, he was able to touch his power again. And his compulsions diminished permanently.
One last example of the way we seek to flush out the feelings we have either refused or been unable to experience in prior relationships can be found in the dance of fear and hope between two people I will call Peter and Jane. They came to me seeking help in understanding the fiery dynamics of their relationship through past-life regression. Through one lifetime after another of incompletely experienced emotion, an interesting dynamic emerged. Based on each person's pool of unexperienced emotion, each had a different, yet utterly complimentary set of emotions he or she was seeking to flush out and experience in relationship with the other. The striking complimentarity of their issues brought them together and had kept them together, locked in dance of strife and turmoil they could not find their way out of.
By identifying the underlying patterns from their subconscious through hypnosis, the conscious manifestation of those patterns began to take on a more coherent form. This pointed to the issues each of them had with their own, separate issues of individuation in this incarnation. Jane's relationship lesson with herself involved learning to trust her connection to herself at a soul level. Peter's relationship lesson with himself involved learning to have more compassion and less judgment of his anger in order to resolve his deep-seated anger with himself at a soul level. Both were looking for triggers to the experience of the emotions around these core issues in life after life and in relationship after relationship with one another. These triggers could be found in the quotidian tasks of the day, such as shopping, where a simple decision over what to make for dinner took on cosmic weight. The basic pattern underpinning all these day-to-day interactions is as follows:
Jane fears (but unconsciously seeks) connection
Peter seeks (but unconsciously fears) connection
Peter establishes a connection.
Jane begins to trust the connection, but feels she has to be in control of the connection in order to continue to trust. She begins to make more and more impossible-to-meet demands to test the connection.
Peter resists the control she is exerting by failing to meet simple promises. This gives him a reason to not only try to re-exert control, but to prove he is right to be angry with himself for having failed to keep his obligation.
This gives Jane a reason not to trust him and an excuse to break the connection.
This gives Peter a reason to vent his anger.
This proves to Jane that connection is dangerous.
This proves to Peter that his anger is unacceptable and so he is unacceptable.
They are both sent back to their opposite corners.
Jane fears (but unconsciously seeks) connection
Peter seeks (but unconsciously fears) connection
until the next dance begins.
Allowing ourselves to feel is actually a very simple method of resolving many manifestations of imbalance. Sometimes, I think my whole practice is just helping people feel again. The amount of fear we carry with us from relationship to relationship is staggering. Our society has become a massive exodus from this fear: buy this car, wear these clothes, marry this rich guy, and you will be never have to feel anything but happy again. But this diminished acceptance of feeling just compounds the cruelty and abuse we tolerate in our relationships. Because we are blinded to our feeling of distress by following the dictates of material culture, we cannot imagine the level of distress we inflict on others. And so the cycle begins again. We reel from relationship to relationship, hoping and yet fearing that the dynamics of the relationship will finally touch all the feelings we have banished to the subconscious. If we can just learn to allow ourselves to be in the authentic experience of emotion, we can allow the understanding which emerges from it to lead us home to the self.
Our relationship difficulties often spring from seemingly innocuous triggers. These triggers make conscious the material we have purposely made unconscious. This decision was usually made at some point when we determined we could not safely experience the emotions involved in interacting with reality. Yet we know we must eventually bring the fully felt experience back to the self at a soul level in order to glean what can be learned from the process. Relationships serve as exquisite triggers to this information. This is because we must return to any experience again and again until it is understood and integrated. Relationships with others allow us to do this.
It is already difficult enough to really perceive what our emotional entanglements with others in present time are trying to reveal to us about ourselves. But the process of really entering into the territory of our past relationships and the way they reflect our relationship with ourselves is even more complex. First, it is important to realize that we are not just one aspect of our being. There are many parts of us which are, in fact, at different levels of maturity and understanding. We have all seen the stereotype of the brilliant college professor who perceives and understands theoretical and intellectual complexity with ease but who functions at the level of an embarrassed thirteen year old in social situations.
Although most of us can conceive of two spaces simultaneously, we find it hard to imagine two times existing simultaneously. Jung realized that "There are worlds within my mind which cross the boundaries of time and personality." These are the worlds which we must open to in order to understand our past decisions to feel or not to feel fully. These worlds are contained within the context of relationship. They haunt our current relationships with others and reflect our fundamental relationship with our selves.
But how can we create a path to illuminate these three relationships: our relationship with others in the present as a reflection of the emotional issues with others in the past, which are both reflections of our relationship with ourselves throughout time? I have found that using the paradigm provided by inner child work addresses the way various emotions present themselves in each of these relationships simultaneously.
It is unfortunate that the idea of discovering our inner child has been the butt of so many late-night talk show comedians' jokes. This is an extremely powerful tool for addressing emotional realities experientially rather than intellectually. There is an enormous difference between understanding an emotion such as anger intellectually, and actually allowing the anger to course through our veins and learn what it has to teach us on emotional and spiritual levels. Inner child work allows this latter understanding to emerge fully. Some schools of Buddhist thought recommend the entry into the images of the wrathful deities through meditation in order to understand deeply the nature of emotions. In hypnotherapy, we must allow ourselves to enter deeply into the relationships where our emotions are frozen. We do this in order to understand what led us there and what can lead us out.
The following is a recreation from notes taken during a regression where the tool of inner child discovery was used to help a 50 year old man. He had come to me because he kept experiencing numbness on his left side which had no organic cause according the many tests he had undergone at a local hospital. He was also experiencing the break up of a marriage which had left him completely confused. The most remarkable thing we discovered in exploring the numbness in his body was that he had literally no capacity to feel anything at all in any of his relationships. The idea of experiencing joy meant as little to him as the idea of experiencing fury. It was as if he was missing a whole set of colors in his relationship to the world. There was black and white - awake and sleeping - but nothing else which colored his emotional world. I knew we had to find the way back to feeling through the numbness. After several sessions of pure hypnotic suggestion that it was safe to feel, we had the following session.
At the beginning of the session, he reported that he had not been able to get a particular tune out of his head, but that he could not remember when he had ever heard it. After hypnotic induction, I asked him to keep humming the tune until he received information about it. This information could come either in the form of an image, or sound, or word, or set of words, or just a feeling, or intuition.
C: I see a little boy lying in front of one of those old radio sets.
T: What is he doing?
C: He is listening to music.
T: What is the music like?
C: He is listening to this song in my head.
T: How is he feeling as he listening to the song?
C: It is a sad song.
T: How is he feeling as he listening?
C: Sad, I guess.
T: Where is he feeling this sadness in his body?
C: In his left shoulder.
T: What is that feeling in his left shoulder like? Is it hot or cold? Or tense or loose?
C: It's tense. It's hard.
T: How is your shoulder feeling now?
C: Tense and hard.
T: Can you take some breaths into that place in your shoulder, and as you exhale, just allow any sounds or words or images to rise and come out with your breath.
After about 5 minutes of this breathing, a tear appeared on his cheek.
T: What are you experiencing?
C: The little boy is so sad.
T: What is he sad about?
C: He hasn't eaten in 2 days. He's cold. His mother hits him when he complains.
T: What decision does he make about these feelings?
C: Don't feel. It is just cold. That's all.
T: I'd like you to go there now to that room where the radio set is. I'd like you to go in as an adult, bringing with you all of the knowledge and experience you have gained in your life and see that little boy lying down in front of the radio. How do you feel when you see him?
C: I feel sad.
T: How do you feel about this little boy?
C: I feel really sorry for him.
T: What would you like to do?
C: I want to keep him warm.
T: What would be the best way to do that?
C: Hug him.
T: So just allowing yourself to put your arms around him and draw him to you. How does he feel as you do this?
There is crying for about 5 minutes.
T: What do you want to say to him?
C: That it's okay.
T: What's okay?
C: It's okay to feel the sadness.
T: What do you want to tell him about his mother hitting him when he complains?
C: That it's not okay. That it is not his fault that he is hungry.
T: How does he feel when he hears that?
There is crying for another little while.
C: He feels better.
T: What do you want to tell his mother about hitting him?
C: I can't talk back to her.
T: Just allow yourself to speak to her now as an adult with all of the knowledge and understanding you have gained from your life. And allow yourself to know that her higher self is present as well as the part of her you already know. What do you want to say to her?
C: It's not okay.
T: What's not okay?
C: It's not okay that she is hitting the boy.
T: How does it make you feel that she is hitting him?
T: Where are you feeling this sense of being mad in your body?
C: My left arm.
T: If that anger in your left arm could speak, what would it say right now?
C: I hate you.
T: Can you say that again?
C: I hate you.
T: Can you say that again, a little louder?
C: I hate you.
T: What else do you want to tell her about this little boy?
C: You hurt him. I hate you for hurting him.
T: How does your mother react when she hears this?
C: She is shocked that I am talking back to her. She is angry.
T: How does she feel when she sees how badly hurt this little boy is.
C: She feels bad.
T: What does she say?
C: I'm sorry.
T: How does that make the little boy feel?
T: What can you see about your mother from this perspective that you could not see as a little boy?
C: She is scared.
T: Scared about what?
C: She is scared that there is no food.
T: How does that affect your understanding of what happened here?
C: It wasn't her fault. It wasn't the little boy's fault.
T: What isn't her fault?
C: It isn't her fault that there is no food.
T: What isn't his fault?
C: That he complained.
T: What do you want to tell this little boy about expressing his feelings?
C: That it is okay to express them. He isn't bad if he expresses his feelings
T: How does that make him feel?
The session went on for a bit longer in this vein. This is the learning he drew from this session :
It was okay to allow himself to feel. He was not "bad" for having feelings. This realization was central in helping him approach himself in later sessions. Once the fear of his "badness" was resolved in later sessions, he was able to see how this fear of feeling his badness kept him from feeling anything. We were also able, in later sessions, to explore how this fear of feeling anything would make him "bad" and how this perception was preventing him from feeling the love he had for his wife. By allowing himself to feel the love and caring he had for this little boy, he was able, in later sessions, to break through to experiencing love for his wife in a way he had not encountered before. * He could allow himself to feel more than just the cold, or numbness. It was safe to express those feelings by allowing his side to "thaw." Many more feelings came tumbling out of the numbness in later sessions and the numbness began gradually to subside. * That he was not alone. He was able to call this child home to the self at a soul level. He was able to allow him to feel the full support that he had to offer the child by coming from another time and space than where the child had been frozen. This allowed him to be there for himself as an adult in his relationship with others in a way which did not require him to "freeze" other people out of his conceptual understanding of the world.
None of these realizations which touched so many aspects of his being could have been made on so many levels at once without the use of the inner child paradigm. The changes he was able to make in his life from the snippet of a tune that this child had heard could never have been affected so quickly or so profoundly without the application of this set of tools.
The importance of understanding ourselves through the lens of relationship becomes even clearer when we consider that these relationships are not limited to the time and space contained within conscious-mind reality. As we expand our knowledge and understanding of other parts of our being, we open ourselves to the information they have to offer us about the nature of the self at a soul level.