Over time in my hypnotherapy practice I have had the privilege of hearing people’s stories from deep within their perspective. When an adult is regressed in hypnosis to a memory from when they were young, they see and feel it as though it’s happening to their child-self right now, but they have the vocabulary and the brain capacity to express and understand what is happening inside them and how it has affected their life. I cannot express just how amazing a thing this is to witness.
When we are children things happen to us and because of our incomplete brain development we come to conclusions that are based on only some of the information. It’s like if someone shows you a selection of pictures from an event and asks you to make up a story about what’s happening in those pictures. That’s how children understand the world.
If your mom screams at you and bursts into tears when you spill a glass of milk you may feel you’ve done something really bad and from then on you are a little bit anxious around full glasses of liquid. You can’t see that she had a bad day at work. Your spilling the milk had very little to do with her reaction but you don’t know that. So even as an adult, if you spill a glass of milk you may feel shame and fear.
Most of the time we don’t go back to examine our understandings of these events – unless they are causing us problems, so we also don’t correct our younger self’s interpretation, nor the impact it has on our life.
As I listen to people I can see why our interpretations of events are so unique and I have deeply understood that we can never be sure how someone else is hearing what we say. You know how it is? You mean to say one thing and the other person hears something else. We hear things from our point of experience in a moment.
For example, a woman with a lot of anxiety remembers falling in the bath as a baby. For her this was a traumatic near-drowning. She tells me how she remembers falling and her mother taking so long to rescue her that she was sure she would drown. Then we do hypnosis and the details are filled in – and it turns out her mother was right there all along! She had slipped under the water but her mother had picked her up immediately. She just hadn’t experienced it that way as a baby. After this realisation during our session a number of her anxiety symptoms subsided.
This example nailed the understanding in for me.
*Lara was sitting on the mat in class and the teacher asked, “Who can tell me a word starting with the letter A?” Little hands waved around eagerly and the chosen child said, “Apple.” “Very good” said the teacher, “Now who can tell me a word that starts with the letter B?” Little hands stretched up again hoping to be chosen and the teacher pointed to Lara who just knew she had the right answer. She proudly announced, “Apple.” It had been the right answer a moment ago, so it must surely be the right answer now. The teacher smiled kindly, “No, that’s not it. Who else would like to try?”
Lara’s inner world imploded. She had thought she knew. She’d been so certain – but she had been wrong. If that was so, what else in the world did she think she knew, yet was wrong about? This moment – we later discovered in our therapy – was the start of a series of events which led to an adulthood filled with terrible self-doubt and social phobia – I mean if people can give you that kind of feedback, it’s not safe to be around them, is it? All this turmoil triggered inside Lara, yet the teacher had said nothing wrong.
So I have learned never to assume that people have heard me in the way I intended – and that includes my children. We all hear and understand everything from within our current point of experience. It also means that we have very little – if any – control over whether our children, or anyone else, will be ok or not. That is scary but also liberating.
Your task is to respect that the other person has their journey and that they have the tools for that journey – and then focus on speaking and acting from a place of being as aligned with what is true for you as you can be. Now THAT has a good effect on those around you – if they are ready for it that is…
Can’t control their readiness either can you?