People quite often ask about Cognitive Hypnotherapy. They want to know how effective it can be, and how much it can really help, especially with some of the deeper and more complicated areas of life.
To answer those questions, here is Annabelle's story. It was written by her, especially for this article, and is shared with full permission. Annabelle is not her real name, but the story is true. I have been privileged to work with her and to walk alongside her on this journey.
OK, so I get “triggered,” I get that, sort of …. But what the hell do I do about it? “Write it down to help you work out what your triggers are.” Use that to help you identify what your mother did when you were a child.” OK, I can do and have done that. But what do I do about it? How do I make it stop? The things that trigger me look and sound so unremarkable to other people, that I just sound crazy, as if I’m “over-thinking” or “too sensitive.” It’s very difficult to articulate and describe, but I know deep in my being that I feel unworthy and trapped in some sort of loop that keeps me small and repeating the same mistakes.
The problem was, I was 45 when this particular “reveal” occurred; I had/have PTSD. I always thought that only happened to people who faced life threatening situations: victims of violent crime, military or medical personnel or firemen/women. Had she made me feel as though my life was threatened? Perhaps, perhaps not, it’s difficult to remember now. Did she ever make me feel unsafe when I was a vulnerable child? Frequently!
It felt “normal” until I escaped to University (despite her many attempts to disrupt my education and maintain control over me), when I saw that my friends' parents not only liked them, but might have actually loved them too. People hugged each other and sometimes I had to do that too (just to seem normal) - that was just mind boggling to me.
When Kate suggested I let her help me with how I was feeling, one of my initial thoughts was something along the lines of “well, it can’t hurt to give it a go, but if she achieves anything with the crap in my head it’ll be miraculous.” I just felt so indescribably wrong - I didn’t know who I was because I’d never had attachment or love with a parent to nurture my growing (I mean mentally - there was always food; in fact it was one of her weapons). Actually it was worse than that.
On any given day, opportunities were taken and made by this woman to make me (and my siblings) feel like the shit on your shoe for as long as I can remember. This is one of the ways in which a narcissist breaks down your sense of self, so they can control you. This particular narcissist was the one person who society deems will always have your back and love you unconditionally, so it must be you who’s crazy, not her who’s abusive.
Try telling adults (who don’t know about this stuff yet because it’s not been discussed in wider society and safeguarding isn't really a thing yet) that your mother is a covert narcissist and she’s wreaking havoc on the six other people in your household, and getting them to believe you. Mission Impossible. After I left home and was free in the 90s, I did try telling some of my close friends, but because I couldn’t explain it very well and they couldn’t imagine anyone’s mother being that horrible, they didn’t really believe me. There was actual tumbleweed. So in the words of the Beautiful South, “I kept it all in.”
I spent my life trying to be small, inconspicuous and not put anybody out or upset anyone (my mum). Don’t annoy anyone, don’t draw attention to yourself, apologise for your presence. Don’t be seen. I was so fed up of being in my own head all the time. Then, I met my lovely husband to be, got married and started trying for a family. That turned out to be the undoing of my pretence. It’s what triggered all the crap that I’d stuffed in “Annabelle’s box” (way more dark than Pandora’s).
The process of getting pregnant (and it was a process (IVF)) and the very lucky but terrifying pregnancy and birth that followed blew my carefully constructed (pretend) sanity apart. Cue, lots of medicinal mood levellers and talking therapy which did help me to get a grip (as some people like to say) to an extent. I learned that I had PTSD and what triggers were and the whole fight or flight stuff. For me, being triggered was like being punched in the solar plexus so hard I stopped in my tracks. It was a very physical experience, although the triggering occurred in my head. My emotional brain took control; I couldn’t think and all I could focus on was the source of the perceived threat. My head felt like it was awash with thoughts, yet none of them were coherent. As I said earlier, I needed to make it stop because now I understood the triggering thing, I felt like I had never really, truly relaxed in my whole life. I was knackered.
As I said, I was initially sceptical about how much Kate would be able to help me, but I had nothing to lose, so we started. The work I did with Kate felt odd, surreal and relaxing, even though I was going over bad memories, they were being reframed as we worked and felt dream-like in quality. I was always aware of what we discussed and sometimes surprised by what came up - events that I had thought insignificant turned out to be more meaningful to my issues than I’d realised.
Through working with Kate I began to challenge my mother’s narrative: “you’re useless/lazy/fat/insignificant/in the way.” I began to appreciate the extent to which I’d assimilated her vitriol into my self perception and even as a relatively new parent, realised just how wrong it had been. After a session, I would sleep really well and the following day I could feel each slight shift towards the positive.
Then came the major breakthrough. I was able to let go of the anger I felt towards my mum and forgive her (it took me a while to agree to try to forgive her, but I was able to do it when I realised it wasn’t for her; it was for me). In one of my last sessions, I “let that shit go.” Then I sat down on the steps of my small stone cottage on the beach (my imaginary dream home) and for the first time in my life felt at peace, as though I could just be me, without the inner critic. It has literally changed my perspective on life.
My life now? I genuinely enjoy feelings of uncomplicated joy and freedom. I no longer feel like the victim she tried to make me into because I know and believe that I survived her. She died a few years ago now, but it wasn’t until I worked with Kate that she stopped having an impact on my life. I have been known to laugh out loud on my own in public and not be bothered by the funny looks I get; to walk with a spring in my step; to give fewer shits about what other people think of me (I used to be almost paralysed by this) dance in front of other people and no longer hide my weirdness and silliness. I get to experience life as it should be lived: in my heart, my head and with my soul.
From me to you: “you live in your head, so how you perceive things is your life and if you’re struggling like I was, Cognitive Hypnotherapy is a game changer”.
Thanks to Annabelle for allowing me to share her story, and for the opportunity to work with her. She is an inspirational woman.
If you ever want to talk about how Cognitive Hypnotherapy can help you, just let me know. The first call is both free and confidential. It might just make all the difference.