An Illustrator’s Cave
Using Hypnotherapy to Draw Out One’s Own Inner Solutions
My hypnotherapy practice tagline is Access Your Inner Wisdom. It’s based on the fact that we all have the inner solutions and wisdom to tap into.
A person can come into my practice presenting an issue, according to their conscious mind, like changing a habit, tackling an emotion, resolving a pattern… that is perceived from the conscious mind, which thinks, analyzes, rationalizes, and has short-term memories.
They come to see a hypnotherapist because they believe to find the cause of the problem, or solution, they need to go inside to their subconscious mind – the mind that created the problem and holds the solution.
Chelsea is an illustrator. She recently had a very “terrible breakup” that “triggered her major depression and anxiety attacks”. She cried everyday for two months. She couldn’t continue working so she took a whole month off to heal, so that she could function.
The first session was focused on intake and finding instant relief for Chelsea. Through the intake, I realized Chelsea grew up with overbearing parents, whose intention was always love and care, but their love was a little too tight for Chelsea. 28-year old Chelsea never had much chance to be her own person, making her own decisions without her parents’ interference. Meeting her ex-boyfriend was a breath of fresh air. Chelsea was able to move out of her parents’ house because of the encouragement and arrangement with the ex.
Chelsea dreamt of a future with that boyfriend. The breakup was devastating not just because of the loss of her boyfriend, but also the loss of her hope, according to her dream.
In our second session, I said to Chelsea, “Loosing that hope, you know, is the most affordable loss, because hope was your imagination. In your imagination you are 100% free and in 100% control. There will be a day, you can,” as I looked into Chelsea’s eyes, remembering that she’s the one who can draw, “draw just another picture in your mind, and dream up another dream. But for now, it’s okay for you to come back and be the dreamer that you actually are.”
I wanted to wake up Chelsea to the fact that although her dream was broken, as a dreamer, she was still intact.
Chelsea sat there, pointed to her heart, “But what about this pain?”
I could tell as Chelsea was speaking, she was feeling the pain in that very moment.
“That pain, there, can you, just allow it, to be there?” I spoke very slowly, switching to my hypnotic tone, and used my simplest hypnosis induction – five words with my hand waving in front of her, “Just close down those eyes!”
Chelsea’s eyes closed. And her breathing shifted. “That pain, let’s give it our neutral attention. It’s not good. It’s not bad. It’s just there. Where exactly do you feel it?”
“In my heart.” Chelsea whispered.
“It is in your heart, that pain. I wonder, what is in it?” I continued as slowly as the process could take, “If you could allow yourself to go inside, that pain, as if you shrink yourself to a tiny spark of consciousness, and you go inside, there, that’s right. What… do you… find… there?”
“I see… broken pieces of glass.”
Interesting, but at this point, I was ready to go with her subconscious mind’s flow, wherever that might take.
“Yes, those broken pieces of glass… right there. What does it mean to you?” Since I was following her subconscious mind’s lead, I let her give me the meaning without me trying to assume. Later Chelsea told me the broken glass was in a dark cave.
“That’s him.” Chelsea started to cry again.
“Yes. What would you like to do now with those broken pieces?”
“I wanted to put them back together!”
“Yes, how do we do that?” I was going to creatively help her find a way to piece them together. Or so I thought.
“But another part of me says it’s already broken. It’s useless. It was fragile to start with.”
Interesting. I realized that second part was the part that would get Chelsea independently better.
“So that other part of you thinks there is no point putting them together.” The way I do Parts Therapy is that I usually utilize a client’s two hands. I placed Chelsea’s two hands palm facing up on her lap. “If one of the hands wants to piece the shards together, I wonder which one would that be? The hand can wiggle itself for me to know. And of course, another hand wants to express how useless this action is. Which one would that be then?”
Chelsea’s left hand indicated being the one wanting to fix the broken glass, and the right hand wanting to leave it.
I just continued on letting her inner-being make the decision. So I started a long hypnotic narrative drawing her two hands together with her unconscious mind, as the unconscious mind acts in hypnosis in a very subtle way. I spoke the fact that an undercurrent normally runs in a cave, and gave her the suggestion that when the two hands came together, she’d find some clarity…
Chelsea’s unconscious mind took 20 minutes to bring her two hands together. But as the hands joined together, I could tell an instant relief in her and she sank deeper into the couch.
I wanted to find out what the next step her inner being wanted.
“As the two hands joined together and you found inner clarity, I wonder, what would YOU like to do next?”
“I just want to stay here for a while.”
Hmmm, that was not very encouraging, but I went with the flow. “Of course, stay here as long as you need to. Meanwhile, in this cave, make yourself as comfortable as you possibly can, resting, relaxing, staying…”
After a while, I managed to have Chelsea move. I thought a cave should have an obvious entrance/exit. How wrong I was! It was too dark for Chelsea to see, but certainly no obvious exit. I encouraged Chelsea to explore the cave further, and finally Chelsea heard some water dripping, and from there she found some water flow.
From there the journey began.
Chelsea decided to go upstream. The further she went, the bigger the water became. It was dark, so I had to assure her to use hands and feet to make sure each step was solid before she moved her weight over, which meant each step was carefully done. But because of it, she became stronger physically, mentally and emotionally.
Chelsea went to a place where she couldn’t hold onto anything anymore, as if she was in the middle of a fast moving river, the current was strong. The best she could manage was to swim to stay in the same place. Obviously her inner part of the mind was unwilling to get out of this cave of the broken love.
I had to do something else. “Now, in this dark cave, when you chose to go upstream, you didn’t have any indication that it would lead you out. You just picked because you could. I wonder, what would happen if you change the direction and go downstream?”
“But I have tried so hard to come this far.”
“Yes. And it has made you stronger and more experienced with this cave.”
Finally Chelsea moved back downstream, and noticed the water got less and less. Now she was walking on the rocks in the darkness using her hands as assistance. Then the area got narrower and narrower. Chelsea was on her hands and knees, and it was continuing to narrow. This has become an impossible cave.
A dead end! I ran out of ways to help.
I changed the direction, “If you are the illustrator of this story. In the story, there is this amazingly beautiful young lady. She is talented. She is loved by many. And she got in this narrow part of the cave. How would you, as the illustrator, create the next picture for her to get out?”
Chelsea was thinking.
“And the audience is waiting.” I added.
“I will,” Chelsea cleared her throat, “draw the picture in which she digs from there because the water can’t just disappear. It must have gone down somewhere. If she can find the water, she can get out.”
“Wonderful.” Step by step, Chelsea got this comic book lady out of the cave.
Standing on top of a hill, at night time, a gentle wind blew, forest in the distance, in the sky, a clear crescent moon. Chelsea felt stronger, calmer and freer. She has set herself free. And she could sense, somewhere down the hill, there was some warm presence waiting for her.
I was very glad that every step of the way, Chelsea’s inner wisdom helped her out of the situation. An hour and half session, Chelsea went through a lot, and now she came back to normal consciousness, feeling completely different.
After Chelsea left, I marvelled at how resourceful our subconscious mind is. And how brilliant that we could, as counsellors, coaches and therapists, enable the inner wisdom to shine through.
Suddenly I remembered a story – How a judge handed over his judgment.
There was an aging shoplifter who had been in and out of prison for years. Every time he was caught the presiding Judge would hand down the sentence, usually a jail sentence. That had gone on for years.
And the shoplifter had always ended up re-offending at some point.
Then one day the shoplifter was up before a different judge for his most recent shoplifting conviction. But this time this new judge humbly said, “I have been handing out sentences for 12 years, but you have been receiving them for 32. You have more experience than I have, so what do you think I should do?”
The shoplifting defendant opted for a suspended sentence. That was how he never offended again.