Couples in Crisis
It is a fundamental premise in hypnotherapy that the brain can record indefinitely every event perceived by the individual throughout his/her life and these recordings are stored away essentially unaltered. Not only are the past events themselves recorded but also associated feelings occurring at the time. Another fundamental premise is that strong emotions associated with the critical experience of the past may be responsible for the symptomatology and marital discord of the present.
Critical experience as in trauma is always associated with much distress. For safety reasons the subconscious will bury the memory or part of it with barriers erected to prevent its recovery. At the subconscious level the brain by the process of association will often mistake people we love with people who also caused us pain.
I recall a case where a newly married couple Michael and Ellen, in their second marriage, were having some major problems. Between all the pain and blame, they wanted to know what was happening to them. They were frightened that once again they were going to get divorced, and for the most part they were correct.
The fact is that Michael had gotten divorced for the very same trust issues he had in his previous marriage.
To uncover the critical experience responsible for the symptoms, it is necessary to first establish the subconscious communication which is the essence of hypnosis. This way emotions that would arise from a deeply subconscious level would identify the memory responsible for the problems. Yet in Michael’s case, we could not find any emotional disturbances from his place of origin, namely, home.
Until the drive home, Michael started to recall an event he had long forgotten. When he was about 9 years old, his father gave him a note to deliver to his teacher. Feeling good and proud of himself, Michael handed the note to his teacher. His teacher (for some unexplained reason) took off his belt and gave him a beating that he would never forget—or so it seemed. At that moment he felt helpless and started to cry. His amygdala, the emotional alarm part of the brain, went off, setting off the fear response, an alarm in the body that protects us by preparing us to fight, flee or freeze. Michael’s amygdala could neither fight nor flee, but it did freeze. As the years passed, even though Michael was traumatized by the event, he did “forget.”
In time he grew up and got married. It wasn`t long into the marriage when trust issues started to emerge and he began to fight with his wife, Ellen, a person he loved very much. Michael’s emotional alarm bell, the amygdala (with its own emotional memory of an event) reminded him: “Hey! You trusted your father, a person you loved so much and look what happened. Have you forgotten what it was like to feel helpless and out of control? How can you trust someone who loves you? Ellen loves you. Can`t you see that you’re not safe?”
Michel’s brain had associated loving someone and being loved by that person (his father) with being hurt and rendered helpless, He transferred those thoughts and feelings onto his relationship with his beloved Ellen.
The subconscious brain shouts: “People who love you cannot be trusted not to hurt you. Do whatever you must do to get back in control. Do something—yell, scream, fight, run for it. Hey … I have a better idea—keep telling yourself you’re just not compatible, and just get divorced!”
Michael and Ellen tried to convince me they were not compatible … when they were. They both were wounded from childhood and needed to heal. However, they did not know how or where to start. As I started working with them using the AH method (awareness + hypnotherapy), Michel responded, “The lack of trust is all I have left in order for me to feel in control, I am afraid to give up.”
But they did give it up, with a lot of hard work. They had to give up the anger, hurt and fear to avoid the triggers that had continued to re-traumatize them. As their subconscious minds began to heal, so did the conscious mind become less defensive, as the trauma subsided. As a result, once they began to feel safe they began to trust each other, and learn the communication skill in building shalom bayit.
Moishe Herskowitz, M.S., LCSW, CH is a couples and marital hypnotherapist. He is founder of How We Communicate PLLC, a 12-step program for healing couples in crisis, that uses hypnotherapy, cognitive therapy and energy as a cable to reconnect. He can be reached at 718.404.2344, mherskowitz.com, howwecommunicate.info, and [email protected]