DADDY LONG LEGS Hypnotherapy with a 10 year old
Ten year old Jason was phobic about spiders. His mother had taken him to a therapist for EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) several times and he had not responded to that particular process. Because she had benefited from Heart-centered Hypnotherapy herself, she asked me to do a session with him. Jason came in to my office for an hour the first time I talked with him. He was articulate, bright, and endearingly sweet. While somewhat shy, he was direct and clear when he spoke with me. I asked him what he felt in his body when he saw a spider. He responded easily. "I go all white inside". After 15 minutes, we went into my hypnotherapy room. Not surprisingly, he wanted his mother to come with us. He immediately bonded with the release bag. After five minutes of hitting the bag (a Gestalt therapy technique used to release energy build-up in the body), we did a simple induction and anchoring of a safe place. We ended the session with my request for him to draw a spider. When he completed his drawing, I asked him if he wanted to take the drawing with him or leave it with me. He wanted me to keep it, so I put it on the bag and told him it would be there when he returned. "I think I know what we're going to do with that when I come back", he said.
Over the next week, his mother helped him with the anchoring of his safe place and the result was he felt confident in accessing his anchor, which was standing in his driveway by the basketball hoop with a TV and his parents. It will come as no surprise that the spider did not spend the week on the bag. Fortunately I remembered to place it on the bag for his return. When Jason arrived he seemed quite excited to go to the hypnotherapy room again. In the one regression we did, he went back to being three. He had seen a daddy long legs and "it was as big as my head". I had him talk to the spider and he told it how big it was and that he was really afraid of it. His conclusion was that he was unable to protect himself and he decided he would try to get away.
I asked him what he would like to do currently to the spider and he said "kill it dead". I gave him the hose and told him the spider was on the bag. He beat the spider until he had mutilated the drawing into tiny pieces and then asked permission to open his eyes just to be certain. While he was hitting the bag, he stopped for a moment and said "my nervous system is all red now". Clearly Jason had no knowledge of the autonomic nervous system. He just knew at an experiential level what was happening in his body. I interpreted his statement as moving out of the phobic, “white” response into a space of empowerment while accessing his anger. At another point in the beating of the spider, he stopped and said, "I feel kinda sorry for the spider". I told him we could talk about that when he was finished. When he was done he was obviously quite pleased with himself. He easily accessed how he felt and we resourced the image he had of himself, the one with the power, complete with a magic sword. I asked him how he now felt about beating and killing the spider and he was, thankfully, ambivalent. We talked about how it might be possible, with his new conclusion of "I'm powerful", not to have to "get away" but to just keep an eye on the spider to be certain IT stayed away. I told him his feeling was something called “compassion for all living things”. I spoke with his mother a month later. She said there was no evidence of the phobia. This work was done in two one hour sessions including the first meeting which included talking about the problem and introducing him to hypnotherapy.