By Ksenia Pogorelaya
This situation came up when I was working with a client (I’ll call her Jane) on her anxiety about looking for a job. In previous sessions, we had discovered that it was connected to her fear of disappointing an authority.
I asked Jane to remember when in her childhood she felt like a disappointment to an authority figure. She recalled a school music concert when she was 10 years old, and she SUD level for this event was a 10. She was supposed to play, but at the last minute chickened out. Her mother was sitting next to her and she could feel her mother’s disappointment. Meanwhile, her rival was performing on stage. That girl was a significant figure in her childhood because Jane’s mother compared Jane with her a lot. Also this girl used to bully Jane. There were a few strong triggering moments, so I suggested we do the Tell the Story technique. As always, we started at a neutral moment in the event. I asked her what she was seeing and feeling. The first triggering moment was seeing this girl, Alice, walking onto the stage with a smug expression on her face.
Even though Alice is walking onto the stage with her smug face, I deeply love and accept myself.
Even though she is so full of herself, I deeply love and accept myself.
Even though I feel like I want to smash her against the wall, I deeply love and accept myself.
Her smug face
She’s always been so full of herself
I want to smash her against the wall
I hate her
Her SUD level for that moment went down to a 0. We tapped another round in the same way on how that girl moved around and expressions on her face, as this was also triggering Jane. By the time we came to her mother’s reaction, she started feeling emotional and there were many aspects. I asked her how she knew that her mother was disappointed. It was the words she said (“How come Alice is out there playing and you’re not? You can play better than her”), her face, the tone of her voice, and her energy. We put that into a Setup and tapped on aspects:
Even though my mom said, “How come Alice is out there playing and you’re not? You can play better than her,” I deeply love and accept myself. Even though I could see her disappointed face and feel the disappointment in her voice, I deeply love and accept myself. And even though all her energy felt like disappointment, I deeply love and accept myself.
The tone of her voice
How come Alice is out there playing and you’re not? You can play better than her.
Her energy that I could feel in my body
She is disappointed in me
Jane felt that her mom had too high standards for her and she could never keep up.
At this point, I suggested we do Empty Chair work. I asked Jane to imagine in full detail being in this situation and to see her mom in front of her and, while tapping, tell her exactly how she felt. She kept on talking for a while.
When she said all she wanted to say, I told her to switch chairs and become her mother. I am giving the whole dialogue, as it was quite interesting:
Me: Did you hear what your daughter just told you?
Mother: I can see this girl but I can’t hear what she says and I don’t understand why she’s talking to me. I feel dissociated with her.
Me: Who is she to you?
Mother: She is a child.
Me: Whose child is she?
Mother: His. My husband’s.
Me: Who gave birth to her?
Mother: (long silence) He gave birth to her.
Me: Did you want to give birth to her?
Mother: Because I’d already had a child and I’d lost it. (Her mother was pregnant with a boy before her and had a miscarriage.)
Me: You were hurt because you lost a child?
Me: You didn’t feel this pain fully?
Mother: No (trying not to cry).
Me: And your husband didn’t support you in your pain?
Me: Are you still hurting?
Mother: Yes. I wanted to have a son.
Me: Do you want to talk to your unborn son now?
I asked Jane, as her mother, to imagine her son in front of her and tell him how much it hurt her to lose him and how much she misses him. She was talking, crying and tapping for a while. When she was calm, I told her to switch places and become her unborn son. I’ll be brief here. He told her not to worry, that he had never left her, that it was supposed to be so, that he had to go somewhere else because it was very important that he did. But he loves her, and he’s always been with her.
I asked him if he had any advice for her regarding her daughter (Jane). He said that she was supposed to be born. If he had stayed, she wouldn’t have been born, that it all went according to the Divine plan, that her daughter is very important and that she has to start seeing her, accepting her, and paying attention to her. That she is precious.
I asked if he had a message for Jane. He said that he’s always there for her, she only needs to think about him. That he is guarding her and helped her before. I thanked him and he left.
Jane became her mother again. She felt much better. She was to let her son go now, but she still missed him a bit. I told her that he’s always in her heart, and whenever she misses him, she can look in her heart and find him. I asked her to imagine him again, make him small, and put him in her heart. She felt better after that.
Then I asked her to turn back to her daughter. I reminded her what her 10-year-old daughter had just told her (using Jane’s words) and asked her to comment. She said she was sorry. That she sees Jane now and that she is precious. And that it doesn’t matter that she was scared to play at the concert; she can play another time when she feels ready. I asked her to stand behind her daughter and put her hands on her shoulders saying that she always has her back.
I then asked Jane to become her 10-year-old self again and tell me how she felt now that her mother had told her all those things. She felt great. I asked her how she felt now about not playing at the concert and about Alice. She said, laughing, “Who cares about this stupid concert?” As for Alice–she felt sorry for her because she was so insecure that she had to prove herself.
All Jane’s SUD levels for the aspects of this situation went down. The fluttering bird in her chest was gone. She felt happy and more connected to her mother.