‘Susan’ first came to me because she wanted rid of a phobia she had about having men in the front passenger seat of her car. This was proving particularly problematic as she had recently struck up a new relationship, resulting in them always having to travel in the boyfriend’s car because she couldn’t bear to have him in the passenger seat of her car.
When I meta-modelled her, it soon emerged that the phobia was rooted in the partly-repressed memory of a traumatic experience several years back. Then a man sitting in the front seat of her car had tried to rape her.
Since the event was a clear-cut single traumatic episode, I used the NLP Trauma Care to recode the patterns of that memory so they were far less immediate and thus far less threatening to her. I future-paced Susan driving with a man sitting next to her and she now seemed quite comfortable with that thought.
A few days later she rang me to report that she was indeed now driving her boyfriend about quite happily.
So all seemed well; yet I suspected there were more deep-rooted problems. The amount of guilt she had expressed over the attempted rape was significantly beyond what might have been expected. Yes, she and her assailant had been on a date. Yes, they had been parked in a quiet country spot. Yes, they had been doing a little kissing and ‘canoodling’. But she made it very clear to him that she was not up for anything further – and that was a reflection of statements she had made to him earlier.
It also perplexed me that, though she had a well-paid job, she drove a beat-up old car she hated. Even after the Trauma Cure, she still seemed contemptuous of the car.
So it was no great surprise when Susan turned up 3 months later, miserable, frustrated and calling herself “a failure”.
Enough dissonance to make a change…?
Susan was still driving the car she hated. The relationship with the boyfriend, ‘Carl’, was blossoming yet she felt she couldn’t love him unreservedly. She was a talented musician and was asked frequently to play with bands or at events – yet she turned most of these invitations down. She also didn’t feel she could allow herself the time to practice – too many other pressing priorities! – and she would have sounded better on a decent instrument. She had the opportunity to go self-employed doing more personally-satisfying work but didn’t feel she was upto it.
At the PURPLE level of the Gravesian approach Susan had a dependency on her daughter, ‘Julia’, whom she over-indulged and which the daughter sometimes abused. When Julia spent time with the divorced father, Susan would go partly to pieces, mingling fits of tears with bouts of drunkenness, and then spoiling the daughter on her return.
Her RED vMEME tended to be expressed only intermittently – and then often explosively, as if it been kept all pent up inside. Carl apparently also had a temper which made for some heated rows, for which Susan always took the blame.
Of BLUE there was barely a sign in her life. There was just enough for her to organise her work – but her house was a mess, and there was little sense of timing, regularity or organisation in her personal life. She lived largely from crisis to indulgence.
It was clear to me that the problems were manifesting themselves at the RED level, with low self-esteem and consequently poor self-efficacy.
I meta-modelled Susan to discover that the root belief preventing her looking after herself was that she was not good enough to be herself. (She had even had a nervous breakdown when Julia was born, believing that she wasn’t good enough to have such a beautiful, healthy child!)
From this, I deduced that, vMEMETICALLY, there had been some failure of RED to develop healthily in the PURPLE-to-RED transition.
Further meta-modelling revealed that the root belief of not being good enough to be herself stemmed from early-middle childhood experiences of her late father – who should have been the magical shamanic figure PURPLE needs – suppressing her self-expression. “Be quiet! Shut up! Don’t do that!”, etc, were the responses she got to any form of loud or noisy play she did while he was in the house. As a teenager, he discouraged Susan’s interest in music – “You can’t eat your music!” – and refused to support her going to music college.
Unsurprisingly, Susan’s RED had not developed healthily. She allowed herself to be abused (psychologically) by one of her brothers and ended up married to a man who also abused her verbally and reinforced the I’m-not-good-enough motif.
The strategy I decided to work with for her was Penny Park’s Mistaken Belief Visualisation (1994). However, when I explained to Susan that this would mean acknowledging her father was the cause of her problems, she decided not to proceed with the therapy.
2 weeks later Susan was back, more miserable than ever. However, she still felt she couldn’t acknowledge the part her father had played – even though I explained he wouldn’t have understood what he was doing. (From discussing her childhood memories, it was clear to both of us that he was a fairly supressed character who also didn’t feel good about himself.)
Finally, after another couple of months of misery, with her relationship with Carl on the line, Susan had enough dissonance to accept what her father had unwittingly done to her.
A new enabling belief
I resourced Susan for the therapy by getting her to do Penny Parks’ Resourceful You exercise – which is about visualising *you* as good as you can be – the exercise itself an antidote of sorts to Susan’s problem! (The exercise requires the client to imagine what they would be like – what kind of phenotype?- if all the raw genetic material of the genotype had been fulfilled and its development not compromised as it almost always is.
We then did the Mistaken Belief Visualisation which, in essence, works on the presupposition that beliefs (schemas), particularly in childhood, tend to be implanted through exposure to other people’s memes So the idea is to find the person who gave you the unhelpful/unhealthy belief and – using metaphors for the belief – give it back to him/her; then a new enabling belief – again couched in easy-to-use metaphors – is installed and tested.
Susan’s father – dead several years in real life – was duly handed back his debilitating belief and Susan created an enabling belief for herself to replace it.
We future-paced the new belief to test it. Susan told me after the exercise was complete that one of the future scenarios she used for the test was her accepting Carl asking her to marry him – because she deserved his love and she wanted him to enjoy all the love she had to give him!
Susan was then given a number of CBT-type tasks to carry out to as part of reinforcing her new sense of self-worth. Among these activities was the keeping of a ‘happy book’ – a daily recording of positive events and the positive feelings that went hand-in-hand with them. Although it took some effort at first, Susan quickly came to treasure her happy book!
The changes she experienced over the next year or so were phenomenal.
In her early-mid 40s, Susan started behaving like a full-of-herself teenager. She got rid of her ‘old banger’ and spent £6,000 on a car worthy of her status in life and which she thoroughly enjoyed driving. Next up was £1,200 on a new musical instrument, for which she took the time to practise. She was experiencing the blossoming of healthy RED and began to love herself in a whole new way.
Then came the BLUE – within just a few months of the therapy, Susan was organising her house, putting in place rules and schedules – particularly important for Julia entering her teens – and starting to future-pace concerns.
Susan took the plunge employment-wise and started her own self-employed one-woman business.
And Carl did ask her to marry him…and she did accept!
Postscript: It had been several years since I’d heard from ‘Susan’ when one day, idly following some links on www.myspace.com, I came across a band site which featured her prominently! I’d only heard very vaguely of the band before but it was clear, from the site, that they were achieving a good modicum of success, with an album out, some reviews in the national music press and gigs all over the country. And Susan was a key member, not only playing several instruments and singing but also writing some of the band’s material.
What a transformation from the suppressed self-loather who had first come to me for help so many years before! Of course, I can’t say Susan wouldn’t have become the person she is now without my intervention; but I’m confident those sessions with me were a key turning point in her life.