That our childhood experiences have a completely decisive significance for our life as adults has been documented from different perspectives and with different terminology. Although there is agreement on this, there are different opinions about the usefulness and necessity of working with childhood experiences to solve psychologically conditioned problems in adulthood. When and why can this be justified?

 

The human psyche has sometimes been likened to a tree where annual ring is added to annual ring. The old annual rings remain, while new ones appear as the tree grows. We will always have the one-year-old, the two-year-old, the three-year-old etc. within us. Logically speaking, we should therefore speak of the children within us, but for the sake of simplicity we speak of our inner child or the child within us.

 

Under favorable conditions, the tree develops its full potential. A
healthy and strong tree grows up all the way, as tall and lush as it has the conditions to become. Our inner child is fine and we are in touch with that part of ourselves. We still have the child’s curiosity, spontaneity, playfulness and joy. The child is an integral part of us and we can naturally switch between being a child and an adult or being both at the same time.

 

Most traumatic experiences originate in childhood when we are more exposed and vulnerable to negative influences from outside. We are physically smaller, more dependent on the adults around us and we lack the experience and the cognitive and emotional abilities required to be able to process and thus create meaning and context in what we experience. A child can therefore be more easily overwhelmed by negative experiences. If the experiences are too difficult or painful, the child can disconnect the feelings and ideas they evoke and is unable to feel or react adequately. It simply distances itself from its own experiences. It is as if a trap door opens and the experiences or parts of them end up in the inner part, what is traditionally called the subconscious, inaccessible in an ordinary waking state of consciousness.

 

There they are buried alive and continue to indirectly affect our daily life in the form of various types of symptoms. What characterizes so-called post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSS) is that we continue to react as if the situation that initially caused us to experience something traumatic was still a reality here and now.

 

People usually talk about repressed memories, which is actually misleading. Memories are something we remember, but what is repressed we don’t remember until we have had the opportunity to process it so it becomes manageable. It is experiences, not memories, that are repressed. Only when they are processed are they transformed into memories.

 

It is important that we understand that it is the child who distances himself from his experiences. Then, as adults, we can in turn distance ourselves from our inner child because we are unable to take care of it when it is having a hard time. It can therefore be said that a successful therapy involves a combined child and parent therapy, which regardless of the form of therapy is recommended when children have problems.

 

In order to get in touch with unprocessed experiences and process what needs to be processed, methods are needed that can give us access to our inner part, our subconscious. Here, i.a. hypnotherapy has proven to be an effective method. Using our methodology, in hypnotic states we can get in touch with and help the parts of us that are not well, but only after we have built up other parts and become strong enough overall to face the unfinished in ways that that we feel and function better. Serious hypnosis methods always require continuous self-strengthening work throughout the process.

 

If the problems have roots that stretch back to childhood, then no special techniques are needed except self-strengthening hypnosis to put us in a “child state”. The contact with the innermost annual rings arises by itself when we are strong enough to be confronted with our early experiences.

 

In parallel with our inner child getting help, our adult self needs help to understand what happens during the processing, e.g. in the form of so-called self-strengthening conversations that take place during the entire therapy in parallel with the hypnosis sessions. The more we gain knowledge about what hypnosis is about, how our inner part, our so-called subconscious, works and how we can best meet and help the child we have inside us, the better the therapy works. Because the therapy is knowledge-oriented, we speak of cognitive hypnotherapy.

 

Some feel resistance to “kneading” childhood experiences and thus perhaps throw the blame for current problems on parents and other adults. Kneading is not only unnecessary, it can even be harmful. But in order to be able to change to feel better, we need to get clear on some level within us what it is that needs to change. Then it may be necessary to go back in time in order to better understand what is happening here and now and learn to react to it in a way that we actually had to do back then.

 

How can we then help our inner child feel better? In hypnosis, we can learn to observe and to listen to the child when he begins to tell, perhaps not always in words but through our body. It often takes time before we can understand what is happening, even though the body’s way of moving and reacting speaks its own language. Through facial expressions, gestures and movements, the child tells what he experiences where he is in the middle of the action. Everything happens here and now.

But because the child in the therapy situation is at the same time in a safe environment, he dares to think, feel and react physically in ways that he could not or dared not when the events occurred that gave rise to traumatic experiences. There is no longer any reason to be afraid of negative consequences. The child is not alone and abandoned as it was or at least felt before, but has two adults by its side – the adult self, which has grown stronger through the ego-strengthening work, and the therapist – who can witness what is happening and give it support . What was once too difficult to be fully processed can now be fully processed and the child can react in ways that are adequate in the situation they are in. This is the very essence of what is usually called reprogramming in hypnotherapy.

 

It is important that processing is never forced through provocations. It needs to grow as we become stronger through self-strengthening work. If we subject ourselves to a processing method that tries to force the process instead of aiming to first build and strengthen our self, we only become even more traumatized.

 

Many people are skeptical about the processing of traumatic childhood experiences with the justification that the experiences we have in hypnosis do not correspond to what happened once upon a time. It is true that it is never a question of a re-experiencing in the sense of a photographic copy of what we experienced before as the external circumstances that prevail in a functioning therapy are so much better than those that prevailed before. However, the experiences in hypnosis need to be sufficiently similar to what we experienced at the time for successful processing to be possible. The final criterion for a therapy being successful is that the client feels better and functions better. You don’t do that if what you processed wasn’t based on the real thing.

 

A common misconception is that processing is based on us starting to remember what previously happened. But there is a crucial difference between working with childhood memories and working with the child we carry within us. During a normal conversation, we can sit and recall what it was like when we were children. But memories, however vivid, are distant in time and space. In the hypnotic state we are here and now and what we experience is a very tangible reality. It is not until we process our experiences that they turn into memories. We can then remember them but they no longer play an active role in our daily life and therefore do not affect us in a negative way.

 

If our experiences are accessible in an ordinary awake state of consciousness, there is no reason to go deeper, e.g. using hypnosis. When it comes to repressed experiences, the situation is different. To get in touch with them and to be able to process them, we need to get deeper into ourselves. If it concerns traumatic experiences in childhood, this is not only positive, but can be absolutely decisive in achieving lasting results.

 

Jonas Sandberg

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