It was a Saturday morning and I went to see my hypnotherapist, Connie. I shared with her how much I wanted to do and how overwhelmed I felt. I knew I had no deadline, but I’d waited for such a long time to do the things I felt passionate about. I had so much to say about the lessons I’d learned over the past thirty years. She told me she could help me strike a balance in my life. I talked a lot. I was amazed how my spoken words connected to what I heard in my head, and was the same way I felt when I was writing. I used to say something other than what I was really thinking. Now, I said things the way I heard them, but not in a hurtful way. I wasn’t looking to express everything and knock people over.
We talked about my doubt, as well as my certainty that I would be successful as a writer. I told her how I suddenly saw an image of myself as a “wrapped up present.” I had many gifts and what had happened was that all of them had come together into one, big package.
I shared with Connie how I reached the pinnacle of my career and watched it dissipate. There was no choice for me about that. However, I had now decided to make my own choice. I preferred to be a writer. I knew Connie understood that, because I had once asked her, ”Connie, what if you could be arranging flowers again for a lot of money liked you used to in the past? Instead of being a hypnotherapist, would you do that instead if you had the opportunity to go back to it?”
She didn’t blink an eye when she said no. Connie was very professional. Although I felt very close to her, I didn’t really know much about her at all. She had chosen to keep it that way. I knew what her answer would be when I asked her that question. It was obvious for me that she loved what she was doing. She had already changed a lot of people’s lives besides mine.
When it was time for the hypnosis she mentioned to me she was going to try something more interactive. I was totally open to it. I closed my eyes and began to relax. I floated off, but heard her voice in the distance. As she counted, I felt a colored light surrounding me and filling me with calmness. She said, “Okay, I want you to give me an image now. Something that represents what you are feeling when you have doubt.”
I told her, “I have an image where I see myself lying flat on the ground. I can’t get up and I can’t walk. I am defeated. The picture I see of myself on the ground reminds me of how my young son used to fall on the ground, put his face in the carpet and scream.”
She asked, “Can you find a word to describe how that image feels?”
I searched and then I said, “I felt hopeless. I felt like a failure. There wasn’t even much point in getting up. I just wanted to lie there.”
Then she said, “Alright, now I want you to find another image. Tell me what image you have of yourself now that could speak to the other image.”
I said, “My other image is of myself today, I’m running and flying. I feel free and happy again. I would tell the image of myself on the ground that everything would be okay. You will get up and you will be able to walk again.”
Now I was fully crying; my tears became a running stream down my cheeks. I said softly, “Honestly, Connie, after Jason died I was not only on the floor. I was ready to just quit completely. I didn’t even know how I’d ever get up again. I wanted to die. I don’t remember much except my existence was like torture. Eventually, I just felt I had to get up because I loved my other children so much.”
I sobbed as the following sentence erupted. “I just wish I had known that there was hope for me!” It became quiet. I had let my emotions out, and gradually I became calm again.
After a few moments of silence, I listened carefully as Connie asked me to further describe the current image of myself that was speaking to my image lying on the ground. I told her I was young again. I remembered how I used to feel when I was at the beach; it was my favorite place to play my guitar. I was overlooking the ocean and my hair was freely blowing in the marine air. I felt like life was wonderful and anything was possible. Connie went into another direction. She said, “Tell me what image comes to mind when you think of striking a balance.”
I answered quickly, “Getting on the scale every morning!” I wondered why I said that, but realized that the word “balance” had me picture a scale. I tried to explain. “I am comfortable now with what I’m eating and how I look. I’m not torturing myself that I’m fat and out of control anymore. I accept the way I look now, so I think I’ve struck a balance in that area.”
She said, “Do you see any image that is painful and countering this image of balance?”
It was getting more challenging for my brain to process what she said while under hypnosis. Eventually I spoke hesitantly and said, “Yes, I do see a negative and countering image. You know, I’m not glamorous. I don’t usually wear make up. I don’t get manicures because I bite my nails. I have always felt that beauty comes from within. I still feel beautiful.”
Then I gasped as a sob erupted. I said tearfully, “For a long time I have lived without any compliments about my appearance. When I was youthful, I was so happy; I felt adored. I used to be told I was pretty. But my husband is not expressive or demonstrative in that way. I know he loves me, but I’ve learned to live without ever hearing any compliments about my appearance. I feel so unattractive as I’ve gotten older, both as a result of age and not hearing anything positive.”
Connie said, “What would your positive image say to this?”
I said, “My positive image would remind me that I have never been interested in spending a lot of time on my appearance. Even now that I have a lot of clothes that are baggy, I am not interested in making time to buy new things. I have different passions that are more important to me. Yet, I still feel beautiful. I have never worried that my husband was ever looking at other women. I can’t fault him for being a zombie like me. I didn’t ask for much. In fact, no matter what has happened to me in my life, I have always maintained a smile. Smiling can make anyone look beautiful. When I was a young girl, I used to be called Smiley.”
It was time for me to awaken from hypnosis. Connie said, “Say goodbye to those painful images. I want you to embrace those new images . . . the one where you see yourself running and flying and the image of your youthful self at the beach.”
As I opened my eyes, my cheeks felt tight where the stream of tears had dried. I wondered what insight I’d find from our session. Suddenly, I had a burst of clarity. I told Connie, “You know, I just wish when I was on the ground and felt like I wanted to die, that I could have known someday I’d be full of joy again.”
She was very quiet for a moment. Her eyes were shining when asked me a thoughtful question. She said, “Do you realize what it is you are sharing when you write?”
I said without hesitation, “I am giving other people hope. Hope is something that everyone can relate to! For so many years, I was such a “stuck” person, the consummate caregiver. I had been taking care of so many people and I’d never expressed any of my feelings. I was appropriate, considerate, and I carried the weight of the world on my shoulders.
When my parents lived with me, I was running on empty. Before that almost every single day after Jason died, I woke up wishing I never woke up again. If there was hope for me, then there could be hope for anyone! One cannot imagine grief. You must live it, in order to understand it. There is no other way. That is the sadness of bereavement. It is not possible to imagine how horrible it feels. It is a very lonely thing to grieve.
When I was suffering through so many overwhelming challenges in my life, I had no idea that I would ever feel better. So there was always hope for me. I wish it were possible that every human could maintain hope in order to help them survive their grief.”
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