I worked with a client recently (we’ll call her Janny) who, at the age of two and a half was rushed into hospital with peritonitis. Her life was saved (obviously) but the trauma she experienced at that tender age has powerfully formed her whole life:
- She has lived with a ‘gut-level’ fear, pretty much every day since then – that’s five decades.
- She has felt a way-out-of-perspective sense of responsibility for other people’s well-being since then
- She has felt the need to control her world since then
So WHAT is all that about?
A little girl (particularly a bright one as she is) has learned a lot about life by two and a half. However she has not learned about the life-threatening potential of peritonitis or how to handle being separated from a secure home. She was literally taken from her parents, put in an ambulance and rushed to hospital, where a houseman took one look at her and pulled a ‘shocked’ face – which at her young age she interpreted as fear. (It probably was!) Little children are brilliant at picking up the cues from adults and taking them on board. She certainly did. Janny has been very frightened for 50 years.
In the bed next to hers she could see another little girl “hanging from the ceiling” was how she described it to me, but of course we rationalised it as ‘on traction’ as we talked. Janny at 30 months, didn’t know what traction was, or that hospitals are there to help, or that the little girl like her in the next bed WOULD soon go home. All she figured out was her limbs were ‘hanging from the ceiling’ and she was hurting. Janny was overwhelmingly worried about her, and powerless to help. (Empathy at her age? You bet.) From then on Janny has found it incredibly difficult to live with the thought of anyone being in pain, and spent her life trying to relieve it in others – at huge personal cost.
And no one explained to her that that her mummy and daddy would eventually be allowed in to see her and she would eventually go home, nor that the little girl in the next bed would too. Five weeks separated in the stark clinical environment of a 1950s hospital with starched white nurses and clinical procedures is ‘for ever’ for a little girl. You can imagine what that kind of separation must feel like. Or perhaps you can’t unless you’ve experienced it. I haven’t.
When she was better and allowed to leave hospital, she was physically recovered and emotionally scarred, potentially for life. Until this week, when we sat together in a restaurant and in an hour or so added in the essential ingredients that turned that experience from poison to profit.
Just for the record, I used various Powerchange personal coaching tools that you can pick up and use for ever from our GOLD Coach Training programme once you’ve been trained. They work seamlessly with clients, but you need to learn how they work and how to use them:
- Personal Revaluation Process to increase her self-worth so she felt strong when working with me
- Psychological Anaesthetic so she would be able to recall the incident freely and without it hurting again
- Memory Reformatting to convert the experience from a debilitating trauma into a hugely powerful asset that will empower her way into the future so that she could get her life back on course again.
I didn’t use the Pre-Retroflection tool as I didn’t have time, but you could always ask me about it!
The great thing is you can work what used to be called a miracle with Auto Response Psychology. These days I believe in miracles more that I ever have. We see them so often on our Powerchange training courses and in our coaching, but tend to call them ‘interventions’ or a ‘rewire’ or something else.
Frankly, I suspect Janny will be perfectly happy to call it a ‘miracle’ when she wakes up each morning.