In accordance with the teachings of post-modern constructivism, my job as a therapist is to help clients to construct a reality that will help them to live better lives, regardless of the reality that I may construct for myself
"Maryanne" was the last of six children in a rigidly conservative Catholic family. All of her brothers and sisters had gone to Catholic school, and those who wanted to had gone to college. By the time Maryanne was born, there was no money left for private education. so she went to public grade school and graduated from high school with no prospects of going further.
Her mother wanted to keep Maryanne by her side instead of leaving to get married as her other children had done, so she encouraged her to become emotionally dependent.
Her father, on the other hand, scolded her incessantly, in the mistaken belief that he could "shock" her into being highly motivated if he nagged her intensely enough. Instead, Maryanne developed s number of stress-related physical ailments including ulcers, migraine headaches, and chronic constipation.
When she finally did go to work, her boss was bullying and sadistic. Once when she.had mistakenly ordered a shipment of several cartons of supplies delivered directly to her desk instead of the office, her boss forbade her to move them out of the way for several days, and made her climb over them in order to get to her desk.
She lived close enough to her parents to go home for lunch, and her mother would hold her and soothe her to give her courage enough to return to her job every afternoon, until she finally was fired because she could not put up with her demanding boss any longer and her work had begun to suffer.
She married a man with Crohn's disease, a chronic inflammation of the digestive tract, in the expectation that they would be able to help each other with their health problems. He had also developed a chronically sarcastic outlook which was well within her emotional comfort zone because it unconsciously reminded her of her father.
Shortly after she was married, she incurred several serious spinal injuries from a fall on icy pavement which requires her to receive ongoing medication and treatment by a pain specialist.
On her first visit to my psychology practice, four years after her mother had died, Maryanne showed me a picture she had taken on her cell phone of household clothing piled inside her bathtub because she did not have the energy to put it away. Fortunately, her new husband liked to cook, and he did most of the grocery shopping. But the matter of household chores was clearly her responsibility.
Maryanne responded very well to hypnosis and was amnesic for most of the sessions. However, no matter how much I tried, I was unable to help her to summon the energy to clean up her messy house.
One day, she was discussing her desire to go back to work in order to help with the family finances, adding that she would have to clean up her house first before she could ever consider doing that. She also mentioned how depressed she was and how much she missed her mother, who had died four years previously. Her father was also deceased.
It occurred to me that she might be unconsciously using the condition of her house as a wall to prevent her from having to look for a job. When I was about to hypnotize her, I told her confidently that this time we were going to give her all the energy she needed. "Are you going to take the place of my mother?" she asked, which tended to confirm my suspicions.
I could not take the place of her mother, of course; but if she could re-experience her mother holding and soothing her just as she had done in real life, I would not need to. In Victorian times, there was a great interest in contacting the spirits of departed loved ones by means of a "seance," in order to obtain reassurance and advice. The practice died out, however, when many of the supposed mediums who conducted these sessions we're exposed as frauds. Nevertheless, the widespread popularity of seances revealed a deep yearning on the part of many people for this.type of experience.
After hypnotically guiding her through a rainbow of pleasant emotions and coming to the pot of gold at the end of it, I suggested that this was the gateway to Paradise, where she could contact her mother and pour her heart out to her while being comforted and soothed, much as her as her mother had done while she was alive.
This type of reassurance appeared to be all that Maryanne needed in order to regain her former self confidence, clean up her house, and begin looking for a job.
Was she really talking to her mother at the gateway to Paradise? As a post-modern constructivist, I have no right to say that the experiences I have constructed for myself are any more "real" than hers. I am perfectly content to help my clients put together a set of beliefs which enables them to lead happier and more effective lives as they themselves interpret them. Considering the depth of pent-up longing experienced by many grieving relatives who yearn to contact their loved ones once more, as the Victorians have amply demonstrated, the opportunity to experience a non-deceptive hypnotic seance would appear to be a potentially useful application of hypnosis. However, one must be careful not to ask leading questions, in order to insure that the hypnotic realities constructed by one's clients are truly their own, and not a projection of the hypnotist.