Hypnotherapy With a Suicidal Eating-Disordered Client
We at The Wellness Institute have worked with thousands of people with suicidal ideation. Often these clients are just labeled depressed by family doctors and sent on their way with the latest anti-depressant. Traditional therapists may spend hours upon insurance-billable hours using CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) attempting to cognitively teach the client to “manage” their symptoms of depression. Too often this is what we call “band-aid therapy,” like putting a band-aid on a survivor of a major car crash.
With Heart-Centered Hypnotherapy we begin treating the depression by identifying the symptoms and feelings, and then proceeding to where and when it began. Seeking the origin of the depression may lead us back to a recent devastating loss, failure, or rejection. However, ultimately the real source of the depression is often found in pre- and prenatal experiences. And what is most often discovered in this amazing journey of personal transformation is that somewhere down the road are several hidden beliefs/conclusions about oneself and decisions about how to behave as a result of these self-sabotaging conclusions. For example, a client we will call Penny has been bulimic for most of her life, not allowing herself to receive nourishment. She then became very desperate with her inability to stop the bulimic behavior.
Penny found herself caught in the trap of the Victim Triangle with her food addiction. She always felt like a victim by not being able to control what she ate, then she would try to rescue herself by attempting to over-control her eating addiction behavior. When that didn’t work she would persecute herself with all the judgments and negative self-talk about what an inadequate loser she was. And then she would subsequently push herself right into the victim role again. Penny was not consciously aware that by persecuting herself with negative self-hypnotic suggestions, by regurgitating the nourishment from the food she was eating and then by diving deep into her depression, she was really attempting to kill herself.
As she attended many traditional treatment programs for eating disorders, which never worked, she began to fall into deeper and deeper depressions. This ultimately led to several serious attempts of suicide by cutting her own wrists. When she finally found her way to a Wellness-trained therapist, she had given up any hope of ever healing. The first regression lead her to age five where she had intense body memories of a man forcing his penis down her throat and she felt like she was choking to death. Then she was gagging to the point of needing to throw up in order to get rid of the slimy disgusting stuff that was stuck in her throat. Then the next thing that came to her was that she was in the kitchen where her abuser proceeded to give her cookies and other sweets to soothe and make her feel better. These sweets were always around since her father owned a bakery and each night he would bring home the sweets that hadn’t been purchased that day. She was taught to self-soothe anxiety, fear and panic with cookies, pastries and cupcakes.
In several subsequent sessions, Penny visited different places of anxiety connected with food. Her father being an alcoholic and a “control freak” made the dining room table a place of horrendous fear and panic for his wife and their six children. He always inspected their nails, clothes and hair like he had done when he was in the Marines. He demanded that they fill their plates with food and sit there until it was all eaten. He continually reminded them of all the suffering children on the planet, how he had fought overseas so that he could feed them this food and what ungrateful little wretches they were. He would yell at one or two of the children each meal time for obscure offenses that they had supposedly committed. One night he turned over the whole table and all the plates, silver and glasses went crashing onto the floor. Utter chaos ensued just as it had so many other times at the family table. One night he picked up a very hot beef roast and threw it at their mother, who began screaming in pain, humiliation, terror and rage. He felt the roast was not rare enough for his liking. The children, of course, always had to clean up the messes, pick up everything from the floor and wash the dishes, floors and walls. When the dishes were done, he would come in to inspect them. If even one spoon had a smidgen of food on it, he would make them pull down all the dishes, pots and pans and glasses and rewash everything all over again. Then of course they had to do their homework. By then the children were so exhausted, nervous, and anxious they could barely concentrate on their homework assignments. It was at this time when she had made an unconscious decision to die.
There were many regressions of our bulimic, self-destructive client where she used the energy release bat to get out her fear and rage. She began to feel her depression lifting and discovered what it felt like to be relaxed, peaceful and even joyful. We did, however, have one more hypnotic regression to do. She said that whenever she met new people or came into a new situation, she always felt inadequate, unacceptable and extremely self-conscious. She would be so anxious that she wanted to run out of the room, but she knew she had to make herself stay. So in the next session, instead of focusing on the specific eating disorder symptoms, we focused on her experience of not being accepted for who she was every time she entered a new situation.
In the regression, she discovered herself in her mother’s womb. At first it was dark and pleasant and quiet. Then she began to look upset. We asked her what was happening and she replied, “I’m a girl. My father definitely wants a boy. I’m not right for him. He will never be able to really love me.” She soon began to realize that as she was being born and her gender was announced by the doctor, “It’s a girl,” her mother also felt very disappointed. Our client could feel that her parents were both expecting and wanting a boy, since they already had four girls. Her early conclusion about herself was, “I’m a mistake.” “I’m unwanted.” “I’ll never be what they want.” Her decision was, “I shouldn’t exist.”
This combination of traumatic experiences is the perfect recipe for an eating disorder, which can become deadly. The original rejection of the child for her gender, oral sexual abuse forced on this same small girl followed by attempts to soothe her with cookies, and all this amidst almost continuous gut-wrenching anxiety-filled abusive meals: these are the perfect ingredients to form an alcoholic, food-binging eating disordered woman with suicide attempts.
Penny resolved her eating disorder, her anxiety, and her suicidal depression all at the same time, because they were all symptoms caused by the same source traumas.
Diane Zimberoff, LMFT, specializes in trauma resolution and the use of altered states of consciousness for healing and spiritual growth. For more than 25 years, Diane has trained mental health professionals in Heart-Centered Hypnotherapy®, a highly effective and unique model of therapy. Diane, in close collaboration with David Hartman, LCSW, established The Wellness Institute located in Issaquah, WA.
Both Diane and David have published articles for 15 years in the semi-annual academic journal Journal of Heart-Centered Therapies. They have also published several books, including Breaking Free from the Victim Trap and Longing for Belonging: Pilgrimage of Transformation.