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Freeing the child within

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Freeing the child within

Dani Dennington
The Croft Practice

Dani Dennington is a practising cognitive hypnotherapist with 15 years of experience, utilising her natural aptitude for flexible thinking, she enjoys working with both clients and supervisees to find creative solutions that work.

How often do you find yourself reacting to something in your life and thinking ‘That’s not me? Why am I behaving this way?’ At that moment, our logical conscious mind is at odds with our unconscious emotional and physical response to what is going on around us and it can be very confusing, to say the least.

When this comes up in the therapy room, it gives me the opportunity to point this out to my clients, as it is so often accompanied by a physical expression of when the problem first began.

For example, a 45-year-old woman who is curled up in the chair and crying from deep within, talking about what happened recently in her life, the thing that brought her to therapy is unknowingly showing me that this problem began a long time ago.

So that when I asked her ‘How old do you feel right now, in that chair?’, she took me back to a time when she was 7 and her parents were shouting at each other, fighting in a downstairs room and she felt helpless and fearful. A completely age-appropriate response to a time when her world dramatically changed and she was helpless and scared.

It’s almost like her brain got stuck at the time when she experienced this early, significant emotional event and her mind, in an attempt to protect her, has kept unconsciously replaying this scenario whenever life leaves her feeling helpless and fearful.

At the same time, it is reminding her that crying worked then because someone noticed her and paid her kind attention, so the response became validated.

Each time it happened it became more embedded, so that now every time she hears shouting or feels threatened in some way, her unconscious goes into the crying child response, becoming her automatic behaviour. Only now, as a 45-year-old woman, it isn’t working or even appropriate for her and it is causing her more problems, so that she feels stuck.

Maybe at various points in our life, we each feel like there is a child inside of us that is crying, sad or needs love or attention? Even if you seem so strong to all around you from the outside? And no matter how well adjusted we appear to be or how wonderful our childhood was or wasn’t.

So much of who we are as adults is established in those early, formative years when we were trying to make sense of a world that seemed complicated, unfair or just plain confusing.

How often do we respond and then when we stop to analyse, our response feels over the top or just plain ‘crazy’?

Working with young people before those behaviours become ingrained and stuck and while the mind is more flexible and has the capacity to adapt is very rewarding. Learning these tools at a young age means that they have the tools as they grow into adults.

In reality, I am often working with the inner child, whatever the age of the client, using their imagination and memory to recreate that time when they responded in a way that often seemed so black and white, good or bad, happy or sad; before we had the maturity to see the more varied options that experience can offer us; the shades of grey.

A child of 3 or a 7-year-old has limited resources when it comes to knowing how to respond to uncertainty and fear. Yet our minds are so much more flexible and adaptable than we perhaps realise – we can effectively use our adult minds and knowledge to help the child to learn something that allows them to let go of the fear and discover something in the earlier experience that changes their perception.

Whether their discovery is about them or the people around them, this allows their inner child to understand something that enables them to be released from the hold of that old emotion.

The great news is that cognitive hypnotherapy has the tools that can help you communicate with the child within you that needs attention, enabling the understanding of what the child needed and maybe still needs, to let go of patterns that we have created to protect ourselves, but which now just gets in the way of who we want to be as adults.