On New Year's Day this client discovered that her husband of many years had been unfaithful. He had been seeing other women, and had been consorting with prostitutes. She felt devastated, despairing, and depressed. She felt worthless. As soon as she sat down I asked "what would you like to have happen?". She started weeping. It was obvious she was in great distress. She told me briefly that her husband had betrayed her with other women.
Visualising her emotional distress
Since she was clearly suffering emotional pain the obvious therapy approach was to change that pain into something else. I told her to close her eyes and focus on the feeling. This immediately brought floods of tears.
However she was very cooperative and when I asked her to focus on the feeling and forget about everything else, she did so. I told her to isolate the feeling and think about it as an object.
She told me that the feeling was like some round shape. I started to develop the metaphor. She told me it was big, greyish white, hard, solid. Then she said it's a rock a stone. She said it was heavy. And it was the same all the way round. I asked her what she wanted to have happen to it. She said "I want it shattered."
I said "And what can you do when it his shattered?" She said "I wouldn't have to look at it, it wouldn't be there". More crying. I then suggested "you want it gone shattered, gone forever?". "Yes, that's right." "And what would that mean for you?" "It would be gone, I wouldn't have to see it, it wouldn't be there. " I was unable to get the usual link between the desired outcome and the emotion, but I decided to press on anyway.
Metaphor transformation therapy
By this point her eye lids were trembling and she had clearly gone into trance. I then repeated all the attributes of grey, hard solid, et cetera. I asked her if she could imagine it a little bit different. She said "yes it smaller, and it is pink". We then quite quickly developed it down into a little stone.
I said, "and what would you like to have happen to that little pink stone?" She said " throw it away." I asked her "and where would you throw it?" She said "into the water." So I asked, "what kind of water would that be? The sea, river, lake?" She said, "a river." So I talked her through what happens to stones that end up in rivers. I suggested that it would get bashed against other rocks, chips and ground down until it was like sand. I then suggested that the sand would end up on a beach and get washed clean by the waves.
Hypnotherapy for the betrayed wife
She was still in trance I decided not to take her out of it and ask her how she felt about the betrayal now. Up to this point the whole process had taken four minutes. I suspected that, based on experience from other cases, much of her problem would be based on her imagination of what other people would think of her. She was probably mortified at the thought that other people might in fact have known about her husband's behavior before she did. There is always a great deal of guilt and embarrassment in this sort of situation.
So I did a short session designed to reinforce her feelings of friendship with other people. I suggested that she was surrounded by all the people who know and love her. I suggested all these people were reaching out to her. I told her to hear them talking. There were all saying "it is not your fault. You didn't do anything wrong."
Connecting to others
I suggested that she imagine hugging all these people together and feeling all the good feelings, all their support for her. Then I suggested that she would notice different behavior from her friends. Some of them would be openly supportive, someone would feel bad about it and not know what to do. She just had to accept that different people react differently.
I emphasised that there would be a difficult few weeks ahead. But deep inside she knows that she is okay. And I repeated the mantra "you have done nothing wrong."
To reinforce the feeling of having banished the distress from the betrayal. I did a metaphor technique of getting her to visualise her distress, and then drain it away. I got her to fill the bad place where it had been with good things.
A reframing metaphor for the betrayed wife
Then I used the metaphor of being in a dark room. That new strength in her allowed her to find the door, and open it, and to get out of that dark place. When she left a dark place, I reframed it as being a new beginning. That she could now choose for herself, be herself do what is best for her.
I then linked relaxation with accepting things as they are. The more she relaxed, the deeper she went, the less value she gave all the things that had happened recently. Then I did a finger move confirmation. I used that to tell her that her own unconscious mind had heard what she wanted. Moving that finger was her guarantee that she had changed. Then I got her to send a message of gratitude to her mind. The whole session took less than 20 minutes.
I asked her how she felt about the events of New Year's Day now. She looks a little puzzled. And then she said "it really doesn't matter now."
How would you approach this case? Share your ideas below.
He is highly regarded in the hypnotherapy community. He is Vice President of the New Zealand Association of Professional Hypnotherapists (NZAPH).
He is regularly consulted for advice by other hypnotherapists around the world. He is known for the quality of his published scripts. He presents at international conferences and has published on hypnosis and advanced hypnotherapy.
He lives in Wellington New Zealand with his wife Trish and a cat called Parsnip.