The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the view of the American Council of Hypnotist Examiners.

by Katherine Zimmerman

I inform clients that the magic bullet isn’t as likely to resolve their issue as a series of sessions. After all, we’re seeking thorough, permanent change. But we all know that some clients are so ready for change that even one session elicits dramatic results. That was the case with a very delightful client whom I will call Helen.

In my first session Helen reported having had violent, scary nightmares, anywhere from one to four nights a week since 1991, when she first became blind. Although initially she blamed the nightmares on the five years of narcotics that she took for her lower back pain she realized that they actually began prior to using the pain medication.

Helen views life from a very logical perspective. So when the MRI showed that the physical changes in her back were normal degeneration for her age, she realized that it wasn’t logical to be almost bedridden with pain of 7+/10. Six months earlier Helen initiated and completed a home detox of prescribed opiates. She also made some dietary changes to reduce the inflammation. She and her doctor were both surprised when the pain decreased markedly; currently 1-2/10 on a daily basis.

But the nightmares continued. The running theme was being threatened by an ex-husband who was a gun-loving, mentally ill, severely addicted alcoholic who was also extremely paranoid. When he committed suicide she thought that she would now be done with him. If only it were that easy.

She also dreamt about being attacked or raped and would yell loudly, “Help, help, I’m being raped, call 9-1-1.” She had never been raped or sexually attacked, but she was the victim in every dream. She yelled so loudly that her present husband could hear her from the opposite end of the house. They were surprised that the neighbors had never heard her and called the police.

I always ask clients why it is important to resolve their issue. With Helen I was very curious about why she had waited so long to seek help. She had told me that someone gave her my name and number five years ago. It was simple. Now that she was off the pain medication and almost pain-free, she wanted to clean up everything else.

On the surface her case appeared to be very complex. I planned to start with creating a safe sanctuary and waiting for the second session to address the dreams. Here is how it unfolded.

In the first session I guided Helen into her sanctuary/safe place, on the beach and gave her some time to fully experience the feeling of being safe. However, it occurred to me that we could also release some past emotional baggage with a metaphor without dealing with the past directly.

Although Helen was sighted earlier in life and could visualize, I focused on having her feel the texture of the bags that she was releasing. She reported later that one bag was leather and another felt like burlap. Each bag contained past negative experiences, memories, beliefs, thoughts, and emotions that had led to the nightmares.

When she returned a week later for her second session I fully expected to facilitate a Gestalt dreamwork session. Much to my surprise and Helen delight, although she had lots of dreams, and many about her ex-husband, she was “never a victim of anything”. In one dream she was the violent aggressor.

The night before her second appointment she had a pleasant dream about her ex-husband. He was very protective of her and helped her to confront a woman in the dream who didn’t like the client. The whole context of everything had changed.

Having apparently resolved her nightmares, the goal for second session was to be able to distinguish between a.m. and p.m. so that she can sleep at night. I learned something that I didn’t know about blindness. Only 6-8% of blind people are black-blind. She sees absolutely no light at all. She would lie down for a one-hour nap and sleep for 12 hours.

In hypnosis, after my educational pre-talk about parts therapy, we invited in the part that wanted to sleep during the day. Her four-year-old self, Sandy, showed up and reported that she was protecting the client. She watched from afar, ready and would whisper her experience to guide her direction. It was Sandy who wanted to sleep during the day because it was the safest place. It made sense when I remembered our initial interview. Helen had a “crazy mom” who was psychiatrically medicated much of the time.

Through their dialogue, Helen expressed gratitude to Sandy for teaching her how to protect herself. She expressed to Sandy that she was learning how to protect herself thoroughly and completely. Sandy was happy and said that she now wanted to retire. She felt as if a huge weight had been lifted now that the Helen was able to protect herself.

When parts let go of their original job I find that they usually don’t want to “retire”. They much prefer to have a new assignment. So I was surprised when Sandy asked to retire.

Helen felt quite powerful now that she can protect herself. I asked her to stand up inside herself and claim her power. We turned her feeling of power into a symbol which became a pendant that she would now wear around her neck.

Who doesn’t love a client who can accomplish their goals this easily? She and her husband would be traveling for a few weeks and she wanted to let things settle in for a while. If something else comes up I know that I’ll hear from her again.

Katherine Zimmerman, Founder/Director of the California Hypnotherapy Academy is an internationally-known author and speaker, Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist, Reiki Master, and EFT Practitioner. Since 1989, she has taught classes on self-hypnosis, EFT, and other related subjects, along with doing presentations on hypnotherapy at professional conferences nationwide.  Email:


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