80% of Stella’s body was covered with achingly angry psoriasis. Stella shyly took off her rigidly tailored grey blouse and grey trousers – she said she needed me to see……
The psoriasis had steadily worsened over the past 10 years since her husband had a stroke from which medically it was thought he may not walk again or regain full speech.
When Stella first came to Work with me she told me that she felt almost utterly helpless.
In answer to my first question: And what do you want to achieve? Stella did not say she wanted healthy skin, she said that wanted to stop feeling almost utterly helpless, and she wanted to feel strong.
I asked: And when you don’t feel strong and you feel almost utterly helpless, how do you know you don’t feel strong?
Stella answered that she felt utterly helpless like a heavy feeling in the whole of her chest.
Question: And when you feel it in the whole of your chest, and it’s heavy, what else is there about it in the whole of your chest when it’s heavy?
Stella’s story developed from this feeling.
The whole of her chest felt like it was dark.
I continued with clean language questions to develop the experience of heavy and dark in the whole of her chest. She said heavy and dark was shaped like a cube, like a cage, made of solid black bars of iron.
To my next question; and what else could there be about a solid dark cage made of black bars of iron Stella answered: “There is a bee trapped in the cage… The bee is floundering. I am trapped in the cage. I can see a glimpse of some lovely hills in the distance…….”
The younger part of Stella ‘trapped’ in a ‘cage’ was aged thirteen.
The summer of her thirteenth year Stella and her mother had gone to a local tennis match, a favourite sport of theirs to watch together. Her mother had been a semi invalid for as long as Stella could remember, she made her way about in an electrically operated wheel chair.
Stella, with her mother beside her in the wheelchair, had been thoroughly absorbed in the close run tennis match; she cheered along with the small crowd and gasped as the scores were rivetingly close, when suddenly her mother slumped sideways.
There was a massive flurry of activity as an ambulance was called for, but tragically Stella’s mother had died.
A neighbour took Stella home, and very soon her father arrived to find Stella crying.
He told his young daughter that she must stop crying, and that everything was going to be OK.
The death of her mother was tragic, but the split, the trauma for Stella occurred when her father had told her to stop crying and that everything was going to be OK.*
At this moment of realisation in our Work together, Stella wanted to pause and consider. She said that ever since she had been thirteen, any difficulty she’d had, from exam nerves at school to even being scared of travelling, to her having seen a therapist a number of years ago for her lack of self confidence had been blamed, by herself and others, on her mother’s death.
Stella paused; she had a ‘light bulb’ moment, an Epiphanic experience. Although of course her mother’s death was tragic, Stella was prepared for it. Her father’s restricting injunction had trapped her, stuck in that moment in time of everything is going to be OK. So nothing ever reached a place, a state of: Everything is OK,.
OK was always going to be in the future, Stella had been helpless, never able to know and feel OK.
OK could never be in the present.
* (This was a totally understandable response from a bereaved husband and a concerned parent)
Interpretations of events can persuade both client and therapist away from the true focus of traumatic experiences.
To illustrate how important it is to keep on asking the clean language questions.
Stella needed to know that the bee was there, I will go into this reason in a moment; Stella also needed to know that she could: “….see a glimpse of some lovely hills in the distance.”
In terms of the: “…lovely hills in the distance…” basically, when we are in a place where we can bring about a ‘movement’ towards something different, and out of the ‘stuck’ state we need to know where we are going to.
Or we may not move, as we can fear that ‘freedom’ from the prison we’ve been in could be even worse than the ‘prison’ we’ve got to know and have learnt to adapt to its confines.
And where we are going to, must always be the client’s solution, not the therapists.
Stella arrived early for our third session; she wasn’t quite as neat and elegant as when we first met!
I asked her: “How are you doing?”
She answered she was: “Doing better. Stronger”
I asked: “And, how do you know you’re doing better and stronger?”
Stella replied that she felt some freedom.
Q: “And what kind of freedom is that freedom, that’s some freedom?”
Stella answered: “The doors to the cage have opened, it’s brighter and lighter and I want to move……”
This is an important moment of intervention, the question needs to be:
And when it’s brighter and lighter and you want to move, can you move?”
Stella answered: “No, something needs to happen first.”
Q: “And when something needs to happen first, what kind of something could that something be?”
Stella took some time, and then answered: “The bee needs to show me the way.”
The bee could and did show her the way to move. And the way was to the hills.
The journey and the movement to the hills took another hour or so, time to address and compound all elements needed to form new knowledge and information and to know it is OK to be OK now.
Stella’s skin cleared completely within a few weeks and two years later there has been no recurrence.
Her clothes now have movement and vibrancy! Way to go Stella!
I am so happy to say that her husband did recover his use of language and his ability to walk.
If you need help please do not hesitate to contact me through my private email: email@example.com or
Thinking of you warmly,