Tess* was a little hesitant when she rang me. “I don’t know if you’ll be able to help me, but this has been part of my life so long. Can you help with hypnotherapy for fainting? Only it rules everything I do.”
Obviously people fainting all the time isn’t healthy or normal, and I’d be sending anyone to see their GP urgently rather than seeing them. What came out about Tess though was a bit more nuanced than that.
“I fainted a lot as a little girl, and sometimes my mum would find me in my room or I’d come round and find myself on the floor. At first they thought it might be epilepsy but it turned out to be something else entirely. They realised that the sensation of brushing my hair excited my nerves and caused me to faint.”
As strange as that may sound it’s more common than people realise. Called syncope, or sometimes ‘fainting and falling’, it’s a recognised medical condition. But I wanted to find out more about why it was still affecting Tess’ life so much.
“My mum became very protective. She made me have a pixie crop so I didn’t have to brush my hair, and kept telling me I had to be really careful. I never had my hair washed at the hairdressers, but that didn’t seem enough for her. She wouldn’t let me go on sleep-overs, and I lived at home still when I went to uni. I’m terrified of fainting again, and I’m wondering if you can teach me how not to faint?”
I asked Tess when the last time was that she had fainted. “Eight or nine years ago” was the answer. “I don’t need to teach you how not to faint,” I told her, “I need to teach you to forget to be afraid.”
Like so many of us Tess had absorbed messages in her childhood that she was still responding years later to as an adult. And like a lot of messages from childhood they were variously misunderstood, completely wrong, or just didn’t apply any more.
She’d picked up on her mum’s unspoken fears through her behaviour and her attitudes, and then filled in the blanks themselves. And as she’d grown she’d fed those fears, and they’d grown with her too.
“The worst part was just not knowing what was happening when I was little” Tess told me. “The doctors never really explained it to me, but to mum. And she couldn’t explain it properly or reassure me. She did her best but we both ended up being scared.”
That comment gave us the starting point for Tess’ therapy. We took her back to when she was that little girl, but this time gave her the support and reassurance that she needed. Once we’d changed that emotional memory we moved onto the second stage.and getting rid of all those old mental habits and barriers.
Tess had recently moved house and came up with the image of sorting through boxes and getting rid of things. “It’s easy to throw out those old fears,” she told me, “because now I can see that they weren’t even mine to begin with. I don’t need to carry them around with me anymore.”
Like many people Tess already knew how to do what she wanted to do. She wanted to not faint, but had already been doing that for eight or nine years. And instead of hypnotherapy for fainting what Tess needed, like them, was to learn how to tackle what was stopping her.
*Tess is happy to share her story, and her identity has been protected.
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