It had been nearly a minute since I asked the question. It was my first question of our session and I tried not to focus on the fact that I had another 14 to get through in this initial first consultation. In theory, this was meant to be the easy one.
“What are we here to do?”
The silence was oppressive and I could tell it was embarrassing him.
I knew exactly why he wasn’t speaking. He wasn’t pausing for thought. He wasn’t hard of hearing. He was fighting. All of his energy right now was engaged in the process of suppressing tears.
So I was patient.
“It’s ok” I said, even though it obviously wasn’t. I was patient because I knew what he was going to say. I just needed him to say it.
“Stop me drinking”, he eventually said in a partially breaking voice.
I already knew the answer because we had spoken on the phone a few days earlier. Although he didn’t tell me then what the appointment was for I could tell he was drunk as he was making it. I was half expecting my confirmation email to be sent back with a query as to what this is all about. I really didn’t expect him to remember the call. So this particular answer was no surprise. However, the manner of it was. I hadn’t expected such raw emotion from the outset. Perhaps I should have, but to be honest I try not to expect anything. There is only a client and a pattern of thought that needs changing; a puzzle that needs solving.
A drinking problem is never just about drink. There is always something that drives it. There is always a reason. There is always a story.
This man’s story was of a dead son. This man’s story was of regret and guilt, and a question mark about what he could have done differently. The drink was a character that only arrived to this story in the second act. It was a last resort to stop the dark thoughts. It was anaesthetic to the never ending puzzling and pondering. It was the antidote to silence the voices.
I sat and listened to his story.
It was only when he finished his story and I finished my questions that I offered my thoughts.
“The trouble with trauma”, I began, “is that there is a part of you still actively involved in it. Whenever something unpleasant happens to us our mind’s job is to work out why it happened so we can avoid anything that bad happening again. It’s a question of safety and happiness. The problem is that sometimes there really isn’t any explaining what happened. Sometimes something so random and unexpected occurs that the part of us whose job it is to solve this particular puzzle is never going to have all the pieces needed. Some things are just never going to make sense. It’s like trying to solve a jigsaw that doesn't have all the pieces. It isn’t going to happen. Tell me this, if you knew the jigsaw you were working on had a large amount of the pieces missing, would you keep trying to put it together? Would you keep trying to finish what you knew could never be finished?” “Of course not”, he replied.
“So ten years ago your son died. You couldn’t see it coming and even if you could there was nothing you could have done about it. There is no sense to be made of this. How could something like that ever make sense? There is a part of you that needs to hear that this puzzle cannot be solved. Any attempt to solve it is a waste of your energies and serves only to damage you. We need that part of you to leave the impossible task alone. We need it to start focussing on the puzzles that can be solved. There are the puzzles of today, not those of yesterday.” Again silence.
I broke the tension with a smile. “I think this is the message we need to get into your subconscious. I think once we stop that part pondering and puzzling and allow it to leave all of that behind you might not have those dark thoughts to drown out anymore. Who knows, perhaps the drink won’t be necessary."
After this we talked a little more, and booked in the first appointment to actually do some work. We set the date for three weeks time. It was further away than I would have liked, but my diary was full until then. I remember thinking that I hope he makes it back as I closed the door on him that day.
When he returned he hadn’t had a single drink since that initial consultation. When he told me I tried not to look shocked, but he could tell I clearly was. It was his turn to smile.
“I know,” he said, “Strange. I just haven’t needed it. I haven’t wanted it."
“The dark thoughts?” I asked. He looked to the side and then back to me.
“Not gone completely. I still miss him. I still wish he was here, and I still wish I could have done more…but I don’t think my mind is trying to solve that puzzle any more”.
The trouble with trauma is that a part of us gets stuck there; stuck with an impossible task; stuck with an unsolvable puzzle.
The good news is it doesn’t have to stay there.
If you’d like to find out how to deliver these sort of messages to your own subconscious and make changes in the way you think, feel or behave then take a look at the online training:
Please contact us and we can help you, whatever your question...