This is one of those cases with unwanted emotional and physical responses that had no clear cause or origin. I call this the illogical connection of trauma.
I was helping a man who had developed a mortal fear of horse jumping competitions. He did well on trainings but every competition he became extremely uncomfortable, with physical symptoms of cold sweat and anxiety, which transferred to the horse and they both performed under their standards. He decided to try hypnosis, which basically is a dreamlike focused state of mind where we can use our fantasy to imagine situations and resolve them. When the man was in trance I guided him through a training and a competition in parallel, comparing them to find out what the difference was.
“Imagine you and your horse training, what do you notice?”
“Its all good, I feel secure, I know what I am doing, we are performing well”
“Great now imagine riding out, and then back in and it’s a competition”
“I feel nervous now” he said, and the body symptoms of sweat showed up, very real, even though he was sitting in a chair in my office, just imagining it –this is how powerful our mind is – it can make us react as if something is real by bringing out the memory of the situation.
“Now zoom out of both situations, and imagine seeing them next to each other, as if you are watching two screens, can you do this?”
“What is the difference?”
“All the people, and the flowers decorating the arena at the competitions”
“Ok, now imagine all those people disappearing suddenly, as in a dream”
“I’m still nervous” he said, and from the way he was reacting physically, he clearly was.
“Now imagine all the flowers disappearing”
“Ah, then it’s fine, its just like a training”
“Now put all the people back”
“That’s fine too”
“Now put the flowers back”
“That makes me very nervous”
We had found the stimuli that was triggering the mortal fear. It was not, as the client had thought, a fear of losing the competition, it was a mortal fear of flowers. I guessed that there must be a traumatic event that is connected to flower decorations, that the client is completely unaware of. “Have you always felt this way?”
“No, only the last two years”
“And nothing of great emotional impact has taken place prior to these two years?”
“Nothing I can think of” he said.
“How old are you?” I said to get him connected to his timeline.
“Turning 45” he said, with a slight physical indication that it could have some meaning
“Ok, so how old is your dad today?” I asked taking a wild shot, looking at the person he probably compares himself to genetically
“He died when I was a kid”
“I’m sorry, how did you handle it?”
“We were all surprised, he just dropped dead with a stroke”
“How old was he?”
“And what is your most vivid memory of this?”
“The funeral, all those flowers…”
Here – with a flash of “aha” – the clients consciousness connects the mortal fear (of dropping dead like his father at the same age when his father did, with the memory/stimuli of flowers connected to this, and the only situation in his life where he saw that amount of flowers was… at the horse jumping competitions…
We made peace with the fathers death and funeral, and turned the stimuli of flowers into a way of getting strength from his memory of the father, putting the father in the audience, cheering him at the competitions. We also calmed his system to understand that even if one person dies at a certain age, it does not automatically mean it’s in the DNA, it can also be bad luck – just like most BMWs are of great quality, and still, once in a while, a new car will break down. Just like his dad did. It doesn’t mean the whole brand is compromised…
After this we tested the past, and he went through three major competitions from the past in his imagination without a trace of distress. We then tested the future and had him ride three successful competitions with no distress.
“So, how do you feel now riding the competition last week?”
“Great, I am so relieved, the flowers don’t bother me at all”
“And if you try riding the one next week, in your fantasy?”
“No problems” (laughs) “Feels great, just like a training, except more exciting”